European Civic Forum

European Citizenship Awards: this year’s laureates are…

Organised jointly by Volonteurope and the European Civic Forum The European Citizenship Awards 2017 promote and give visibility to outstanding and inspiring initiatives and individuals who have put European democratic citizenship into practice, and in so doing have had a positive impact on their communities. This year, the European Citizenship Awards aimed at rewarding initiatives which contribute to combatting the root causes of extremism.

The candidates were selected through an international jury and public online voting – which garnered over 1 300 votes in just a few days – and we can now announce the Laureates for 2017:

Media initiative

 We Are Here Academy. In 2012, a group of refugees in limbo organised themselves into a collective to highlight the problems they have encountered as refugees in the Netherlands. Under the banner of We Are Here they campaigned for political recognition and to underline the reality and impact of current Dutch asylum policies, bringing refugee issues to the forefront of the political agenda. One of their flagship programmes is the Media Academy, which focuses on educating the We Are Here community in journalism so that they feel empowered to engage in public discourse about the refugee and migrant crisis.

Social Enterprise

 Taste of Home

started as a culinary cultural research project of the Centre for Peace Studies in Croatia. Its aim was to celebrate the culture, customs and countries of origin of refugees and migrants in Croatia through the medium of cooking. Refugees, migrants and Croatians came together to share culinary skills and life stories, and it served as an opportunity for migrants and refugees to explore their memories of home through the smells and tastes of their cuisines. Within only a few years, Taste of Home has  been established as  a social cooperative.

Volunteer

Said JASSER is a young Syrian refugee, born in Aleppo. He escaped from civil war and Daesh via the so called Balkan Route, arriving in Germany in November 2015. Since the day of his arrival, he dedicated himself to studying German,  , using Internet-based learning tools and books from public libraries. Thanks to his dedication he was soon able to communicate fluently in German, which has subsequently allowed him to support other refugees from Arabic speaking countries. In August 2016 he asked to join the community interpreting service, run by FaZIT, with the participation of volunteers originating from about 35 countries.

Active citizens initiative

 Polish Women’s Strike: An independent social movement of angry women (as they called themselves) and supportive men, that began in Poland. Polish Women’s Strike initiated and organised the nationwide protest against the Polish government’s plans for a total ban on abortion on 3 October 2016. Theirs was the first major mass mobilisation of Polish women in defence of their rights, and more than 100,000 women and men took part in the strike, with participation spread across Poland’s major cities and towns.

Besides these outstanding Laureates, the jury chose to reward two other candidates: Makers for Change, a France-based organisation, for their work as a social enterprise, as well as Wynne Edwards who was nominated for the Volunteer of the Year and who is one of the pillars of the Coalition of UK Citizens’ groups in the EU.

After London last year, this year’s Awards ceremony will take place in Strasbourg on 5 November 2017, ahead of the World Forum for Democracy. The World Forum for Democracy is  an event organised by the city of Strasbourg and the Council of Europe, which brings over 700 participants from all over the world.

Winners and jury awards will also be invited to take part in various events and meetings linked to civic space and democracy across Europe, such as the Civil Society Days in Brussels (26-27 June 2017).

The organisers would again like to thank all the nominees and applicants for this year’s edition. There were nominees with really brilliant and transformative ideas, and inspiring initiatives and volunteers bringing very positive narratives to combating extremism in Europe.

#ECAwards17 

Fundamental rights in Hungary: debate in EP plenary

On Wednesday from 15.00, MEPs will discuss the fundamental rights situation in Hungary with Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Political group leaders and MEPs will take the floor to give their views on a new law, perceived as targeting the Central European University, media pluralism, the independence of the judiciary and the tightening of rules for non-governmental organisations and asylum seekers.

 

European Citizenship Awards: online votes are now open

The European Citizenship Awards 2016 are a joint initiative between Volonteurope and the European Civic Forum, two European networks which promote active citizenship and recognition of the importance of social justice to the cohesion of communities across Europe. The Awards celebrate the democratic and civic engagement of individuals, organisations, citizens’ groups, media platforms and social enterprises, recognising innovative initiatives and contributions which give real substance to European values, create ownership of public space and improve the lives of our communities in terms of democracy, social justice and universal access to rights.

A judging panel selected four nominees for each categories, following precise rules of procedure and clear selection criteria.

Have a look at the detailed descriptions for each candidate within the four categories and select your favorites. This is where your participation counts. You are now invited to choose your favorite candidate in each category and so give them a chance to be our 2017 Laureates.

 Click here

MEDIA CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR

 

    • Channel Draw by Gianluca Costantini
      The main purpose of Channel Draw is easy to explain: to defend Human rights using drawing as a tool of engagement. Gianluca has been involved in campaigns against censorship, but also against death penalty and torture through the world. Channel Draw’s creator considers that there are borders and limits to his drawings. However he likes to attract attention on the protection of personal dignity and freedom of expression.

 

    • Waynak(Where are you?)
      Waynak is a web series launched in the end of 2016, made of 6 episodes that showcase social entrepreneurs working on solutions to tackle the refugee crisis in Europe and in MENA region. Waynak Mobilisation has this very unique characteristic of using both online and offline formats to mobilize citizens. At the beginning of November, the release of the first episode was the perfect time to organize an series of events simultaneously.
    • Gazette Debout
      An independent media launched a few days after #31March 2016 on the Place de la République in Paris. We have followed the lives of these women and men who were gathering together and advocating for building a new world, named the “Nuitdeboutistes”. It showed another face of Nuit Debout, on the opposite of the violence depicted in mainstream media.

 

  • We Are Here / Here to Support
    In 2012, a group of refugees in limbo organized themselves into a collective to visualize the problems they encounter in the Netherlands. Under the banner of ‘We Are Here’ they ask for recognition of their existence and bring the effects and reality of current asylum policies to the foreground of the political agenda. One of their programmes is the Media Academy, which focuses on educating the We Are Here community in journalism so that they can both have a voice themselves in the public discourse about the refugee- and migrant crisis.

 

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE OF THE YEAR

    • Makers For Change
      Makers For Change is a local NGO based in Strasbourg focusing on refugees and migrants inclusion, fostering the creation of links between communities and facilitating the creation of meaningful projects through the uses of various tools, activities and methodologies such as new technologies, photography, Tours of citizen initiatives or intercultural coffee. In 2016 they have begun a first innovative pilot using a bottom-up and lean start-up approaches called “Make your project”.

 

    • Okus Doma (Taste of Home)
      Taste of Home started as a culinary-cultural-research project of the Centre for Peace Studies introducing culture, customs and countries of origin of refugees and migrants in Croatia by recording their memories of home, smells and tastes of their cuisine. This was an experiment in sharing life stories and culinary skills of refugees and people from Croatia. With years, Taste of Home has come to the establishment of a social cooperative.

 

    • BürgerEnergie Berlin eG
      Soon a new concessional contract for Berlin’s electricity distribution grid will be deciding on who answers for sustainable grid operations in Germany’s capital over the next decades. We have a unique opportunity: citizens join in our cooperative BürgerEnergie to buy the grid, use profits wisely and shape the future of our energy system. We strive to democratize decision-making in the energy system, empowering citizens to participate in designing the electricity sector.

 

  • The Good Lobby
    The Good Lobby is an independent non-profit organization run entirely by volunteers with the dual mission to promote civic engagement while strengthening EU civil society. In 2016, The Good Lobby surveyed 100 Brussels-based advocacy NGOs active across various policy areas to identify their legal and advocacy-related needs. The objective of The Good Lobby is precisely to bridge these gaps by connecting European academics, legal professionals and students on a pro bono basis to support non-governmental organisations working on key social and political issues at the European level.

 

VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR

    • Said Jasser
      Mr. Said Jasser is a young Syrian refugee, born in Aleppo. He escaped from civil war and Daesh-Terrorism via the so called Balkan Route and arrived in Germany in November 2015. Since the first after arrival he started to study by his own, using Internet based learning tool and books from public library. Thanks to his efforts he was very soon able to communicate fluidly in German, what allows him to support other refugees from Arabic speaking countries. In August 2016 he asks to join the community interpreting service, run by our NGO with the participation of volunteers originated from about 35 countries.

 

    • Winifred Murphy
      For the past 5 years, Winifred Murphy, 62, from Waterloo has dedicated two afternoons every week to providing companionship and support to her peers, many of whom are lonely and isolated. Supported by Volunteering Matters, Winifred is part of telephone befriending service, City Wise. Each week she calls around 30 older people with ages ranging from 65 to 101. Through telephone befriending Winifred has alleviated some of their loneliness, building friendships over the years.

 

  • Wynne Edwards
    Wynne has been one of the pillars of the Coalition of UK citizens’ groups in the EU. He set up Fair Deal for Expats, successfully brought the Fair Deal for Expats action against the UK government which was a key part of the legal battle to bring the decision to trigger Article 50 back to parliament and he has been one of the prime movers who has created the Coalition of UK citizens’ groups in the EU. He is a courageous European and he changed his view of the right strategy to adopt during the campaign to make common cause with the fight of EU citizens in the UK in the name of justice.

ACTIVE CITIZENS’ INITIATIVE OF THE YEAR

    • Welcome! Initiative
      The initiative gathers individuals and civil society organizations with the aim to support refugees on the ground, but also to make political pressure on the Croatian and EU institutions to change restrictive migration policies. When the Balkan corridor was open for refugees, Initiative gathered more than 60 civil society organizations, one football club and more than 400 volunteers who gave support to the refugees on the ground on everyday basis.

 

    • Polish Women’s Strike
      An independent social movement of angry women (as they called themselves) and supportive men that was launched in Poland. PWS initiated and organised the nationwide protest against government’s plans for a ban on abortions on 3 october 2016. There was the first mass mobilisation of Polish women in defence of their rights. Polish Women’s Strike gathered more than 100,000 participants not only in urban agglomerations but also in smaller towns.

 

  • Žinau, ką renku (Learn before You Vote)
    A Lithuanian watchdogging initiative. The idea here is to make young people active watchdogs of pre-electoral and post-electoral period. The key objectives are to foster a dialogue between politicians and citizens (especially young ones), thus stirring up conscious participation and interest in politics and elections. It is a bottom-up initiative formed three years ago but has peaked only in 2016 autumn parliamentary elections.

  • #FreeInterrail
    This is a civil society initiative that developed the idea to provide all EU youth with free Interrail tickets for their 18th birthday and the campaign behind it making this idea a major EU policy proposal. This initiative has achieved to turn a simple idea by students on an Interrail trip into a serious and widely-supported proposal to strengthen European integration.

Europe for Citizens mid-term review: European Civic Forum contribution

The European Commission invited beneficiaries and applicants to complete an online survey aimed at  collecting views and opinions on the results and impacts of activities and projects co-financed by the Europe for Citizens programme between 2014 and 2016 and to assess their relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, coherence and EU added value.

This public consultation is part of a process to evaluate the results achieved by the actions implemented through the Europe for Citizens programme and aims at offering to citizens and stakeholders the opportunity to share their views, ideas and analysis. It should also provide further reflection on how the programme can have a wider impact in the coming years, also in relation to other projects for citizens of the EU.

This position paper is the outcome of a joint reflection promoted by the Task Force on the Europe for Citizens Programme held by the organisations listed below within the framework of Civil Society Europe. As beneficiaries of the programme, the subscribers exchanged their multi-annual experience in partnering up with the programme and identified a set of recommendations for its improvement.

The document is divided into two parts, namely the added value of the programme and the recommendations to the European Commission about its functioning and implementation.

These contributions are all the more important in view of current discussions about budgetary control of NGO funding led by the European Parliament. It is notably reminded that the Europe for Citizens programme is unique as it is a listening exercise on civil society’s debate, as it stimulates critical thinking on the European project, its history and that of the movements and ideas that have promoted it and as it contributes to a better knowledge of the European
decision-making process.

The complete recommendations can be found here.

2017 survey about Civic Space in Europe

Civil Society Europe and CIVICUS have re-launched their annual survey to map out key trends on civic space in Europe over the last year. This survey covers the European Union, the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway), Switzerland, and the countries candidate to EU accession (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, FYR Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey).

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all people, everywhere in the world, have the right to speak out, to organise, and to take action. These rights – the freedoms of association, assembly and expression – give us the freedom to form and join groups, peacefully protest, and advocate for the things we want – and to counter the things we don’t. These freedoms are called `civic space’ and are an essential part of a vibrant democracy; where debate and discussion thrive, and where people are able to contribute to important decisions that affect them.

As a follow up of their first survey in 2016, CSE and CIVICUS want to assess how operating conditions for civil society have changed in Europe over the past 12 months. A better understanding of the trends will better equip us to work together by responding collectively to common challenges. Your participation ensures a diverse range of views is included and we guarantee that the findings will be made freely available for your information and use.

The survey runs until end of April 2017. We therefore invite all activists, citizens and NGOs to actively participate in and disseminate the survey to their respective networks, in order to have a broad overview of the ongoing developments throughout Europe.

Please access to the survey here.

For further information, please visit Civil Society Europe or CIVICUS website.

ECF president nominated in the European Citizen’s Prize Chancellery

The Bureau of European Parliament unveiled the composition of the new European citizen’s prize Chancellery, in a meeting on 13 March 2017.

Since 2008 the Parliament awards the European Citizen’s Prize every year to projects and initiatives that facilitate cross-border cooperation or promote mutual understanding within the EU. The prize, which has symbolic value, is also intended to acknowledge the work of those who through their day-to-day activities promote European values. Each year, the Prize is awarded to people (maximum of 50) or groups in regard to the suggestions of members of the European Parliament.

A new Chancellery, the governing body for the issuance of the European citizen’s prize, is nominated at every start of a new term of the European Parliament and at every mid-term.

The composition of the current Chancellery:

Chancellor: Sylvie GUILLAUME, vice-president of the European Parliament

Four vice-presidents of the European Parliament: Ryszard CZARNECKI, Pavel TELIČKA,  Ildikó GÁLL-PELCZ, Dimitrios PAPADIMOULIS

Two former presidents of the European Parliament: Hans-Gert PÖTTERING and Enrique BARÓN CRESPO

Two distinguished figures: Jean Marc ROIRANT, president of the European Civic Forum and of Civil Society Europe and Luis Alvarado MARTINEZ, president of the European Youth Forum

European Citizenship Awards 2017 – Call for Nominations

The European Citizenship Awards 2017 are a joint initiative between the European Civic Forum and Volonteurope, two European networks which promote active citizenship and recognition of the importance of social justice to the cohesion of communities across Europe. The Awards celebrate the democratic and civic engagement of individuals, organisations, citizens’ groups, media platforms and social enterprises, recognising innovative initiatives and contributions which give real substance to European values*, create ownership of public space and improve the lives of our communities in terms of democracy, social justice and universal access to rights.

Against the continuous rise of extremist and populist discourse in the public sphere, inclusive societies should be more than rhetoric. Civil society is harnessing its energy to ensure that Europe is inclusive and to combat the forces that are building walls, rejecting the most vulnerable and reviving exclusion and nationalist feelings. The European Citizenship Awards 2017 seek to reward initiatives which contribute to combatting the root causes of extremism.

We are looking for eligible nominations from all current Member States of the Council of Europe, in the following four categories:

  1. Media Campaign of the Year will reward professional media and media-based collaborative initiatives, which give citizens effective tools to engage and bring about positive change in their communities. Successful media initiatives will have used different tools for engagement and enhanced citizens’ participation, fostered an informed citizenry and enabled the development of a common civic space.
  1. Social Enterprise of the Year will reward businesses or not-for-profit organisations founded on the basis of social goals, which are written into the enterprise’s vision and mission, the pursuit of which brings positive social change and cohesion to communities.
  1. Volunteer of the Year will reward individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to democratic life and to the development of a community or cause, be it through a volunteering role in an NGO or in another form of an organisation or community association (including informal groups).
  1. Active Citizens’ Initiative of the Year will reward grassroots campaigns organised by both informal and formal groups of citizens, with a real and proven impact on community cohesion, and a high potential for driving transformative change.

 

Nominations and timeline

If you wish to make a nomination under one of the above categories, please complete the form below no later than by 31 March 2017. An international judging panel will make a shortlist selection of nominees in each of the four categories, which will then be submitted to an online vote between 10-24 April 2017. Please note that the online vote will represent 50% of the overall final score, while the remaining 50% will be given by the judging panel.

The winners will be contacted shortly after the final meeting of the judging panel and the press announcement will be released on June 1st 2017. The Awards Ceremony will take place on 5 November 2017 in Strasbourg, alongside the World Forum for Democracy.

Click here

 

Rewards

The Award winners will be given the opportunity to present their initiatives, projects and achievements during the Civil Society Days organised by the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels on 26-27/06/2017, the second edition of the European Civic Academy in Paris (29/09-1/10/2017) and at the World Forum for Democracy, taking place on 6-8 November 2017 in Strasbourg. The winners will also be invited for interviews within the European Civic Forum Activizenship Magazine and various European media, thus offering them further opportunities to celebrate their achievements and promote their outstanding work, ensuring that the values upon which the European project has been founded are upheld and respected across the continent.

For any question linked to this form and nomination procedure, please contact us at contact@civic-forum.eu. Before applying, all candidates are invited to carefully read the Rules of procedure for the nomination process.

*Respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men.

Our Europe: Unity Democracy Solidarity

We are coming together to mark the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome in the full knowledge that we must change Europe, to stop it from falling apart, to avoid a social and environmental catastrophe and to keep authoritarianism at bay.

Our common heritage, built on victories and progress in the area of rights and democracy, together with our welfare state, is being eroded, as are our hopes and aspirations.

In recent years, because of unfair treaties, austerity, the predominance of finance, the rollback of entitlements, increasing job insecurity and discrimination against young people and women, Europe has also experienced an increase in inequality and poverty.

Today we stand at a crossroads and must choose: between saving human lives and saving banking and finance; between fully guaranteeing and gradually eroding human rights; between peaceful coexistence and war; between democracy and dictatorship. Mistrust, fear and social insecurity are increasing, while racism, reactionary nationalism, walls, borders, and barbed wire are on the rise.

Another Europe is necessary, urgent and possible, and it is up to us to create it. We must denounce policies that threaten Europe’s very existence; demand supranational democratic institutions that truly have a popular mandate, and are adequately resourced; respect the rights enshrined in the European Charter of Human Rights; defend positive achievements; propose alternatives and fight to make them a reality whether in the Mediterranean area or beyond Europe’s borders.

We need an innovative and courageous plan for European unity: a plan that guarantees a viable future for everyone based on democracy and freedom, rights and equality, a willingness to embrace gender issues, social and climate justice, dignity for people and the work they do, solidarity and openness, peace and environmental sustainability.

Instead of putting the Italians, French or English first, we must put everyone first: northern, southern, eastern and western Europeans; people born here and migrants alike; men and women.

Let Rome be a wellspring of solidarity and unity that allows us to create a framework that transcends our differences and equips us for the challenges facing us on our continent and all over the world.

We invite you to respond to this call*, to promote, within this common framework, other upcoming events and gatherings in Italy and all over Europe, and to come to Rome on 23, 24 and 25 March, to engage in initiatives, meetings, actions and activities that will allow us to stand together, in solidarity. 

For adhesions and info: nostraeuropa2017@gmail.com

*The call for mobilisation is also available in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Greek and Romanian.

Solidarity in action against right-winged extremism: activist and philanthropic innovations from Croatia

SOLIDARNA was set up in 2015 as a strategic initiative of 55 Croatian human rights activists and civil society organisations, as it became clear that sustainability of human rights protection, the rule of law and democratic standards in Croatia are not safeguarded by the country’s membership in the EU on its own merit. The founders were especially concerned about the political trends and social tendencies of rising anti-liberalism, nationalism, xenophobia and authoritarianism in Croatia and its two neighbouring regions of Central Europe and the Balkans, but also more broadly. The assumption of gradual implosion of public funding for human rights advocacy proved correct, as did the expectation of rising needs for ad hoc citizen actions against illiberal trends, which are not eligible for project and program funding from the EU and state donors.

The foundation is organising a round table discussion on 16 February 2017 in Brussels. The debate will provide unique insiders’ insight into innovative activist and philanthropic practices of citizens’ resistance to hostile attacks on human rights that have arisen in Croatia over the past year, marked by acute democratic regression – transnational artists’ initiative Kulturnjaci2016, humanitarian-advocacy coalition Refugees Welcome, grassroots association Are You Syrious?, trade-union-civil alliance for education reform Croatia Can Do Better and SOLIDARNA – Foundation for human rights and solidarity set up by human rights community. In the discussion, the focus will be on creative approaches to resource mobilisation, advocacy and citizens’ engagement that can foster autonomy, resilience and sustainability of human rights activism across Europe, in light of ever more oppressive political agendas, too rigid funding regimes and systematic degradation of independent, investigative journalism.

The complete programme of the round table can be found here.

A Civic Academy for Democracy in Europe

European civil society representatives and academics met on 8-9 October 2016 in La Rochelle, France to discuss about “Democracy in Europe and the missing links”. Some 200 activists from citizens’ platforms and representatives from social, human rights, culture and environment organisations from all over Europe gathered together. They discussed complex questions raised by citizens’ disenchantment, practice, and expectation with regard to democracy and in relation to the “democratic deficit” in Europe.

For a long time now, democratic disenchantment has constantly increased because of the growing gap between electoral promises and what elected representatives actually do, corruption that occurs where the vested interests of economic and political forces meet, lack of transparency of decision‐making processes which affect peoples’ lives, growing social inequalities, institutional disregard for social mobilisations about access to rights and fear of exclusion.

For an increasing number of people, this leads to questioning democracy as a relevant instrument to make their aspirations and claims heard and to be taken into account, while regressive populism is blossoming on this fertile ground. As Claudia Wiesner (Darmstadt University) underlined, “democracy is defined as the government of-for-by the people”. She also mentioned the importance of civil dialogue as accepting (for institutions) different opinions, especially through a real commitment towards civil dialogue, which is currently a problem in Europe. Thus, the distrust in the European project, which emerged following the referenda on the Constitutional Treaty of the EU, has not been tackled and created misunderstandings among the population.

IMG_1046

  Filip Balunovic (Scuola Normale Superiore, Firenze), answering a question about access to rights for some and   denial of these rights to others, pointed out the unequal application of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,  because of socio-economic factors depriving some people from their freedom. According to him, this emancipation of  rights is granted to those who do not threaten the current economic system. For his part, Martin Sime (Scottish  Council for Voluntary Organisations) thinks that the current top down model of governance is no longer possible to  respond to societal challenges, but that civil society can and has to address missing links in democracy, whilst also  facing its own weaknesses.

While decreasing electoral participation is often an indicator of growing democratic disenchantment, we are also witnessing the mobilisation of citizens on diverse issues, through different forms of action, from the local level to the global.

Organisations’ representatives gathered in La Rochelle also tried to better understand these evolutions and so contribute to the construction of Europe’s future. Through 7 workshops, each tackling a specific aspect of democracy, participants also went further in their analysis in addressing the state of democracy in Europe.

Besides this, they expressed their solidarity with activists fighting for democracy and protecting the Rule of Law in various countries where fundamental rights and civil society organisations’ activities are being undermined. Mateusz Kijowski (KoD, Poland), Nora Köves (Eötvös Karoly Institute, Hungary) and Claudiu Craciun (Demos, Romania) shared their experience as activists but also launched a call for solidarity among activists and organisations, in order to safeguard the democratic acquis in Europe. However, M. Kijowski reminded that democracy could not be (re)constructed by excluding anyone.

 On Sunday, panelists gathered around the theme “(Re) building democratic legitimacy by citizen action” agreed on the need for civil society to overcome fear with freedom, as it was pointed out by Zrinka Bralo (Migrants Organise). They also criticised national governments for putting the blame on Europe, rejecting their own responsibilities. This observation was shared by Jorgo Riss (Greenpeace Europe), who called upon the participants to ask their national representatives for more accountability when it comes to the European Union. He also repeated that we had to make ourselves heard if we wanted Civil Society Europe to be a genuine interlocutor in civil dialogue.

 Conclusions were drawn by Saskia Sassen, a renowned Dutch-American sociologist and economist, and Susan J. Schurman, distinguished professor at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Mrs. Sassen reminded the audience that the current economic system was deepening inequalities and excluding de facto the most underprivileged, both socially and democratically. She also mentioned that new modes of aggregation could be the key for an outburst of civil society. Susan Schurman insisted on the key role played by civil society organisations as spaces in which we can learn democratic behaviour. In her opinion people can learn together that there are other alternatives to our democratic functioning, now stuck in crisis, if they are brought together (at their own choice) in a place where they can inquire into their different assumptions and beliefs.

This first European Civic Academy – launched by the European Civic Forum and other European organisations – was supported by Civil Society Europe, the coordination of civil society organisations in Europe. The latter gathers platforms and European networks acting for the promotion of a civic space based on fundamental rights, the renewal of European democracy and promoting the transparency of decision making and participation of civil society organisations in European decision-making processes.