Bürgerinnen diskutieren im EP Straßburg

Conference Conversations #9 - Knocking on Brussels Doors: Ideas, Informations, Insights from the European Citizens’ Panels

The 9th Conference Conversation zoomed in on citizens’ feedback about the Conference. Four Citizen Ambassadors from three different Conference Panels were asked to share their experiences of participation in the Conference sessions and thoughts on what could be improved. Did the reality of the Conference sessions live up to citizens’ expectations? Did the Conference process deliver on the promise to listen to citizens’ voices and hear what they have to say or rather left them frustrated and disappointed?

Contact Person:

Foto Dominik Hierlemann
Dr. Dominik Hierlemann
Senior Advisor


The citizens praised the Conference organizers for initiating such a complex process of transnational citizens’ deliberation but also highlighted several important criticisms. The quality of expertise, information and input provided beforehand and during the deliberation, the overall timing for meaningful deliberations, the scope of topics discussed and communication between citizens and officials and politicians – all of this could have benefited from a better planning and preparation. One of the criticisms that the panellists felt most strongly about is the low profile of the Conference in the mainstream media.

Now the ball is in the EU officials’ court

The panellists agreed the whole experience left them feeling confident it was not futile. It remains to be seen if citizens’ recommendations will be taken onboard by the EU decision-makers. The exercise has proved to be crucial for their understanding of and allegiance to the idea of common Europe and effectively functioning EU. Now the ball is in the EU officials’ court, and the message is straightforward - the citizens count on a meaningful engagement with their proposals on the part of the EU decision-makers. What is even more important is that ‘the genie cannot be put back into a bottle’ – the citizens have acquired a valuable experience of direct democratic deliberation and there can hardly be a return to the ‘old ways of doing things in Europe’.

Have a look at the video here.

Conference Conversations is part of the Conference Observatory, a joint initiative by an international consortium comprising the Bertelsmann Stiftung, the European Policy Centre, the King Baudouin Foundation, and the Stiftung Mercator. The Conference Observatory aims to observe, critically analyse and inspire the Conference deliberations. Based on the lessons learned, the initiative will also develop proposals aiming to improve the EU’s future participatory and democratic architecture.