ECAS blog

The event organised by the European Commission to wrap up the plan D projects was finally not so formal and official an affair as might have been thought from the programme. This was due to Pat Cox as a quite brilliant moderator drawing out people’s comments and really pushing the very institutional panel to make commitments as to how they would follow-up the “shopping list” of demands coming from the citizens projects.He made it look easy but it in fact takes a lot of skill, which former MEPs should have, to be a bridge between the citizens and representatives of the Institutions.

It was also good to see that most of those who participated in the debate were individual citizens and not usual suspects.

Two things struck me and which could easily be corrected in the future: citizens in all these projects engage positively and tend to come out with requests to the EU to do more than it does, for example in the social field and to present agendas which would greatly increase EU resources and relevance to everyday life. This is a result of the process of participation but can easily be dismissed as in some way manipulated – which it was not. To avoid such interpretations, it would be better to organise such events in a less official setting than the Commission’s press room. After all far fewer press followed this last event than came to the European Citizens Consultations agenda setting event last October 2006 at the Heysel conference centre.

These projects must be and seen to be independent of the EU Institutions. Citizens care about their conclusions and want to see them followed up. Some are coming to every conceivable follow-up event and are questioning the Institutions about what happens next. They therefore did not like the way the results of their consultation or deliberative poll were mixed with others in a sort of consolidated list of the 6 projects.

Finally, something interesting happened at the last session. In the European Citizens’ Consultations – the Plan D project that we have been involved with – education was high on the agenda but not in the top three priority points. It was revealing that this subject – a difficult one for the EU where its competence is very limited -was picked up by the representatives of the Portuguese and Slovenian Presidencies as somehow the subject for the future on which European citizenship can be built.

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  1. It goes to show how the citizens do have an opionion on the direction of the EU and it is not neccesarily the direction that the EU are going.

  2. It was a tremendous feeling to be with our 26 European friends. It was particularly exciting to hear from the former Soviet run nations which have found freedom and friendship with us. There’s no longer fear of the gulags and for all 27 of us no chance of another bloody European War. As well as bringing peace and soon prosperity for all of us, together we can do something about global warming. Europe is working!!

  3. I think that asking citizens what they want from Europe is a great way forward and addresses the current lack of democracy that Europe has. While I think participatory democracy is great, I am a bit confused what went wrong with traditional methods of democracy and why the institutions were happy to move forward with a ‘new’ democracy technique as appose to ‘fix’ the old traditional methods. Any ideas?

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