Members of the European Committee of the Regions, members of the European Parliament, citizens' consultations experts and citizens draft a checklist to be used for future citizens' consultations.
Following up on the final report on the Conference on the Future of Europe
and its recommendations on a permanent European Citizens’ Assembly, the
working conference organised by the CoR and the Bertelsmann Foundation
discussed the following questions:
• What are the lessons learned from the Conference on the Future of Europe
for the link between participatory and representative democracy and
citizens’ assemblies at local, regional, national and European level?
should we link local citizens’ assemblies to EU-level debates?
• What do regions and cities need to establish citizens’ assemblies in an
• What will the European Committee of the Regions do to put the
recommendations of the Conference on the Future of Europe into practice?
These questions were reflected upon with invited politicians, citizens and
experts from local and regional governments as well as from EU institutions
and bodies. The objective of this working conference was to deliver
recommendations on how to take citizens’ participation in EU policymaking
and its link to representative democracy to the next level and make it a
, Governor of Central Macedonia and President of the European Committee of
the Regions and head of the delegation of local and regional elected
representatives to the plenary session of the Conference on the Future of
Europe, welcomed the participants and said: “
Our European Committee of the Regions with the Bertelsmann Foundation,
have worked and will continue working together on better tools to
revive representative democracy while looking for new ways of
participatory democracy. This is in line with the citizens' proposals
during the Conference on the Future of Europe. The Conference proposals
were clear: people want a stronger role for local and regional
authorities so that EU decisions respond to their real daily needs.
These proposals shall be now implemented mostly within the current
treaty provisions in order to reach beyond Brussels, Strasbourg and the
capitals to Europe's people in their regions, cities and villages. We
need to listen, act and restore trust or risk further alienating people
in our Union. “
In the opening debate, Christophe Rouillon (FR/PES), Mayor
of Coulaines, France, President of the PES group in the CoR said:
"The Conference on the Future of Europe sent a clear message: we have
to dare more democracy! This means strengthening both representative
and participatory democracy. We, European cities and regions, are best
qualified to prepare citizens for a stronger say on social,
environmental and health policies: we can build on our experiences with
citizens' participation and also be the labs of democratic
experimentation. We are ready and motivated to get the European
democratic project to a new stage!"
After the opening session, the next steps to be envisaged to link the
levels of democracy in Europa were discussed in three parallel workshops.
Ahead of the first parallel workshop on "Benefits of citizens' participation at
different levels of democracy", Jelena Drenjanin (SV/EPP), Member of Huddinge Municipality
and Vice-President of the EPP group in the CoR said:
"European democracy needs to be revitalised to survive at a time when
only 13 percent of the world population lives in a democracy and 70
percent lives under dictatorships. The Conference on the Future of
Europe is the world's largest democracy project, securing different
levels of citizens' participation to reinforce European values and
democracy. Building democracies takes effort and time but can be ruined
in seconds. We are all determined to make Europe the world's strongest
In the second workshop on how to involve regions and cities in a "European
Citizens' Assembly", Kieran Mc Carthy (IE/EA), Member of
the Cork City Council and President of the European Alliance group in the
: "What the Conference on the Future revealed is the stark lack of
knowledge by citizens of the myriad of work the EU is doing. There is
an onus on all of us across all of the EU institutions to lessen the
jargon of EU policy and to talk about the work programmes of the EU and
their practical outcomes in layperson's terms. We need more inspiration
and not exasperation. We also need to go where the citizens are -
streets, shopping centres, cinemas, streaming platforms, social media -
to name just a few sites. We need to inspire citizens to take part in
our democratic processes. And most importantly, we must ensure feedback
to their ideas. As a delegate to the Conference, I also realised how
important it is to strengthen collaboration with young people. We often
talk to them as the future of the European project but they are in fact
citizens of today and need to have their voices heard now."
In the third workshop on how to do capacity-building and networking on
citizens' participation, François Decoster (FR/Renew Europe), Vice-President of the
Regional Council of Hauts-de-France, President of the Renew Europe Group in
the CoR, said :
"The CoR is the place that gives a voice to local and regional
authorities in the EU decision making process. Our opinions are
increasingly taken into account because we are the people with their
feet on the ground and EU-institutions are aware of our added value,
also in terms of legitimacy. The network of EU Councillors of the CoR
with local politicians who are in charge of communications on EU issues
in their constituencies, are good means of capacity building,
networking on citizens' participation at local level, and bringing up
citizens' concerns to EU decision makers".
Vasco Alves Cordeiro (PT/PSE),
First Vice-President of the European Committee of the Regions concluded the
session by saying:
"The Conference on the Future of Europe was an unprecedented exercise
of citizens' consultation. But it has also shown that there is a large
margin of progression and all levels of governance will face three
challenges for upcoming citizens' consultations: the conditions to
motivate people to participate need to be created; it should be clear
from the beginning of the process to the citizens how far they are
empowered; be accountable of what to do with the citizens'
recommendations. Local and regional authorities have an interesting
record in citizens’ participation and will play a key role in
addressing these challenges."
In the “From local to European” joint project, the European Committee of
the Regions (CoR) and Bertelsmann Stiftung – together with 23 cooperation
projects from 67 European cities and regions – conducted Citizens’
Dialogues with around 200 politicians. Among these politicians were 14
members of the European Committee of the Regions. 2,000 European citizens
contributed to the Conference on the Future of Europe with more than 400
concrete proposals on the future of Europe.
The five key results of these citizens' consultations are:
1. The project led to high-quality Citizens’ Dialogues. Over 90 percent of
the citizens and over 90 percent of the organisers rated the Citizens’
Dialogues as very good or good. All initiators stated that the support
provided by the project had improved their own Citizens’ Dialogues.
2. Expertise for good citizen participation was firmly established. All initiators rated the quality principles as useful, regardless of their
previous knowledge of citizen participation. They were applied in practice.
It was only random selection, as a little-known instrument, that had some
3. Participatory democracy in the cities and regions has been given a
lasting boost. 100 percent of the projects stated that they would apply the quality
principles again in the future. In addition, all Dialogues were supported by politicians. Around 200 politicians supported the
Dialogues, discussed them with the citizens and promised to take concrete
4. Citizens want to be more involved in European issues. The evaluation of the citizens’ assessments and the approx. 400 proposals
made by citizens in the Citizens’ Dialogues clearly show that European
citizens want more citizen participation at the European level.
5. United in diversity: the proposals of European citizens are similar. Around 400 developed proposals show: European citizens want more out of
Europe and more unified solutions at EU level. Furthermore, it is evident
that citizens not only often discuss the same issues, but also often arrive
at similar proposals for the future of Europe although these concern