Citizens’ consultations: An ambitious gamble to connect citizens with Brussels

Pulse of Europe rally in Berlin [EPA-EFE/FELIPE TRUEBA]

France hopes to reconnect Brussels and European citizens through debates organised by civil society. Jean-Claude Juncker’s participation in the first event on 17 April has yet to be confirmed. EURACTIV.fr reports

“We must put an end to the disconnection between Brussels and citizens. These consultations will help build a connection,” said the French Minister of European Affairs, Nathalie Loiseau.

For her, the unprecedented movement starting this spring is also a question of survival for Europe, even if it carries an obvious risk: the rejection of Europe by a part of its population.

“We must not let the subject on Europe be manipulated by those who speak the loudest: anti-Europeans and pro-Europeans. This leads to a simplification of political campaigns,” she told EURACTIV in an interview in early March.

This initiative, launched by France and backed by 25 other European countries, was given a concrete form on 14 March. The consultations will take place from April to October, in the form of debates and other events, all organised by civil society.

There are some requisite conditions for all participating countries: to label the event a “citizens’ consultation”, it has to follow three criteria: pluralism, transparency and public nature of the event.

Among the EU27 only Hungary has not yet confirmed its participation.

How to turn citizens’ consultations into a success

Four conditions should be met if we want to make citizens’ consultations a success and avoid turning the greatly anticipated initiative launched by France’s President Emmanuel Macron and backed by 26 countries into a boomerang, which would irremediably drain trust in the EU project, writes Thierry Libaert.

If some member states such as Ireland or Portugal have already started organising citizens’ consultations, most other countries will start doing so later: hundreds of events have already been planned, in France most of these are organized in the provinces.

The first consultation in France will take place in the East region on 17 April. The event is organised not far from Strasbourg, where the French president will address the European Parliament on the same day. Jean-Claude Juncker could take part in the event.

This unprecedented democratic consultation will, according to its instigators, reiterate the concerns about Europe of “apprentices, trade unions, and fishermen”. The outcomes of the citizens’ consultations on Europe and the recommendations made will be presented to the heads of state and government who will examine them during the December European Council.

If such events are likely to increase in France, other countries are still unclear in their planning, and the Commission’s contribution to organising the electronic platform for citizens’ consultation for the second half of the year, has not yet been finalised.

On the contrary, the Commission seems firmly resolved on its own vision of citizens’ consultation, which usually involves inviting a commissioner to deliver a lecture.

The arrival of the Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel, in Paris on 15 March is no exception to the method, as the Commission prides itself on having organised 500 similar events. However, the impact of the strategy has not been evaluated and the latest elections in Italy leave no doubt about the little regard citizens have for Europe.

Visegrad's timid steps on Macron's EU citizens' project

Three of the member states of the Visegrad group are going to take part in Macron’s citizens’ consultations project. Hungary has yet to make its decision known. EURACTIV.fr reports.

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