From 17 to 19 September, the first of the Citizens’ Panels for the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) took place in Strasbourg. A key feature of the CoFoE, these panels convene 800 randomly chosen European citizens to jointly think about the future they want for the European Union. Through working sessions occurring now until January 2022, these panels will meet to discuss the key topics and ideas from the CoFoE online platform and present the outcome of their discussions and debate them with other participants in the Conference Plenary. This first round of Citizens’ Panels focused solely on the CoFoE topics, ‘A stronger economy, social justice, jobs,’ ‘education, youth, culture, sport,’ and ‘digital transformation.” Over the course of three days, the working sessions focused on issues from better social protection for all workers to the importance of access to culture for everyone.
On Sept 15th, the first Interim Report was published, providing an overview of what the submissions of ideas from the public have been since the launch On 9 May 2021. This report was provided to the participants of the Citizens’ Panels in order to guide their working session debates.
Some of the main ways the input from the CoFoE platform is collected and analysed for the benefit of the Conference are through the number of ideas uploaded by contributors, number of upvotes, number of comments and number of events posted on the platform. Since the launch of the platform, 19,679 contributions were recorded on the platform, with 6,115 ideas, 11,879 comments and 1,685 events covering all 10 topics. Next week, 24 – 26 September, the next sessions of the Citizens’ Panels will gather in Strabourg and focus on ‘European Democracy’ and ‘Values, rights, rule of law, security.”
Some key takeaways from the Interim Report are:
- two-thirds of the people contributing to the platform have identified themselves as men (62.7%) and 15% as women
- The topic of “Education, culture, youth and sport” has a total of 261 events which is significantly more than under any other topic
- The content under this topic is, for the moment, very fragmented, including many diverse ideas with the strongest focus on education and culture. The themes under this topic are cross-cutting and also appear elsewhere in the platform.
- Ideas in this topic were grouped into the following categories
- Foster common EU identity
- Future-proof education
- Inter-EU mobility
- Youth unemployment
- European heritage
- The current ideas relating to ‘Education, culture and sport’ are mostly discussed as a means of fostering the development of a European identity and European citizenship; this includes various proposals for promoting exchange and interactions, such as through the Erasmus Programme and inter-European sport events
- There is a strong emphasis on the role of media and European journalism as well as European productions in diffusing European values and culture;
On 8 October, CAE will host a day of action in order to drive attention to the Amplify recommendations submitted on the CoFoE platform.
Across Europe, Amplify Sessions have been taking place in each of the 12 countries participating in the Amplify project. Each hub has taken the charge to gather people together at the local level in order to discuss, debate and collaborate around recommendations that will be submitted on the CoFoE platform to be taken up in the next round of Interim Reporting. Amplify focuses on bringing voices of artists, creatives, cultural organisations and projects that are unrepresented across Europe to the Conference on the Future of Europe. Here is a peek into the Amplify sessions that have been hosted across the continent.
In Slovenia’s first Amplify session, participants gathered in person to have conversations about the challenges that cultural organisations are facing in their local environment. The Slovenian hub, lead by Motovila, specifically met with organisations from eastern Slovenia, especially the region of Prekmurje. In their session, participants identified main challenges and obstacles that they need to overcome in order to encourage more international cultural cooperation in their environment. The participants outlined several challenges, among which they emphasised especially the professionalisation and motivation of staff in the local environment, working in the cultural and creative sectors (both public and NGO), access to audiences (cultural education), and national co-funding schemes for projects supported by the EU programmes.
The Amplify Hub in Denmark is headed up by the Center for Kunst and Interkultur in Copenhagen, Denmark. The Danish hub is approaching the Amplify project by seeing culture as a bridge-builder between civil society and public institutions. Their online sessions have gathered organisations that work at the intersection between arts and culture and social initiatives, specifically focusing on community work pertaining to integration, cultural meetings, racism and mental health. In their first session, they discussed how the EU and the democratic conversation has drifted too far from the citizen. They addressed specific issues in their communities, such as young artists feeling that it is very difficult to be able to participate, simply because of all the bureaucracy and requirements to do so. They made clear examples on how to better engage individuals and local communities to make the EU feel relevant again.
See more from CKI on Amplify in “Connecting Audiences Danmark.”
In Poland, the Amplify hub is being led by Nadbałtyckie Centrum Kultury (Baltic Sea Cultural Center) in Gdansk. Their first Amplify Session brought together freelance artists, cultural activists from smaller cities and villages, people with disabilities, women activists, and LGBTQ. They gathered in a physical meeting to discuss why democratic values in Poland are so important at a time when “vulnerable groups and even more vulnerable.” The first sessions were held in Gdansk and upcoming sessions are planned to be held in Warsaw.
Mapa des Ideias heads up the Amplify Hub in Oeiras, Portugal, where both physical and online discussions are being held in tandem. In one working group an actor, a musician, a designer and a project manager discussed the specificities of challenges within different disciplines. Key themes that came up during these conversations focused on education and its impact on civic life and capacity of artists, Communication, especially in what concerns making EU tools for mobility and arts funding more easily available and known to the general public, cultural and educational mobility in Europe, and financial support to artists and citizens. Some initial proposals landed on changing legislation to lower taxes that make it too expensive for most non-cultural venues to host live music, decentralizing the artistic production and consumption outside big cities, and involving more citizens in the consumption, fruition but also programing of culture.