Citizens' debate 'We Need To Talk' gives citizens the floor on party funding

Citizen's debate on political party funding

The citizens' debate on party funding in Belgium 'We Need To Talk' will launch on February 2.

With this debate, the initiators Itinera, the Friday Group, the Egmont Institute, Levl, Aula Magna and G1000 want to break the deadlock on this issue by taking the discussion away from the particracy and involving citizens.

The problem of party funding

Every year, Belgian political parties receive more than 75 million euros in government grants. If we add the salaries of parliamentary assistants, parties receive as much as 160 million euros a year. Moreover, there is almost no independent control of party funding. Some parties have such large assets that they invest part of their funding in real estate or on the stock exchange. They also spend impressive amounts on ads on social media: in 2022, this amounted to 5 million euros.

Providing solutions through a citizens' debate

Everyone recognizes that the system needs to change. The federal coalition agreement even commits to that. And yet everything remains deadlocked. Indeed, political parties are literally the 'involved party', which makes it difficult to achieve ambitious reforms. However, citizens do not have to take the political agenda into account. By giving a diverse group of citizens enough time and information, they can come up with concrete recommendations that can benefit politicians. This is why the initiators decided to organize a citizens' debate.

The debate consists of three stages:

  1. Open debate. From 2 February, all citizens can participate in the debate themselves via the website or via websites of different media outlets. All arguments will be collected and serve as inspiration for the next phase.
  2. Citizens panel. Between 25 March and 14 May, 60 citizens drawn by lot will meet for three weekends to draw up recommendations for better party funding. A lottery has been drawn according to international OECD standards so that the citizens' panel is a good cross-section of the Belgian population. The citizens will receive all the necessary information from independent academic experts such as professors Bart Maddens (KULeuven) and Ingrid Van Biezen (Leiden University) and Jean Faniel, director of CRISP. The citizens will also engage in discussions with the political parties to hear their views, and via the tool 'Rhetoric' they will be informed of what is on the minds of the general public.
  3. The feedback. We compile all the citizen panel's recommendations and deliver them to the political scene. We organise meetings with key political stakeholders to hear what they think of those recommendations and what they will do with them.

The quality of the citizens' debate will be monitored by an external monitoring committee consisting of six experts on participation, governance, and inclusion: Herman Van Rompuy (former European Council president), Caroline Sägesser (CRISP), Dave Sinardet (VUB), Sana Sellami (Untitled Workers Club), Marjan Ehsassi (Berggruen Institute) and Art O'Leary (Irish Electoral Commission).

Read the full press release here: DutchFrench.

All information about We Need To Talk can be found on the website