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European Citizens' Consultations: Expert commentaries

Active citizenship / COMMENTARY

Date: 14/05/2007

Representatives of the 1,800 citizens who took part in the biggest-ever pan-European debate on the future of Europe delivered their report to EU policy-makers on 10 May, calling on Europe’s politicians to take their views into account as they prepare to take key decisions on the Union’s future.

The report, finalised just weeks before the June summit at which the EU’s leaders will discuss the fate of the Constitutional Treaty, summarises the outcome of the national consultations which took place in all 27 EU Member States earlier this year.

The European Policy Centre has played an active role in the European Citizens’ Consultations project, led by its strategic partner the King Baudouin Foundation. At each key stage in the process, it provided independent, unbiased information to help the citizens in their deliberations, and has now published expert commentaries on the outcome of the deliberations which have been sent to EU policy-makers along with the citizens’ report.

The EPC and KBF are also organising a Policy Dialogue on June 6 to discuss the outcome with European Commission Vice-President Margot Wallström and other key policy-makers.

The citizens’ report reveals a surprising degree of consensus on the way forward in some areas, as well as significant differences in others. It suggests that the EU’s citizens are looking to Europe to help provide answers to some of the most pressing problems they face in their everyday lives, and recognises the need for European responses to issues which cannot be dealt with at the national level alone. It also suggests that for citizens, it is the results which matter, not the arguments over who does what.

At the 10 May event, one citizen from each Member State met European Commission Vice-President Margot Wallström, European Parliament Vice-President Gérard Onesta and Jean-Luc Dehaene MEP, former Vice-Chairman of the Convention on the Future of Europe, to hand over their report.

Commissioner Wallström said: “This report shows how valuable this process has been. It confirms that we are moving in the right direction, but the citizens clearly want us to do more. The success of the dialogue with the citizens ultimately depends on the EU’s capacity and willingness to listen, and to subsequently deliver better policy results. The European Citizens’ Consultations have clearly demonstrated a good way forward.”

Mr Dehaene commented: “It is a milestone in the way we can link Europe with the people... This is the first time a way was found to give a voice to citizens."

Vice-President Onesta echoed this, saying: “"This is a key event at a key moment. It gives the Council the right roadmap at the right moment."

The European Citizens’ Consultations have been organised by a network of independent and non-political foundations, think tanks and civil society organisations, led by the KBF. The project was co-funded by a group of 21 European foundations, including the Robert Bosch Foundation, Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, Compagnia di San Paolo and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. It also benefited from a large grant under the European Commission’s Plan D initiative.

For copies of the citizens’ report, please click here.

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