High-level conference “Engaging citizens for good governance in Cohesion Policy”

In her political guidelines for the new Commission, President Ursula von der Leyen expressed her will for European citizens to play a leading and active part in building the future of our Union. The importance of more citizen engagement has been recognised and strengthened in the Lisbon Treaty with the European citizens’ initiative and in a number of documents and political declarations, such as the Commission contribution to the Sibiu Declaration for a “new strategic agenda for the EU 2019-2024”.

With this in mind, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy is organising a conference on engaging citizens and civil society in Cohesion Policy. The event will take place under the political leadership and with the participation of Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Elisa Ferreira and will focus on how to ensure closer cooperation with citizens and civil society in the governance and implementation of Cohesion Policy and management of dedicated EU funds. Through a more active citizens’ engagement, institutions will become even more transparent and accountable, while investments will bring more and bigger results on the ground.

New: a background document provides additional details of the wider political context and objectives of the conference.

Some key questions to address through the conference are:

  • How can citizens and civil society contribute to good governance in EU Cohesion Policy?
  • How do we bring Cohesion Policy closer to citizens?
  • What are the experiences from cooperation between authorities and citizens across Europe?

Registrations for the conference are now closed.

For participants from civil society it is possible to apply for having travel costs and hotel covered. This can be done in the registration form.


08.30 – 09.30

Registrations, coffee and networking.

09.30 – 09.50

Opening and welcome.

  • Dubravka Šuica, EU Commission Vice-President.
  • Marko Pavić, Minister for Regional Development and EU Funds Croatia.


Moderator for the day: Katrina Sichel

09.50 – 11.00

“the What” will provide context and visions on situation today and trends.

Keynote speeches by

  • Sanjay Pradhan, CEO, Open Government Partnership
  • Yves Dejaeghere, University of Antwerp and Director G1000
  • Joanna Howard, Cluster Leader, Institute of Development Studies of University of Sussex
  • Roman Szelemej, Mayor of Walbrzych, Poland

11.00 – 11.30

Coffee and networking break.

11.30 – 12.30

“the Why” will look into reasons for involving citizens in Cohesion Policy.
Conversation on stage

  • Audun Halvorsen, State Secretary, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • Delia Matilde Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International.
  • Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, Professor, London School of Economics

12.30 – 14.00


14.00 – 15.00

“the Experiences”  show interesting examples and go more into details on four specific topics.

Parallel participatory debates.


Open data and digital technology to engage citizens

Moderator: Janos Bertok, Deputy Director Public Governance, OECD

  • Helen Darbishire, VP and Executive Director, Access Info Europe.
  • Gavin Hayman, Executive Director, Open Contracting Partnership.
  • Nadia El-Imam, Founding Director, Edgeryders


Co-creation, ownership and meaningful participation

Moderator: Andriana Sukova, Deputy Director-General, Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL).

  • Melanie Steinbacher, CLLD/LEADER/ERDF Austria
  • Elena Calistru, founder Funky Citizens, Romania.
  • Oliver Escobar, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy, University of Edinburgh, Co-Director of What Works Scotland
  • Dominik Hierlemann, Senior Expert, Bertelsmann Stiftung.


Monitoring, transparency and accountability – building trust through cooperation.

Moderator: Marie-Helene Boulanger, Head of Unit, Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers (DG JUST).

  • Grzegorz Makowski, Stefan Batory Foundation.
  • Alexandrina Najmowicz, European Civic Forum.
  • Antonio Relaño, General Director of Transparency , Madrid City Council


Capacity building for authorities and CSOs.

Moderator: Charlina Vitcheva, Deputy Director-General, JRC.

  • Leda Stott, specialist Partnership and Sustainable Development
  • Zakia Elvang, democracy advisor and entrepreneur, We Do Democracy & Democracy Festival Association
  • Andreas Accardo, Head of Unit for Institutional Cooperation & Networks , EU Agency for Fundamental Rights.
  • Claudia Chwalisz, Open Government Policy Analyst, OECD.

15.00 – 15.30

Coffee and networking break.

15.30 – 15.50

Report back from the breakout sessions.

15.50 – 16.05

Introduction to the high level debate

 Testimonies from politicians in two EU Member States.

  • Emil Boc, Mayor of Cluj-Napoca, Romania
  • Enrico Rossi, President of Tuscany region, Italy.

16.05 – 17.15

“the How” will discuss how citizens and civil society could and should be involved in EU Cohesion Policy for the future.

Moderator: Vittoria Alliata di Villafranca, Director, Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Affairs (DG REGIO).

  • Younous Omarjee, Chair of Regi Committee, European Parliament.
  • Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the European Committee of the Regions.
  • Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee.
  • Emily O’Reilly, European Ombudsman.

In conversation with Mayor Emil Boc and President Enrico Rossi.

17.15 – 17.30

Concluding remarks.

  • Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms.

At the end of the day, participants are welcome to stay for a networking drink.

For questions, please contact DG REGIO on REGIO-CITIZENS-CONFERENCE-2020@ec.europa.eu