A pan-European online debate in all 27 member states went live today, allowing any citizen from any part of Europe to highlight what they think are the key economic and social issues Europe faces in today’s globalised world.
Eurobarometer opinion polls show that rising inflation and unemployment are now the public’s main concerns. But what role can the EU play in addressing their worries about the economic and social future, and what do citizens expect from Europe?
People can post their comments and make recommendations for action, which will then be discussed at a series of national consultations held in all 27 EU member states in March next year – the Irish one will take place in March 2009 in Dublin – and at a European Citizens’ Summit in May 2009. These consultations will involve some 1500 citizens from all walks of life. The final recommendations will be presented to EU policy-makers on the eve of the European elections.
“European policy-makers need citizens as partners in a two-way dialogue, and that is exactly what ECC will provide on a large and ambitious scale,” said the Vice-President of the European Parliament, Diana Wallis.
The national websites will give everyone the chance to discuss and share their views on the crucial issues, and help develop recommendations for national and European policy-makers.
ECC 2009 was welcomed on behalf of the Presidency of the EU by French European Affairs, Minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet. “It is innovative in its method, essential in the topics covered and absolutely indispensable in the times we are facing. We need to be ever more attentive to citizens at the European level, in order to put them at the core of the Europe building process”.
ECC 2009 is co-funded by the European Commission under its ‘Debate Europe’ programme. Commission Vice-President Margot Wallström said: “This project sets a new standard for citizen participation by working on the national and European levels, and by combining online and offline dialogue.”
The European Citizens’ Consultations are run by a consortium of more than 40 European partner organisations, led by the King Baudouin Foundation (KBF), and is co-funded by foundations including the KBF, Compagnia di San Paolo and the Robert Bosch Foundation, and also funders at national level.
By John Kennedy
Pictured: join the debate on Ireland’s European Citizens Consultations website