[Logo] European Citizens' Panel 

The European Citizens´ Panel on the roles of rural areas in tomorrow’s Europe was an innovative European-wide citizens' participation pilot initiative to stimulate European democracy and experiment European citizenship.

Participating European citizens produced an informed say on the roles of rural areas in European societies.

Which societal challenges?

The chosen issue concerns all European citizens. The European Citizens' Panel aims at " 1) building up the capacities of people in different regions of European countries to 2) have an informed say on the roles of rural areas in European societies ".

Today, agricultural and rural policies represent about half of the European Union's budget. Rural areas cover 90% of the EU territory and host 56% of EU population (source: OECD). They impact the daily life of all, directly or indirectly, and represent major economic, social, environmental and cultural stakes.



This initiative grew out of three basic observations:

  1. Citizens' participation in shaping the future of Europe is vital to the enlargement and construction of a European democratic identity.
  2. European common challenges are transnational but public opinions remain nation-based.
  3. Cultural diversity is a source of wealth for Europe but transnational citizens' participation systems are still to be developed.

What for?

It was deemed urgent to build new participation systems enabling restoration of trust between citizens and decision-makers. This initaitive was to contribute to the challenge and particularly aimed to :

  1. Work within a European perspective rooted in diversity of local realities.
  2. Present a citizens' report to decision-makers for use as a complementary decision-making tool.
  3. Establish a platform of exchange between citizens and politicians.
  4. Raise and sustain public debate.
  5. Stimulate participation learning.

With whom?

This initiative has been devised with the collaboration of different institutions across Europe. It could only be achieved with a broad financial and methodological partnership established with European and regional public institutions, foundations and other private institutions involved in participatory governance and/or the future of rural spaces on a European scale.

Panel Organisers Partners

European citizens' panel: European level

Foundation for Future Generations (European producer); AEIDL (European coordinator)

The methodology was developed together with the regional organisers mentioned below + University of Liège (Belgium) and Citizen-Consult (Spain)

Public funders / commissioning bodies: EU Commission (General Directorate for Education and Culture); EU Committee of the Regions

Initiators and private funders: Foundation for Future Generations (Belgium); Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation (France/Switzerland); Bernheim Foundation (Belgium); Evens Foundation (France/Belgium/Poland); Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (UK); Carnegie UK Trust (UK and Ireland); Fondation de France (France) and King Baudouin Foundation (Belgium), in partnership with the Network of European Foundations for Innovative Cooperation (NEF) are funders and initiators of this initiative, in partnership with the Network of European Foundations.

Bavaria (Germany)

Gesellschaft für Bürgergutachten (Society for Citizens Reports); Technical University of Munich

Public funders / commissioning bodies: Bavarian Ministry of the Economy, Infrastructure, Transport and Technology

Durham (NE England) and Cumbria (NW England) counties (UK)

International Institute for Environment and Development; University of Newcastle, PEALS unit; Right 2B Heard

Public funders / commissioning bodies: Cumbria County Council; Durham County Council

Other partner: Young Cumbria

Flevoland (The Netherlands)

Free University of Amsterdam

Public funders / commissioning bodies: Province of Flevoland; Ministry of the Interior and for relations
with the Kingdom; Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality

Cross-border panel in Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (UK)

Queen's University (Belfast, Northern Ireland); North South Rural Voice (Ireland & Northern Ireland)

Public funders / commissioning bodies: Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Northern Ireland; Border Action under the Peace II European programme; Department of Community, Rural and Gaelic Affairs (Republic of Ireland); National Development Plan (NDP); Rural Development Programme; Pobal; Combat Poverty Agency

Private funders: Carnegie UK Trust; Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust

Cross-border panel in Hungary and Slovakia

Carpathian Foundation

Public funders / commissioning bodies: Bódva Valley micro-region council (Bodva is a river flowing across the 2 countries)

Private funders: Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

Rhône-Alpes (France)

Economie & Humanisme, Eurodebat

Public funders / commissioning bodies: Regional Council Rhône-Alpes

St-Gallen Canton (Switzerland)

Gesellschaft für Bürgergutachten (Society for Citizens Reports)

Public funders / commissioning bodies: Office of the Regional Development of St Gallen Canton, Construction Department

Wallonia (Belgium)

Foundation for Future Generations, Tr@me

Public funders / commissioning bodies: Walloon Ministry for Agriculture, Rural Life, Environment and Tourism; General Directorate for Agriculture


The process was conducted on two levels, regional then European:

  1. 8 regional citizens' panels, of which 2 cross-border, with 337 citizens speaking 6 languages and originating from 10 regions of Europe;
  2. 87 delegates from all regional panel were gathered in 1 European panel. They developed a truly European perspective through a European set of recommendations that was presented to European institutions and largely disseminated to the general public.

The citizens' panels:

  1. were randomly selected in a cross-section of society, where "lay citizens" were serving as a microcosm of the population diversity;
  2. were presented with balanced information, with the input of experts and stakeholders on the issues at stake;
  3. drew up their report and recommendations;
  4. presented their report to European and regional authorities, before a broader dissemination of the results.

This pilot initiative has been documented and evaluated by an independent organisation to ease its adaptation and application to new European issues.


When What
2004-2005 Preparatory phase and building of partnerships at regional and European levels
10.05.2006 Official launch of the initiative at the EU Committee of the Regions
May 2006 - February 2007 Regional citizens' panels
30.03.2007 - 02.04.2007 Final touch to the citizens report and validation by the citizens
02.04.2007 Presentation of the results of the European Citizens' Panel to EU authorities. Beginning of the dissemination to a variety of stakeholders and public authorities at EU and regional levels

More info

More information on this initiative:

More information on deliberative democracy and citizens' panels, their objectives and methodology as well as links to other citizens' panels initiated or contributed to by the Foundation for Future Generations.