Wien, 12. December 2006 Press release

Council of Europe's meeting on e-democracy at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs

12.12.2006

A new theme and new challenges

Vienna, 12 December 2006 - Today and tomorrow, the Council of Europe is organising a meeting of experts on the subject of electronic democracy at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The meeting is chaired by the head of the Council of Europe's e-democracy working group, Austrian diplomat Thomas Buchsbaum.

'E-democracy' means the use of modern information and communication technologies in all areas of democracy. With this meeting, the Council of Europe, the oldest European organisation, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, is breaking new ground not only with regard to content but also with regard to a forward-looking attitude towards the questions of democracy. On one hand, e-democracy options are intended to provide greater transparency, while on the other hand they are to facilitate the participation of all citizens in democratic processes.

E-democracy could thus prove to be a tool to counteract the citizens’ increasing lack of identification with politics and its representatives as well as their lack of participation in traditional democratic processes such as elections or party activities. E-democracy on the one hand comprises legally regulated areas of democracy such as legislative bodies (legislative processes) and citizens’ participation (elections, referenda, petitions for referenda and other petitions), and on the other it also incorporates guaranteed democratic procedures relating to freedom of expression and association that are not regulated in detail. In the electronic field this includes on-line discussion fora, 'blogs', websites with questionnaires on political themes and web initiatives for candidates standing for election as well as for projects that are under consideration by legislative bodies at the national, regional or local levels.

In Vienna, representatives of the 46 member states of the Council of Europe, other international organisations and independent academics are discussing the challenges and obstacles associated with the new possibilities offered by e-democracy. The outcome of the meeting should be an agreement on which areas the Council of Europe will cover in 2007 in the field of e-democracy and which political direction it will follow in this regard. The first recommendations to the 46 member states on this subject are to be adopted in about a year’s time.

At the federal, state and community levels as well as at university level and in the field of research, Austria already has internationally recognised expertise in the field of e-government, an area related to e-democracy and partly overlapping it. In early summer Austria took first place in an e-government ranking of all EU Member States.

Contact:
Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Press Department
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3262, 4549, 4550
Fax: ++43 (0) 50 1159-213
abti3(at)bmaa.gv.at