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International Day of Democracy: EU must look to its regions and cities to restore trust among citizens  

President Lambertz recalls his appeal to launch permanent and structured dialogue with citizens

On the International Day of Democracy, the President of the European Committee of the Regions'(CoR) President Karl-Heinz Lambertz has recalled his appeal to launch a new permanent dialogue with citizens together with its regions and cities, and reinstated the urgency to strengthen the role of local and regional governments in the EU decision-making process. Contributing to the European Commission's commitment to strengthening European democracy, the CoR also published a collection of insights from local and regional governments, practitioners and academics on how best to engage citizens in the EU.

In recent years, governments and parliaments at all levels have increasingly involved citizens in the decision-making process to improve the quality, transparency and ownership of policies. EU member states, EU institutions as well as cities and regions, have held thousands of citizens’ dialogues and consultations on the future of Europe.

"Citizens' dialogues must not be a knee-jerk response to populism, a mere campaigning toll in the build up to elections, or a simple listening exercise. Citizens should be able to continuously shape the EU. Citizens' dialogues need to become permanent part of the EU's architecture, complementing other existing channels of engagement and participation, with citizens' views directly influencing EU decisions. To increase credibility, transparency and engagement, this must be done in partnership with regions and cities", said CoR President Karl-Heinz Lambertz.

"From local to European: Putting citizens at the centre of the EU agenda": CoR book published

How best to engage citizens within the EU has been the focus of a series of debates organised by the CoR between April and June 2019, with contribution coming from experts from regional and local governments, think-tanks and EU institutions. The insights and best practices were collated in a book " From local to European: Putting citizens at the centre of the EU agenda " which will be published on 15 September.

The publication comes shortly after the European Commission President-elect, Ursula von Leyen, announced a "push for European democracy" and proposed a 'Conference on the Future of Europe' to start in 2020 and run for two years. The conference, to be led by a new European Commission Vice-President for Democracy, aims to bring citizens together, to give a significant role for young people, civil society and European institutions as equal partners and to follow-up with 'legislative action if appropriate'.

President Lambertz added. "The Conference is a positive step and the CoR will contribute to making it a success. Regions and cities are a fundamental part of European democracy and citizens engagement must also coincide with ensuring EU decisions are taken as close to citizens as possible. We therefore look forward to working with the incoming European Commission to implement the conclusions of the Subsidiarity Task Force that will give regions and cities a greater say on EU policy and subsequently, improve its impact on daily life"

President Lambertz' region launches citizens' initiative

The comments come a few days before President Lambertz's own region, the German-speaking Community of Belgium where he is also President of Parliament, launches its own citizens' initiative ( press invitation ). The Citizens' Council will come together for the first time on 16 September 2019, which will be responsible for organising the first Citizens' Assembly in early 2020.


Between 2016-2018 members of the European Committee of the Regions held debates in their constituencies on the future of Europe. During this period the CoR organised over 210 local events, involving 23000 citizens' in local dialogues and collected over 23000 replies to a dedicated online survey, of which the final report and CoR Opinion on the future of Europe adopted on 9 October 2018 were submitted to the European Council.

Currently, the CoR is preparing an opinion on the future of citizens’ dialogues and consultations which is expected to be adopted in May 2020.


Carmen Schmidle
Tel. +32 (0)2 282 2366