Citizens’ Consultations, the voice of the people in the European Union
A number of policies related to democratic participation, transparency of the EU and the lack of mobilisation of the EU citizens were adopted by the European Commission over the past few years.These were followed by the organization of Citizens’ Consultations events that have been taking place between April and October 2018 in 27 EU member countries.
The French Government has taken a certain lead in this matter by implementing a large number of “Consultations Citoyennes” events in major French cities. These events are thought to collect citizens’ points of view on the European Union: its latest policies, its strengths and weaknesses, and the potential improvements to be undertaken by relevant authorities.
In the context of my work at the European Association for Local Democracy (ALDA) I had the opportunity to participate in one of these Consultations Citoyennes. In that case, it was organized by the City of Strasbourg in a row of three events, all taking place in crowded public spaces in a busy time frame (around 5-6pm, when most employees leave their office in France).
Due to the large affluence and the peculiar organization of the event, many persons gathered around and participated in this Consultation, showing its success in collecting diverse opinions about the EU. Indeed, the event was organized in the form of a collective poll session, where questions were displayed on a TV screen, and could be answered anonymously via smartphones. Answers were then showed on the TV screen and discussed between the participants.
The exchanges were vivid among the participants and reflected wide differences of the points of view represented; some of the participants had strong federalist views whereas other were more sceptical about EU policies’ outcomes and usefulness. For this very reason, it appeared to me that this event was successful in its way of involving very diverse persons with different point of views about Europe and its future.
It seems to me that the whole goal of the Citizens’ Consultation process is to get in touch with the groups that aren’t usually involved when it comes to questions relating to the EU, and to foster interest and inclusion of these target groups in the European project. Moreover, the specific form of the Consultation I attended, aimed to make it possible for a wide range of individuals to get involved in the event, in different ways – some talked more than others, but everyone could participate by entering a word or ticking a box on their smartphone.
ALDA therefore salutes this initiative and warmly supports the organisation of events allowing for the involvement of all citizens, and providing incentives to citizen participation in general.