Major engagement initiative to be launched in first three months of new #Commission 

| September 2, 2019

Ursula von der Leyen addressed the European Parliament, July 2019

The European Commission intends to launch an EU-wide campaign of engagement with citizens to present its political priorities in its ‘first hundred days’ of office, writes Catherine Feore 

In a draft document outlining the European Commission’s priorities, the next Commission will agree on what they describe as a ‘joint narrative’ at their first college seminar, which will be presented through what they describe as “multilevel cycle of consultations” on the ground.

The draft document discloses that this will be backed-up with a large scale “back to school” operation, to be carried out in co-operation with national regional authorities, to be accompanied by a major communication effort including: TED-style talks; a new podcast series with journalists from across the EU;  and, ‘all’ commissioners participating in citizen’s dialogues. While some of the current commissioners did participate in similar discussions with the public, others were less than enthusiastic.

The new approach seems to look to French President Emmanuel Macron’s Grand Débat launched in January 2019, in response to the ‘Gilets Jaunes’ and a general sentiment that the government was not listening. Macron’s engagement lasted two months and involved town hall meetings, an online consultation and a “book of grievances” in which citizens could let the state know what policies were making day-to-day life difficult.

The idea is that this period of extensive consultation will feed into the policy areas and the actual legislative proposals that emerge in the months or years after the first hundred days. The Commission’s document is careful to clarify that they are in no way usurping the role of the European Parliament and want to take a “complementary” and “nourishing” approach.  

Like the initiative on the Future of Europe, where each head of government addressed the European Parliament, the Commission is eager to involve the member states. One of the lessons from Brexit is that allowing ministers and heads of government from the EU-27 to constantly criticize and blame Europe or Brussels for every problem, not only undermines the EU as a whole, but makes it more difficult for each state to combat domestic anti-EU voices.  

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