The city of Ghent invited citizens to discuss the future of Europe on two specific topics - social rights and the environment and climate - in an open debate on 12 February.
To prepare for the event, participants received background information on these two topics from the European Commission and the city. The idea was to hear people’s ideas, dreams and suggestions on what Europe could improve or change in its policies relating to the two domains. Using the World Café method, participants shared their views in interactive sessions and finally selected their favourite three ideas.
Mayor Mathias De Clercq kicked-off the event, talking about the overarching idea of citizen involvement in EU politics and its place in our Cities4europe, Europe for citizens campaign and the mayors summit 2019. Following this, Machteld Boussemaere, a Europe expert from the Europe House Ryckevelde, gave an introduction on Europe and the two topics and also acted as a moderator for the evening.
The event resulted in three recommendations
1. A legal framework for sustainable procurement and purchases: Europe should issue guidelines with sustainability criteria which both the contracting authority (at all levels, i.e. local, national and European) and companies acquiring contracts must adhere to.
2. An ambitious European Fundamental Social Rights Plan: Europe should draw up a plan, with similarities to the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees a basic quality of life for every European. Attention would be paid to work, but also to the right to housing, education and learning and health care. The implementation of this plan would be financed through a redistribution of resources, for example other forms of taxation.
3. Encourage energy management systems at all levels: Europe should get rid of fossil fuels and instead enable changes to the energy grid so that decentralised production, consumption, distribution and storage of energy become possible. Such management systems could be used at neighborhood level, but also between companies, in cities, nationally or at European level. The EU would be responsible for stimulating innovation, opening up good practices and drawing up the legislative framework. This could be financed through a kerosene tax.
These citizens' proposals, together with those from other panel events taking place across Europe until the end of February, will be presented at the second mayors summit on the future of Europe on 20 and 21 March 2019.
As part of the mayors summit, which will take place two months ahead of the European Parliament elections in the presence of more than 100 city politicians, EUROCITIES and the European Commission will present the panel results to national and European political leaders.