#ECA – Auditors give a qualified thumbs up to the Commission’s public consultations  

| September 5, 2019

Member of the European Court of Editors, Annemie Turtleboom

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has released a broadly positive report on the European Commission’s consultative processes. The report, led by Annemie Turtelboom, makes a number of recommendations on where the process could be improved, in particular in relation to reaching out to citizens, writes Catherine Feore

“Citizen engagement in public consultations is key to maintaining the EU’s democratic legitimacy and achieving high-quality laws and policies,” said Annemie Turtelboomthe member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report. “The Commission should do more to achieve the goal of public participation with the best possible level of outreach to citizens and inform participants about the outcome of the public consultations.” 

Turtleboom said that the ECA looked at the whole process: “We see that outreach is too poor. If you want to improve your law-making process, you need to reach out. Some teams in the European Commission make good use of social media – Twitter and Facebook – and conferences. 

In one-third of the consultations we examined, there were fewer than 75 people who participated and in one case only three people took part. The EU has 396 million voters and 500 million inhabitants. 

In the report’s recommendations, the ECA calls for an increase in outreach activities and adaptation of communications measures to promote participation. Notably, Turtelboom points to a greater role for Commission representations in EU member states and the engagement of the European Economic and Social Committee and Committee of the Regions, along with national authorities in disseminating information on public consultations.  

Turtleboom highlights that language is also in an issue: “The language needs to be clear and reader-friendly. It is also very important to provide key documents for priority initiatives in the EU’s 24 official languages, how can you reach people if the consultation is not in your own language.   

It isn’t clear why this isn’t done, there aren’t clear criteria on whether a consultation is ‘of broad interest’ and thus translated into all EU official languages, or not. 

As part of the report the ECA carried out a survey and found that people were less satisfied with feedback.  

If you ask the opinion of someone, you need to say upfront how you are going to use it and later also tell them what happened with it,” said Turtleboom. “I think that public consultations can strengthen the citizens’ trust and they this could be improved. People have the right to know what happens to their input and what we saw is that the feedback came back too late and often only in English. 

Nevertheless, the overall picture is good. The report points to the OECD’s rankings where the Commission has the highest ranking for citizen engagement in developing law.  


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