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September 2015
 

Editorial

Time flies by...
 
What does a decade mean to us? For the European Civic Forum and its members, 10 years symbolise the birth of a new form of civic participation. 10 years of debates, petitions, campaigns, alliance building to develop civic space, enable participation and build civil dialogue. 10 years of attempts to bring about citizens’ voice in the European public sphere.

During these 10 years, the ECF strived to engage civil society and institutional partners in continuous discussions to envision a European democracy delivering on the promise of solidarity between people and states, of equal access to fundamental rights for all.

Now that a decade has passed, it is right time to draw a first report. While notions like democratic deficit and citizens’ participation gained permanent seat in the institutional discourse and communication, especially since the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty, yet not much progress has been done in practice to give civil society organisations real voice in policy making and taking important political decisions for the future of Europe.

Moreover, we witness a worrying crackdown on civil and individual liberties across some EU member states. From Hungary to Spain, the freedom of expression and assembly has been systematically undermined by democratically elected governments. This escalation of measures led to recently speaking about “Illiberal democracies”. But while the EU remains silent with respect to the defence of European values, , regressive forces gain growing audience across Europe, with the risk in the long run to seriously undermine attempts to build solidarity and trust in a common future.

In this context, the time has definitely come for us, civil society, to deeply enquire our capacity to channel this democratic frustration into positive action. At the local and national level, all across Europe, our associations and NGOs give every day practical meaning and substance to the values we defend, be it by promoting civic education and access to Human rights or by massively mobilising to deal with the refugee’s flaw.

At the European level, we helped creating a new space for collective thinking and acting, called Civil Society Europe. We hope this space will contribute to scale up grassroots initiatives and efforts, shape a common understanding of the challenges we face. We trust this space could impulse collective action to promote Solidarity, Equality, Inclusiveness and Democracy as governing principles for our societies. And ultimately, we want this collective dynamic to change the balance and make institutions finally realise our priorities are their priorities!

And as there is no copyright on these values, we would like to invite all of you to use them as guiding principles of your work and act consequently, because you will also shape the next decades. It is into (y)our hands!  
 

News from the Forum
 
The ECF has a new website!
The European Civic Forum is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. This milestone was also the opportunity to take important steps towards the future of the network. In this regard, the ECF decided to launch a new version of its website, with a brand new design and new features, including an agenda and a common “resource centre”, where civil society organisations can share their own publications and documents.
The new interface also enables European Civic Forum members to interact and to share their content. This will notably give a higher visibility to grassroots actions and initiatives, often too far from the European spotlight. Eventually, the website gives an overall vision of ECF mandate and its priorities in the next years.
You can pay a visit by clicking here and send us your feedback (vsestovic@civic-forum.eu). 
 
2015 European Civic Days 
Since La Rochelle in 2008, the ECF is organising its “European Civic Days”, high visibility events in the framework of the rotating EU Presidencies, providing space for stimulating, open and critical debates between civic, academic and political actors.
Since 2008, more than 2 000 participants joined these events, which contribute not only to bringing the European debate to national and local level and reach out to people often remote from current European agendas, but also to give voice to grassroots initiatives and concerns and bring them to the attention of the European leaders.
This year’s edition will exceptionally be held in Strasbourg to celebrate ten years since the creation of the European Civic Forum in the Council of Europe. It will be an opportunity to gather more than 200 participants from all across Europe to take stock of political, institutional and social challenges facing Europe in the last decade and envision ways forward towards a renewal of the European project around core values of Equality, Solidarity and Democracy.
Following our previous meetings, we are inviting all NGOs representatives, politicians and citizens to participate and debate during the 2015 edition of the European Civic Days, which will take place in Strasbourg on 22 and 23 October, in partnership with the Council of Europe, the European Commission and Strasbourg municipality.

The complete programme and link to register for the event can be found here

An EU legal framework for social economy enterprises and organisations
The European Civic Forum took part in a public hearing organised by the European Parliament Intergroup on social economy on September 23rd to take stock of policy developments in this field and discuss about the legal framework for social economy enterprises and organisations.
Speakers and participants pointed out the lack of legal recognition at the EU level of most social economy enterprises, and particularly associations, foundations and mutual societies, which poses important barriers to the development of the sector throughout Europe.
Good practice examples of national frameworks for the recognition and development of social economy sector in Poland and Spain were shared as inspirational starting points to explore EU mechanisms to improve the ecosystem in which social economy actors operate.
Alexandrina Najmowicz, ECF Director pointed out the situation of the associations and NGOs, the elephant in the room in terms of recognition of their role in the field of social economy. She stressed the need not only to legally acknowledge their specificity in providing values-based jobs and services, often contributing to the social inclusion of those left-behind, but also to recognise their value-added in building social fabric, civic awareness and engaged citizens, and thus, their legitimacy to be involved in a regular, open and transparent policy and political dialogue.


 From the inside of building Civil Society Europe process
Members of Civil Society Europe met in plenary assembly on September 23rd in Brussels to adopt strategy and work programme and discuss upon advocacy priorities and key messages.
Since the election of CSE Steering Committee in April this year, a lot of work has been done in terms of organisational rules, creation of a visual identity and proposals for horizontal cooperation. Four working groups have been created to tackle the shrinking civic space, the recognition of CSOs, the renewal or European democracy and the social and demographic challenges. By the end of this year, an advocacy roadmap will be adopted to guide policy and political action alongside CSE mandate to promote and defend the core values of Equality, Solidarity, Inclusiveness and Democracy.
Check out CSE website for more information 

 

News from the network   
 
The WELCOME initiative presents its Shadow position on the Balkan route
This National shadow observation has been prepared by experts for asylum policies, human rights and peace-building policies, gathered in the Initiative “Welcome”, which is coordinated by the Centre for Peace Studies and is related to the upcoming Conference about East Mediterranean and Balkan routes, which will be held on 8 October in Luxembourg. The demands enumerated in this document (accessible here) were sent to EU member states, but also to non-member countries. 

To them, the EU response is not adequate. The rules of the European Union, which in some other contexts have had some positive effects, now represent the problem in providing safe haven for the people fleeing from conflict. Mechanisms and institutes for the acceptance of refugees are crumbling or are not activated in an appropriate way. The "Welcome" initiative members call upon decision makers who will be deciding on the EU response to the refugee crisis to initiate more efficient and humane mechanisms for crisis management on the EU level – mechanisms which are available in the framework of EU acquis and international humanitarian law and human rights instruments.


How to talk about in refugees in Poland? Action launched by the Centre for Citizenship Education
The Center for Citizenship Education has started the action “How to talk about refugees in Poland?” which supports the school teachers, principals and students in conducting respectful, substantive discussions on this topic, acquisition of credible knowledge about the crisis and undertaking their own social activities. 
The influx of refugees from Middle East and Africa to Europe has become the most important topic of public debate in Poland in the last weeks. The crisis became top story for the media channels and raised public activism of both supporters and opponents of reception of refugees. In many cases these discussions  lead to polarization and exclusion of the other side.
The Center for Citizenship Education believes all Polish citizens have a right to participate in this debate and it should be conducted with mutual respect for each other’s values. For this purpose we have started the action “How to talk about refugees in Poland?” which supports the school teachers, principals and students in conducting respectful, substantive discussions on this topic, acquisition of credible knowledge about the crisis and undertaking their own social activities (e.g. in the form of  student’s projects).
We have been creating a website containing educational materials and database of reliable sources of information about refugees. We hope that this initiative will help in the better understanding of the refugee crisis as well as contribute to the quality of public debate in Poland.
Polish students can also take part in the action “Development has lot of faces” and create their own campaign engaging youth into activities for the others, the refugees as well. The action is organized by CCE and European Commission Representation in Poland.
 
  
24th Annual Volonteurope Conference: Active Citizens for Sustainable Development and Global Justice – 28/30 October 2015 in Sevilla
Marking the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals and the start of the post-2015 development agenda, 2015 has been named the European Year for Development (EYD2015). The 24th Annual Volonteurope Conference, organised in partnership with Volonteurope’s Spanish member Alianza por la Solidaridad, will be delivered in the context of EYD2015 and focus on the role of civil society in promoting sustainable development and global justice.
As well as hearing from experts in the field, participants will be invited to the launch of Volonteurope’s report on Mobilising Citizens for Global Justice, which features contributions Red Cross EU Office, Peace Brigades International and Social Platform, among others.
The conference will also engage the participants in debates through four focused roundtables. Volonteurope is delighted that its partner network, European Civic Forum, represented by its Director, Alexandrina Najmowicz, will co-lead the roundtable on ‘Participatory Democracy and Social Justice at Local Level’.
For more information and to register, please visit the Volonteurope website.



Democracy International calls on citizens to write to the AFCO members before the vote on ECI
On 28 September the European Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) voted on the report on the European Citizens’ Initiative. 
In the run up to the crucial AFCO vote, citizens from across Europe mobilised to write their Members of the European Parliament, urging them to stand up during the vote for a meaningful improvement of the ECI. In total, 70,352 emails were sent to the members of AFCO. The email campaign gave a clear signal that citizens want the ECI to become a real instrument of direct democracy, one that gives citizens the opportunity to shape the important decisions in Europe. 
The report adopted unanimously in AFCO included a forward-looking reform of the ECI, including better guidance for ECI organisers; more flexibility during the registration; a lowering of participation to age 16; and an invitation to the EU Parliament to have a plenary debate and vote on successful ECIs and to the Commission to respond to successful ECIs with a legal act within twelve months. AFCO rejected the proposal of allowing ECIs to request amendments to the treaties, and an issue that remained highly contested was whether ECIs shall be provided with financial support from EU budgets.

See more on Democracy International’s ECI campaign here  


Upcoming dates
 
28 September 2015 EU Parliamentarians on AFCO vote on ECI report and compromise amendments
26-29 October or 23-26 November 2015 (tbd) European Parliament plenary discussion and vote on ECI report
December 2015 (tbd) European Commission new report on ECI
January 2016 Negotiations between Commission, Parliament and Council on revision of ECI
Early 2016 Final decision on revision of ECI

 
Open call for participation: EUROCLIO 2016 annual conference 
EUROCLIO (European Association of History Educators) is delighted to announce the official Call for Participation for the 23rd EUROCLIO Annual Conference Professional Development and Training Course on ‘Remembering the Difficult Past through History Education’ in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The conference will run from the 19th until the 25th March 2016. Educators from all over the world are invited to apply to participate in one of the most significant history education conferences in Europe. 2016 marks the centenary of two important events in History, namely the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme.

Both events have come to be seen as key moments in the history of both sides of a divided city. How these issues, amongst others, are taught can provide a number of obstacles for teachers to overcome. How can we teach controversial history in a responsible manner? The conference aims to explore this question through an active programme which will engage the participant in workshops, dialogue tables, open spaces, on-site study visits, public debate and reflective and interactive panels. The conference also welcomes contributions in the form of active workshops.

If you are interested in holding a workshop, please contact the event organisers (aysel@euroclio.eu / +31 703817836). 

A call from the EU Permanent Forum of Civil Society 
The EU Permanent Forum of Civil Society and the European Movement in Italy ask:
  • The discontinuation of individual and collective rejection measures (in accordance with the Geneva Convention and its Protocol), the opening of legal access for refugees, protection of unaccompanied minors and facilitation of family reunification, the acceleration of procedures for humanitarian visas and residence permits for temporary protection, the increased activity of search and rescue at sea, the strengthening of financial and human resources of the 4 EU Funds (external borders, integration of third-country nationals, refugees and repatriation)
  • The creation of a European asylum system, resettlement programs (mandatory for Member States), inclusion policies also involving least populated internal areas, the revision of the Dublin Regulation 3.
  • The jus soli as a common rule in EU, the transition from the concurrent competences to exclusive ones in the field of DEV cooperation and Food Aid policy, the extension of the ordinary legislative procedure and EP’s powers concerning the adoption of urgent measures in case of sudden influx of migrants.
  • The application – as urgent matter – of the art. 7 TEU against Hungary’s government because of its permanent violation of EU common values and principles.
The original call can be found here

Documenta to host the final conference of the PR-ERF project in Santander
The European Reference Framework (ERF, 2007) identifies and defines, for the first time at the European level, the Key Competences (KC) that all citizens require for their personal fulfillment, social inclusion, active citizenship and employability in our knowledge-based society. The acquisition of KCs is of particular importance in VET to facilitate individual pathways from VET to constantly changing labour market.
PR-ERF project is two year Leonardo Da Vinci Transfer of Innovation project that aims to develop holistic methodology for recognition and development of ERF KCs as a package of Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes targeted to personal assistants in healthcare sector.
PR-ERF is an innovative training solution that includes:
1. A training curricula and methodological tools for development of 8 ERF competences in CVET for personal assistants in healthcare sector.
2. Assessment tool for validation of students’ level and gaps to required EQF level on entry and also students results. This makes KCs acquired in CVET programmes transferable and recognizable in all EU countries.
3. Moodle E-learning platform.
4. Comprehensive training for trainers’ material.
The project has entered its final phase, final conference of PR-ERF will be held in Santander (Spain), in October 2015.
 

News from the Institutions

State of the Union speech by Jean-Claude Juncker
“Our European Union is not in a good state […] and there is not enough Union in this Union”, such were Jean-Claude Juncker comments about the current challenges faced by the EU and its Member States. In a crowdsourced speech – it was prepared with inputs from European Parliament party leaders and EU Commissioners[1] - president Juncker outlined the multiple crises faced by the Union. He took the opportunity to remind some EU leaders about their obligations as member states. Obviously unhappy about the last dialogues with the EU Council, he proposed a mandatory relocation of 120,000 refugees from Italy, Greece and Hungary, thus urging member states to respect their humanitarian commitments. He also indirectly attacked some countries’ ambiguous positions, such as Germany, calling them to accept all refugees, regardless of their religion.

He has underlined the need for honesty, unity and solidarity as well as for more Europe. Considering how European institutions act, he has stressed that “we have to change our way of working, we have to be faster, we have to be more European in our method”. He stressed the role that the European and national parliaments have to play in addressing key challenges and issues that affect the European Union, and also called the social partners to play a central role in the social reform of the Euro area.

Regrettably no mention of civil society organisations is made, despite the crucial role they play in achieving the social cohesion our societies need as well as citizen’s trust and support,  fighting for inclusiveness and accessibility for all with a special attention to the most vulnerable, marginalised and excluded citizens which should be at the centre of the European project, especially at this time of crisis. 
 
[1] See Politico article « State of Juncker’s Union », published on 7 September 2015
http://www.politico.eu/article/juncker-state-of-the-union-soteu-migration-euro-speech/
 

  • Publication of the EU Youth report 2015        
8.7 million young people aged between 15 and 29 unemployed; 13.7 million are not in employment, education or training and roughly 27 million are at risk of poverty or exclusion. If one needs to remember something about the EU Youth report 2015, published on 15 September by the European Commission, this would be precisely the figures given here.
The report was drafted according to responses from the EU countries to a Commission questionnaire covering all the 8 strategic fields of action. Young people are also consulted in their own countries, and different national ministries contribute to the process. National Youth Reports also provide information on how the EU Youth Strategy has been implemented at the national level during the current cycle. Generally, the EU Youth Report reveals that young people are better educated than their predecessors and less young people drop out of school in the EU.
Though, the Report also seriously calls for more actions in the field of social integration, fight against long-term unemployment among young people and a stronger political role played by young people in the decision-making process. As stressed by European Youth Forum, “[the Report] casts an important light on the difficult situation that far too many young people in Europe face”
The EU Council should adopt this report in November and then publish it as a joint report between them and the Commission. 

 
Calls to take measures against Viktor Orban and activate Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty are multiplying
In the frame of the opening ceremony of the Socialists leaders’ summit earlier in September, Pervenche Berès, speaking on behalf of the French socialist delegation within the EP, urged Gianni Pitella, president of the Socialists and Democrats group in the Parliament, to take two measures against M. Orban’s excesses.
- activating Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would enable suspending some rights granted to Hungary.
- calling on the right-wign EPP to exclude M. Orban’s party FIDESZ from their group.
In their justification, French socialists outline the “numerous infringements to European values perpetrated by Viktor Orban, such as the building of a wall within the Schengen space, the authorisation given to his army to shoot on refugees, threats of restoring the death penalty, but also the various attacks against the justice and the media freedom, xenophobic and homophobic speeches, etc.”
Quite in the same time, ALDE members were also calling for strong sanctions against Viktor Orban, notably the application of Article 7. To this date, no official reaction showed that there might be an activation of this specific article, which was never used so far by the Council of the EU.

The task might be even more complicated, as EPP and S&D members of the LIBE committee seem to have rejected ALDE's request for activation of Article 7, according to POLITICO Europe
 
  • European Commission 2016 work programme: what the European Parliament wants 
Four major European political groups (EPP, S&D, ALDE and The Greens) agreed on a joint motion for a resolution, concerning the European Commission work programme in 2016.
Among the directions given by the Parliament, MEPs called on the European Commission to build an economic model ensuring “a sustainable growth in order to provide this generation and the next with good jobs instead of debts”. Admitting by half-words that the austerity measures were counterproductive all over the EU territory, the European Parliament expects the European Commission to tackle this negative trend, by being more efficient in its legislation drafting.
Globally, the document (which can be found here) tries to respond to Commission’s top priorities. Although it stresses the need for more cohesion and inclusiveness in its social policies, the motion does not have a clear social dimension, except maybe the attention to be paid to the social vision of Europe in the Europe 2020 Strategy.


Commissioner Jourová launches public consultation on 2016 Citizenship report EU
Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vĕra Jourová opened the Conference on EU Citizenship and Justice in Luxembourg. She calls citizens and stakeholders to participate in the online consultation on EU Citizenship which was launched on 14 September. The consultation will gather together the experiences and ideas of EU citizens on how to make it easier to exercise their rights. The opinions and ideas collected will provide the basis for the 2016 Citizenship report.
 
In her speech, she underlined the importance of freedom of movement in the EU: "With an increasing number of EU citizens travelling, working, doing business or retiring in another Member State, free movements a right that needs to be safeguarded and promoted. It is the right Europeans cherish the most and associate most closely with EU citizenship", she said. The Commissioner also stressed the Commission's focus on concrete actions to simplify the daily lives of in the field of justice to support mobile citizens: "The Commission will continue to develop a European area of justice, in order to help citizens tackle legal difficulties they may face, such as cross-border divorces or child custody."

 

Agenda
 
01-05.10.2015 / Transeuropa Festival / Belgrade, Serbia / Arts & Culture Festival. European Alternatives and Ministarstvo Prostora invite you in Serbia's capital city for a programme packed with activities, debates, screenings, etc. Read more here

12-15.10.2015 / Open Days 2015 / Brussels, Belgium / Public event. Take part in the Open Days 2015, in the frame of the European Week of Regions and cities.

19.10.2015 / Workshop on parliamentary immunity in the EU / Strasbourg, France / Speech . A workshop organised by the JURI committee in Strasbourg, more information here.

22-23.10.2015 / European Civic Days 2015 / Strasbourg, France / Conference, Roundtables. The European Civic Forum invites you to their annual European Civic Days for animated debates and discussions. More information here.

28-30.10.2015 / Volonteurope Annual Conference / Sevila, Spain / Conference. For more detailed information on the conference, please consult the draft programme.
 
 
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