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08/12/2006 18:19 Local Time 
The Presidency Meetings News Media Service EU/Policies Greece Athens 2004 Youth
www.eu2003.gr
Citizens' Forum: An assessment

The eu2003.gr forum hosted the views of many European citizens on various issues/questions, with the main objective of serving as a means of promoting so-called e-democracy. A brief assessment follows of the way in which it functioned plus a general evaluation of the extent to which it achieved its targets. These latter related to the presentation of the issues which occupied the Greek Presidency and European current affairs, the projecting of views with respect for their differentiation and lastly, the strengthening of ‘indirect’ interaction and e-dialogue.

Taking into account the international tension caused by the Iraq war, the projecting of the current issues of European politics is considered to have been very satisfactory. This subject attracted the interest of the majority of citizens/visitors to the electronic forum, as reflected by the numerous messages focusing on this topic throughout the entire Greek Presidency. The initial intention of the editorial team was that the forum questions should coincide timewise with the agenda of the Greek Presidency. The monopolisation of European news by the Iraqi war for most of the six-month period obliged the editorial team to perform a difficult balancing act. On the one hand, the difficult international conjuncture could not be overlooked while, on the other, it was expedient to maintain correspondence between the Presidency agenda and the questions set in the web site’s forum. Although the ‘Iraq’ factor played a particularly important role in formulating the questions, the editorial team made a great effort to maintain a degree of diversity vis-à-vis the subject-matter (EU enlargement, European foreign policy, EU economic policy directions, provision of EU humanitarian aid, social dimension of the EU, international role of the EU and transatlantic relations, the EU’s external borders, migration flows, European institutions).

The usefulness of the forum as a tool and its practicality as a means of projecting views are indisputable. The forum allowed citizens/visitors to make multiple use of the electronic domain: views were presented in a systematic and consistent way, while at the same time citizens’ protests against developments and events on the international politics scene were expressed, sometimes in a sharp tone.

There were only very few cases in which the editorial team deemed the publication of specific messages/replies to be unacceptable, due to their lack of observance of the rules stipulated at the outset.

Of course, a prerequisite for citizens/visitors to access the electronic forum was their ability to use the English language. This requirement was dictated by the logic of the single linguistic area in order to facilitate dialogue. At the same time, however, it impeded the access of citizens/visitors without an adequate knowledge of English.

Also on account of this logic, a significant number of messages written in other languages which deserved to be published on the basis of their content, remained unpublished. The messages expressing critical opinions regarding the selection of a single language raised and raise the issue of linguistic pluralism in Europe.
The important issue of the smooth functioning of interactive communication between citizens and institutions is reflected in the response of citizens/visitors to each question. This relationship was not maintained with consistency and continuity, mainly due to the focusing of attention on the Iraq crisis and its implications concerning the manner of formulation and degree of autonomy of the EU in matters of foreign policy, the somewhat ambiguous relationship of the UK with the EU, the political dimension of EU enlargement and the Eurocentric perception of transatlantic relations. The fact that most citizens/visitors focused on these issues provided an indication of their main concerns, as these were expressed during the respective six-month period.

In view of the above, the conclusion reached is that the forum of the Greek Presidency web site, while highlighting the potential of digital technology, fulfilled its role by making a positive contribution to efforts aimed at strengthening transparency and stimulating the participation of civil society in the decision-making process.

Click here to see the archive of the forum


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