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COVID-19 pandemic makes citizens participation in policy making even more pertinent  

​​CoR members Karl-Heinz Lambertz (BE/PES) and Declan McDonnell (IE/AE), as well as Gisela Erler from the State Ministry of Baden-Württemberg in Germany and Bassem Asseh, Deputy Mayor of Nantes in France, debated in a panel 'Citizens' engagement in times of COVID-19: lessons from EU cities and regions' in the framework of the  European Citizen Engagement and Deliberative Democracy Festival and presented the citizen engagement initiatives that they are conducting in their cities or regions. They expressed unanimously that COVID-19 pandemic with its uncertainties and shared responsibilities makes is even more pertinent to mobilise citizens to share with them not only relevant knowledge, but also to involve them on the governance of political agenda and crisis. Against this background, they call for a launch the Conference on the Future of Europe as soon as possible.

Karl-Heinz Lambertz (BE/PSE), President of the Parliament of the German-speaking Community in Belgium, was co-rapporteur of the CoR opinion 'Reflecting on Europe: the voice of local and regional authorities to rebuild trust in the European Union' adopted in October 2018 when he was President of the CoR (alongside with 1st CoR Vice-President Markku Markkula). The German speaking Community in Belgium launched in September 2019 a citizens' assembly and a citizens council that contributes to the drafting of legislation in this region. He said: "The citizens' dialogue in the German-speaking Community is a long-term initiative to test the complementarity between deliberative democracy and representative democracy.The implementation of the results of the citizens' dialogue at parliamentary level plays a decisive role. The original feature of this method is the two-level system with a citizens' council and a citizens' assembly".

Gisela Erler, State Counsellor for Civil Society and Civic Participation in the State Ministry of Baden-Württemberg, Germany presented an initiative that will start next Wednesday: "The citizens' dialogue on the COVID-19 pandemic in Baden-Württemberg is supposed to collect opinions and views of the public concerning the management of the corona pandemic. We want to listen to the people and learn more about their ideas on handling the situation. The results will be taken into account by the decision makers." The 50 participants will then meet on a regular basis once a month.

Bassem Asseh, Deputy Mayor of Nantes, France, in charge of civic dialogue, said: "Johanna Rolland, at the beginning of her very first term as mayor in 2014, has announced civic dialogue as a foundational democratic way of imaging the future our city. Dialogue between citizens, civil servants and elected officials helps making our public policies more efficient leveraging the user expertise that only citizens can provide. Civic dialogue helps consolidating the social bond by organising the public debate between people who have various point of views. This way of imagining the future of our city has been recognised by the European Commission by awarding Nantes the title of Europe’s capital of innovation for 2020".

CoR member Declan McDonnell, Member of Galway City Council (IE/EA) and rapporteur of the CoR opinion "Local and regional authorities in the permanent dialogue with citizens" said: "It is not enough for democracy to be played out when and where we decide. Enabling citizens to continuously and systematically express their views on topics of their concern, and receive feedback on them, will help truly transform the EU and make it more democratic, transparent and inclusive. And, very importantly, better understood. The CitizEN network will be a crucial tool to facilitate that transformation".

The CitizEN - Citizen ENgagement in the EU Network, would have three objectives:

- to strengthen interaction between European institutions and citizens, through direct methods for engagement at local and regional level;

- to provide examples of participation methods that can be used both formally and informally;

- to act as a repository for information and sharing of best practice of national, regional and local participation initiatives from across the European Union.

After a launch during the Conference on the Future of Europe, The CitizEN network could become a stable and permanent infrastructure able to carry on with the follow-up on the work of the Conference and ensuring that citizens are kept well informed and can be involved in the monitoring, evaluation and assessment phases.


From 6 until 12 December 2020, the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre together other EU institutions, bodies and agencies – is organising its 3rd Citizen Engagement and Deliberative Democracy (CEDD) Festival. Against the background of the European Democracy Action Plan presented by the European Commission on 3 December, the Festival addresses with  the state of democracy in the EU and citizens’ engagement. It will feature online interactive sessions, an exhibition of projects and artwork, and a “social innovation award”. The target audience comprises of possibly several hundreds of officials and stakeholders from EU, national and regional authorities and NGOs.


Marie-Pierre Jouglain

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