EAEA News 2008-04-22
Debate Europe - giving citizens a voice
The European Commission wants to increase citizens' involvement in the EU decision-making process. In a Communication entitled 'Debate Europe - building on the experience of Plan D for Democracy, Dialogue and Debate', it puts forward a set of future actions to foster a general and permanent debate on the future of the European Union among people from all walks of life, at both national and EU level.
Margot Wallström, Vice-President, Institutional Relations and Communication Strategy said: "The policies of the EU affect everyone's lives, whether through its Regulations on subjects such as mobile phone roaming charges or through the free movement of people or goods or any other of the EU's many achievements. EU policies therefore need to be fully anchored in the political parties, in the national democratic traditions, and in the daily political dialogue. They need to be discussed and debated, whether in the town hall, in regional assemblies, national parliaments, on television shows or on the internet".
The European Commission will co-fund a number of civil society projects in 2008 and 2009 under Debate Europe - both at EU and national level. Besides further developing the most successful initiatives undertaken under Plan D since 2005, the Commission will shortly publish a call for proposals for new projects.
Debate Europe will:
• co-fund pan-European citizens' consultation projects managed by civil society organisations;
• promote actions at country level to enable citizens to debate their views and discuss them with local policy makers; complementing other European Commission programmes and events which promote active involvement of citizens in the legislative and decision-making process at EU level;
• offer a framework of cooperation between the European Commission and other EU institutions in reaching out to the citizens at large and breaking the divide between European and national politics;
• launch on-line networks which will bring together European, national and regional parliamentarians, journalists and other European opinion-makers to share information, knowledge and ideas on the EU;
• develop European Public Spaces in the capital cities of the Member States, where the Commission and the European Parliament together will accommodate exhibitions, debates, seminars and training sessions on EU matters
• go "even more local" by involving EU officials in activities at regional and local level; and
• increase the potential of the "Debate Europe" online discussion forum amongst Internet users.
Plan D was launched in 2005 as a response to the European Council's call for a period of reflection in June 2005 on how to proceed with the institutional reform after the no-votes in the French and Dutch Referenda.
Between 2005 and 2007, a series of six innovative cross-border citizens' consultation projects coordinated by civil society organisations, were co-funded under Plan D, as well as local projects involving women and youth. It promoted, amongst others, Internet debates; European Commissioners' visits to the national parliaments, civil society and the media in the Member States; debates on EU affairs in towns and cities; information on Europe at school, and citizens' fora.
Debate Europe is part of an attempt to widen the Plan D "two-way dialogue" in anticipation of the European elections in June 2009. This "two-way dialogue" aims to foster a general and permanent debate on the future of the European Union among people from all walks of life, both at country and EU level. Plan D therefore complements the consultation of stakeholders which the Commission undertakes on specific policy proposals. It is also complementary to different Commission programmes which seek to promote active European citizenship.
For additional information, see also:
The Debate Europe online discussion forum
The six Plan D projects and final conference
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