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German citizens could soon advise the government on everything from food labelling to policy

Lawmakers attend a meeting of the German federal parliament, Bundestag, in the Reichstag building in Berlin, 10 May 2023.
Lawmakers attend a meeting of the German federal parliament, Bundestag, in the Reichstag building in Berlin, 10 May 2023. Copyright Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP
Copyright Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP
By Angela Symons with APTN
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German public opinion could soon play a role in parliament through new citizens’ assembly.

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Germany is considering introducing its first 'citizens' assembly' on the topic of food and nutrition.

Lawmakers considered the proposition on Wednesday, when it received backing from Germany's three governing parties.

But opposition parties have rejected the idea, warning that such citizens' assemblies risk undermining the primacy of parliament in Germany's political system.

What would the citizen assembly advise on?

The citizens' assembly would focus on the role of the state in nutrition

Members of the public, selected through a lottery system, would be asked that they expect from the government in terms of policy to promote a healthier and more sustainable diet.

They would discuss topics like food labelling, the role of schools, how citizens could be better supported in their purchasing decisions, the pricing of food and food waste management.

Members of the assembly would provide non-binding feedback to legislators.

The goal is to find an agreeable balance between individual freedom and the state's responsibility for society.

'A bridge between citizens and politicians'

Germany's three governing parties back the idea of appointing consultative bodies made up of members of the public.

Baerbel Bas, the speaker of the lower house, or Bundestag, said that she views such bodies as a “bridge between citizens and politicians that can provide a fresh perspective and create new confidence in established institutions.”

“Everyone should be able to have a say,” Bas told daily newspaper Passauer Neue Presse. “We want to better reflect the diversity in our society.”

Similar efforts to create citizens' assemblies have taken place in other European countries such as Spain, Finland, Austria, the UK and Ireland.

Could citizens' assemblies be used to advise on climate action?

Environmental activists from the group Last Generation have campaigned for the creation of a citizens' assembly to address issues surrounding climate change. 

However, the group argues that proposals drawn up by such a body should at the very least result in bills that lawmakers would then vote on.

Climate assemblies are increasingly being used across Europe to guide decision-making on climate policy, including in the UK, Spain and France.

In 2020, UK citizens delivered a report with recommendations like taxes on frequent fliers, a cut in meat and dairy consumption and better green transport links for all parts of the country.

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