Misleading description of replies to Commission public consultations

Misleading description of replies to Commission public consultations

On 30 October 2020, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs): Charlie Weimers (ECR), Peter Kofod (ID), Rob Rooken (ECR), Jorge Buxadé Villalba (ECR), Angel Dzhambazki (ECR), Andrey Slabakov (ECR) and Nicolaus Fest (ID) posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:

“The EU Treaties specify that consultations should be ‘broad’ and ‘ensure that the Union’s actions are coherent and transparent’.

In its description of public consultations, the Commission claims that the opinion of the public ‘counts’ in the legislative process and that it ‘analyses and sums up’ feedback received on legal drafts. It also claims that citizens can see how their feedback ‘contributes to fine-tuning […] initiatives’ and that their ideas are ‘translated […] into concrete policy options’.

In its evaluation of the public consultation on the new EU migration pact, the Commission describes the ‘tone/attitude’ of the replies as follows: ‘the largest number were mostly neutral, followed by negative, positive and mixed replies’. The actual numbers (898 neutral, 749 negative and 42 positive replies) were hidden in the footnotes.

1. Does the Commission agree that describing the replies as ‘mostly neutral’ was misleading and that such practices signal diminished respect by EU institutions for the principles of openness and transparency in the legislative process?

2. What was the methodology used by the Commission to categorise the replies?

3. Which ideas submitted by the public during the above-mentioned consultation were translated into concrete policies?”

On 28 January 2021, Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “The aim of the roadmap published ahead of the adoption of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum on 23 September 2020 was to set out the overall parameters of the package and to allow for feedback in line with the Commission’s transparency policy.

The Commission analysed the feedback received in response to the roadmap, including a number of position papers submitted by organisations and civil society. An IT tool was used for a quantitative assessment of the responses received, and it helped categorising the responses into supportive (‘positive’), critical (‘negative’) or neutral about the proposed initiatives.

It should be noted that the results of this analysis are of an indicative nature only: the replies to feedback opportunities for roadmaps (as in this case) or for public consultations are self-selecting, and therefore they are not statistically representative. Hence, the methodology cannot be compared to opinion poll methodology as used for example for Eurobarometer.

For this feedback, the replies categorised as ‘neutral’ represented the largest number. A more in-depth qualitative assessment was also carried out, in particular of the more substantial position papers submitted in response to the roadmap. This input, among others, informed the preparation of the New Pact.

The Commission is also launching public consultations on the individual initiatives foreseen in the New Pact, aimed at taking public opinion into account in the preparation of its legislative and non-legislative initiatives.”

Source: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-9-2020-005932_EN.html

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