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Open Policy Making in the EU

Written by Niamh Webster, Democratic Engagement Officer, The Democratic Society

The recent DL EU event brought together Commission staff, researchers, campaigners and members of the public, to discuss citizen participation in EU policy processes. The discussion focused on the Commission’s policy making machinery, and how policy can be made more openly in the digital age.

In light of the challenges of public participation at the European level, the panel discussed what the next steps should be. Suggestions included innovation, deliberation and piloting small initiatives, using local examples to learn. 

The OpenEU report was described as a useful starting point. The report analyses the existing practice of open policy making in the UK and similar approaches at EU level. The findings strongly suggest that there is appetite for increased openness in the EU and potential for open policy making to work at this level, with a productive partnership possible between institutions and civil society. The recommendations suggest proposals for the Commission and open policy making pilots linking national and local levels, with close monitoring and evaluation. 

Read more about the Open EU Project here.

What is open policy making?

It is a method for making government policy which brings in contributions, not just from civil servants, but from a wider and more networked college of people whom the policy will affect. Open policy making is a move from traditional hierarchically organised, government-bubble policy making. It’s a term that originated in the UK government’s civil service reform work.

Open policy making and the EU

To most citizens EU policy processes can seem complex and difficult to engage with, but civil society and policy makers share a common interest in creating better conversations and a wider range of perspectives on policy. The European Commission’s approach to open policy making has followed developments elsewhere. As public sector practice has developed, the EU’s practice has developed, but it has not sought to position itself as an innovator. In this context, we discuss several initiatives, such as Plan D, the 2001 White Paper on Governance, and the most recent Better Regulation proposals.

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