Challenge for Europe

Every European citizen would potentially be called on to contribute to the definition of the European policies

A process which allows common citizens to build an informed opinion about the challenges of society (in way analogous to jury duty), must notably include:

– A random selection assuring a variety of ages, genders and socio-economic profiles;

– Interactive training: the citizens develop an opinion during a debate with a range balanced among the points of views of experts, key informants and politicians;

– Deliberations: the citizens discuss together and then take a collective position.

– An attentive audience and full accounting by all decision-makers. The decision-maker stays free to follow (or not) the propositions that are formulated in such a process, but needs to position themselves in a transparent and well-argued way in order to advance the democratic debate.

On the same subject, also on Challenge for Europe, see the proposal “Integrate citizens conferences or “conventions” into decision-making”

The articulation between local and European deliberations is fundamental

– The local level (local, regional, national) represents the frame of experience, relatively familiar and relevant to the implementation of European policies. It allows the citizens to appropriate the challenges;

– Connections between the civic deliberation at the local and European levels must be developed, from the concrete concerns of the citizens to the European challenges: sharing the local results in the flexible but comparable formats; European deliberation where each can express themselves in their language.

The time for pilot initiatives is reaching its end

Many initiatives on European citizens’ deliberations have already taken place, combining the regional or national level on one side and the European scale on the other over a range of issues: the future of rural life in Europe (www.citizenspanel.eu), the economic and social future of Europe (www.european-citizens-consultations.eu) or even neurosciences (www.mettingmindseurope.org). These innovative initiatives showed the feasibility and pertinence of the collective construction of a European citizens’ opinion by citizens of all origins.

Since 2006, too few initiatives of the European Commission such as the “Plan D for Democracy, Dialogue and Debate” or the “Citizens for Europe” programme from DG Education and culture have opened some spaces for European civic deliberation. And, the measure that supports “citizens projects” in the Citizens for Europe programme is working from the beginning to assure that propositions made by civic deliberations are followed.

It was necessary to create the movement, to launch these initiatives, to concretely demonstrate the possibility of such processes. Although they can always be improved, these initiatives demonstrate the vast potential of these methods of involving common citizens in complex and non-consensual political questions, and thus, on the European scale, in the reforms to come from major structural policies. Today we need to transform the effort.

We Propose to:

– For the different European institutions, power to seize these tools for listening to the priorities of citizens in order to define their strategic orientations upstream in the decisions-making process. Notably by establishing budget funds within community programmes which will render possible these civic deliberations involving ordinary citizens and seeking to link them to the decision-making process.

– For the citizens’ and social movements, attentively fill in and deepen the propositions formulated by these civic deliberations.

– Establish a “civic leave of absence” to allow citizens chosen at random to work for the benefit of the community. This measure would constitute a public recognition of the involvement of citizens, in a manner analogous to exceptional leaves of absence granted to those who have to sit on a jury. It will also allow all European citizens to potentially have the chance to be called about to contribute to the definition of European policy.

– To couple the right to popular imitative, which proposes to put an issue chosen by citizens on the European agenda, with the launch of a European citizens’ deliberation. This would allow the European institutions access to nuanced and well-argued advice from citizens, creating a European public space and encouraging public debate.

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