Evidence Matters EU

Credit: Frank Pittoors

On 21st June 2017 over a hundred citizens from across Europe went to the European parliament. 16 of them spoke on why evidence matters to them, and members of the European parliament responded. 

This is just the start of conversations between MEPs and EU citizens.

Please share this video and tell your MEPs why #EvidenceMatters:

Our message is simple:

We expect the commission to use evidence when making policy. We expect the commissioners to explain their reasoning. We expect parliament to seek and to scrutinise reasoning behind policies.

Carlos Moedas, European commissioner for research, science and innovation responded to the citizens on behalf of the commission along with six MEPs including Eva Kaili, MEP and Mairead McGuinness, MEP.

Sofie Vanthournout, Carlos Moedas, European commissioner for research, science and innovation • Marco Affronte, MEP, Greens/EFA • Julie Girling, MEP, ECR • Jan Huitema, MEP, ALDE • Ricardo Serrao Santos, MEP, S&D • Eva Kaili, MEP, S&D, chair of Science and Technology Options Assessment • Mairead McGuinness, MEP, EPP, vice-president of the European parliament
Jan Huitema, MEP and Julie Girling MEP

Eva MEP speaking

Carlos Moedas

The citizens who came to parliament on 21st want to make sure that all parliamentarians know how much evidence matters – to the citizens they represent, and to their colleagues. We’ve asked the MEPs and parliamentarians who were at the event how they will help us get their colleagues on board.  We’ve also announced a citizen-led review to monitor the ‘best and worst’ of MEPs responses over the next 12 months.

16 citizen speakers in the EU parliament at Evidence Matters

If you already spoke to your MEP, please let us know and – importantly – thank them for getting involved. Send them the stories from the day. And if they agree that evidence in policy matters, ask: will they talk to their colleagues about it?

If you haven’t written to your MEP, you can find their contact details here: www.europarl.europa.eu/meps. Tell them: “On 21st June 2017 one hundred citizens from across Europe went to the EU parliament to tell MEPs and officials that evidence matters to them, and they expect it to matter to the parliamentarians too. The stories told at the event can be found here. This matters to me, and I hope it matters to you. I’d like to know where you stand on this issue and, if you agree with me that MEPs should seek and scrutinise the reasoning behind policies, I’d like to ask what you will do and how you can help communicate the support for this idea to your colleagues”. Let us know how you get on.

Jan Huitema, MEP talking to citizens

“While we aspire to make more and better use of science internally, I am glad that there are initiatives like ‘Sense about Science’ which are fighting for evidence-based policy making from the outside and doing so by facilitating the direct involvement of citizens.”Frans Timmermans, European commission first vice president

“I’m very happy that you’ve come because you are telling me exactly what I’m fighting everyday, telling my colleagues that they cannot take any decision without that evidence.”Carlos Moedas, European commissioner for research, science and innovation

“Evidence matters, the scientific method matters and I try to apply those concepts everyday in my work…Everyday I reaffirm the need for complete and comparable data to make weighted decisions.” – Marco Affronte, MEP

“I’m extremely interested in making my decisions based on evidence, but you know, I get given a lot of conflicting evidence and most of the decisions I have to make are not simple; they’re not binary. There is a tendency for people to try and reduce them to binary decisions by being over simplistic and I think that’s when we get bad decisions made. Something is not good or bad, it’s always a grey area. It’s a weight of evidence.” – Julie Girling, MEP

“Indeed it is true that people, citizens want to be informed in the decisions that we make. And I don’t see that as a bad thing. I see it as with digitization, new techniques, we can inform citizens better and that’s an advance. Also I think we can have better tools to collect data and to make the right analyses to make the right decisions. So I think in future, we should not be afraid of new techniques and digitization, I think we should take it as it is and maybe embrace it and enhance it rather than be afraid about it.”Jan Huitema, MEP

“Turning scientific evidence in good governance will not be successful solely with scientists and politicians. It needs the involvement of well-informed citizens and, now-a-days, the refutation of post-truths as “evidences”.” – Ricardo Serrão Santos, MEP 

“As chair of STOA the scientific force and unit of the parliament, we bring scientists and we pair them with politicians,  so we understand that if you see two different scientists from the same science, you get two different point of views based on evidence and data and scientific data. So it depends how you look at it, which is your point of view and how you measure things. Something that you use too much can be harmful but if you use it properly, can be helpful. So for us what we decided we should do is to create basically  a hub where we can communicate the options that we have. So we get as much, as many options as we can from different scientists and then present it to the politicians to make it easy for them to make the right decisions.” – Eva Kaili, MEP

“This has been one of the best events I’ve been to. Because of the clarity of your presentations, because of the fact as citizens you came here and gave your time and energy to this event, and I hope you understand from our side that we do try, we have very different views, but we do try and look at the evidence, but…we have to open our minds, all of us, to look, with an open mind, at the scientific evidence that exists on particular issues. And listen to one another in debates before we decide on how we’re going to vote.” – Mairead McGuinness, MEP

“This event was so good because it brought citizens and MEPs together in context.” – Sofia Ribeiro, MEP

“We thought we won the battle to base our decisions on evidence. We were wrong. The more policymaking is blurred by alternative facts, the more we need to say that there is no alternative to facts.”Kathleen Van Brempt, MEP

“I of course support evidence-based policy making and am alarmed at the growing number of politicians, such as climate change deniers, who want to ignore science.”Richard Corbett, MEP

“I am glad about your initiative and I fully support you in this way forward. I have not stopped since I was elected to the EP to advocate for evidence-based legislation, and I deeply regret that this scientific approach is in decline within political parties.”Alain Lamassoure, MEP

“It was great to have so many different people from all over Europe in the EP to present their view why evidence matters. In the work of a politician it should be self-evident to rely on facts and to do evidence-based policymaking. That’s what I’m trying to do every day.”Karoline Graswander-Hainz, MEP

“It was very good to meet the dynamic Dutch farmer Eline Vedder. We had a great talk about improving the European and national policies for manure in agriculture. So much opportunities for farmers and environment should be unlocked!”Annie Schreijer-Pierik, MEP

“Hearing the testimonies of European citizens has given me hope and confirmed my belief that there is a strong public need for evidence-based politics. In the world of post-truth and alternative facts, we always ask people to fact-check and rely on credible sources. It is just as important to do the same in policymaking. Irreversible damages can be done if politicians ignore scientific evidences, as the example of climate change shows it very clearly.”Tibor Szanyi, MEP

“The importance of evidence in politics is obvious. When we are shaping policies in the European parliament for 500 million citizens in Europe, we should always ensure that these are based on facts and scientific research, and that their necessity is proven as well. We will always have different political views on how to best deal with certain issues, but there is no such thing as ‘alternative facts’.” Kati Piri, MEP

“In the course of my political career, I have always been seeking to work for citizens of the Slovak Republic, in the responsible way. After I became a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), this aim started to focus also to other Europeans. I would like to ensure you, that all political decisions created at the European level are taken very seriously and are also checked in detail within my office, as well as within the offices of other MEPs. For every decision, I strive to acquire as much evidence as possible, so I consider this initiative right and will try to promote it among my colleagues in the European parliament.” – Monika Beňová, MEP

This event was hosted by a cross-party group of MEPs: Marco Affronte MEP, Julie Girling MEP, Ricardo Serrão Santos MEP and Jan Huitema MEP.

Thank you to the following organisations for their support of this event:

Robert Bosch Stiftung, alde, ECR, Greens | EFA, Socialists & Democrats

See the agenda for the event.

Photo credit: Frank Pittoors

Published: 4 May 2017, updated 22 June 2017