Today, the European Commission Joint Research (JRC) Centre launched the Competence Centre on Participatory and Deliberative Democracy (CC). It aims at providing tools, resources, research and methodologies to build capacity and best practice in participatory and deliberative democracy across different levels of governance in the EU. Mark Speich, Chair of the CoR commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs – CIVEX - stated that the cooperation between the CC and regions and cities could be mutual: On the one hand the CoR can be a full partner of the JRC in its work on the EC policy priority "A new push for European democracy" by contributing with regional and local best practices to the community of practitioners around the CC. On the other hand the CC could develop a mechanism to mainstream citizens' participation in the EU policy making and support the local and regional level to systematize the use of participatory tools on a permanent basis.
At the launch of the Competence Centre on Participatory and Deliberative Democracy (CC), several EU institutional actors were invited to discuss what they expect from the new CC which has been created in order to respond to the increasing demand from EU institutions and countries for capacity to support participatory and deliberative projects and policies and to materialise the EC priority " A New push for European Democracy". The CoR, represented by Mark Speich (DE/EPP), Secretary of State for Federal, European and International Affairs of North Rhine-Westphalia and Chair of the CoR CIVEX commission, contributed to the roundtable "What can we learn from participatory and deliberative democracy in Europe’s regions, and how can the European Commission help?".
On the first question "Mutual learning – many practices are well advanced in the regions; how can we learn from the innovations that are taking place across the EU? What can the CC offer? ", Mark Speich said: "The CoR has been working a lot in the last years on local democracy and notably on ways to engage with citizens, building on local and regional authorities' proximity to their constituency and using the CoR and its members as amplifiers of local and regional best practices in the European arena. In this regard, the Conference on the Future of Europe is a unique opportunity but it is neither the starting point, nor the ending point of the CoR' s work. The time is ripe to build on best practices and use CoFoE as a "proof of concept" for a more strategic and systematic use of participatory tools."
To the second question "What can the JRC Competence Centre (CC) be doing to follow this deliberative wave and scale it up to the EU level?", Mark Speich answered: "I am convinced that we share a common goal: to systematize the best practices of citizens' participation, develop a strategy to complement and enrich participatory democracy. During our Plenary Session next week we will present the CoR 2021 EU Annual Regional and Local Barometer. One of its chapters is dedicated to local democracy and to the challenges that it is currently facing, in the aftermath of the pandemic crisis. To draft that chapter, we processed several sources and notably we linked with the JRC to gather relevant information and materials. It is a very good example of what the CoR as the representative of regional and local authorities expect from the Competence Centre, namely to pool knowledge and expertise and support our work on the ground. In this regard, I think that the mission of the Competence Centre should clearly state that it will also support deliberative democracy practices taking place at regional and local level. I also see our relation as a mutual cooperation. The CoR can be a full partner of the JRC and can bring regional and local best practices in the community of practitioners and stakeholder that is being developed around the Competence Centre".
Between 2016 and 2018, the CoR has organized hundreds of citizens' dialogues and local events in the framework of the "Reflecting on Europe" campaign. In the opinion "Local and regional authorities in a permanent dialogue with citizens" adopted on 14 October 2020, the CoR proposed to establish a pan-EU network based on voluntary participation called CitizEN.
In the preparation of the Conference on the Future of Europe, the CoR began its series of digital dialogues already at the end of 2020, while preparing for citizens' dialogues aiming in contributing to the process and outreach of the Conference.
In this context, a specific initiative was launched by the CoR and the Bertelsmann Foundation whose aim is to involve regional and local authorities in holding local or transnational citizens’ panels, towards the background of the principles and methodologies stipulated in the Charter of the CoFoE. The idea is to provide local and regional authorities with organizational and knowledge support and "bring citizens' participation to the next level", thus the level of deliberation and delivery of concrete inputs to the CoFoE process.
The CoR will present its final contribution to the Conference at the 9th European Summit of Regions and Cities, to be held during the French Presidency of the Council on 3-4 March 2022.
Mobile: +32 473 52 41 15