Citizens speak up on Europe they strive for
Civil society has prepared a to-do list for the EU institutions
30 June, 2017
Photo: Maria Koleva
The participants made valuable recommendations to the EU bodies.
Civil Society Days convened by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) together with other civil society players and EU institutions, held on 26-27 June in Brussels, gave to citizens across the Union an excellent opportunity to speak up on what Europe they strive for. Its main aim of course, as the EESC defined it, is to provide strong civil society input to the reflection on the future of Europe launched by the Commission in March with the suggested five paths ahead in its "white paper”.
Four main topics were on this year’s agenda of the civil society dialogue that demanded a new political push to relaunch the EU. Starting with populism and how to develop a counter-narrative through education and culture,it also covered technological revolution, empowerment of civil society organisations rights and the shrinking space for civil society and the urban and rural dimensions, achieving more social and territorial cohesion.
Citizens are beginning to realise that if Europe doesn't do better and do everything it can to protect them, take tangible steps to guarantee freedom, democracy and economic and social cohesion, then it is quite certain that populism will eventually get out of hand, EESC president Georges Dassis pointed out. He also accented that the new technologies is another issue that has to be urgently addressed. Undoubtedly they represent progress, but the question we need to ask ourselves is this: is the wealth that we generate through these new technologies fairly shared out, Georges Dassis emphasised.
In turn, Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for foreign affairs and security policy told the audience that the stronger the civil society is inside Europe and outside Europe, the stronger societies are, the more open societies are, the stronger institutions become and democratic processes become. One year after, what we have seen is the awareness that closing yourself in your borders, and regaining sovereignty is an illusion, and that in the global world we live in, the only way to regain sovereignty is actually by being together as Europeans, she noted.
The participants took part in six vibrant workshops and voiced their strong demands towards the EU institutions to stick to the objective of territorial and social cohesion to overcome the disparities between and within the Member States. They asked for an EU based on rights that ensure social protection and decent work for all and all forms of employment and enable and support diversified channels of participation. Civil society activists wanted as well to be ensured open civic space taking into account the changing civic space and framework for civil dialogue. They urged for the adoption of a rural agenda in recognition of the specific needs in order to ensure territorial cohesion and communication on EU policies based on values to be held in a more positive and appealing way.