On the eve of the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFE), this policy brief scrutinizes different options available for promoting deliberative democracy in EU member states and proposes an optimal model of the conference for Central European countries.

Why it is important?

National, regional and local stakeholders will all play a pivotal role in CoFE, no matter the European model ultimately chosen. These formats will likely precede EU level dialogues and will contribute to either the planning and/or implementation phase of the exercise. It must be taken into account though that deliberative engagement is considerably more embedded in older democracies across Europe. Central Europe, meanwhile, lacks a long history of public deliberation.

With Central Europe carrying its own context-specific particularities based on, for example, its history, culture, governance and economy, national models for CoFE need to be moulded accordingly

Key ingredients for a successful model

  • Random selection
  • Use of existing structures
  • Involving the youth
  • Online component
  • Educational and representational format
  • Linking the national and European levels

The overarching expectation is that CoFE will provide citizens with the opportunity to ‘speak’ to and ‘change’ the EU for the better. Presuming the process elicits useful recommendations for institutional and policy reforms that are subsequently put in place, the EU’s legitimacy as a whole will be strengthened. The event can, moreover, contribute additional benefits including bolstering of deliberative democracy practices across Europe, improvement in citizen civic knowledge and the fostering of a sense of belonging. The Conference, in this vein, could serve to enhance democracy at the local, national and European levels. This process is particularly timely for Central Europe. CoFE could provide the reassurances needed for Central Europeans to recognize that the EU, including its benefits and responsibilities, belongs to them.