EPA was present at the annual event organised by the EESC to give an opportunity to citizens and civil society organisations to have their voices heard. The context of this year’s conference was set by three main factors: the recommendations of the European Year of Citizens, the forthcoming European Parliament elections and the first experiences of the European Citizens’ Initiatives, the new tool for citizens to directly influence European institutions. There has been some tension between EU institutions and European NGO’s about real representation of the voice of citizens. Before presenting our readers with the press release published by the EESC let me take this opportunity to ask all our readers who consider themselves European parents to feel free to join the conversation here or ont he social networks to help EPA to influence EU policy in a way you want us to do.
Civil Society 2014: Europeans want fairness, cooperation and solidarity
"Europe needs more solidarity, a human economy and greater civil society involvement." This is the main conclusion of yesterday's Civil Society Day 2014, where centre stage was given to what Europeans expect from Europe.
Civil Society Day is an annual event organised by the European Economic and Social Committee. In three workshops ("An economy for Europeans, not Europeans for the economy", "A social Europe for citizens", and "Active European citizenship"), more than 200 participants from a range of civil society organisations discussed what kind of Europe we actually need.
Two months before the European elections and at a time where just 31% - the lowest figure ever recorded - still believe in the European project, civil society representatives set out their views on how they feel Europe has to move forward. Input from this discussion will feed into the action plan for Europe that the Committee is currently drafting. "We have five years to save Europe", warned Cristian Pirvulescu, a Romanian EESC member. "The answer cannot be nationalism or populism but a resource-efficient, sustainable and inclusive policy that also takes on board the needs of an ageing and declining European population."
Europeans' voices have to be heard
"A voice is much more than a vote," stressed MEP Jean Lambert from the UK, who supports the inclusion of civil society in the political processes. "Before decisions are made in Brussels, there have to be ample discussions with the people concerned all over Europe. Civil society participation has to be enhanced. The EESC is the right forum to deliver civil society requests, while closely working with the European Parliament."
Resources have to be redistributed fairly
"Inequality within and among European Member States is so disappointing," said a representative of a student group. "This makes the European project so unattractive for young people." While the EU funds cattle to the tune of 12.7 euro per head, it invests just 1.26 euro per person in Europe's younger generation. While businesses still pay huge sums to shareholders, investments are put on hold.
A new action plan for Europe – Creating a Europe that serves Europeans
Conny Reuter, co-chair of the Liaison Group and Secretary General of SOLIDAR, called in the group's final statement for investment in a sustainable economy, education and training instead of austerity measures. "While 800 billion were invested in the bailout of the banks, only 6 billion were provided for the fight against youth unemployment. The balance sheet of this Commission is disappointing on the social and civil side."
To avoid another equally dreadful balance in five years' time, the EESC is drafting an action plan for Europe, giving the European Commission recommendations on what has to be changed for Europe to regain its status as the driver of a sustainable economy, social justice and solidarity.
In its action plan, the EESC proposes that 2015 should be designated the year of a European Convent on participatory democracy and active citizenship.