Wednesday

28th Sep 2022

No trolling: EU launches platform to hear citizens' views

  • Portuguese EU affairs state secretary Ana Paula Zacarias (l), EU Commission vice-president Dubravka Šuica, and Belgian liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt (r) unveil the Conference on the Future of Europe online portal (Photo: European Commission)

Within hours of its launch on Monday (19 April), dozens of ideas had already been uploaded to the EU's Conference on the Future of Europe platform, part of the bloc's latest soul-searching exercise.

The conference, which has been thrown off-track by the pandemic and then by an intra-institutional fight over the leadership of the exercise, will officially kick off on 9 May - but EU citizens can already start the debate online.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The aim is to gather ideas 'bottom-up' from European citizens, have them debated and crystallised into recommendations on where and how participants want the EU to evolve in the next years.

The platform launched on Monday is available in all the bloc's official 24 languages, with the online debates translated automatically by AI.

Citizens can share and debate ideas under nine broad topics - climate, health, economy and social issues, EU in the world, values, migration, democracy, digital transformation, education - but can add more issues as well.

Events can be also organised, publicised, and reported on, via the platform.

Those participating need to sign up to a charter, pledging to respect European values, contribute with "constructive and concrete proposals", and not share "illegal, hateful or deliberately false or misleading" content.

That is part of an effort to avoid the site being taken over by trolls and hijacked by disinformation. There will be a group of moderators overseeing if participants respect the charter, and will remove content if they see it breaking the rules.

EU Commission vice-president Dubravka Šuica, Portuguese EU affairs state secretary Ana Paula Zacarias and Belgian liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt, who announced the launch, described the exercise as "unique", "historic", and "unprecedented".

However, it is not yet clear how, and when, the so-called "citizens' panels" and the "plenaries" - planned to combine both citizens and legislators - will be organised.

These will be the forums where the ideas that emerge from the platform - monitored, analysed, and put together by the platform and its EU operators.

Verhofstadt said it be clearer in "the next coming weeks" how the panels - acting as autonomous organisations - and plenaries will be organised.

The expectation is that panels and plenaries begin during the summer.

The EU institutions will finance the conference separately, depending on which one organises events. Events put together by citizens will most likely not be subsidised by the EU, to avoid accusations of a pro-EU bias.

EU officials are hoping that the "middle ground" of citizens will participate in the platform, not only diehard EU-enthusiasts and eurosceptics.

Results?

The exercise will end in the spring of next year, and the European Parliament hopes that any legislation stemming from the conference can be introduced before the European elections in 2024. Member states have been less enthusiastic about any concrete results which could emerge from the conference.

Verhofstadt said the ideas could be the "backbone" of EU reforms.

"This conference is not the panacea for all the problems that we have, it is just one element. It is a dialogue element that will bring citizens closer to the union. It is a listening instrument but more than that, we hope to have answers in the form of policies of the EU," Zacarias told reporters on Monday.

While there is no commitment that the exercise would lead to treaty change, Verhofstadt emphased that it has not been ruled out either.

"Things are not impossible, and have not been made impossible," Vehofstadt pointed out.

"We don't preempt any result, we don't want to say what is the outcome, we are listening to citizens," commissioner Šuica added.

"At this moment that we live in, people want to talk more about health, about economic situation, about jobs, about social issues, about everything that has to do with their own life and everyday [existence], rather than treaty changes, but we are listening, and will deal with every matter that citizens bring to us," Zacarias said.

Opinion

Just cancel the Future of Europe Conference

After spending an estimated €200m and countless months in meetings, the conference will likely release a grand statement along the lines of 'making the EU more inclusive, more competitive, sustainable, green',

12-month Future EU Conference is 'impossible', expert warns

The debate about the much-delayed Conference on the Future of Europe so far has been locked in endless institutional infighting over who should lead the event - lowering the expectations about what can be achieved in the coming months.

Opinion

Conference on Future of Europe must listen to local voices

The Conference on the Future of Europe must concretely involve our local communities, regions, cities and villages. This is key to avoid a top-down exercise that would only feed the demagogic and anti-European false narrative of populists and eurosceptics.

EU adding Bahamas to tax-haven blacklist

The EU is adding Anguilla, the Bahamas, and Turks and Caicos Islands to its blacklist of tax-havens, in what some have called a "fig-leaf" exercise.

Opinion

What von der Leyen's 'State of Union' didn't mention

Ursula von der Leyen barely noticed that European democracy is under attack not only from external threats, but from within. Two of the world's leading autocratic countries are EU member states.

News in Brief

  1. EU to ban Russian products worth €7bn a year more
  2. Denmark: CIA did not warn of Nord Stream attack
  3. Drone sightings in the North Sea 'occurred over months'
  4. Gazprom threatens to cut gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine
  5. New compromise over EU energy emergency measures
  6. 15 states push for EU-wide gas price cap
  7. EU: Nord Stream explosions 'result of a deliberate act'
  8. EU okays €21bn Covid-recovery funding for Italy amid concern

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. Netherlands tops EU social safety net for the poor
  2. New EU rules to make companies liable for their AI failures
  3. Can King Charles III reset the broken Brexit relationship?
  4. Meloni's navy-blockade plan to stop Libya migrants 'unlikely'
  5. Underwater explosions were detected near Nord Stream leaks
  6. EU countries stall new pesticide rules, blame Ukraine war
  7. The UN's Uyghur report must push EU into China sanctions
  8. Russian diamonds ban 'would cost 10,000 jobs', Antwerp claims

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us