Empowering Everyday Citizens: The International Project Bringing You into the EU Decision-Making Process

Last Friday, 75 people from Estonia and other parts of Europe gathered in Tallinn to make joint policy proposals to the European Parliament. The event was part of the international project called Parliament for the Future of Europe, and the theme for this meeting was European digital development.

The European Union is often criticized for having mechanisms and benefits that are distant and incomprehensible to ordinary citizens. Decisions seem to come traditionally from the top-down, and it can be difficult to understand their background and necessity.

The project, and the event series called Parliament for the Future of Europe, is one of the EU-funded initiatives that give a voice to the “ordinary person,” involving citizens in making policy proposals. The project aims to also include representatives from underrepresented and marginalized groups in giving input.

During this event, ideas were discussed on digital service accessibility, the importance of digital skills for coping in a data society and overcoming the digital divide, the importance of combating misinformation and cybersecurity, strengthening data protection, the importance of digital innovation for the economy and society. Presentations by experts provided inspiration and input for the discussions, including Ann Väljataga from the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence and Tea Danilov, the Director of the Development Centre.

From the ideas and proposals presented at the end of the event, it was noted that participants considered education to be crucial in developing data protection, cybersecurity, combating misinformation, and digital skills. However, it was also suggested that not everything can be left to citizens, and for example, an EU-wide certification system was proposed to ensure GDPR compliance. Accessibility issues and reducing the digital divide were also considered important for digital services.

Mari-Liis Vähi, a digital rights and data protection lawyer from the Human Rights Centre, said: “The project is special in that it gives ‘ordinary people’ the opportunity to think about the future of Europe and make policy proposals on various priority topics of the EU. These are collected and sent to the European Parliament. The topics, such as digital development, migration, or issues related to EU values and the rule of law, are also important for the Human Rights Centre.”

The project involves six partner organizations from six EU countries, which had the lowest voter turnout in the 2019 European Parliament elections. The lead partner of the project is the network of organizations promoting democratic principles, Democracy International, and it lasts for 1.5 years. The partners’ next meeting will take place on May 27 in Portugal, and the topics will be economics and social justice.

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