European citizens' consultations
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The European Citizens’ Consultations are the first pan-European participatory project to involve citizens from all 27 Member States of the European Union into the debate about the Future of Europe. Between October 2006 and May 2007, more than 1,800 citizens deliberated on the subject in 27 countries speaking 23 official languages. They were selected at random by professional recruitment agencies or universities according to a set of criteria that ensured that they reflected the diversity of the EU’s population. In European- and national-level debates the citizens were choosing and discussing three topics they considered most important to their lives, identified common ground and made recommendations to policy-makers responsible for making the decisions on Europe’s future.
The European Citizens' Consultations were organised by a group of independent, not-for-profit organisations led by the King Baudouin Foundation (Belgium) in collaboration with European Citizen Action Service (ECAS), the European Policy Centre (EPC) and the Network of European Foundations for Innovative Cooperation (NEF). They were supported by Compagnia di San Paolo, Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, Robert Bosch Stiftung and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. The European network of partners and donors included organisations from all Member States. The project was co-financed by the European Commission and linked to DG Communication’s Plan D.
The European Citizens’ Consultations were divided into three main phases: the agenda setting event in October 2006, the National Consultations from February until March 2007 and the Synthesis Event in May 2007. The last event kicked off a follow-up process consisting of numerous deliberation and information events at national level.
In October 2006, two hundred randomly selected citizens from all EU-Member States were invited to present their opinions on the influence Europe has had on their lives, and what direction they would like to see Europe take in the future. In a 2-days event, citizens identified the topics that lie at their heart, shared perspectives and experiences with each other. They were assisted by table facilitators and interpreters. Three topics out of the list were selected by electronic vote:
- Energy & Environment: The environmental and economic impact of Europe’s energy use
- Family & Social Welfare: The social and economic conditions for Europe’s families
- EU’s Global Role & Immigration: The EU’s role in the world and the management of immigration
During February and March 2007, these three prioritised topics were debated at 27 national consultations, each attended by between 30 and 200 randomly selected citizens of the respective Member States. 5 to 10 of these events took place simultaneously, following the same schedule and exchanging live impressions and results at key points in time. After 6 weekends of consultations, a map of European public opinion on the three topics emerged.
In a final step, on the 9th and 10 May 2007, 27 citizen representatives engaged into a European-level synthesis exercise highlighting the common ground and the areas of divergence between the national outcomes. On the basis of the 27 national reports, they worked on their "European Citizens' Perspectives on the Future of Europe". These were handed over at a press conference in the European Parliament to policy-makers, including Commission Vice-President Margot Wallström who discussed with them the implications of their results in a subsequent European Citizens' Roundtable.
Follow-up events took place since May 2007. The policy debate at the European Policy Centre (EPC) officially kicked off the follow-up process at European level. A discussion about citizen participation takes place on the premises of the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) in autumn 2007. In the Member States, follow-up activities include, for instance, 39 local debates in Belgium, 15 local citizen fora in Germany, debating cafés in Slovenia, a school competition in Ireland, press conferences with EU Commissioners in Slovakia and the Czech Republic and many more. At the European policy event three citizen represented a report they created on be behalf of the more than 1800 who took part in the process, three of them then presented the key recommendations made in each of the three areas discussed: the family and social welfare; environment and energy; and immigration and Europe's global role.