EU citizens' panel recommends European citizens' panels

The European Union (EU) should regularly convene randomly selected citizens' panels to better involve its residents in political decision-making. This is the proposal of a randomly selected citizens' panel whose last meeting was held on 10-12 December 2021 as part of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

Citizens' panels should be given a legally binding framework by law or regulation. According to the members of the citizens' panel, the randomly selected assemblies should take place every 12 - 18 months. Participants shall be selected at random, taking into account representativeness criteria. They shall neither represent an organisation nor be invited to participate on the basis of their professional function as assembly members. If needed, there shall be support of experts so that assembly members have enough information for deliberation.

The EU should ensure that politicians commit to the recommendations of the citizens' panels. If proposals from citizens' panels are ignored or explicitly rejected, the EU institutions should be held accountable and have to justify why this decision was taken.

Five themes

The Citizens' Panel with 200 randomly selected participants had dealt with European democracy, values and rights, rule of law and security in a total of three sessions. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the panel members could only participate in the session online.

Their recommendations focused on five themes:

  • Ensuring rights and non-discrimination
  • Protecting democracy and the rule of law
  • Reforming the EU
  • Building the European identity
  • Strengthening citizen participation

Participants voted on a total of 42 recommendations put together in the three sessions held since September. Each suggestion needed to be supported by at least 70% of participants to be adopted. Only three did not reach the threshold.

“We had three very busy days, but it was very interesting. Many people have many different opinions, but we still managed to find something really great together,” said panel member Gabriele Elisabeth, from Germany.

Ensuring rights and non-discrimination

To tackle discrimination in the EU, panellists suggested setting up quotas in the workplace for vulnerable groups, such as minorities, women, young people or elderly. Companies that meet these quotas would have access to subsidies or tax breaks.

Recommendations also included sanctions for companies that violate data protection rules and setting minimum standards for media independence.

Protecting democracy and the rule of law

Protecting European values emerged as one of the priorities for panellists. They recommended changing the mechanism that makes receiving EU funds by countries conditional upon the respect for the rule of law. Panel members wanted all breaches of the rule of law to be sanctioned rather than only those that affect the EU budget.

The EU should also take action to make sure there is media pluralism and politicians do not own or influence media.

Reforming the EU

Changing the names of EU institutions could help clarifying the role of each of them, highlighted the recommendations of the panel. Participants think it should be possible to vote for EU-level parties and that people should be consulted on extremely important matters though EU-wide referendums triggered by the European Parliament.

In addition, panellists asked for EU investment in quality jobs and quality of life (education, health, housing, care for the elderly and people with disabilities) and suggested the funds for these investments should come from taxes on big corporations.

Building the European identity

Tackling populism and disinformation, improving communication on EU matters in the media and offering classes on EU democracy and values to migrants are some of the ideas from the panel with the aim to reinforcing the European identity.

“I want people to share common values and I want European citizens to see that we are all the same. We have common goals and common challenges and we should really get together to work on that,” said Daniel van Lomwel, from the Netherlands.

Strengthening citizen participation

To better engage Europeans, panellists suggested establishing citizens’ assemblies, more cooperation of the EU with national and regional authorities and developing programmes for schools on citizen participation. They also recommended reopening the discussion about the constitution of the EU.

“Usually, once people feel they are involved in some decision making, it already makes them better understand that they are the ones who things are done for. So they are also participating more and trust the organisation itself because they are the ones also involved in the process,” said Jarno Hilvenius, from Finland.

What’s next

Representatives of the panel have presented and debated the recommendations at the Conference Plenary on 21-22 January 2022. The plenary includes representatives of the EU institutions, national parliaments, civil society and citizens. The Conference Plenary met on 25-26 March and 8-9 April 2022 to develop proposals for EU action based on the ideas submitted on the Conference Platform and the recommendations of the Citizens' Forums.

The final outcome of the Conference was presented in a report to the presidents of the Parliament, the Council, and the European Commission, who have committed to following up on these recommendations.

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