​​​Background for Europe's Peoples' Forum

Arranged since 2011, the People’s Political Festival in the Baltic Sea island of Bornholm in Denmark attracts more than 25.000 people every day for four days to discuss with 600 Danish politicians from national, regional and local level. More than 90 % of the members of the Danish parliament “Folketinget” take part in the People’s Political Festival. The Danish festival was inspired by similar events in neighbouring countries such as the Swedish “Almedalsvecka”, the Norwegian “Arendalsuka”, the Estonian “Arvemusfestival”, and the Finnish “Suomi Areena”. 


Credits: Joshua Tree Photography

These national political events give individual citizens, professional organisations, NGOs, members of political parties etc. direct and informal access to discuss with politicians. Politicians participating in the Danish event have the opportunity to discuss their points of view with non-politicians and occasionally adjust their policies afterwards. Other participants report having had very interesting discussions that impact on Danish policy frameworks.

Europe's People’s Forum targets the populations in the 27 EU member states and shares the aims of the political events mentioned above to make the political discussion accessible to citizens and stakeholders alike. However, Europe’s People’s Forum is more ambitious because it aims to reverse the roles of the participants. In this forum, the citizens will present the results of solid analyses and conclusions of important political issues to the politicians and civil servants from national, regional and local levels of the 27 member states as well as to the civil servants and parliamentarians from the European Union. The people of Europe will set the agenda and determine what policies and strategies should be discussed by the forum.

Europe’s People’s Forum is the culmination of a comprehensive preparatory process. The first phase constitutes of national debates arranged by partner organisations in all 27 countries in order to prepare solid analyses and opinions. These debates will focus on the specific thematic issues to present and debate at Europe's People’s Forum that particular year. The debates and the analyses will take place online and can be followed up by working groups at national and European level. The outcome of the preparatory discussions will be discussed by representatives from all member states at the two thematic fora in Denmark Here they will present  the proposed policy strategies for discussion with the hundreds of politicians, NGOs, associations, and average citizens at the large-scale Europe's People’s Forum.

Conversations about Europe

50 guests attended a Sønderjysk kaffebord - Southern Jutland coffee table - a tradition involving generous amounts of coffee and cake and allowing the participants to get to know each other.

This was the framework financed by Europanævnet - an organisation that funds information activities related to the EU. The idea was to gather 50 guests who did not know each other in advance. They were different in all respects - age, gender, background, nationality.

They were seated at tables - 6 at each table - with a carefully briefed moderator at each table. The starting point was personal stories of participants - where do you come from, what is on your mind right now, and what is your dream about? The conversations also revolved around issues of identity - what does it mean to come from Odder, from Denmark or from Europe? In this context also thoughts about the future of Europe.

After 2 hours at the tables there was a break followed by a town hall meeting facilitated by the event organiser Povl Henningsen who summed up the key points discussed at the tables. Thoughts on the European challenges of establishing what we do best together - performing as a choir - in Europe and where we would prefer to sing solos.

AønderjyskkaffebordSouthernJutland coffee table_europespeoplesforum

Feedback from the event has been extremely positive. Key points mentioned:

  • The coffee and cake generate a very special atmosphere. The room was filled with energy, openness and willingness to listen to stories, ideas and viewpoints of strangers. And it was fun!

  • The organisation at small tables increased participants´ desire to participate.
  • The moderators played a key role in creating great conversations among strangers.
  • The town hall meeting was a great way of gathering impressions, thoughts and ideas from the entire guest list.
  • Making personal stories the starting point of conversations created a perfect basis for moving forward to conversations about Europe.
  • The mix of guests made the event especially interesting. Many mentioned the benefit of mixing + 20s and +60s as a very inspiring exchange of world views.
  • There was also an international table with guests from Poland, Japan, France and Italy.

The entire event was video recorded. A short video documentation of the event is being produced. In addition, a slightly longer documentary will be produced focusing on 5 personal stories about Europe heading for 2025.

Mobilising ordinary Europeans to take part in inspiring democratic conversations about the visions, values and goals of the European Communities is essential to have Europe to develop in a positive, constructive and dynamic way. The Sønderjysk Kaffebord  is clearly one tested and tried method. It would be highly relevant and interesting to fine-tune this approach and try it out on other groups of Europeans.