EU citizen outreach must improve to drive public consultation – auditors

eu citizen outreach
© iStock/Zbynek Pospisil

A new report from the European Court of Auditors has recommended improvements to EU citizen outreach efforts to boost participation in the democratic process.

The report described the public consultations in which the European Commission has engaged as ‘satisfactory overall’, praising in particular the Commission’s framework for conducting public consultations and the implementation of the ‘Have Your Say’ EU citizen outreach portal, which offers a platform for citizen input at all stages of initiation, evaluation and implementation of EU policies. It also highlighted the largely positive response of participants to the consultation process and the Commission’s protocols for analysing the data it gathers.

The audit identified a number of pervasive flaws occurring throughout the EU citizen outreach and consultation process which, if addressed, could improve both the user experience and the quality of data collated, as well as potentially expanding citizen participation in public consultations. The auditors recommended the Commission engage more extensively with Member States in order to raise awareness among citizens of consultation opportunities, with the goal of increasing participation in consultations.

Language gaps presented a further hindrance to widespread EU citizen outreach: the auditors found a marked increase in public participation in consultations which were made available in all Member State languages, in comparison with those which were only available in one or two languages; and noted that some consultation surveys were presented in dense technical language, which participants found off-putting. Where the Commission offered participants feedback and information on the outcome of consultations, the information it provided was frequently incomplete, excessively late or only made available in English.

Annemie Turtelboom, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report, said: “Citizen engagement in public consultations is key to maintaining the EU’s democratic legitimacy and achieving high quality laws and policies. 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.”

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