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Lessons learned from EWViews

The consultation was successful across the countries that participated. Participating citizens demonstrated a high degree of support for deliberation and involvement in consulting decision makers. A large majority reported that they would like to see more consultations like the Europe Wide Views in the future, and they expressed that they would also take part in them if they received an invitation. These sentiments were echoed across Europe.

What is of special interest to the agenda of expanding TA is that in those countries without established TA institutions, the national events managed to stir up debate and create a focus on citizen engagement. Furthermore, the perceived legitimacy of the events was high due to the transparent process of consultation, which was perceived as trustworthy by participants and recipients alike. Most of the participating citizens reported that they for once felt included, and they were therefore pleased to express their opinion, as they knew it would be considered by policy makers. [1]

The EWViews method proved to travel well. Citizens' engagement in national deliberations was very lively in all countries. In part, this was due to the presence of skilful moderators, but to a much higher extent to the fact that the participating citizens felt that they had a voice to be heard. They could, and often did, relate to their own experiences, and they provided numerous examples to support their arguments. All deliberations were markedly based on dialogue and respect, which contributed to the sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

In terms of preparation, the greatest challenge turned out to be the recruitment of participants. Citizens in some countries remain very reluctant to share their opinions in public. Even among those who agreed to participate, some were hesitant at the beginning. The moderators, however, were prepared for such a challenge and helped create a very positive atmosphere at each table, helping citizens overcome their hesitation. Over time, the best remedy for this hesitancy will likely be further experiments that expose growing numbers of citizens to the participation experience, which would help to increase capacities and create a virtuous circle of growing trust among citizens in such processes.

Future perspectives and conclusions

The citizens' evaluation demonstrated that the consultation was successful. The overwhelming support for engaging citizens more in decisionmaking processes was equally present in countries with extensive as well as little experience with citizen-participation processes. A Walloon citizen expressed his support for more citizen engagement in the EU, in the following way:

Envision more frequent consultations of active citizens, of people wanting to take part in debates. Citizen dynamics such as this summit should be systematized.

Furthermore, the citizen consultation was also a success from a publicpolicy point of view. It has produced a set of very clear policy recommendations on how citizens think that policy makers should act in order to achieve a higher degree of sustainability in consumption. We hope that policy makers will make use of the unique insights into the views of ordinary citizens and will carefully consider them when formulating future policies that relate to sustainable consumption.

Additionally, the fact that the citizen consultation took place simultaneously in the eleven countries helped to give participants a sense of being part of something bigger, that went far beyond the walls of their respective national meetings: a truly European event. Therefore, Europe Wide Views is also a way to emotionally minimize the distance between citizens across EU member states and hereby strengthen the European community.

To harvest these fruits, a more systematic use of similar methods for participation in the future could help build capacities and pave the way for both the formal and the informal acceptance of citizens' engagement within the governance institutions of Europe and its member states. Such systematic development would provide evidently added value from a European perspective.

  • [1] This was particularly evident in Hungary and Bulgaria.
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