The European Commission requires both expert advice and an understanding of public opinion to steer policy and draft new EU legislation proposals that will be introduced to both the Council and the EU Parliament to debate.
The EU Commission regularly hosts hearings, workshops, expert groups and consultations to gain valuable insights, prompt discussion and help draft policy. These forums may be restricted to certain groups or open to everyone. Participants within these forums not only include scientific experts who can provide well researched advice and potential solutions, but also the general public who can deliver an insight into the views of EU citizens, mobilize societal support for policy plans and legitimise the policy proposal process.
This week’s blog is going to specifically focus on the European Commission’s Consultations. Consultations are often the beginning of the EU legislation process and allow all interested stakeholders (both individuals and organisations) to provide expertise or submit their opinion on a particular topic or policy process via an online questionnaire.
New Consultations are published frequently and are usually open for three months with topics ranging from taxation to Europe’s space strategy. Each Consultation questionnaire is published alongside background documents which provide the responder with as much information about the issue as feasible.
Why contribute to EU Consultations?
Consultations are one of the easiest and quickest methods of sharing your research and expertise with the EU Commission and to contribute to the EU policymaking process!
Contributions can be submitted in any EU language, are open to everyone and respondents are generally able to skip questions that they do not feel they are comfortable with or able to answer.
Keeping up with and contributing to Consultations relevant to your work could increase your ability to understand the policy relevance of your research. This may be valuable when talking with policy-sector personnel or when explaining the relevance of your research in grant or funding proposals. It may also inspire you to discover other aspects of your research you may not have thought to explore otherwise.
The individual responses to Consultations are often posted online. However, contributors can elect to complete the questionnaire anonymously and have their personal information omitted from the final report.
Publicly contributing to an EU Consultation allows others working in a similar area to view your response and gain a better understanding of your competence and interest in the topic. Likewise, you are also able to view the responses of others who have publicly contributed. This could open up new networks, giving you more opportunities to engage with others who have a similar focus.
While it may seem difficult, if not impossible, to share your expertise through a 20-minute online questionnaire, most of the Consultations provide you with the opportunity to upload supporting documents. This allows those evaluating the responses to reflect on specific aspects of your research.
How to contribute to EU Commission Consultations
The EU Commission’s Consultation process is straight-forward and user-friendly – at least as far as EU procedures go! The toughest part is finding a relevant Consultation to respond to. Do try to find a Consultation that is aligned with your area of expertise but don’t be deterred if there isn’t a Consultation matching the exact title of your latest research.
If you would like to share your research but cannot find an EU Commission Consultation relevant to your area of expertise, you can view the list of upcoming Consultation topics or subscribe to the Your Voice in Europe mailing list which will alert you to new Consultations as well as recently-published Roadmaps.
Alternatively, you can sign up for the EGU’s Database of Expertise which sends information regarding relevant EU initiatives and potential science-policy opportunities to its members.
Be prepared to do some additional homework! Questions within a particular Consultation may refer to a legislation, initiative or action plan (see the example below). It’s important that you know, or at least have an idea, about what the question is referring to as it will enable you to answer the Consultation question fully.
Example of questions from the ‘Public consultation on the implementation of the Atlantic action plan’ Consultation
Remember that it’s a learning process. It is often challenging to relate your area of expertise to policy themes and answer questions on complicated topics in less than 1000 characters. But the more familiar you get with the process the easier it will become!
Sources / Additional reading
 – The European Commission’s use of consultation during policy formulation: The effects of policy characteristics
 – Evaluating pluralism: diversity of interest groups’ policy demands and preference attainment in the European Commission’s open Consultations. evidence from the EU Environmental Policy