Abstract. The paper considers the ECI’s potential to construct supra-national discursive space and to encourage European citizens’ participation with a view of alleviating the problem of the “democratic deficit” in the EU. It argues for the thesis that the introduction of the ECI in the Lisbon Treaty as a manifestation of both participatory and deliberative democracies provides the opportunity of compensating for the weaknesses of representative democracy by way of assisting in overcoming public apathy on European affairs, improving the communication between European institutions and the Union’s citizens, promoting the formation of European public space and exercising political pressure over institutions to accept different political agenda. The text also discusses some of the challenges in realizing the ECI’s potential: the fact that the Initiative does not give direct legislative power to European citizens since the EC is not obliged to comply with the given request; the diffuse character of the European public opinion determined by most European citizens’ fragile collective identity, underdeveloped capacity for transnational discourse and poor political culture; the complicated procedure and the high costs of using the ECI by common citizens; as well as the risk of monopolizing the Initiative by NGOs, pressure groups and associations etc.
Key words: European citizens’ initiative, democratic deficit, participatory democracy, deliberative democracy, European public space, communication between EU citizens and European institutions.