The Time is Now - 8/2021


The first two citizen-led panels on the future of Europe already took place at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. 200 ordinary citizens came together to discuss a wide range of topics under the heading “a stronger economy, social justice, jobs/education, youth, culture, and sport/digital transformation” and "European democracy/values and rights, rule of law, security". The other two panels will follow in the upcoming weekends. They will cover Climate change, environment/health (first meeting: 1-3 October), and EU in the world/migration (first meeting: 15-17 October).

The panels were divided into 15 smaller working groups where the participants discussed a list of topics or focus areas that were important to them and scored them in an iterative process. The five most important topics from the working groups were then discussed in the plenary meeting, where they were regrouped and voted on.

Around 400 citizens from all 27 EU countries were in Strasbourg between 17-19 and 24-26 September. They were divided into 15 groups of 10-15 people each. Each subgroup worked in up to 5 languages. During plenaries interpretation was provided in all 24 official EU languages.

Over the course of the first two panels, participants discussed their visions and ideas related to the thematic clusters of their panels "Stronger economy, social justice and jobs / youth, sport, culture and education / digital transformation" and "European democracy/values and rights, rule of law, security".

One crucial problem was that citizens were not able to go into any depth into all the different policy areas subsumed by the overall theme. As is common in deliberative processes, subgroup discussions start out broad before becoming more specific. This ECP followed this strategy and delivered a concrete result which can feed into the next Panel sessions and help the process move forward. The problem is that in doing so, the design of this Panel arguably granted too much time to the general discussions and then rushed through the steps that delivered the final five streams. Variation in moderation styles and expert involvement were critically reviewed as well: several participants felt that some of the experts focused too much on promoting their own points of view and ideas instead of providing a balanced overview of their respective topics.

Despite some of the shortcomings, the first Citizens’ Panel of the Conference was responsibly set up by organisers, with due consideration of fundamental elements of deliberative exercises.

Citizens panel 1 highlights
Citizens panel 2 highlights


The first sessions of panels 3&4 will be held in Strasbourg ( Panel 3 on 1-3 October, and Panel 4 on 15-17 October), the second online, and the third one in European institutes in other European cities (Dublin, Florence, Warsaw and Maastricht), in full respect of the applicable health and safety measures. The first two panels will present and debate their recommendations at the Conference Plenary in December 2021, while the third and the fourth will do so in January 2022.

By the final session of the Panels, these 800 citizens will formulate recommendations, which will be presented and discussed within the Conference Plenary. 20 citizens selected from each panel will deliberate jointly with the representatives of the EU institutions and advisory bodies, national Parliaments, social partners, civil society and other stakeholders - all as full members of the Conference Plenary. After these recommendations have been presented by and discussed with citizens, the Plenary will on a consensual basis put forward proposals to the Executive Board, who will draw up a report in full collaboration and full transparency with the Plenary. The three institutions – the European Parliament, the Council of the EU, and the European Commission – have undertaken to examine swiftly how to follow up effectively on this report, each within their own sphere of competences and in accordance with the EU Treaties.


Sebastián Rodríguez, together with EURACTIV and Graphext analyzed the data on interactions mentioning the Conference on Twitter discovering that it is a EU bubble monologue, and not a conversation with citizens. 

They came up with several recommendations to improve the CoFoE communication:

  • Language matters: Avoid the word “citizen” in the context of the Conference, use storytelling, do not use acronyms and communicate in as many languages as you can.
  • Aim for an authentic conversation: ask people for their opinions and listen to what they have to say, as if you’re having a conversation with your friends.
  • Scale from local to European: connect a local or national debate to an European one.
  • Innovate with the formats and platforms: real face to face conversations, explore new formats and platforms to reach new audiences.

Read the full article here.