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A new generation of European Citizens’ Panels – Making citizens’ voices a regular part of policymaking

Citizen participation / DISCUSSION PAPER
Johannes Greubel

Date: 21/10/2022
As a first concrete follow-up to the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE), beginning as of next year, the European Commission plans to make European Citizens' Panels (ECPs) a regular form of consultation ahead of key legislative proposals. Von der Leyen’s initiative to involve citizens in policy development is a substantial and positive innovation for EU law making and democracy. It not only answers citizens’ calls expressed in the CoFoE exercise. The measure will also give a boost to EU democracy and has the potential to mitigate shortcomings in the existing institutional consultation process. Yet, to make a difference, these Panels should be integrated into the current policymaking cycle by becoming part of the Commission's better regulation toolbox. This paper makes concrete recommendations on how this could be done by answering these three questions:

  • When in the process and to what end? First, to make a difference, the Panels need to take place as early as possible in the development of a policy. Second, they must be consulted in a way that keeps the process as streamlined and effective as possible. The ideal way to reach these goals is to establish the ECPs as an additional consultation tool that the Commission can activate in addition to the public consultation carried out. The Panels would become an integral part of the institution's stakeholder consultation toolbox.
  • When is a proposal ‘key’? First, the proposal must be a flagship proposal that is essential for one of the central priorities anchored in the Commission’s political guidelines. Second, as the Panel is supposed to complement the existing public consultation procedure, the proposal must be a legislative initiative with an Impact Assessment – thus also involving a public consultation – in which citizens are a crucial stakeholder group, primarily and directly affected by the policy.
  • What is the follow-up? Citizens’ recommendations should directly feed into the Commission’s Impact Assessment of the respective measure and be annexed to it so that the co-legislators can take citizens’ recommendations into account at a later stage.

If lawmakers follow these, the new generation of ECPs could improve the quality of legislative proposals from the Commission. Conversely, they risk becoming a fig leaf exercise, without any impact on the legislative initiative it accompanies. In this context, the Commission should use the upcoming ECP on food waste as a pilot Panel, as a steppingstone towards embedding ECPs fully in the EU’s decision-making.

Read the full paper here.
Photo credits:
European Union, 2022

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