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eParticipation in the service of consumer policy

24. June 2009 – 14:44 by Evika

Consumers are the key players in the European economy. According to Meglena Kuneva, EU Commissioner for Consumer Affairs. ‘There are now more than 490 million consumers in Europe and their expenditure represents over half of the EU’s gross domestic product (GDP). Consumers are essential to economic growth and job creation…’  However, EU legislation in the area of consumer protection is hardly comprehensible for many consumers and raises a multitude of questions. Questions like: ‘How is the safety of toys guaranteed?’ – ‘ Which additives are allowed in food?’ – ‘Will the European market for electricity be liberalised?’ bother Europeans more and more.

The lack of clarity and security concerning consumer rights seriously dents citizens confidence and trust to the Community legislation. eParticipation applications can be a remedy to this situation.

Project VoicE ( https://www.give-your-voice.eu ) has a thematic focus, namely the EU legislative activities in the area of consumer protection. The selected focus ensures that the issues debated will have a tangible impact on everyday life of European citizens. As consumer protection issues have an imminent effect on all of us, citizens are likely to be interested in the issue. The discussion focus on five main topics:  Energy, Telecommunications, Nutrition, Toy safety and Consumer market observation.

The project VoicE establishes an Internet platform with the objective to promote the dialogue between citizens from Baden Württemberg, Germany and Valencia, Spain and policy makers from the European Parliament, the Assembly of Regions as well as from other EU institutions and regional assemblies. The portal provides a user-friendly channel for elected officials to interact directly with their constituents, and vice versa. Elected officials have the possibility to keep constituents abreast of news and upcoming events and to gauge public opinion by posting surveys and topics for deliberation. Within the platform’s sections, users are able to view topics under discussion, to access related documents, express their views accordingly and answer featured surveys. The user is able to keep track of all events related to her interests through the calendar, as well as the agendas and meeting minutes of the council’s sessions.

After one year of successful implementation the project is now extended. VoiceS project aims to build on VoicE by implementing new and innovative tools via:

·         the integration of semantics and ontologies and the resulting broad selection of new functionalities,

·         the integration of a game-based learning concept to enhance accessibility and transparency, and

·         effective marketing and promotional efforts, especially focused on social networking.

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