The European Commission to encourage women and youth to take more active part in the debate on Europe

The European Commission to encourage women and youth to take more active part in the debate on Europe – the stock-taking of Plan D, for Democracy, Dialogue and Debate

Today Margot Wallström, Commission Vice-President, responsible for Institutional Relations and Communication Strategy, informed the Commission about the state of play one year after the announcement of the Plan D by the European Commission. Speaking ahead of the meeting, Ms Wallström said:”Plan D has helped to reinvigorate the debate on the future of the Union. Let us not forget that it is also the responsibility of the Member States to use the reflection period to listen to their citizens’ ideas. Now the objective is to focus on the “silent majority” – especially young people and women. We want to encourage them to voice their views on the future of Europe”.

After the negative votes in the referenda on the European Constitution in France and the Netherlands, the June 2005 Council called for a period of reflection. The Commission seized that opportunity to push for more democracy, dialogue and debate, and decided to launch Plan D. One year after implementing it, it is now time to take stock and further widen and deepen the debate on Europe. A first assessment was made in the 10 May Communication The Period of Reflection and Plan D (COM(2006) 212), which accompanied A Citizens’ Agenda for Europe (COM(2006) 211) as the Commission’s contribution to the European Council on the future of Europe.

Plan D reached out to people

The general Plan D ambition, to generate debate about Europe, has proven successful in many areas:

* In addition to a special Eurobarometer survey on the Future of Europe, the Commission Representations and some Member Sates have carried out quantitative and qualitative national surveys on public opinion and attitudes to the EU.
* In March 2006 the Commission launched an on-line “Debate Europe” forum. People from EU countries and beyond are participating in the discussion. The main challenge is to get young people and women more actively involved.
* The Commission has also chosen to support six trans-European projects promoting cross-border public discussion. They will be implemented during 2006 – 2007.
* Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Vice-President Margot Wallström and the Members of the Commission have undertaken a series of visits to the Member States meeting national leaders, parliamentarians, citizens, NGOs and the media. A special focus was put on the regional and local level.
* The Youth events organized under each Presidency with Commission support are also a good example of dialogue and consultation with young people.
* The inter-parliamentary forum organised by the European Parliament and the Austrian national Assemblies on 8-9 May 2006, as well as a number of European Parliament committee initiatives, brought a new momentum to a broadened discussion of European issues amongst parliamentarians.

What are the next steps?

The Commission will continue with Plan D not only because of the extended period of reflection, but also because it is determined to continue stimulating a Europe wide debate and to deploy fully the initiatives foreseen at European level. A special focus will be put on:

* Supporting the development of European public spaces to promote public discussion through the joint Commission / European Parliament offices. The Commission and the European Parliament offices could host cultural and political events related to Europe.
* Encouraging the ongoing debate in Member States, for example by organising national European Round Table Debates on priority issues, as those outlined in the annual Work Programme for 2007, and deemed to be of high public interest in each Member State, eensuring a continued close dialogue with civil society and national Parliaments.
* Providing financial support for national and regional civil society initiatives focusing on youth and women.
* Replicating the Eurobarometer survey on the Future of Europe in 2007, ahead of the European Council in June.
* Re-launching the Internet Debate, allowing citizens to choose subjects of their concern and linking discussions to topical subjects from the Commission’s agenda or other major policy events. A special effort will be made to address the women and the youth audiences.

The June European Council in 2007 will provide the opportunity for a new feedback on the debates held at EU level during the extended reflection period.

Okay this is going back to the age-old democratic deficit within the EU. Will it change anything, only if you have access to the internet it seams.

Author: Stephen

Cork born and bred, proud European and Irishman. Involved in many organisations and politics. Also writes for SpirtualityIreland.org and UCC Express.

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