Announcement: HOW IT WORKS > [Objectives] :: [Oversight] :: [Invitations] :: [Timetable] :: [Information] :: [Languages] :: [Direction] :: [Financing]
Announcement: HOW IT WORKS > [Objectives] :: [Oversight] :: [Invitations] :: [Timetable] :: [Information] :: [Languages] :: [Direction] :: [Financing]
• [BG] ПРИНЦИП НА ДЕЙСТВИЕ• [ES] FUNCIONAMIENTO• [CS] ZPŮSOB FUNGOVÁNÍ• [DA] VIRKEMÅDE• [DE] ARBEITSWEISE• [ET] LÄBIVIIMINE• [EL] ΛΕΙΤΟΥΡΓΙΑ• [EN] HOW IT WORKS• [FR] FONCTIONNEMENT• [IT] FUNZIONAMENTO• [LV] DARBĪBA• [LT] VEIKIMAS • [HU] MŰKÖDÉS• [MT] TĦADDIM• [NL] HOE WERKT ’T ?• [PL] SPOSÓB DZIALANA• [PT] FUNCIONAMENTO• [RO] FUNCŢIONARE• [SK] SPÔSOB PRÁCE• [SL] DELOVANJE• [FI] TOIMINTA• [SV] FUNKTIONSSÄTT
:::::: HOW IT WORKS ::::::
:: 1 :: [OBJECTIVES] ::::::::::: 2 :: [OVERSIGHT] :::::::::::: 3 :: [INVITATIONS] ::::::::::: 4 :: [TIMETABLE] ::::::::::::: 5 :: [INFORMATION] :::::::: 6 :: [LANGUAGES] :::::::::: 7 :: [DIRECTION] ::::::::::::: 8 :: [FINANCING] ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::1- OBJECTIVES
At the dawn of European democracy, the people of Athens would meet and debate in a public place, the Agora. In today’s complex human community of over half a billion individuals, however, how can we provide for citizen participation that goes beyond electoral systems? How can we achieve cross-cutting, regular and peaceful dialogue on a continental scale? How can representative democracy and participatory democracy be made to work in genuine harmony, rather than being set one against the other?
This is the challenge that the European Parliament has set itself, at a key moment in the history of the Union, through the experience of the Citizens’ Agora.
In practice, its aim is to bridge three gaps:
:: Between institutions and citizens: the Agora, a direct and large-scale meeting held in the very place where legislative decisions are made, must contribute towards improving communication and mutual listening between the European institutions and people living in the Union. In this way, it can give the European Parliament a clearer role as a positive outlet for citizens’ expectations.
:: Between the different sectors of European civil society: those involved in a problematic issue often have diverging interests. Thus they lobby separately, rarely setting their arguments against others, and letting the European authorities reach often unbalanced compromises on their own. The Agora can aid consultation between whole sectors of European civil society that are usually ignorant of each other.
:: Between national identities: European civil society is susceptible to fragmentation into ‘national bubbles’. Whatever the subject, 27 national debates added together do not yet constitute a European debate. The Agora must make it possible to overcome obstacles stemming from nationalist reflexes and to transcend borders, giving those directly involved in an issue a real chance to compare their certainties with their neighbours’.
The Agora is therefore a tool rather than an institution. Its goal is to establish a structured and structuring dialogue with European civil society which, through tens of thousands of NGOs and the millions of members of civil society, would constitute a formidable pool of expertise and a huge opinion-former in the European debate. By so doing, Parliament, which is directly elected and therefore the institution with the greatest legitimacy to conduct such a citizens' debate, is complementing the dialogue that it has established elsewhere (joint meetings with national parliaments, contact with diplomatic bodies through interparliamentary delegations etc.).
The Agora should above all be considered a method of open and transparent public consultation, upstream of the major topics on the European agenda. Recent experience has shown that it can also make a useful contribution to Parliament’s information and communication policy, as the first Agora was taken by civil society to be a genuine sign of trust. This should be taken into account in the expectation of greater participation in the 2009 European elections.
The educational dimension should also be taken into account: indeed, the Agora's participants are not simply invited to express themselves orally or by submitting contributions, but also and above all – and this is one of its great innovations – by synthesising analyses and proposals in writing together. The aim is to emphasise possible consensus or simply to list clearly the different options at hand. The outcome of an Agora can therefore potentially be fully incorporated into the European legislative decision-making process. Citizens, through representative organisations, are invited not to spectate or simply to comment, but to take part.
The Agora is made up of 500 invited organisations – 50 times more than attend a traditional parliamentary hearing – making it by far the largest event open to civil society, demonstrating the importance that the European Parliament attaches to citizen consultation.
The Agora, an initiative approved unanimously by the Conference of Presidents, will complete its testing phase at the end of its session on climate change. Parliament’s bodies – and, as appropriate, the other European institutions, which have all expressed an interest in monitoring this experiment – will decide on the next steps. ^ Top 2 - OVERSIGHT
The theme of the Agora is chosen by Parliament’s Conference of Presidents. It must be a vital, cross-cutting issue on the European agenda with an impact on many aspects of Union policy and affecting a broad range of citizens.
The day-to-day running of the Agora is then overseen on a technical level by the Agora secretariat, set up by the Secretary-General under the responsibility of a director of his or her services. The secretariat is also supported by a task force representing all relevant services within Parliament (the secretariats of the parliamentary committees, Budget, Information, Security, Protocol etc.).
The Agora secretariat is fully available to assist all participants in the Agora (MEPs and NGOs), before or after the event.
The secretariat’s e-mail address for all queries concerning the next Agora is firstname.lastname@example.org
Political responsibility for setting up the Agora was delegated by the President of Parliament to one of his Vice-Presidents, who, seeking regular advice from other Vice-Presidents (particularly those with responsibility for information and communication policy) and from the chairman of the parliamentary committee overseeing the chosen theme (in this case the Temporary Committee on Climate Change):
• draws up a list of parliamentary committees that might be concerned;
• sets the timetable (in agreement with the Conference of Presidents and the overseeing committee);
• must ensure a wide range of opinion and geographical origin in the organisation of the different aspects of the debate (workshop topics, teams of moderators and drafters);
• supervises the conduct of the event (with technical support from the Agora secretariat and the task force);
• submits a report to the Parliament bodies that request it.
All these oversight operations are carried out in close and constructive dialogue with civil society itself, through regular meetings taking place in Parliament with the major ‘networks of networks’ (representatives of civil society to European institutions).
^ Top 3 - INVITATIONS
The many parliamentary committees with areas of responsibility relevant to the subject of the Agora are invited to put forward the names of the civil society organisations that they would like to see participate (list of committees available with the Agora secretariat).
To this end, the Agora secretariat sends the large database of the details of organisations with which Parliament has been in contact in the past for distribution among all the MEPs concerned.
On this basis, the MEPs individually, the committee bureaux or the coordinators – depending on the level of involvement which each committee is free to decide – propose additions or removals. After the responses have been consolidated (with changes to the database by the committees and/or their members, or in the absence of proposed changes), invitations are sent to civil society.
For the forthcoming Agora on the climate, it is important to make clear that it is not a question of inviting only climatology specialists but, much more broadly, representatives of associations, trade unions, professional organisations or think tanks with a particular view on the specific effects of climate change and the measures needed to tackle it. It is this cross-cutting approach based on the real experience of our fellow citizens that provides the richness of the debate and the interest in the Agora’s outcome.
Each organisation invited to the Agora may be represented by no more than one person per Member State. This means that only networks with a European dimension may have more than one participant at the Agora, provided the limit of one representative per Member State is maintained. This rule makes it possible also to invite organisations from outside the European Union.
All MEPs and members of all European institutions are, of course, invited to take part (contribution via the internet, physical presence at debates etc.). Their participation, at the highest level, at the last Agora demonstrated their strong interest in this Parliament initiative.
^ Top 4 - TIMETABLE
Going beyond the preparatory phase (selection by Parliament of the organisations invited, setting-up of an internet site for contributions by those involved, distribution of technical information etc.), the Agora itself will be held on the premises of the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday 12 and Friday 13 June 2008.
Following the smooth running of the last Agora, the timetable will be as follows:
• Thursday morning: inaugural session in the Chamber (speeches by the European institutions, reactions from civil society, general debate); During the Agora, most meals will be taken together in Parliament (at Parliament’s expense) to provide an opportunity for long, informal, relaxed discussions between participants.
• Thursday afternoon: five thematic workshops (Resources, Techniques, Solidarity, Economy, Education – details of the workshops available from the Agora secretariat) following a possible address by a keynote speaker to launch debate in each workshop;
• Thursday evening: written synthesis by the drafting teams of the work done;
• Friday morning: workshops (finalisation of synthesised texts);
• Friday afternoon: concluding session in the Chamber (workshop reports, reactions and general debate) – press conference and presentation of the outcome of the Agora.
^ Top 5 - INFORMATION
True to its working methods, the European Parliament has ensured that the Agora operates in the greatest transparency. All of the Agora’s work (plenary and workshops) are public, being broadcast live via web streaming on the internet.
Some months before the Agora meeting, a dedicated internet site is launched on the European Parliament’s site at www.europarl.europa.eu/agora
Citizens can use it to find out what the Agora is about and how it operates, and to obtain a list of the organisations taking part. It also contains studies and deliberations by the European institutions on the subject in question, as well as contributions to the debate, which every participant (MEP or NGO) has the opportunity to place on line at the "Internet Forum"
created especially for the occasion.
Citizens can also, by contacting an organisation invited to the Agora and under the responsibility of that organisation, respond via this forum.
In addition to this general facility, an e-newsletter is sent regularly to all MEPs and Agora participants to provide them with the latest information on the event, and announcements are made to all European media before, during and after the Agora.
Looking ahead, further communication (interviews, portraits, reports etc.) may also feature on the European Parliament’s WebTV, which is due to start broadcasting in spring 2008. ^ Top 6 - LANGUAGES
Interpretation into the European Parliament’s 23 working languages will be provided at the Agora’s plenary sessions, while workshop debates will be translated into six languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Polish).
In order to allow for changes to be made in something approaching ‘real time’, the written documents on which the participants work during the Agora will be available in, and translated into, English, French and German only. It may be possible to translate the findings of the Agora into all 23 languages.
As regards the Agora’s internet site, general information on the Agora (operation, programme etc.) is available in Parliament’s main working languages, while participants’ and citizens’ contributions are published only in the languages in which they were submitted.
^ Top 7 - DIRECTION
When it comes to directing the Agora, a distinction is made between co-moderators, responsible for leading debates, and drafters, responsible for formalising conclusions.
Co-moderators work in teams of two per workshop and plenary session: one member of civil society (participating in the Agora) and one MEP. This team of two embodies the productive cooperation between representative democracy and participatory democracy. The co-moderators chair the plenary sessions and the workshops.
The drafters, for their part, all come from civil society organisations participating in the Agora. It is for civil society alone to draw up the syntheses of its own work. In teams of three per workshop, the drafters prepare the work, draw up the findings and present them at the final plenary and subsequently at the press conference that closes the Agora.
All these people have a central role: the success of the Agora depends in large part on their level of involvement and their ability to carry out their duties.
These men and women must therefore prepare their work in advance of the formal meeting of the Agora. The co-moderators and drafters are therefore strongly advised to make contact with one another via the internet before the Agora and indeed (at least in the case of the drafters) to meet in person on the evening before the Agora’s work begins (rooms are reserved for this purpose at the European Parliament in Brussels) with a view to improving coordination.
These people will, among other things, have to master fully one or more of the Agora’s working languages (see above for information on linguistic arrangements).
The co-moderators are responsible for leading debates in plenary and in the workshops and must:
• read and become familiar with ‘pre-Agora’ contributions submitted on the internet by the organisations taking part. It is therefore vital for the co-moderators to have structured knowledge of the issues and the options. During the Agora, the co-moderators, far from having any formal role, serve as the ‘midwives’ of citizen’s thought.
• be even-handed in giving the floor to speakers during debates and request that speakers be as concise as possible.
• always focus the debates on the essential, bearing in mind the Agora’s objectives: in plenary, expectations and analyses should be set out clearly, while in the workshops ‘strong’ written conclusions should be reached (either by reaching a consensus or by explaining the true options).
The drafters are responsible for drawing up, in very concise terms, the findings of the Agora’s five workshops (one double-sided page per workshop). The same drafting team follows two sessions of the same workshop (Thursday afternoon and Friday morning).
The drafters must:
• read and become familiar with ‘pre-Agora’ contributions submitted on the internet by the organisations taking part. It is therefore vital for the drafting teams, too, to have structured knowledge of the issues and the options;
• draw up – several weeks before the physical meeting of the Agora – on the basis of the material submitted on the internet forum by the participating organisations, a brief ‘pre-document’ (one double-sided page per drafting team), a text with no official value but that will serve as a basis for the first debates of each workshop;
• note the reactions of participants during the Thursday afternoon workshops and reformulate their texts accordingly (priorities, consensus, different options etc.). A working meeting open to drafters only is scheduled for this purpose on the Thursday evening;
• finalise their text in ‘real time’ during the Friday morning workshop meetings on the basis of the participants’ reactions (removing any remaining uncertainties by approving the consensus or the differences of opinion);
• present clearly their workshop’s conclusions at the Friday afternoon plenary;
• present the key points arising from their workshop at the press conference closing the Agora.
The drafters are thus both the writers and the spokespersons for their respective workshops, before plenary and to the media.
Civil society representatives who take on the role of drafter or moderator do not do so on behalf of their respective organisations. Their presence within the Agora is therefore ‘neutralised’ and their seat in plenary and in the workshop may be taken – exceptionally – by another member of their organisation, with full speaking rights.
At the start of the Thursday afternoon workshops, the floor might also be given to a keynote speaker, who can give the benefit of his or her expertise to launch the debate. At the last Agora, such speakers included eminent MEPs, a minister and heads of section of the European Economic and Social Committee.
^ Top 8 - FINANCING
The Agora is funded solely and entirely by the European Parliament.
In strict accordance with the European Financial Regulation, the European Parliament therefore covers:
• the costs associated with the premises (availability of all the meeting rooms);
• personnel costs;
• interpretation and translation costs;
• communication and information costs (including the internet site);
• certain catering costs (two or three meals in Parliament during the Agora’s work);
• participants’ travel and accommodation expenses. These expenses are covered by a lump sum in accordance with a schedule applied on the basis of the Member State from which the participant comes (schedule available from the Agora secretariat).