Friday

19th Jul 2019

Brussels in new drive to seduce EU citizens

  • "We must consult citizens,” says commissioner Wallstrom (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission on Wednesday (2 April) presented a new plan aimed at increasing EU citizens' involvement in the decision-making process of the 27-nation bloc, as well as making it more popular.

Dubbed "Debate Europe", the initiative is part of the commission's so-called Plan D – a concept put forward in 2005 to boost the EU's public image after the No votes to the EU constitution in France and the Netherlands.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Presenting an update of the plan, communications commissioner Margot Wallstrom said the context now, three years later, was "very different" from 2005.

"It is not anymore about the failed constitution or the reflection period [that followed]," as now the objective is more to effectively involve the citizens into EU decision-making, she said.

"We must consult citizens [because] when we do, we have a better political agenda and a better political result."

"Debate Europe" will have a budget of €7.2 million which will be used to fund a number of civil society projects.

It will, among other things, establish 'European public spaces', where exhibitions, debates, seminars and training sessions on EU matters will take place and involve EU officials in activities at regional and local levels in the different member states.

The commission will also try and boost its "Debate Europe" website. Launched at the end of January, it has gathered some 12,000 posts by EU citizens so far – something Ms Wallstrom called a "big success".

But in addition to its goal to involve citizens in decision-making, the EU is also still aiming to make itself more popular.

Referring to next year's European Parliament elections, an event regularly marked by low voter turnout, the commission said: "We try to change the perception that EU matters are too abstract and disconnected from the national public debate to be of interest to the citizens, and we want to overcome the divide between national and European issues."

She also underlined that launching the new initiative did not mean that one of Plan D's principal objectives – to make the EU more democratic – would be abandoned.

"It's ironic, isn't it, that 50 years after the foundation of the European Union, we are still discussing democracy and how can we become more democratic," she said.

"A lot more" could indeed be done to improve democracy within the EU, as "decisions have moved up to the European level, but the political debates, the media reporting and so on, are still mainly national," Ms Wallstrom noted.

Opinion

Debate Europe!

The European Commission has decided on the follow-up actions to Plan D. We call these next steps "Debate Europe", because we want trans-national consultation of citizens to become a permanent feature of EU democracy, writes Margot Wallström.

Finland rejects call to end sponsorship of EU presidency

Appalled over Coca-Cola sponsoring the recent Romanian EU presidency, MEPs have asked Finland, the new holders of the rotating post, to put an end to such practices. But Helsinki, whose presidency is sponsored by BMW, has no such plan.

EU commission has first-ever woman president

Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday obtained a narrow majority of support in the European Parliament to become the first-ever female president of the European Commission.

Von der Leyen's final appeal to secure top EU post

European Commission presidential-hopeful Ursula von Der Leyen delivered her key appeal in the European Parliament to secure the post. Her appeal appeared to appease most of the political groups - but a lack of specifics, and opposition from Greens remain.

Poland's ex-PM loses EU parliament chair again

Poland's former prime minister, Beata Szydlo, has cried foul after failing to get an EP committee chair a second time, in a fiasco which could spell trouble for the European Commission presidency vote on Tuesday.

Anti-separatist Spanish MEPs dominate liberty committee

The European Parliament's powerful civil liberties committee (Libe) has elected anti-separatist Spanish MEPs for its chair and vice-chair positions. The issue risks complicating efforts by pro-Catalan factions to have the debate on independence raised to the EU level.

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  2. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  3. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  4. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  5. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  6. EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'
  7. Poland 'optimistic' despite new EU law checks
  8. What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us