Today in the US ... Tomorrow's Europe?

Dr. James Fishkin, Director of Stanford's Center for Deliberative Democracy, and one of the major partners of the National Presidential Caucus, is in Brussels this week for a major citizen-led discussion on how to make a better European Union.

The initiative is called "Tomorrow's Europe" and over 400 citizens from all four corners of Europe are expected to attend and participate.

Much like the National Caucus, Tomorrow's Europe is about empowering citizens to revel in the fruits of democracy.

As reported by EUObserver.com:

"The participants [of Tomorrow's Europe] are aged between 18 to 88 and range in jobs from taxi drivers, to doctors, barmen, teachers, housewives and students... among them some who have never left their home country before – and [will] spend Saturday and Sunday debating issues such as pensions, jobs and global security."

...Stephen Boucher from Notre Europe, the pro-Europe think tank behind the project, says "healthy deliberation underpins a healthy democracy." People need to "exchange arguments to determine how they can live together in harmony."

Mr Boucher says he hopes the weekend's debate will "generate discussion" among EU policy-makers...

The premise for the project – known as deliberative polling – is that the normal method for gathering opinions from citizens a yes/no or tick-the-box survey is not nuanced enough.

James Fishkin, the US professor who masterminded deliberative polling in the early 1990s, believes it is the answer to the EU's democratic deficit – the cumulative effect of using votes in European elections for domestic issues; low voter turnout at European election time and a lack of pan-European debate.

He sums up the technique on Notre Europe's website: "There is a basic, and recurring problem of public consultation-if we ask elites, we have deliberation without political equality. If we ask the people directly, we can have political equality but usually without deliberation."

The results of the deliberation are to be presented next week just before an EU leaders summit.

Whether it will be noticed by the European Commission is another matter. But Brussels has been paying more attention to citizens since they turned EU politics on its head two years ago by voting against its most ambitious project yet – the European Constitution.

Read the entire EUobserver news story here.

Visit Tomorrow's Europe here.

Read "Why Deliberative Democracy can help the EU address its democratic deficit" by James Fishkin here

Watch the video of Tomorrow's Europe launch below.

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