Can you imagine an EU-wide participatory process that would engage almost 1000 people? Well, no need to imagine it. It is already here with the Conference on the Future of Europe!
Conference on the Future of Europe is the EU wide process that consists of a citizen-led series of debates, discussions, and co-creation of recommendations about what the future of Europe should look like.
The core of the process was Citizens’ Panels that gathered 800 people from all over Europe balanced by country of citizenship, gender, and age. Participants were split into four different panels focused on different issues ranging from migration to climate change and environment. Each panel consisted of three weekend-long events where citizens worked in groups defining the vision for Europe, identifying concrete directions for improvement, and creating specific recommendations for the EU institutions.
Our team members – Anna Tehlova, Katya Petrikevich, and Tomas Rakos – had an opportunity to be a part of it. They were engaged in the process as facilitators for Panel 1 and Panel 2 and got to support citizens working on topics “Stronger Economy, Social Justice and Jobs, Digital Transformation, Education, Culture, Youth, and Sport” and “European Democracy and Institutions, Values, Rights and the Rule of Law and Security.” In the course of their engagement in those panels they have worked in Strasbourg, Florence, and Dublin.
“It was an amazing experience,” says our Managing Director Anna, “It brought together a very diverse group of people with different backgrounds who wouldn’t have a chance to interact with each other otherwise and learn from each other’s experiences and their countries’ best practices. So thanks to it, many enriching discussions emerged.”
The process was diverse not only culturally but also linguistically as each participant was invited to present their ideas in their native language. This way organizers wanted to ensure that all the voices are heard regardless of the languages they speak. And wasn’t it an exciting experience despite some technical difficulties that occurred on the way.
“I loved the fact that people literally spoke different languages, and yet they were still able to communicate and work together!” notes Katya, one of our co-founders. “And the amount of thought and heart that all of the participants gave is impressive! They worked really hard to design very specific recommendations even on very technical topics that I would have personally struggled with, such as digital security and data protection.”
This lengthy process that involved a whole bunch of translators, facilitators, editorial team members, fact-checkers, and experts finished with a great rewarding resolution – participants voting on the designed recommendations that are to be passed on further to the EU institutions and then cheering to it with a glass of Guinness in beautiful Dublin!
Now that all the recommendations such as, for example, introduction of the standardised minimum wage and guarantee of equal family rights for all, including the LGBTQIA+ community are passed by an overwhelming majority of participants, it is now on the EU decision-makers to follow through and to not disappoint citizens and not to lose their trust.
Of course, the process had its hiccups along the way with some technical difficulties and translation issues. There is also room for expanding fact-checking and expert input parts of the process and better merging Citizens’ Panels with other aspects of the CoFoE including its digital track and national assemblies.
However, during our last debriefing with all the facilitators and organizers, we all agreed that this was a great experience especially given that this is the first event of its kind! So, we are really looking forward to seeing how citizens’ recommendations will be implemented and how the Conference on the Future of Europe will continue to grow and develop and will, hopefully, become a regular part of European life.