Public Engagement: Building Society’s Dialogues for the Future of Europe

As one of the main pillars of RRI, public engagement plays a key role in all territorial development strategies, to allow for members of society, including both citizens and civil society, to speak out with their ideas, problems, and challenges. By engaging with the public throughout the entire decision-making process, a more open, inclusive, and transparent dialogue is created that allows for citizens and stakeholders to be an active part of shaping their region’s future.

A great example of how to foster citizen engagement is CoR and Bertelsmann-Stiftung collaboration that aims to test and showcase the great potential that local, regional, and international citizens’ discussions or assemblies can bring to a more international, especially to an EU-level, for truly impacting its policy debates. This is just one example of an initiative looking to make citizen engagement a reality, and such examples are important for the development of common EU policies that give the floor to society to efficiently immerse citizens in the decision-making process.  

In a recent live discussion called “From local to European – success stories and the main findings from local, cross-border and transnational Citizens’ Dialogues” they brought citizens, politicians and experts from all over Europe together to analyze the project’s final report. The most relevant results, that were presented at the 15th February online meeting, proved a considerably high level of satisfaction from all parties involved. Therefore, politicians extracted that there is a real probability of implementation of these practices in a powerful strategy to bring society and indicated a high probability of implementation by politicians. 

“The genie is out of the bottle – people feel local, national and European at the same time” said Karl-Heinz Lambertz, president of the Parliament of the German-speaking Community of Belgium and former president of the European Committee of the Regions.  

However, it is still important to keep narrowing the scope of the activities and measures that are going to be implemented to achieve proper citizen engagement. Considering that historically there hasn’t been a large emphasis on actively engaging citizens in policymaking, there has to be a concise set of strategies that truly impact them and make them feel that their opinion matters by the time of taking important decisions.   

“It only makes sense to continue with European citizen panels if there is a defined channel for how to deal with results. Citizens need to know that their ideas are taken seriously” said Mark Speich, Secretary of State for Federal, European and International Affairs, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.  

The TetRRIS project is committed to integrating public engagement, with a specific emphasis on citizen engagement throughout this project as a whole and in the work done by our partners. As the manner in which citizen engagement is possible and effective differs depending on governance structure as well as political, social, and economic factors in a region, the way in which each of the pilot regions in the TetRRIS project are incorporating citizen engagement into their project differs, in response to their unique context. It is important that we go beyond the inclusion of the civil society dimension in this project, and to also encourage citizens through direct activities that specifically target their inquietudes regarding a bigger decision power.

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