A bunch of citizens is sitting around a table, discussing.
Bertelsmann Stiftung

, EU Citizens' Dialogue: French Citzens' Panel on the future of Europe

In the framework of the Citizens' Consultations 52 citizens from across France meet from October 25 to 27, 2018 in Paris to talk about the future of Europe. The format was a premiere in France. The Bertelsmann Stiftung analysed and evaluated the French Citizens' Panel.

In May 2018, the European Commission organized a first panel in Brussels bringing together 100 citizens from all Member States in order to prepare an online questionnaire intended to collect the opinions of all European citizens on the Europe they want tomorrow.

The question "Which decisions should Europe take today, that would make our grandchildren proud?" resulting from the work of the European panel in May, guided the debates held in Paris on those three days.

The opinion written by the 52 French citizens, as well as all the contributions collected during the Citizens' Consultations—a French initiative supported by nearly all other Member States, held from April to October 2018—were analysed and summarized in a report that France and the 26 other participating Member States have brought to the attention of heads of state and the government at the European Council on December 13 and 14, 2018.

Very Different Citizens as Experts

For the French Citizens' Panel hold in Paris, the participants were selected according to different previously defined criteria in order to best represent the heterogeneity of the French population within a group of 50 people. In addition to the usual socio-demographic characteristics, targeted research was carried out to find people who represent a different position about the European Union, be it negative, neutral or pro-European.

"I particularly liked the exchange with other citizens and the opportunity to put my own ideas forward properly."
A citizen's response when asked "What did you like about this event?"

The French Citizens' Panel led to a change of perspective. It was possible for the citizens to consult independent external experts during the panel to address specific topics, as is often the case in the process of "deliberative democracy". However the starting point is that politics is everybody's concern. Questions about the fundamental orientation of future European policy must ultimately be debated on the basis of facts but also on a normative basis. Citizens must then be able to contribute in order to become an expert themselves.

Main Findings

The French Citizens' Panel has shown how much Europe's citizens, whether EU supporters or not, can be passionate about European politics and, more importantly, how they can be involved in the shaping of a future EU policy. The evaluation results attest to the added value of this event, both for the participating citizens, for French European policy and for European policy as a whole. This citizens' panel has strengthened citizens' support for the European Union, and a representative sample of the population has given its well-debated and thought-out opinion on European issues.

 

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