The European Citizens' Panel initiative is supported by the European Commission and aimed to include citizens in the debate on the Common Agriculture Policy via 8 citizens' panels. One was implemented in the Walloon Region of Belgium.
Problems and Purpose
As the reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) stalled and the European level seems to move away from the citizens, the European Citizens' Panel initiative expected to provide a response to these two crises by including citizens directly in the discussions on the future of policies linked to rural and agricultural regions, via a dual consultation mechanism: first at the regional level and then at the European level. The initiative was widely supported by the European Commission.
Background History and Context
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Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Sponsored by the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Affairs, Environment and Tourism of the Walloon government Di Rupo II (PS / CDH), Benoît Lutgen (CDH), the citizen panel "Nos Campagnes, demain en Europe" is work by the Foundation for Future Generations and Tr @ me and facilitated by Athanor Médiations. It is one of the eight regional citizen panels intended to serve as a basis for the reflections of the European citizen panel on “What roles for rural areas in tomorrow’s Europe?” (composed of representatives of the eight regional panels).
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Like those of the other seven regional panels, the members of the Walloon panel were selected through a process that brought together points of view that were as diverse as possible (namely, from members of the agricultural sector and citizens with no particular connection to this field). As a first step, the company Sonecom drew lots of 5,000 telephone numbers belonging to people residing in Wallonia; they got 255 positive responses. After those interested received an official letter with the details of the event, 77 of them confirmed their participation. A selection retained 40 panelists, to achieve diversity in terms of age, gender, professional status and environment (urban or rural). For example, two places have been reserved for people working in the agricultural sector. In the end, 37 people attend the first meeting and 35 participated in the whole process.
Methods and Tools Used
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What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The panel took place over three weekends and ended with an evening of validation of the final report by the panelists. The first weekend was dedicated to raising awareness on the subject, as well as to developing questions that the panelists wished to submit to resource persons during the second weekend. The second weekend was devoted to hearings with 21 resource experts, as well as to defining the issues to be dealt with during the third weekend. This last weekend was a moment of deliberation, exchange of opinions and finally drafting of recommendations. These were then summarized by Tr @ me and submitted for amendments to the panelists, who were invited to review any amendments during a validation evening of the final report.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
After this evening, the validated report was sent to the Walloon Minister, to several general directorates of the Public Service of Wallonia (SPW), to advisory councils and to various associations. The report would also serve as a basis for the discussions of the European panel, in which ten Walloon panelists would participate.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
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This entry is taken from the following article: Vrydagh, J., Devillers, S., Talukder, D., Jacquet, V., & Bottin, J. (forthcoming). Mini-audiences in Belgium (2001-2018). Weekly mail from the Center for Socio-political Research and Information.