Civil society organisations across Europe is planning for a pan-European “festival of democracy” to run in parallel with the Future of Europe conference.
Due to start in May and last up to two years, the conference will focus on how citizens should be more closely involved in the EU decision-making process, while the festival aims to “harness the energy, imagination and ideas” of citizens to support this initiative.
With support from a range of civil society groups, including ALDA Europe (the Association for Local Democracy in Europe), the European Future Forum, Volonteurope, GlobalNet21 and BETA, a Europe-wide student network, the initiative aims to fill the “spaces in-between” the formal consultation events taking place as part of the official conference.
Some 47 civil society organisations met in Milan, including the Italian European Movement, and signed a declaration supporting the Europe Future Fringe initiative. The organisers say they were inspired by the world-famous Edinburgh fringe festival.
In the meantime, decisions about the official Future of Europe Conference itself have been postponed while the European Parliament, Commission and Council continue discussions about who will take charge of what was originally billed as a “bottom-up” rather than “top-down” process.
Secretary General and CEO of the campaign group New Europeans, Roger Casale said, “Citizens will switch off very quickly if they think the Future of Europe conference is all about politics and not about them. That’s why we need to kick start the conversation about the future of Europe now.”
General Secretary of Volonteurope, an association representing over 100 voluntary organisations in Europe and one of the organisers of the “fringe”, Piotr Sadowski said, “One of the great things about the Europe Future Fringe is that we can reach out to people outside the borders of the EU and involve them in the future of Europe debate, for example in the UK, Ukraine, and the Balkans. That is vitally important – Europe is a community of values not simply a set of institutions in Brussels.”
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President of Europe Future Forum, Dominik Kirchdorfer commented, “We want to bring people and organisations together so they can share ideas and new perspectives and have their say in the future of Europe debate. The Europe Future Fringe will give us the opportunity to do just that.”
The idea is to bring policymaking closer to voters through a series of “bottom up” initiatives such as citizens’ and youth assemblies and online consultations. However, so far, the main debate about the conference has been about who is going to chair the initiative, an issue that remains unresolved.
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