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Assessing the European Citizens' Panels: Greater ambition needed

Citizen participation / REPORT
Johannes Greubel , Perle Petit , Andrey Demidov

Date: 06/09/2023
More than a year has passed since the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) concluded its unprecedented, deliberative exercise that put citizens front and centre in the discussions on the future of the EU. An inter-institutional effort by the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Council, the CoFoE brought citizens together in four transnational citizens’ panels to discuss several topics in view of developing a series of recommendations on the future of Europe.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen reassured participants at the closing event that this interactive experiment would not be a one-off. It was the first time in EU history that the Brussels’ executive agreed to create space for input from transnational Citizens’ Panels to formulate new legislation.

Following the conclusion of the first pilot ECPs and with the upcoming European Parliament elections, this EU Democracy Reform Observatory Report looks at this significant point in time and asks: can these efforts live beyond the political commitment of the von der Leyen Commission and become an established institutional process?

Having observed the Panels and interviewed their organisers, the authors analyse the ECPs across three areas:

  1. Institutional design: what are the institution’s objectives when conducting these Panels, and how do they fit into the Commission’s current policymaking cycle?
  2. Methodological design: did the Panels lead to tangible outcomes, which can be useful for decision-makers, and how can the process be improved?
  3. Political effects: what is the Panels’ political value and how do they fit into the Union’s broader institutional landscape and existing participatory infrastructure?

The EU Democracy Reform Observatory is a joint initiative by the Bertelsmann Stiftung, the European Policy Centre, the King Baudouin Foundation and Stiftung Mercator. It aims to foster debate and discussion on modernising European democracy, providing recommendations on how to make EU democracy and decision-making more legitimate, participatory, and effective.

Read the full paper here.
Photo credits:
European Union, 2022

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