From 21 to 23 April, the closing session of the European citizens’ panels on virtual worlds will take place in Brussels, hosted by the European Commission. Randomly selected citizens from all walks of life will convene to formulate recommendations on how virtual worlds can be human-centric and reflect European values, with the aim to establish the guiding principles for virtual worlds in the EU.
These panels are the result of the success of the citizens’ panels held at the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE). Following the CoFoE, the Commission pledged to make citizens’ panels a permanent feature of European democracy. Since then, different citizens’ panels, each comprised of around 150 citizens, have discussed crucial topics such as food waste, virtual worlds and learning mobility.
The first panel that started off the sequence of citizens’ panels was on food waste. The process resulted in 23 recommendations that were presented to the Commission. The recommendations focused on three main goals: strengthening the cooperation in the food value chain, encouraging food business initiatives, and supporting the change of consumer behaviour. As a part of the initiative ‘Waste Framework Directive’, the Commission is currently working on a legislative proposal for EU reduction targets. Moreover, in addition to supporting this work, the recommendations will also be published along with the proposal from the Commission.
The third citizens’ panel is centred around learning mobility. The recommendations, which are expected to be concluded on 28-30 of April, will guide the direction of the upcoming learning mobility policy which the Commission is set to propose in 2023. The main goal of this new initiative is to promote a more inclusive learning mobility policy available to all citizens of the European Education Area.
European Commission: Work Programme 2023
European Commission: European citizens’ panels
21-23 April 2023: Closing session of the European Citizens’ Virtual Worlds Panel
European Movement International’s Position
The European Commission’s decision to formalise national and European citizens’ panels in an effort to integrate participatory and deliberative models as a permanent feature of the EU’s decision-making process can complement representative democracy and strengthen our democratic life. As we argue in our policy position on the Conference on the Future of Europe and on enhancing citizen participation, as well as in a related article we published, these panels can play a crucial role in improving the sense of ownership and trust citizens feel in the democratic functioning of the EU and enhance the legitimacy and accountability of the democratic process. Citizens want direct engagement with the European institutions and policymakers and they wish to be able to participate in and influence the decisions that affect them.
We also recommend strengthening the role that organised civil society can play in supporting deliberative democracy. Organised civil society should help identify policy areas where participatory and deliberative processes have an added value. Furthermore, organised civil society can provide expertise to increase the diversity of debates as well as be facilitators in the organisation and running of the panels. Lastly, civil society organisations can play a key role in ensuring the uptake of the citizens’ recommendations in the legislative process.