Open European Dialogue

The seeds of the Open European Dialogue were planted in a context of crises that had put a strain on cross-European relations; this strain has only resurfaced through the current global pandemic. To mitigate political tensions, The OED was established as an informal yet constant link between policymakers across Europe. The innovative, member-led platform supports a unique process of dialogue that fosters cross-border collaboration among parliamentarians.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

The primary product of the Open European Dialogue (OED) is dialogue itself. The innovation arose out of a time where cross-border dialogue and collaboration in Europe had broken down. In and around the 2015 financial and migration crises, European policymakers squandered opportunities for cross-border collaboration and problem-solving by not reaching out ‘across the aisle.’

In recognizing this gap in communication, the OED (then called the Mercator European Dialogue) was established by the German Marshall Fund of the United States in partnership with other think tanks in Germany, Italy, Spain, and Greece.

The positive impact produced by its first dialogue highlighted a severe and pervasive gap in dialogue among Europe’s policymakers. Participating MPs were distinctly surprised by how their work often paralleled but did not overlap; how they faced shared problems but did not reach out for shared solutions. Importantly, the crucial role that national politicians continue to play in shaping the European debate emerged clearly. European politics is decided in European capitals as much as it is in Brussels, and yet, the effective involvement of national parliaments in the broader European debate remains limited.

There are still close to zero opportunities within Europe for national members of parliament to foster cross-border dialogue outside of high-level diplomatic events. The Open European Dialogue is therefore innovative because it is an ever-present, open platform for dialogue for European policymakers to use to extend their horizon across country borders. The objective of the innovation is to strengthen cross-border dialogue and collaboration among policymakers by offering the place and the toolkit to do so.

The project's name was recently changed from Mercator European Dialogue to the Open European Dialogue to reflect the values and outputs of the innovation more readily: these are trust, openness, ownership, equal participation, and member-led initiative. This collection of characteristics – which make-up the ‘good offices’ that the OED platform provides to its member parliamentarians – is how dialogue and collaboration are fostered among policymakers across Europe.

To achieve the goal of fostering dialogue between policymakers, the OED works in the field of democratic innovation by experimenting with new ways of meaningfully connecting Europe’s policymakers. The aim is to improve the way European policymakers communicate and collaborate.

The network offers different dialogue products through continued experimentation. The OED Monthly Open Calls, for instance, arose out of a need to keep policymakers connected during the pandemic. The open-agenda format of these calls drew in parliamentarians who ultimately needed an outlet of communication at times where parliaments were closed. The OED120 aims to connect parliamentarians with experts through a horizontal, open discussion, encouraging learning and further collaborative initiatives through the dialogue process. Finally, when live events were more easily available, workshops and dialogues were set up through collaboration with organizations like the European Forum Alpbach, which have supplemented its events with unique expertise on a range of topics or unique toolkits for the dialogue process itself.

The focus on dialogue is based on the team's belief in the collaborative, democratic process of decision-making and on the idea that the value of dialogue as a tool lies in its power to address complex, political challenges. As opposed to political debates, the character of an open political dialogue is explorative and collaborative. The team therefore experiments on the different ways in which it can encourage open dialogue among European policymakers.

The future of the Open European Dialogue lies in its full establishment of a permanent platform that lends its process-expertise to a network of policymakers in order to allow them to activate cross-border collaboration. The OED aims to be member-led, encouraging engagement within its expanding network of policymakers on initiatives of their own rather than performing advocacy itself.

Finally, the OED platform has found a niche among inter-parliamentary assemblies. Multiple international organizations have established institutions for formal cross-border collaboration, such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union, The NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The OED has established itself as the first-ever, informal parliamentary network where true collaboration, learning, and peer-to-peer interaction can happen among policymakers coming from all European countries and parties of the entire political spectrum.

Ultimately, both the niche and the innovation found within the Open European Dialogue lies within the team’s aim to establish a localized space for dialogue among international actors.

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Status:

  • Implementation - making the innovation happen
  • Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

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