Secretary General moderates workshop on citizens' dialogues at Europcom  

Secretary General moderates workshop on citizens' dialogues at Europcom

Secretary General Jiri Burianek moderated the workshop "Citizens' consultations: image campaign or effective democracy tool?" at the 9th edition of Europcom, the conference on public communication organised by the European Committee of the Regions. In view of the European Parliament elections in May 2019, citizens' consultations have been conducted in all EU Members States in order to find out in how far the EU is important for EU citizens and what their concerns are about the future European Union. EU institutions also organised citizens dialogues and the European Committee of the Regions was the first to do so, already back in 2016.

Different institutional and non-institutional actors were invited to present their experiences with citizens dialogues and to discuss around following topics:

  • “Are the EU citizens' dialogues (or consultations) as we have you have experienced them more a communication exercise or an image campaign for the EU, your government or organisation or are they an experiment in participatory democracy?“
  • “What are the lessons learned in your respective institution and what future do you see for citizens' dialogues?"
  • “What would in your view be some key principles, which would make citizens' consultations a truly European exercise in participatory democracy?"

Speakers were:

  • Joachim Ott, European Commission, Head of Unit 'Citizens Dialogues'
  • Gaëtane Ricard-Nihoul, Ministry for European Affairs, Citizens' Consultations, Paris
  • Dr Anja Trebes, Bundespresseamt, Federal Press Office, Citizens' Consultations, Berlin
  • Regina Kothmayr, Head of the Task Force of the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU
  • Claudia Chwalisz, Policy Analysist at OECD's Public Governance directorate
  • Federico Guerrieri, Eurocities, #Cities4Europe campaign manager

In the framework of the discussion, Jiri Burianek also informed about the results of the CoR “Reflecting on Europe" campaign: On 9 October the CoR adopted its final report on “Reflecting on Europe". 180 citizens' dialogues were organised in 110 regions and 156 cities and municipalities from 30 countries, involving 176 CoR members. During these events and via the CoR mobile App "Have your say on Europe", over 40,000 citizens could be reached in total.

Key findings of the Reflecting on Europe exercise can be summarised as follows:

  • Citizens want to discuss EU-related issues at local level, since the EU is perceived as too distant, too bureaucratic and too slow, while local and regional politicians are the most trusted.
  • Despite an observed lack of knowledge, people are still enthusiastic about the benefits brought by Europe: freedom of movement, mobility, infrastructure, investments and education. However, they feel disconnected from the EU, which needs to improve its communication with citizens.

A major insight out of this workshop was that a more direct (regional and local) and permanent channels of dialogues are needed to bridge the gap between the EU and its citizens. A structured permanent dialogue is a way to achieve this goal. This was also one of the key findings of the Reflecting on Europe exercise.

Europcom is the biggest Conference on public communication in Europe with 1100 delegates. It is organised by the European Committee of the Regions in cooperation with other EU-institutions. This year's edition was on "Campaigning for Europe."