On the basis of an agreement transform! europe, the KSCM representatives (Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia – CPBM) of the Local Prague authority and SPED (Society for the European Dialogue) have organized a seminar about the problems related to participatory democracy and participatory budgets in Prague 22. – 23.11.2008.
It was the first time such an event was organized in the Czech Republic. These topics haven't been discussed enough in the Czech Republic and are relatively unknown to the wide public. This refers to the whole of the Czech political spectrum, from the very left to the very right wing.
It was very positive and enriching that all the participants had very diverse backgrounds – there were members of local and regional Czech authorities (from Prague and other regions), politicians, journalists from left wing oriented press and NGO members. Almost all international participants were university lecturers. Among other participants there were guests from Slovakia, Ukraine, Russian Federation and Latvia. There were 50 local and international participants all together.
Each session was dedicated to an intensive exchange of experiences from different towns and regions in Europe (especially the EU), Latin America and Eastern Europe on the basis of individual presentations from the participants. A debate and an exchange of opinions took place in each session as well.
At the end of the seminar all participants had the opportunity to meet the representatives of local authorities in representative rooms of the Prague town hall.
The aim of presentations and debates was to find optimal ways for the reinforcement of the real civil influence in decision making processes of local authorities and „local governments“. Obviously, that the issues were discussed most of the time from the leftist perspective corresponding to the structure of the participating public. The participants agreed that one the most essential points to take into account was how and through which processes can the citizens get more involved in the fundamental phase of the decision making process, in other words, in the preparatory phase.
During the discussions many people mentioned the fact that it is usually formally guaranteed that the citizen's voice is heard but usually in such a phase of the process in which very little can be done actually. The contributions to the debate also showed very clearly that there is a differentiated attitude towards this issue in traditional EU countries, new member states and states which are still outside of the EU. Underestimating specific conditions in individual countries and regions can cause that the citizens won't support the participatory democracy enough and the desired effects won't be achieved. The main aim for the future and the main topic to be discussed during the experts meetings should be: What are the common goals and interests? How can we make use of best practices and experiences from individual countries, regions, towns or municipalities?
The whole meeting was informal and the evaluation of the workshop by Czech participants was very positive. We expect that the presentations and papers used during the meeting are going to be used for future purposes. The Czech participants declared that there are going to be many efforts made to apply stimulants and suggestions from the seminar in the real political life of representative bodies.