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European Civic Days 2018: Citizenship – Participation – Policies: Building Europe from Grassroots Up!

On 29 and 30 May the annual European Civic Days conference entitled “Citizenship – Participation – Policies: Building Europe from Grassroots Up!” took place in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The event was hosted by the Citizen Participation Forum, under the patronage of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, and it was hosted by ECAS, the European Civic Forum and Bluelink in Sofia, Bulgaria. 

The event brought together representatives of different organizations, and both speakers and participants shared experiences and ideas to revive citizens’ decision-making processes. The issue of civic participation in a wider European context was raised, along with common challenges faced by CSOs.

Our Director Assya Kavrakova opened the second day of the conference and chaired the panel entitled Co-Deciding with Citizens. Each speaker was asked to showcase and discuss positive examples of civic engagement and co-decision processes in policy making at national and European level. Speakers in the third panel, entitled “Take The Initiative” were asked to talk about the ECI communication campaign launched by the Commission in order to raise awareness among citizens on the ECI as well as the recently registered initiative “Welcoming Europe”.

Key points and conclusions from the 2nd and 3rd panel:

  • Not enforcing legislation and rule of law has a negative impact on citizen participation.
    It is important to promote democratic, fair, free and effective legislation in order to ensure inclusive civic participation.
  • Local initiatives are more successful than national ones because the goal is more feasible and easier to understand for citizens. The latter are more interested in expressing their opinions on issues directly impacting their life.
  • Once citizens have made a difference at national level by engaging in decision-making processes, they will be ready to participate and express their opinion also at EU level. National platforms can be used to promote civic engagement at EU level using a bottom-up approach.
  • Online and user-friendly platforms collecting citizens’ ideas have the potential to empower ordinary citizens to impact legislations. In order to be successful tools for civic engagement and bring citizens’ proposals to the political agenda, they need to be combined with the implementation of civic lobby strategies aimed at gaining the support from other stakeholders, such as the media.
  • Information campaigns on the ECI should be designed in order to reach out not only to adults but also young people.
  • ECIs have been used strategically by their organisers to raise awareness on specific issues and contribute to the development of the European public space. It is time to focus our attention on the Council with regard to the ECI, and push for the creation of a high-level working group to discuss ECIs, including those not reaching the 1 million signature threshold.

Recommendations:

  1. National governments should ensure an appropriate regulatory environment and political commitment to promote a more inclusive citizen participation.
  2. CSOs should develop a civic lobby by including other stakeholders, such as the media.
  3. Tailor-made information campaigns should be designed to reach out to young people in their own environment.

View full livestream of the event.
For more details, view our illustrated story of the event below.

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