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April 2015
 

Editorial

Since the new European Commission took office in autumn 2014, transparency and better regulation gained top position on European agenda. Less than 7 months after his nomination, Commissioner Timmermans in charge of these issues re-affirmed his commitment to a mandatory lobbying register during a conference recently organised by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU).
While the European Parliament and the Ombudsman called for a legislative proposal by the end of 2016, Mr. Timmermans rejected this possibility arguing that “it would take too long to get it approved in the Parliament and in the Council.”
Instead of that, the European Commission intends to set up an inter-institutional agreement and a sanctions-based system, fining lobbyists which provide false information or do not comply with the rules. Though, as newly launched media outlet POLITICO explained in one of its article, bypassing the current Transparency register is easy as pie… for those having the resources.
On their side, NGOs and organised civil society are encouraging any measure which would increase institutions’ transparency. Yet, transparency is not enough to bring back trust in the capacity of the European project to deliver on citizens’ expectations. Institutional accountability, as well as open and regular dialogue mechanisms with citizens and their associations need to be put in place to ensure European institutions do not only listen to them, but also take their remarks and inputs into consideration.
The newly launched coordination of European Civil Society networks, Civil Society Europe intends to work for better recognition and defence of the civic space by institutions at all levels. In particular, it wants the voice of civic organisations to be heard and play an influential role in shaping public policies agenda in Europe.
The creation of Civil Society Europe is a new and crucial step towards making civil society organisations become legitimate interlocutors for European institutions. Indeed, NGOs are a permanent relay of citizens’ concerns and aspirations for achieving access to their rights to education, health, housing, social welfare,… Making all the provisions of Article 11 of the Lisbon Treaty on civil dialogue become reality, calling for the implementation of policies that translate the values of Equality, Solidarity, Inclusiveness: these are the twofold objectives of Civil Society Europe.
Unlike the defence of trade, industrial or business interests, as represented by lobbyists and lawyers, NGOs are working for the common interest. Thus, they are vital actors of a healthy democratic life. As long as they are not properly involved in the European policy making arena, the efforts towards better transparency will only look like powder in the eyes and not reconcile Europe with its people.
 

News from the Forum
 
ECI Day: Review / Renew / Reset . An Ombudsman’s investigation, a European Commission’s assessment report and Vice-President Timmermans admitting that substantial improvements need to be done, while ECI organisers are showing their disappointment: this was merely the set of the European Citizens’ Initiative Day, which took place on 13 April in EESC premises. With a packed room (more than 250 participants) and plenty of questions and suggestions, this single day was a step for working on possible changes in the ECI process.
Democracy International and IRI-Europe (members of the European Civic Forum) – who were among the organisers of the event –provided helpful inputs and recommendations during an open space workshops’ session. Before this, they were proactive in challenging the panellists on the real impact of initiatives that reflects EU values and that had successfully collected the million signatures needed. The institutional answer to this democratic expression totally lack of legislative follow-up. It may be the biggest threat to ECI’s existence. This is why a recommendation aimed at legally binding the European Commission to propose a legislative act within one year after a successful ECI campaign was drafted and adopted by the plenary session.
For more information about the ECI day, please visit EESC’s dedicated webpage.
 
 
Election of Civil Society Europe Steering Committee
Civil Society Europe members were invited to participate in a plenary session during which they had to elect its 9 Steering Committee members.
The vote elected the following members for a two years mandate:
  • Paul Smits, Association des Etats Generaux des Etudiants de l’Europe (AEGEE)
  • Luca Bergamo, Culture Action Europe
  • Niccolo Milanese, European Alternatives
  • Assya Kavrakova, European Citizen Action Service (ECAS)
  • Jean-Marc Roirant, European Civic Forum (ECF)
  • Katja Tuokko, European Movement International (EMI)
  • Gabriella Civico, European Volunteer Centre (CEV)
  • Conny Reuter, SOLIDAR
  • Oonagh Aitken, Volonteurope
The European Civic Forum is pleased to be part of this Steering Group who is to submit now a work programme for 2015 reflecting the mandate CSE has set in its Manifesto.
At the moment, two projects have already been discussed: a possible cooperation with the Alliance for the EYD2015, led by Concord, and the creation of a working group on Civic Space and Fundamental Rights. The European Civic Forum intends to play a substantial role in each of them.


Workshop on Civic Space in Budapest. On April 24th, Hungarian Europe Democracy (HED) convened a workshop about “Illiberal democracies, what can the European Union do in case a member state regularly and systematically breaches European values and regulations?
40 participants, academics, NGO and European networks' activists (including ECF), MEPs, EU ambassadors, participated in the three proposed debates: conceptual dilemmas and increasing competition between different models of political regimes in the light of populist and nationalistic tendencies in Europe; the state of democracy in Hungary, political and legal conflicts between the Hungarian government and the European institutions; the role of political elites, civil society and the media in contextualising and framing public discourse about fundamental all-European values.
Complex topics to discuss. All related to issues the ECF repeatedly raises when defending the extension of a public space in Europe which shall reflect the values claimed by the EU treaties as Solidarity, Inclusiveness, Democracy and we urge European and national policy-makers to implement public policies that reflect these values.
Another workshop will be held in Brussels, on June 2nd, where the presence of representative of the European Commission are expected to participate.

News from the network   

Campaign to save the European Citizens’ Initiative
Democracy International launched a campaign to save the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). The ECI could give people a real voice in EU decision-making. By mobilising one million citizens from across Europe, citizens can call on the EU Commission to write new legislation. But in practice very few know of the tool’s existence, hurdles are extremely high, and it doesn’t even seem to be taken into consideration in the political process.
In the next months the EU Commission and Parliament will decide on the future of the ECI. Now is our last opportunity to stand up and defend our right. The ECI must be made more accessible to citizens; the process must be more dynamic and efficient. And initiatives launched by citizens must have the same impact as initiatives from the EU Parliament.
The petition has already won 18.000 supporters. In September the signatures will be handed over to the EU Parliament and Commission. Prominent supporters of the petition are Thomas Piketty and Gesine Schwan, and EU deputy Beatriz Becerra already responded to the petition, promising to take up Democracy International’s demands in her parliamentary reporting on the ECI.
Please sign the petition now!
 

ARCI calls for EU action to save migrants. In one week, more than 1,000 people died in the Mediterranean Sea. These tragedies have precise responsibility: UE and its member states politics and legislation, which put people in search of protection in the hands of human traffickers.
Massacres in the sea will not be avoided by strengthening controls and patrolling. People escaping to save their life will not be stopped by the risk to die. There is no more time to waste.
We ask for legal way to enter Europe and for humanitarian channels. We call for a strong program of search and rescue in the Mediterranean Sea. Dublin III has to be suspended: refugees should have the possibility to leave the country of arrival. Hosting UE countries should be financially supported.
Let's stop UE rhetoric on democracy and Human Rights; it's time of concrete and urgent actions. With this common platform, a large coalition of Italian civil society actors – associations, trade unions, social movements- promoted on April 21st a national day of urgent mobilization. More than 100 local actions took place all over Italy, and a sit-in attended by thousands of people took place in front of the Parliament.
After the negative and unacceptable conclusion of the UE emergency Council, which decided close more and more European borders, the Italian social actors are planning a big national demonstration in the next future.
We call for a Europe of dignity, very different from the one which leaves refugees to die in the sea and kill social rights and democracy inside its territories.


IDC: Support for the families affected by May 2014 floods After the first news about the floods in Western Serbia, IDC started the campaign to collect aid for vulnerable people who were left homeless. Together with the German humanitarian organisation Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund IDC organised distribution of 400 aid packages with water, food, clothes, shoes, blankets, for evacuees from Obrenovac, as well as people from Lajkovac, Valjevo, Ljig and Krupanj, Together with our partners from the Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund Österreichs, IDC organized distribution of aid packages to Svilajnac, Valjevo, Kruševac, Ćićevac and other affected areas. Four trucks with a total of 100 tons of packages of food, water, hygiene kits, filter masks, arrived to the people who at the time needed it the most.
IDC has also organized the distribution of aid packages that have arrived from humane people from the city of Kirchen in Germany for vulnerable people in Smederevska Palanka. Humanitarian action to collect aid for Smederevska Palanka started our friend Arijan Beriša, who lives in the city of Kirchen since 1994. As soon as he heard the news of the catastrophic floods in Serbia from the media and his relatives from Smederevska Palanka, he immediately organized the collection of goods to be distributed to the affected areas. Using social media channels, he urged all citizens, businesses and schools to respond to the action with the aim to collect the most necessary things for the citizens of Serbia. Around 8 tons of aid was collected through the action which also involved a large number of German citizens.
 

News from the Institutions

European Passport to Active Citizenship. The new EPTAC in 23 official languages facilitates public participation across the European Union, the world’s biggest transnational democracy, with its 28 member states, 500 regions and more than 100 000 municipalities.
Trying to change the education system? Having a problem with poisoned food products? Want to move the lorries from road to rail? Or having problems registering your company across the border? EU citizens have many rights and face hard choices – but they need to know what options they have to influence issues and in which arenas.
The new EPTAC published by the EESC offers "quick guides", factsheets, background information, pathfinders and navigators to all aspects of modern European democracy, including a toolkit of participation resources and a detailed manual on the European Citizens Initiative (ECI). The EESC European Passport to Active Citizenship connects individuals and ideas with institutions and decisions. With its hints and recommendations, the passport-style publication, which will be launched in April 2015, is a good window of opportunity for citizens to make their voice heard.


Festival of Europe (9 May) – Open doors day of the EU institutions. To mark Europe Day, the European institutions organise a Festival of Europe every year. This year the festival will take place in Strasbourg on Saturday, 2 May and in Luxembourg and Brussels on Saturday, 9 May - Europe Day itself! For this festival the EU institutions, including the European Parliament, organise exciting events in their main places of work all over Europe. They open their doors to the public to show them how the institutions work. This is an opportunity not just to see inside these iconic buildings, but to find out how the multinational institutions organise themselves in the complex task of serving 507 million citizens in 24 official languages. We call these celebrations the Open Doors Days - and they are quite a party!
On this site you can explore the events and activities being organised for the Festival of Europe by the European Parliament. These have the overarching theme of development, as part of the European Year for Development 2015.
If you would like to know more about the events organised by the other institutions, please take a look at the interinstitutional website or follow the hashtag #EUopendoors


 
European Youth Week 2015.  Countries across Europe will be celebrating European Youth Week with hundreds of events and activities, from the 27th of April to the 10th of May 2015.
A total of 33 different European countries will be organising events and activities for young people around the themes of participation, inclusion and employment. Each country will run its week at some time during the period 27th of April to the 10th of May 2015.
The official European Youth Week website will be live at the start of April, and you will be able to see the events that are being organised by your country. And check out what is being planned via the "European Youth" Facebook page, and via Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #youthweek.

 
Strasbourg World Forum for Democracy / Call for Lab Submissions. The World Forum for Democracy will be held in Strasbourg (France) from 18-20 November 2015.  The theme of this year’s Forum is “Freedom vs control: for a democratic response”. There is a growing sentiment across democracies worldwide about vulnerability to a diverse range of threats – from violent extremism to economic, technological, environmental and geopolitical risks. This acute public awareness – particularly the fear generated by violent attacks driven by ideology – can accentuate societal divides, sharpen latent conflicts, and destabilise society. The lack of data protection guarantees with regard to personal data held by internet companies is also a major concern. The growing tension between the concern for safety and the protection of freedoms is one of the key challenges facing democracies today.
The Strasbourg World Forum for Democracy is an annual gathering of leaders, opinion-makers, civil society activists, representatives of business, academia, media and professional groups to debate key challenges for democracies worldwide. The insights gathered during the World Forum meetings inform the work of the Council of Europe and its numerous partners in the field of democracy and democratic governance. Last year, more than
Interested organisations worldwide are invited to express their interest in presenting an example/initiative by answering the questionnaire here and sending it to forum_democracy@coe.int  by 15 May 2015.
For further information about the World Forum for Democracy 2015, please read the concept paper or visit the following website: www.world-forum-democracy.org

 

Agenda
 
06. 05. 2015 / Commission to Unveil Digital Single Market Strategy. Read more here

11-12. 05. 2015 / Accessible and fair financial services – alternatives to mainstream banking / Madrid, Spain / Conference. COFACE will host a conference on the theme of financial inclusion and the alternatives to mainstream banking on 11 & 12 May in Madrid. Complete programme available here.

12. 05. 2015 / Civil Society's expectations on the Energy Union / Brussels, Belgium / Public Hearing. Additional information can be found here

30. 05. 2015 / Etats Généraux de la Participation des Jeunes / Paris / Conference, Performances. Discover the rich programme of the day

 
 
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