Addressing Democratic Challenges in EU: Citizen participation, rule of law and border tensions”
Two days deliberative forum 9-16 December 2021.
The event is promoted by the Jean Monnet Network “OpenEUdebate: Matching politics with policy” (600465-EPP-1-2018-1-ES-EPPJMO-NETWORK).
It iss coordinated by the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), together with the participation of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and the National University of Political Science and Public Administration (SNSPA); and Public Agenda.
In this event (“Addressing Democratic Challenges in EU: Citizen participation, rule of law and border tensions”) we will focus on the 7th theme (European democracy), reviewing different thoughts and connecting in order to articulate new ideas and proposals to deal with in the Conference.
We will apply the experience and knowledge on EU of the organisers in order to promote a deliberative dynamic. Therefore, prior information will be offered to the registered participants on the issues to be addressed and moderators will be used to help the articulation of proposals. It will take place in two phases:
December 9th, 10:30-12:30. Preparatory meeting to debate with students from the Universities of the Network. The students will just speak to each other on issues previously structured according to their work and with the facilitation of OpenEUdebate staff.
December 16th, 10:30-12:30. Open event to general public. The debate will take place in English, based on the proposals already articulated in the previous forums.
Event reportINDEX 1. GENERAL INFORMATION 2. METHODOLOGY AND STRUCTURE 3. FOLLOW - UP 4. PARTICIPANTS´ PROPOSALS Authors of the report: Elena García Guitián, Professor of Political Science, UAM Luis Bouza, Professor Political Science UAM Antonio Manuel Álvarez (PIF UAM) Technical support: Carolina Conde (OpenEUDebate’ activities manager) Last version: 21/02/2022 1. GENERAL INFORMATION This event has been organised within the activities of the Jean Monnet Network “OpenEUdebate: matching politics with policy” (600465-EPP-1-2018-1-ES-EPPJMO- NETWORK). The event has been coordinated by Professors Elena García Guitián and Luis Bouza García, from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM), in cooperation with Professors Ramona Coman from Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and Miruna Butnaru-Troncotä from Școala Națională de Studii Politice și Administrative, (SNSPA). Other participants are Taru Haapala, Tomás y Valiente research fellow (UAM), Antonio Manuel Álvarez (PIF, UAM), and with the technical support of Carolina Conde (OpenEUDebate’ activities manager) The organisers of the event are members of University Research Groups, and professors and collaborators who have used their research and teaching for the proper development according to the activity. This event has been organized following the rules of the Conference on the Future of Europe (COFE), registered as cofe-MEET-2021-12-98276. The COFE seeks to involve a two-year interinstitutional discussion and a citizens' debate during 2020-2022. The principal objectives in the Conference on the Future of Europe have been organised to give European citizens a better understanding of European policies and institutions, and to participate in a broad debate on Europe's challenges and priorities. To this end, with an institutionalised structure of representation and participation, diverse events are being promoted at local, regional and transnational levels. The main purpose of these events is to collect original ideas and proposals to lay the foundations for a new stage to meet the great remaining challenges and draw conclusions in spring 2022 that will guide the future of Europe. In this event (“Addressing Democratic Challenges in EU: Citizen participation, rule of law and border tensions”), we will only focus on the 7th theme, understood in a wide sense. The principal aim is to articulate new ideas and proposals related to European democracy, reviewing and connecting different thoughts. Thus, it reflects on the current democratic quality in the EU and on what possibilities of citizen participation can be developed, the challenges to the rule of law and the possibilities towards democratizing EU external policies to improve it. The results are used to produce this final report and present the participant´s proposals, as well as the structure and terms of the deliberation. This has been sent to the Conference on the Future of Europe as the outcomes of our formal event, as well as to the participants and the public (through OpenEUDebate and universities Moodle platform) . 2. METHODOLOGY AND STRUCTURE The event was organised following the deliberative forum procedures. Participants worked in different formats: a) receiving some expert information through their academic courses on the topics selected for the activity: citizen´s participation, rule of law and EU in the world; b) debating and proposing ideas in small groups (7 – 10 members) on the first collective session of the event; c) debating in common the proposals that were articulated in those groups and voting them individually. In both joint sessions the organizers played the role of “facilitators”, which meant that they did not intervene on the content of the debate, nor in the articulation of proposals. After the whole activity, a questionnaire was sent to all participants in order to obtain their perceptions and opinions, as well as the extent to which we reached the deliberative requirements. Before the events took place, the activity started in the three participating universities. In each of them, students worked on the different contents that served as a preparation for the event, within their regular courses, developing some participatory activities to generate some preliminary proposals. In the case of the UAM, students participated in the event “Democracia en la UE: mecanismos y estrategias de participación ciudadana”, which was also part of the COFE , as a preliminary activity that allowed students to prepare the deliberations. We applied the experience and knowledge on EU of the organisers in order to promote a deliberative dynamic. Therefore, prior information was offered to the participants on the addressed issues and facilitators helped the articulation of proposals that were bottom-up. Once the preliminary activities were done, the event started. It consisted of two deliberative sessions. 2.1. Session 1. Date: 9th December 2021. Format: online (Zoom); not recorded; not live streamed. Language: English Participants: 65 degree and master students from UAM, ULB and SNSPA. There was gender parity. The age of participants ranged from 21 to 37 (av. 25) Students from the three collaborating universities were involved in this activity. This event lasted two and a half hours, starting at 10:30 am and ending at around 13:00 pm (Spanish time). In this first meeting, small groups were formed on the Zoom platform. 5 groups emerged, made up of 7-10 students from the different participating universities. Professors from UAM, ULB and SNSPA worked as facilitators in each of these deliberative groups. Each group had up to 60 minutes to address three different topics: citizen´s participation, rule of law and EU in the world. The students were allowed to use all the knowledge they acquired in the relevant courses, but in this exercise, they were actively participating as citizens, which means that they had to accept different points of view, degrees of knowledge and attitudes to the EU. They could speak freely but remembering that they were contributing to institutional debate and the public sphere. Each group could nominate up to three rapporteurs, who reported: the process by which consensus were reached (if there were any), which proposals the group had and what impact they expected from their proposal. These rapporteurs had to write a brief report that would work as a guideline for the plenary of the following week, in which each rapporteur would have 5 minutes to summarize the dynamics experienced in their 9th December groups. 2.2. Session 2: final plenary Date: 9th December 2021. Format: online (Zoom). Recorded; not livestreamed. Language: English Participants: 25 master students from UAM, ULB and SNSPA. There was gender parity. The age of participants ranged from 21 to 37 (av. 25) The following event on 16th December was a more formal meeting, and worked as the final plenary of the whole activity. This event was also open to all the public interested in participating, not only the students of the collaborating universities, with the aim of nurturing and feeding back proposals. The event took place in just one Zoom “room”, which was shared by all participants. UAM Professor Luis Bouza moderated the whole session. First of all, each rapporteur shared the information concerning her group from the previous activity. This is: the process by which consensus were reached, which proposals the group had and what impact they expected from their proposal. Afterwards, all proposals from all groups were collected, and they were divided in the three same topic categories that were given in the previous session: citizen´s participation, rule of law and EU in the world. Once this task was done, all participants went through a meticulous deliberation on every single proposal. Anyone who had any objections could share her thoughts in order to feed back or reject the proposal that was being discussed. Each proposal was discussed for six to ten minutes. Once this time was up, a voting process took place for every proposal. Proposals were “accepted” or “rejected” in the light of the simple majority principle. The final plenary lasted 2 hours, from 10:00 am to 12:00 am (Spanish time). In this case, time restriction was a problem, as it became impossible to develop a debate +voting process for all proposals. 3. FOLLOW UP Facilitators from the three participating universities worked in every session to guarantee that the main aspects of the deliberative principle were followed: mutual respect, dialogue dynamics (avoiding isolated monologues), trying to reach consensus, etc. Anyhow, a final survey was designed in order to see the participant´s perceptions on the event. 3.1. Survey results 3.1.1. Personal information We have results from a survey answered by 25 of the students involved: 14 from the Université Libre de Bruxelles and 11 from the National School of Political and Administrative Studies in Bucharest. 70% of these people are between 21 and 24 years old. The remaining 30% are between 26 and 37. In the linguistic section, 80% of the participants say they have a bilingual or high level of the language used in the activity (English); there are four people with an intermediate or basic level, all of them coming from the ULB. 3.1.2. Session 1 All respondents participated in the 9th December activity. They evaluated this session in two different dimensions: procedural and didactic. As far as procedure is concerned, the opinions are positive in general aspects: 80% agree or strongly agree that the deliberation was conducted with “dynamism” and that “everyone who wanted to have the opportunity to share their point of view”. There is also a broad consensus about the facilitators' good performance (92% agree or strongly agree). However, 72% strongly disagree or disagree that the time for deliberation was sufficient. For instance, in the free suggestions section, most comments denounce the lack of time and the online format: “There was no time for anything. One hour for the groups was not enough. Next time, there should be more time for the groups, or make much smaller groups. The second session had also time efficience issues.” “The online format reduced the ability to talk in a natural way, and sometimes technical issues made almost impossible to understand what other participants were saying. It was an interesting activity that would have gained if carried out in presence instead of online.” In the didactic section, there is a moderate consensus on the capacity of the activity to provide theoretical knowledge: 72% agree or strongly agree that they have acquired knowledge about participation and deliberation and 64% agree that they have acquired knowledge about the European Union. There is a stronger consensus on the ability of the activity to contrast ideas with others (92% agree or strongly agree with this statement). In fact, only 20% of respondents said they had not changed their position after the activity. 3.1.2. Session 2: final plenary Respondents also rated the final plenary on the two dimensions mentioned above: Procedural and didactic. On the procedural aspects, opinions were generally good, even though it involved more students deliberating at the same time. Interestingly, 68% agreed or strongly agreed that the increase in participants did not pose a problem for the dynamics. However, the lack of time was again pointed out as a major problem: 76% strongly disagree or disagree that the time for deliberation was sufficient In the didactic section, 82% of those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that the activity fulfilled its main purpose, which was none other than “to confront ideas and enrich the proposals that emerged on 9th December”. There is also consensus on the ability of this activity to provide theoretical knowledge about deliberation and the European Union. Finally, we again find positive results in terms of contrasting ideas with others and enriching or modifying personal positions. Only 25% say they have not changed their position at all. 4. PARTICIPANTS´ PROPOSALS As we have said, in the final plenary (16th December) all participants discussed the proposals that were designed by the groups back in the previous deliberative session. Proposals were divided in three different topics: citizen´s participation, rule of law and EU in the world. After the discussion, a voting process took place and proposals were accepted or rejected. Here we show those proposals and whether they were accepted, rejected, or if they remained unvoted due to time restrictions. It has to be noted that, although not all proposals were accepted, every proposal that made it through the final plenary had to be based on the group consensus that were reached on the 9th of December, so they all need to be taken into consideration. 4.1. EU in the world REJECTED. Abandon sanctions intended to promote the rule of law in the neighbourhood in favour of a system of conditionality linking investments to incentives oriented to the creation of institutions promoting the rule of law or structural reforms. ACCEPTED. Scraping unanimity in Council for foreign policy, a qualified majority for Foreign Affairs should be applied. REJECTED. Dismantle the paternalistic style of EU foreign policy on EU values with its external partnership. ACCEPTED. EU should redesign the investment having a real plan. It should also involve Russia and refocus the funds to countries that really have proven the intention and commitment to join the EU. ACCEPTED. Consistent investments into alternative energy supplies should exist in order to gain independence of the energy provided by the Russian Federation. ACCEPTED. We need more involvement of local communities to find out from them what (they feel) are the real problems. Also, this would encourage EU support from these communities. NO TIME FOR VOTING. We need better promotion of EU projects. Local people need to understand that they are already benefiting from the EU and that they could benefit from EU integration. 4.2. Rule of Law ACCEPTED. LGBTQ+ rights within the EU: achieving a successful enforcement of anti-discrimination norms in all Member States 4.3. Citizen´s participation: NO TIME FOR VOTING. Create “citizen’s lectures” at school as a coordination policy between the EU and the Member-States NO TIME FOR VOTING. Creating an EU TV Channel NO TIME FOR VOTING. Redesigning the layout of the EU Institutions websites, to make them more user friendly NO TIME FOR VOTING. Even when it comes to accountability problems at national levels, we should focus on EU institutions. National institutions will change if the EU works properly. NO TIME FOR VOTING. We need better promotions of the accountability tools that are already provided by the EU political system: European Citizen´s Initiative, elections, Conference for the future of Europe, etc. NO TIME FOR VOTING. Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are essential for a proper functioning of accountability mechanisms. The EU should work on guarantying those liberties. Full report in https://openeudebate.eu/deliberative-fora/
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