505.7 million stakeholders, decision-makers and change-enablers. This was the amount of the EU28 population on 1 January this year. Back in 2012, 70 percent of these citizens accessed the internet once a week. Among the reasons for not having internet access at home is that most pointed out that the content is not useful or interesting. Looking further at the stats, in 2012 44 percent of the EU citizens interacted with public authorities online. However, only 22 percent used internet to send filled forms to public authorities.
All of this makes us wonder how connected (or disconnected) and interested (or disinterested) the EU citizen actually is in the decision-making processes in the union and how much the digital tools and internet enable the processes of engagement and participation?
Many believe that the EU still lags behind in its level of grassroots engagement, especially if the actions are facilitated by the EU institutions. But the stories across the EU show the opposite: there are grassroots movements – and they are not only offline but online as well, the support for them grows with the speed of digital and non-digital networks connectivity, and their effectiveness is increasing thanks to the availability of numerous digital tools and devices putting their organized actions in the middle of the Glocal network. And the common thread between all of the existing campaigns and movements is a strong belief that these actions will change day-to-day lives..
Examples from the last few years, such as the #EuropeanSpring campaign, the strikes across Southern Europe countries affected by austerity and the financial crisis and the anti-government protests in Bulgaria: they all show that Europeans are aware and ready to support causes and issues in which they believe.
However the big PR problem is still there – Eurosceptics are not convinced by campaigns and engagement actions, especially those lead by the EU or “Brussels”.
In a moment of change for Europe – the upcoming European Parliament elections in 2014— we wanted to see how institutions would tackle this communications challenge and what needs to happen in order for a real EU digital participatory platform to work.
In our next event in The Centre’s ”Digital Citizen” series in Brussels, we will address the challenges the EU institutions face in engaging their different stakeholders in the web 2.0 environment. Four key speakers from various EU institutions will discuss personal experiences from their work and share their opinions on the development of engagement strategies towards EU citizens with respect to the upcoming EP elections.
Should grassroots engagement for the EP elections function as a targeted ad hoc approach or as a coherent long term approach? Is grassroots engagement the responsibility of Brussels authorities or national and local authorities? Which types of grassroots strategies can be implemented by EP members in order to restore the trust of citizens who have become sceptical of the EU institutions?
You can follow and join the discussion live on Twitter under #EP2014 on the 26th of November between 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm CET.
Image credit: notarim