Listening to citizens


  • Dennis van Driel
  • Lea Freudenberg
  • Alessandra Goio
  • Kimberley Hollender
  • Lisbeth Huber
  • Brian Megens
  • Klaartje Peters
  • Ronja Schiffer
  • Maike Schmeitz



local government, local politics, local decision-making, input, output, citizens, representatives, interaction


Focusing on local politics in the Meuse-Rhine Euregion,  this report investigates the interaction between citizens and local politicians in four municipalities: Riemst (Belgium, Flanders), Visé (Belgium, Wallonia), Übach-Palenberg (Germany) and Valkenburg aan de Geul (Netherlands). The purpose of the research project is to bring new insights into the interaction between citizens and local politicians and the expectations of citizens about that interaction. Therefore, this report analyses the experiences of citizens with politicians (including the mayor) at local government level, using Easton’s (1965) model of the political system and Denters’ (2013) models for the role of elected representatives.

The research was conducted in the framework of the Marble (Maastricht Researched Based Learning for Excellence) programme, open for highly motivated and excellent undergraduate students. The structured interviews with the citizens were conducted in April and May 2016.

Overall, this research finds that, despite some differences between the four municipalities in terms of the relationship between citizens and local politicians, most citizens contact their local politicians for a concrete problem affecting them. Citizens expect politicians to help them with these issues. On the other hand, citizens expect politicians to approach them to ask for input in the decision-making process. These expectations fit best with the politicians’ role of trustee and democratic watchdog as defined by Denters (2013). Local politicians do not completely fulfil these expectations yet. They should engage with citizens more often to ask for their input or to explain council decisions (output). As an approach to tackle this issue and facilitate effective communication, this paper proposes implementing “tailored” communication modes, based on the different target groups.

This research is complementary to the 2015 study by Peters et al., which focused on the experiences and expectations of local politicians in the same four municipalities in the Meuse-Rhine Euregion.


Belgian House of Representatives. (2007). The Belgian Constitution. House of Representatives, Legal Department.

Billiet, J., Maddens, B., & Beerten, R. (2003). National Identity and Attitude Toward Foreigners in a Multinational State: a Replication. Political Psychology, 24(2), 241-257.

Burstein, D. (2015). Marketing Research Chart: Do different age groups prefer different channels? Marketing Sherpa. Retrieved May 20, 2016 from

Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (2011). Gemeente Op Maat: Valkenburg aan de Geul. Den Haag: Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek.

Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (2016). Valkenburg aan de Geul: Bevolking, Geslacht, Leeftijd, Burgerlijke Staat en Regio, 1 januari. Retrieved 14 May 2016, from:,3,6,9,12&D2=129-132&D3=747&D4=l&HDR=T&STB=G2,G3,G1&CHARTTYPE=1&VW=T

Databank Verkiezingsuitslagen. (n.d.). Verkiezingsuitslagen Gemeenteraad 1918-heden. In Retrieved May 22nd 2015 from

Delforge, P. (2014). Marcel Néven. Retrieved 23 May, 2016, from

Denters, B. (2013) What people think about municipal councillors as citizens representatives, Paper for 7th ECPR General Conference Bordeaux (4-7 September 2013).

Denters, B. and Klok P.J. (16 March 2013). The roles Councillors play. Local Councillors in Europe. Urban and Regional Research International, vol. 14, p.63-83.

Denters, B., M. de Groot en P.J. Klok (2011). ‘“Staan voor” en “gaan voor”. Vertegenwoordiging in de lokale democratie’. In: R.B. Andeweg en J. Thomassen (red.) (2011), Democratie doorgelicht. Het functioneren van de Nederlandse democratie, Leiden: 2011, pp. 369-383.

Denters, B. & Klok, P. (2005). The Netherlands: In Search of Responsiveness. In: B. Denters & L.E. Rose (Eds.), Comparing Local Governance: Trends and Developments (pp. 65-83). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Deschouwer, K. and Rihoux, B. (2008). De locale partijafdelingen van hierarchie naar stratarchie. In: Buelens, J., Deschouwer, K. and Rihoux, B. Tussen kiezer en hoofdkwartier. De lokale partijafdelingen en de gemeenteraadsverkiezingen van 2006. Brussels: VUB-Press, pp. 93 -154.

Divo, S. (2014). The Concept of Political Representation. In: Zalta, E.N. (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring Edition), retrieved from <>.

Duyvendak, J.W. (1998). De Souplesse van Stroperigheid. In: Hendriks, F. & Toonen, T. (Eds.), Schikken en Plooien: De Stroperige Staat Bij Nader Inzien. Assen: Van Gorcum.

Easton, D. (1965). A Systems Analysis of Political Life. New York: Wiley.

Egner, B., Sweeting, D. & P.J. Klok. (Eds.) (2013). Local Councillors in Europe. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

Fitzmaurice, J. (1984). Belgium: Reluctant Federalism. Parliamentary Affairs, 37(1), 418-430.

Flos, B.J., Jager, de, A., Snijder, E. & Theuns, L. (2012). Nationaal Raadsledenonderzoek. Trendonderzoek naar Tijdsbesteding en Werkzaamheden van Gemeenteraadsleden: tweemeting, Retrieved 3rd of March 2015, from

Gallagher, M., Laver, M., Mair, P. (2011). Representative Government in Modern Europe. The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Gabriel, O.W. & Eisenmann, S. (2005). Germany: A new type of local government?. In: Denters, B. & Rose, L.E. (Eds.), Comparing Local Governance: Trends and Developments. New York : Palgrave Macmillan.

Gemeente Valkenburg aan de Geul (2016a). Over Valkenburg: Cijfers. Retrieved 14 May 2016, from:

Gemeente Valkenburg aan de Geul (2016b). College van B&W. Retrieved 14 May 2016, from:

Gemeente Valkenburg aan de Geul (2016c). Gemeenteraad. Retrieved 14 May 2016, from:

Hendriks, F. & Schaap, L. (2011). The Netherlands: Subnational Democracy and the Reinvention of Tradition. In: Loughlin, J., Hendriks, F. & Lidström, A. (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Local and Regional Democracy in Europe (pp. 96-122). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hendriks, F. & Toonen, T. (2001). Polder Politics: The Reinvention of Consensus Democracy in The Netherlands. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Hennau, S. & Ackaert, J. (2013). Can Law make the Difference? The role perception of local councillos after the enactment of the Flemish Local Government Decree. Retrieved from:‐a64c--‐49c9--‐a161--‐33a31e9c92a0.pdf.

Information und Technik Nordrhein-Westfalen. (2011). Information und Technik Nordrhein-Westfalen (IT.NRW) - Einwohnerzahlen im Regierungsbezirk Köln. Retrieved from

John, P. (2001). Local governance in Western Europe. London: Sage.

Karnoven, L. (2014). The personalisation of politics. A study of Parliamentary Democracies. ECPR Press.

Korsten, A.F.A. (2012). Monisme en de Uitblijvende Struikelpartijen van Vlaamse Schepenen. Bestuursweetenschappen 66(5). Pp. 32-52.

Lipset, S.M. & Rokkan, S. (1967) Party Systems and Voter alignments: Cross National Perspectives. New York: Free Press (Verhelst, Reynaert & Steyvers, 2010).

Livios NV. (2008). Retrieved May 26, 2016, from Aantal inwoners en het inkomen per inwoner in de gemeente Riemst:

Mark Vos. (n.d.). Retrieved May 25, 2016, from

Miller, E.F. (1971). David Easton’s Political Theory. Political Science Reviewer 1(1), pp. 184-235.

Nationaal Raadsledenonderzoek: zie Flos et al.

Olislagers,E. & Ackaert, J. (2010). Do changing institutions matter? The Role of the local councillors in Flanders after the local government reform. Retrieved from:

Peters, K., Bellino, Y., Franzkowiak, S., Krumm, E., Langlet, A., Marenbach, R., Van Berghen, S. & Wejmelka, H. (2015) Local Councillors and Citizens. An exploratory study of the interaction between councillors and citizens in 4 municipalities in the Meuse-Rhine Euregion, Vol. 3, retrieved from

Pitkin, H.F. (1972). The Concept of Representation. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Plees, Y. (2005). Belgium: The Changing World of Belgian Municipalities. In B. Denters & L.E. Rose (Eds.), Comparing Local Governance: Trends and Developments. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.

Steyvers, K. (2004). Van burger tot burgervader: Het politieke rekruteringsproces van de Belgische burgemeester. Bruges: Vanden Broele.

UNESCO. (2012). whc.unesco. (S. a. United Nations Educational, Producer) Retrieved May 29, 2016, from Major Mining Sites of Wallonia:

Verhelst, T., Reynaert, H.& Steyvers, K. (2010). Hoeksteen of Brokstuk van de Lokale Democratie? Belgische raadsleden over hun Rol, Visie en Gedrag. In: Verhelst, T., Reynaert, H. & Steyvers, K. (Eds.), De Gemeente en Provincieraad: Meer dan Ritueel Mopperen en Legitimeren? (pp. 5-69) Brugge: Van den Broele.

WalStat (2015). Age moyen de la population (01/01/2015). Retrieved 13 May, 2016, from

Wayenberg, E., De Rynck, F., Steyvers, K. & Pilet, J-B. (2012). Belgium: A Tale of Regional Divergence? In: Loughlin, J., Hendriks, F. & Lidström, A. (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Local and Regional Democracy in Europe (pp. 71-95). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wollmann, H. (2004). Local government reforms in Great Britain, Sweden, Germany and France: between multi-function and single-purpose organisations. Local Government Studies, 30(4), 639-665.