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European Union and Citizens

Transnational deliberative democracy

on March 8, 2011, 10:18
Synthesis - Notre Europe
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In the European construction, citizens' involvement in the public space is lacking. This space can be built only by enabling European citizens to deliberate on European issues beyond national borders. However, the instruments of transnational decision-making are limited. Since the French and Dutch rejection of the European Constitutional Treaty, « deliberation », « participatory democracy » and other approaches such as those suggested in the European Commission's 'Plan D' have been identified as priorities by European institutions. Yet they are rarely based on a thorough analysis of the methodologies that allow an independent citizen opinion to emerge.

There is even the risk that future initiatives of « participatory democracy » (with all the confusion that still surrounds this notion) may, if not based on a rigourous methodology, strengthen participants' and observers' feelings of exclusion. This can be observed in a number of consensus conferences and other initiatives, which, although promising, have been used primarily for their marketing and their communication value.

The concept of « participatory democracy » thus requires further analysis, in particular when it comes to organising debates across borders. The need for more demanding standards and the invention of new methodologies is analysed by Stephen Boucher in the policy paper Democratising European Democracy - Options for a quality inclusive and transnational deliberation (October 2005).

Tomorrow's Europe, the first pan-European Deliberative Poll ®

What would ordinary Europeans think, if they all came together in the same room? How would their views on the future of Europe change, after a balanced confrontation of their different visions? These are the questions Tomorrow's Europe, the first EU-wide Deliberative Poll ®, sought to answer, in partnership with a diverse range of civil society organisations.

The event took place on 12-14 October 2007 at the European Parliament in Brussels. It brought together a representative sample of 362 European citizens from all 27 EU member states. The participants were consulted on issues concerning the European construction, before and after receiving balanced information. They therefore had the opportunity to reflect and debate during a whole weekend in

Brussels, to exchange opinions with those of people from other member states, and to ask questions to preeminent experts and politicians - including Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, the Italian finance minister; Serguei Stanishev, Bulgarian prime minister; Lord David Trimble, winner of the Nobel peace prize and former prime minister of Northern Ireland; and Jens-Peter Bonde, a Danish MEP.

The results of the poll show that the views of the participants changed substantially on the subjects which were dealt with, confirming the theory that Deliberative Polls can demonstrate significant changes of opinion among select samples of participants.

The event generated considerable media coverage in the 27 EU member states. Among the newspapers of reference which covered the event were Le Monde, The Guardian, the Financial Times, El Pais, Publico, La Libre Belgique, Die Tageszeitung, and Der Spiegel. There were also television reports, in particular on LCI and the BBC.

This initiative follows up a previous project led by Notre Europe, on a reduced scale in France, on 21 May 2005, a few days before the French referendum on the European constitutional treaty. A complete analysis of conclusions to be drawn from this project is provided by Henri Monceau, who sets some new possibilities for methodology and research.

See also

Overall report on Tomorrow's Europe: presentation and results

Media coverage of the event

BBC Newsnight, 21/10/2007
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