The Improved European Citizens' Initiative Leads the Way to a Stronger, Citizen – Centered European Union
On 6 March, the European Commission is launching officially the revamped European Citizens’ Initiative, showcasing the possibilities it offers for European citizens to design their own initiatives and engage with others in order to have a real impact on the agenda setting at the EU level. This is one opportunity not to be missed for anyone interested in citizen participation, so make sure you REGISTER NOW and have your voice heard.
The European Parliament and the Commission have published their starting positions on how the Conference on the Future of Europe should look like. Many stakeholders have expressed opinions – some considering the proposed approach too top down, others emphasizing the insufficient involvement of the organised civil society. While the framework is still to be developed and hopefully improved, there is one particular feature of the design which makes it different from most institutional endeavours so far. The Conference should be “a new public forum for an open, inclusive, transparent and structured debate with citizens”, using a multilingual digital platform to maximise participation, accessibility and transparency.
This is encouraging considering the increasing number of democratic innovations taking place at all levels in Europe which succeed because they combine offline and online tools – from co-deciding with citizens of budget spending for municipal projects (Paris is crowdsourcing 5% of its investment budget) to the collaborative drafting with citizens of a new Icelandic Constitution.
The unique democratic innovation at EU level is undoubtedly the European Citizens’ Initiative. With its improved user-friendliness and its upgraded support infrastructure, it is not surprising that more Europeans are eager to use this instrument and more initiatives are getting registered.
Indicative of the wishes of the Europeans with regard to the issues they are concerned with, the successful past and the 16 ongoing initiatives are a good reference point for potential subjects, the Conference on the Future of Europe can explore further.
Moreover, the experience and the lessons learnt from the management of the multilingual online collaborative platform – the European Citizens’ Initiative Forum – which supports citizens when organising their initiatives and encourages potential organisers to trigger discussions and connect with eventual supporters by posting their ideas on the Discuss section of the Forum can bring useful insights when designing the multilingual digital platform of the Conference.
Last but not least, the Conference should indeed promote the European Citizens’ Initiative throughout Europe. This can easily be done by making the ongoing European citizens’ initiatives feature on the multilingual platform of the Conference in order to encourage citizens to consider and support them.
At the end of the day, it is only by creating synergies among the different tool and methods of democratic innovation, that a real European public space as a public sphere of dialogue, debate, and co-production of decisions not only for but with the citizens of Europe will be created!
ECAS Tip: When registering for the Conference, please make sure you pick Session 3, to get hands-on experience with the new European Citizens’ Initiative Forum which my organisation is proud to be associated with. We help connect past, current and future initiatives’ organisers and provide them with the knowledge, legal advice and training for successful launch and implementation of their initiatives.
Hurry, the deadline for registration is February, 21
Assya Kavrakova is the Executive Director of the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) - http://www.ecas.org/ - an international non-profit organisation, based in Brussels, with a pan-European membership and nearly 30 years of experience in empowering citizens to exercise their rights and campaigning for an inclusive, transparent and democratic Europe. Ms Kavrakova has more than twenty years of experience in senior management positions in the non-governmental sector and in-depth knowledge of European Citizenship, European Rights Framework, EU civic participation formal and informal mechanisms. She is the project manager of the online collaborative platform “European Citizens’ Initiative Forum” – a project operated by ECAS – on behalf of and under contract to the European Commission. She is also a member of the Board of EUobserver - a not-for-profit, independent online newspaper.