Greek history (900s–700s BCE), free-born male land-owners who were citizens would gather in the agora for military duty or to hear statements of the ruling king or council.Which makes the word remarkably apt for what is happening here in the European Parliament over the next two days. The Agora meetings of the European Parliament. This is the brainchild of Gerard Onesta MEP and Vice-President of the Parliament. Yes the same chap who brought you the pointless 'Lux Film Prize'. and it is according to its own PR puff,
What the Parliament proposes here is to combine the participatory energy of European society, expressed via networks of associations, professional organisations and trade unions, with representative democracy, as embodied at European level by the European Parliament.Of course this is internally contradictory. The organisations that make up the Agora are in no way representative of the voice of the citizens, but a self selecting elite.
This combination could be called the "AGORA", as a tribute to the first public debating forum established by Athenian "direct" democracy, which is at the root of our European democracy.
The Agora, as a forum, would combine the voices of European citizens with those of their elected representatives. It would give its participants the opportunity to engage in the European debate and to come up with concrete policies, based on everyday experience, to tackle the problems facing the Union.
From stating the problem to achieving a consensus, the Agora can provide input for MEPs to take forward in their work during the drafting of reports in parliamentary committees, i.e. before a particular subject is voted upon by that committee. Its debates will focus on issues that are a priority on Parliament's agenda and have a clear impact on citizens' daily lives. It will thus help shed light on issues that are too often confined to discussions with lobbyists".
Indeed if you click here you will see a list of the invited, participating organisations, a list of organisations that almost, but not quite to a body are funded either directly or indirectly by the EU.
Thus rather than getting the unvarnished view of the citizens, the European Parliament, has decided, before issuing its own assessment of the text (the Reform Treaty) to invite European civil society to come to the Chamber and express its views on the new institutional landscape, asking it to present its appraisal and its expectations, but also to better define its role within the new framework that is taking shape.
As the Conference continues I will endeavour to provide updates.