A permanent system of grassroots participation institutionalised a year ago in German-speaking Eastern Belgium could serve as a model for the European Union as it seeks to involve its citizens in charting its future.
The example of the “Bürgerrat”, Eastern Belgium’s permanent citizen’s council, will greatly help the European Commission with an eye to the Conference on the Future of Europe, Commission Vice President Dubravca Suica said after a meeting in Eupen with the council.
The Bürgerrat exists side-by-side with the parliament of the German Community, which has adopted the name Eastern Belgium since 2017. The permanent council, whose members are selected by lottery, determines each year the themes to be discussed within independent citizens’ panels, which are also made up of representatives of the community’s population. These panels are tasked with preparing recommendations and submitting them to the community’s parliament and government, which have committed themselves to take them into consideration.
During her visit to Eupen, capital of the German-speaking Community, Suica had discussions with the representatives of the Bürgerrat and met the community’s authorities.
The Conference on the Future of Europe, backed by the presidents of the European Commission, Council and Parliament, aims to give EU citizens a greater say in the Union’s action. It is meant as an open, inclusive, transparent and structured debate with citizens from different horizons and all social conditions.
The idea is to officially inaugurate it on 9 May, Europe Day, 70 years after the signing of the Schuman Declaration and 75 years after the end of World War II.
Europe’s Commission and Parliament have already presented their positions on the organisation of the conference, and are awaiting the position of the Member States – the Council – before negotiating a joint project.