Citizens at heart of debate on future of Europe

For two days, on 5 and 6 May, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), as the representative of civil society, opened its doors for the "European Citizens' Panel", which was attended by more than a hundred people representing the diversity of the 27 Member States, excluding the United Kingdom.

This event was launched by the European Commission, on the initiative of the French government and in partnership with the Committee, which hosted this "première".  

The panel's participants shared their concerns, fears and hopes for the Europe of tomorrow, with the aim of identifying 12 key questions of concern to Europeans. These questions relate to all areas of life, including unemployment, education, migration, environment, climate, health, defence and security. In short, each citizen had the opportunity to have their say on the future of Europe.

From 9 May, the questionnaire, which has become a "pan-European tool" will be subject to consultation, under the management of the European Commission. It will be accessible online to all European citizens, in the run up to the May 2019 Summit in Sibiu. 

The EESC president, Luca Jahier, highlighted the unique nature of this project, which "makes us seek the way by walking", as well as the importance of dialogue on topics proposed by citizens in Europe. The president also assured panel participants that their opinions will be taken into account: " the diversity of opinions, the cultural and linguistic context, create the richness of our European space".

According to Thierry Libaert, member of Group III, the European Citizens' Panel should not remain without follow-up after leaving Brussels. It must be extended wherever the participants meet and by continuing the project with the EESC Members in their own Member States.

The idea of hosting the European Citizens' Panel came to light at the EESC's February 2018 plenary session. While attending the EESC plenary session as a guest, Nathalie Loiseau, The French Minister for European Affairs, presented the European consultation process put forward by Emmanuel Macron. It was with this in mind that Georges Dassis (the outgoing EESC president) and Luca Jahier (the incoming president) proposed that the Committee be actively and closely involved, with reference to the successful results of the consultations carried out in 2017 by the Committee in Member States in the framework of the White Paper on the Future of Europe by Jean Claude Juncker. (ehp)