News > 2009 European Citizens Consultations: The economic and social future of Europe

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  • 3rd April 2009 - 09:30 GMT

2009 European Citizens Consultations: The economic and social future of Europe

European citizens call for tougher supervision of the financial markets, more focused spending on research and innovation, and greater investment in sustainable energy in a unique pan-European debate on the EU’s economic and social future.

Citizens from 27 EU countries who are taking part in a unique pan-European debate on the EU’s economic and social future have called for wide-ranging measures to boost Europe’s economy, including tougher supervision of the financial markets, more focused spending on research and innovation, and increased investment in sustainable energy. These were among the recommendations for action agreed by citizens at national events in all 27 EU Member States, with calls for the creation of a politically independent European body to monitor the financial markets and increase transparency in financial transactions; for a more efficient allocation of funding for innovation and research to maximise the benefits; and for increased spending on sustainable energy to reduce the EU’s dependence on imported energy.  Other issues raised included the fight against poverty, promoting a better work/life balance, and action on education.

The 1,600 citizens – selected randomly by professional opinion research institutes to represent the diversity of the population – who participated in the national events over three weekends in March are  taking part in the 2009 European Citizens’ Consultations, which are giving citizens an opportunity to make their voice heard at a time of unprecedented economic turmoil and in the run-up to the European elections.

Over the course of three weekends, these randomly-selected citizens – from a 39-year-old employee from Inga (Finland) to a 21-year-old unemployed Spaniard to a 58-year-old retired woman from Warsaw – discussed a wide range of ideas for addressing the economic and social challenges facing Europe and agreed on ten recommendations for EU action at each national event.  The citizens then handed over and discussed these recommendations with members of and candidates for the European Parliament, European Commissioners and national politicians from their own countries.

Speaking at the national events, leading European policy-makers praised the ECC project and underlined the importance of dialogue and debate with citizens in shaping future EU policies.

European Commissioner László Kovács told citizens at the Hungarian national consultation that: “The EU cannot function without citizens – and it does not matter what the politicians decide, if the citizens are not satisfied.”

Socialist MEP Carlos Carnera described the national consultation in Spain as a “crucial event”, telling participants: “As an MEP, I feel even more motivated looking at your contributions.” 

Speaking at Sweden’s national consultation, European Commission Vice-President Margot Wallström, said: “My, maybe naive but firm, conviction is that the ECC will help the European Union to make better decisions, better anchored with citizens."

Citizens who participated in the national debates were also enthusiastic about the process. “The ECC is an educational experience. I really got the feeling that I could have an impact on things,” said Olja, a 21-year-old from Lahti in Finland.  

In addition to the 1,600 citizens who took part in these consultations, more than 200,000 have visited the online fora launched in each Member State in December to give the wider public the opportunity to feed their views and ideas into the debate.

In April, the participants in the national consultations will be asked to vote online on the recommendations made at each one. The top 15 recommendations which emerge from this process will then be discussed at a European Citizens’ Summit, which will bring together 150 citizens who took part in the 27 national consultations to debate the recommendations with top EU policy-makers, on 10-11 May 2009 in Brussels.

The European Citizens’ Consultations are run under the auspices of the President of the European Parliament by a consortium of more than 40 European partner organisations, led by the Belgian King Baudouin Foundation (KBF), and are co-funded by the European Commission under its “Debate Europe” programme and foundations including the KBF, Compagnia di San Paolo, the Robert Bosch Foundation, ING and funders at national level.

For more information, please contact:

Maria Laura Franciosi
Tel: +32 475 244697
franciosi@brusselsreporter.eu

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