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REPORT

“Una casa para todos”: Observations from the first European Citizens’ Panel of the Conference on the Future of Europe






Future of Europe / REPORT
Corina Stratulat , Johannes Greubel

Date: 24/09/2021
Last weekend, 180 citizens from all over the European Union gathered in Strasbourg for the first European Citizens’ Panel of the Conference on the Future of Europe. EPC analysts Johannes Greubel and Corina Stratulat were there to observe. They share their first impressions in a special report for the Conference Observatory.

Besides a comprehensive description of the process and the overall atmosphere in Strasbourg, the report assesses the chosen methods and procedures. It also highlights a few kinks that could – and should - be ironed out in the course of the Conference.

Despite some of the shortcomings mentioned in the report, the authors saw signs of hope and optimism. The organisers went to great lengths to design a process that considers fundamental elements of deliberative exercises. This ECP also confirms the potential of such activities to actively engage participants, broaden their perspectives and knowledge, and leave a long-lasting impression on them. The mood of the citizens in the final plenary of this first ECP session was overwhelmingly positive. They were excited about the experience they had lived through over the weekend, all the people they met, everything they learned, and the opportunity they were offered to make their voices heard.

The big elephant in the room is impact. What will happen with the ideas and proposals that emerge in these panels? The Conference Plenaries are supposed to reflect the citizens’ input into their conclusions, while a “feedback mechanism will ensure that ideas expressed during the Conference events result in concrete recommendations for EU action. However, it is difficult to say at this point what will be the influence of the ECPs on the final outcome of the Conference and its subsequent implementation by EU institutions and national governments.

Of course, this uncertainty is not unique to the CoFoE but concerns most participatory instruments and exercises. Our political systems are still not ready or open enough to make them count in policymaking, especially at the European level, or to work with such methods on a more regular basis. That step, between a great deliberative process and a political decision, which can transform a merely deliberative process into a proper participatory instrument, has yet to be taken. This Conference is a stepping stone in that direction and not the end of our quest for better democratic governance.

This report is part of the Conference Observatory project, a joint initiative of Bertelsmann Stiftung, the European Policy Centre, King Baudouin Foundation and Stiftung Mercator. The Observatory will closely monitor the Conference on the Future of Europe, assess its impact and present ideas on how to improve it. Make sure to follow us on Twitter at @Conf_Observ

The support the European Policy Centre receives for its ongoing operations, or specifically for its publications, does not constitute an endorsement of their contents, which reflect the views of the authors only. Supporters and partners cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.



Read the full paper here.
Photo credits:
Corina Stratulat for European Policy Centre
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