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TEIN Workshop at EWRC 2019

Cross-Border Territories: Crucial places for engaging citizens for the future of Europe

 

TEIN workshop EWRC

 

In order to reduce the growing gap between EU citizens and institutions, trust has to be rebuilt, dialogue has to be strengthened and citizens have to be engaged. Especially in cross-border (CB) territories, which are directly affected by EU integration, both its benefits such as the right to free movement and remaining obstacles, citizens’ engagement has a significant role to play. Being well aware of this fact, the members and associated members of the Transfrontier Euro-Institute Network (TEIN) presented different projects and launched a global reflection on challenges and key factors for the success of citizens’ engagement in CB territories during the workshop « Cross-Border Territories: Crucial places for engaging citizens for the future of Europe » which took place in the framework of the EWRC in Brussels and gathered more than 100 participants.

 

Programme

 

Jean Peyrony, Director General, MOT (Mission Opérationnelle Transfrontalière)

 


Firstly, the Mission Opérationnelle Transfrontalière (Jean Peyrony) showed how the “CB citizens’ consultations” which they co-organised in 2018 with the Institut Jacque Delors at four of the French borders, in various contexts of CB integration and governance, with particular attention to methodology, formats and tools allowed to collect citizens’ concerns, questions and, above all, proposals on the future of the EU.

 

Access presentation

 

Fabienne Leloup, Professor, Université Catholique de Louvain
Loic Delhuvenne, Director, Eurometropolis Lille-Kortrijk-Tournai agency (a Franco-Belgian EGTC)

 

 

Secondly, the participants could learn how a CB area can become an EU local lab for a continuous citizens’ integration. The work done by the Eurometropolis Lille/Kortrijk/Tournai (Loic Delhuvenne) with the University of Louvain (Fabienne Leloup) – based on the CB citizens’ consultation – aims at getting people’s perceptions compared with European realities and developing a long-lasting bottom up approach to allow people to speak about, criticise and even dream of a future Europe.

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Anne Hofmann, Training Manager, Euro-Institut / TEIN (Transfrontier Euro-Institut Network)

 


Finally, TEIN4Citizens, is a project led by the Euro-Institut (Anne Hofmann) and run by nine TEIN (Transfrontier Euro-Institut Network) members in the framework of the Europe4Citizens programm. Five forums, taking place in five border regions, enable citizens not only to deepen their understanding of the EU but also to voice their opinion about current trends and EU policy making in fields, such as border security, EU citizenship & human rights protection, multilingualism & identity, civil society engagement as well as minorities & integration.

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Discussion

The presentations allowed to launch a more global reflection (moderated by Anne Thevenet, Euro-Institut) with a discussant (Peter Ulrich, Viadrina University) and the participants.
When trying to engage citizens, one can face critics:

  •   It costs many resources (time, money)
  •   It leads to discouragement (when not all wishes of the citizens are fulfilled)
  •   It’s inefficient (too many actors, too little responsibility)

Still many reasons are obvious for engaging citizens:

  • Innovation of governance and decision-making process
  •  Inclusion of local knowledge and processual learning processes
  •  Improvement of political legitimacy

Of course, many challenges are to be faced especially in CB territories:

  • Who participate? Do we have the same definition of civil society across the border; how can we reach paticipants?
  • Who organize? Is there any CB governance structure (with enough legitimacy)? Administrations on both sides of the border? Who finance?
  • Which format/methods do we implement?
  • Which topic?
  • Which framework factors do we have to face?
  • Soft factors: Attitude, trust, vision, demand, dissemination, will to learn
  • Political factors: Political will
  • Legal factors: Legal framework
  • Border-related factors: linguistic, historical, sociocultural boundaries

Following key factors could be identified:

  • Identify the needs of the audience at early stage (Information? Debate on a topic related to their daily lives? Express themselves on a more global topic?)
  • Work on the communication strategy
  • Plan enough time for formal and informal exchanges
  • Use innovative participatory methods / have a moderator for the exchanges
  • Be as transparent as possible (not to raise too much hope) and plan from the beginning on the sustainability of the process
  • Involve CB structures when possible

Two other key factors where underlined but where pointed out as remaining challenges:

  •   Media could play a great role in promoting such events but their engagement is not easy to obtain
  •   Manguage barrier: Even if a translation is planned for the discussions in plenary sessions, what about small group discussions? Nevertheless, it was interesting to hear that in all cases presented, participants found ways to communicate either in the language of the other or in English.

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