The Conference on the Future of Europe is at the moment, the most advanced and innovative experiment in both participatory and deliberative democracy and an EU flagship initiative
There is a web platform which offers to all European citizens a unique opportunity to contribute to the conversation on Europe’s challenges and priorities and to sketch the future they want for the European Union. If you are European or you live in Europe, you may be interested in registering at https://futureu.europa.eu/, getting involved, sharing your ideas or even organizing an event and making it known to everybody on the net. If you are not European you could do just the same, if you are curious and open to experimenting with democracy.
The experiment becomes even more interesting if you are one of the 800 citizens randomly selected. Four European Citizens’ Panels are organized to allow citizens to jointly think about the future they want for the European Union. Each of them is composed of 200 European citizens selected by an algorithm, from the 27 Member States (one third under 25), reflecting the EU’s diversity: geographic origin, gender, age, socioeconomic background and level of education. Each panel meet three times in total and appoints 20 representatives who shall take part in the Plenary, present the outcome of their discussions and debate them with other participants. Never such a trans-national multi-lingual exercise in deliberative democracy has been experimented until now.
The two streams of discussion are going to meet as panels shall take on board contributions gathered in the framework of the Conference through the digital platform. The European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission have committed to listen to Europeans and to follow up, within their sphere of action.
By spring 2022, the Conference is expected to reach conclusions and provide guidance on the future of Europe.
Does this make the Union the most advanced democracy ever? An out-and-outer, a non-plus-ultra of democracy? Nobody would believe it, neither we do.
Yet it proves, once again that Europe is a work in progress open to very interesting experimentations on democracy beyond the borders, the most advanced lab we have on such a big scale (on the small scale of communities the experiments are many and very interesting).
Will it be a success? Will it produce interesting outcomes? Will EP members, national governments and commissioners draw on this reservoir of ideas for a real Treaty revision or at least some innovative policies? Will some NGOs succeed in making these deliberative and participatory democracy tools permanent as they wish?
We can just wait and see.
What I will never be tired to suggest is that the European brave experiments are not just for Europe. Whatever proves successful in sharing decisions and policies, in a continent that has been for centuries a cradle for wars deserves attention.
The lessons learned can be transferred – with all the necessary adjustments – in other regions of the world or even on the global scale, to manage some issues which are just too big for the national and even for the continental dimension.