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17th November 2015
Dear colleagues and friends,
Last Friday, after Beirut, Ankara, the Russian plane flying over the Sinai, Paris, the city where the European Civic Forum headquarter is based, has been hit by terrorist attacks.
Since then, in France as also all over Europe and the world, people are gathering together to express their mourning, sadness, solidarity. Since then, much has been written and said.
In France, many associations have taken a public stance to reaffirm the values we believe in. They grasped the urgency to oppose terror by reiterating the power of living in an open and diverse society characterised by solidarity and a cherished wish of “living together”: precisely the very society that has been hit by bullets.
Those associations think that the sole proposal of “returning war for war” can only lead to a dead-end, to the very end of the society based on the values we cherish.
European leaders linking terror in Paris with the welcome in Europe of the refugees who flee war and escape from death in the Mediterranean Sea is the achievement of our main fear: a political “offer” guided by the wars between religions, the civil wars, the wars between all against all.
The European Civic Forum is willing to engage with the associations sharing the values of Equality, Solidarity, Inclusiveness and Democracy in Europe in order to propose a shared public expression towards the citizens who live in our continent and beyond. A common address which put some reason in the public debate and strength for the ideals which drive our action.
The European Civic Forum Steering Committee
Paris, Rome, Bucharest, London, Ljubljana, Brussels.
(you can download the statement in PDF format here).
On 22 October, the European Civic Forum brought together the laureates of the European Democratic Citizenship Awards in the Council of Europe for a ceremony rewarding democratic actions, committed personalities and civic NGOs initiatives.
Among the laureates, the Hungarian campaign against the Internet tax was present. This mobilisation brought more than 100 000 people on a bridge in Budapest, as a protest against the draft proposal of Viktor Orban’s ultra-conservative government. Our partner ARTE went to Budapest and met these activists, who managed to organise the biggest citizens’ mobilisation over the last 25 years in Hungary, in order to understand what happened and to know if it introduced a change in the hungarian political debate.
Below is the extract from ARTE Journal (broadcasted live on 22 October).
The European Civic Forum launched the European Democratic Citizenship Award in 2014, with the aim to promote citizens’ engagement, and reward outstanding initiatives and civic actors whose day-to-day struggles give real substance to European values, create ownership of the public space and improve the lives of our communities in terms of democracy, social justice and universal access to rights.
After the selection process by an international Jury and online public voting which triggered nearly 10 000 voices recorded, we are proud to announce our 2015 Laureates:
Comics for Equality (Europe wide)
Comics for Equality project is based on the need to promote the development of a European society based on respect for fundamental human rights, and to fight against racism, xenophobia and other related forms of intolerance. Comics for Equality project aims to foster intercultural dialogue in order to combat racism, xenophobia and discrimination in Europe. In order to achieve this aim, the project seeks to involve migrants and second-generation immigrants – often subjects of discrimination – in the creation of artistic resources – namely comic strips.
NGO Youthnet Hellas (Greece)
Youthnet Hellas is a non-governmental organisation based in Greece aims to engage young people at different levels through innovative activities. It aims to promote young people’s active participation, information, social inclusion and active citizenship in community life. The organisation is innovative in the sense that it is “all-online’ and thus environment-friendly, not using any office. In 2014, Youthnet Hellas tried to have an active and immediate role in the society and tried to improve young people lives in practice during the crisis in Greece. Its volunteers therefore used a website and social media pages as platforms to inform young people about all formal and non-formal education opportunities they have in Greece and Europe, as well as internships and work opportunities.
100 000 against the Internet tax (Hungary)
The 100 thousand against the Internet tax was a campaign launched to prevent the Hungarian government from implementing a proposed internet-tax. The 100 000 movement organised the biggest opposition demonstration in the past 25 years in Hungary. Orban’s re-elected government had no other choice but to withdraw their proposal. This was the first – and the last time so far for the government that they faced a civil opposition and had to abort completely their plans. The success of the protest sparked further civic protests against the government’s policies throughout the whole Hungarian territory.
Marsida Bandilli (Albania)
Marsida Bandili is an academic – currently a PhD Researcher at the University of Antwerp, Belgium – and a youth activist. She was awarded an Erasmus Mundus Scholarship. Her research interests revolve around: Europe2020 Strategy, European Integration and EU Policies, Interest Groups Politics etc. She held the Assistant Professor Position at the University of Tirana, Department of Political Science. Before being awarded as the Personality of the Year by the European Civic Forum, Marsida already received the Active Citizens of Europe Award in 2014, given by Volonteurope. She is an active, committed member of many networks and organisations all over Europe.
Besides these outstanding laureates, the Jury decided to award special mentions to three other initiatives: the Helsinki Committee Hungary, in Loco association in Portugal and VoxEurope media initiative for remarkable contributions to preserve civic and democratic space in Europe.
The Awards’ ceremony will take place in the Council of Europe premises in Strasbourg, on 22 October 2015, in the frame of the European Civic Days. You can join us, meet the laureates and engage in dialogue about their extraordinary experiences.
Registration is open here.
Europe is no stranger to conflict, war and famine and in the recent and distant past huge numbers of its inhabitants have had to flee their homes seeking safety. Today, hundreds of thousands of people see Europe as a refuge as they flee war and misery to avoid danger and death.
In view of its tenth anniversary in 2015, the European Civic Forum launched the European Democratic Citizenship Awards, aimed at promoting citizens’ engagement. The 2015 edition will take place in the light of the 10thanniversary activities, in October in Strasbourg.
Since 2014, these Awards are rewarding outstanding initiatives and civil society stakeholders, who bring in a real democratic citizenship with an innovative dimension and with a concrete impact on their communities’ life, be it at the local, regional, national or European level.
The European Civic Forum defends the notion of a European democratic citizenship based upon the vision of the Council of Europe, which implies a process of ownership and a feeling of belonging.
To do so, four categories of initiatives illustrate this concept of democratic citizenship:
- The “Citizens’ campaign of the year” Award aims at supporting raising-awareness or advocacy campaigns which occurred in 2014, with a strong impact on community’s life or on public decisions;
- The “NGO of the year” Award recompenses organisations which made a significant action towards the promotion of European values;
- The “Personality of the year” Award is given to individuals who had an outstanding contribution to democratic life and to the development of a community or a cause;
- The “Media initiative of the year” Award, rewarding participatory initiatives by, for and with citizens who played an active part in reinforcing participation, relaying information and developing the civic space. A particular attention will be paid to initiatives promoting freedom of expression and freedom of media.
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 2015 Laureates. Check out our dedicated EDCA webpage and make your choice by clicking here.
During the last decade, popular trust in the European project is going records low, alongside decrease in living standards and raising poverty for large swaths of the population.
We now count five years of austerity, which the Portuguese population had to survive. Today, we therefore live a violent social regression, the largest in the history of our young democracy: 28% of the population lives in poverty and 41% in severe material deprivation (source: INE); poverty risk rate for children under 18 years is 24,4% (UNICEF); 7% of children have permanent hunger (BACF). Rising unemployment contributes to the aggravation of the situation, with a real unemployment rate reaching 29%. Among youngsters is positioned at 35%. And we also have to count with the increase in long term unemployment (64% of total unemployed) and the huge increase of labor precariousness.
The general lack of prospects in the future feeling has dramatically increased emigration, which corresponds today to more than 20% of the resident Portuguese population. In the last years, the amount of new economic exiles has been even bigger than because of dictatorship’s escapes from colonial war, political police and poverty.
Nowadays people are struggling to find their family’s next meal, not being able to organize themselves in order to protest nor to create new solutions for their lives and for the country, even if they wanted to.
Today the Portuguese democracy is at risk!
It is urgent to point new paths, seeking for a real democracy: there are also people willing to intervene in society, but do not know how to – because of the lack of resources, spaces, organizations or actions; there are new ways of communication and interaction (including digital), providing new forms of organization and social participation; we are watching and participating in the emergence of a new social development paradigm based on principles of sustainability, autonomy and self-organization. It’s vital to know them better, to study and analyze and disseminate them.
We seek new paths for participation and citizenship, facing and fighting government authoritarianism and financial totalitarianism. Active citizenship not only makes communities stronger, but also offers a critical look at the decisions taken by governments, either through questioning, whether through monitoring, putting the control of people’s futures back into the people’s hands.
The Citizenship Academy believes that civic engagement will multiply the answers for today’s problems, which respond to the real needs of citizens. With a more active presence of all of us in the public sphere, based on values such as cooperation, solidarity, respect, justice, equality, we will be able to do more – and better – in the social field but also in the economic one.
To struggle against the lack of democracy, the Citizenship Academy fights back with more democracy!
Contribution sent by Academia Cidadã
After the High Administrative Court had allowed the Croatian Government to continue hiding the amount that was paid to American law firm Patton Boggs LLP for the defense of Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač in the appellate procedure before the International Tribunal in the Hague, GONG has filed a constitutional complaint challenging the High Administrative Court’s ruling, as citizens have the right to know how budgetary funds are spent.
On 3rd February 2015, major European networks of associations got together for a press conference at the EU Parliament in Brussels, joining forces to create Civil Society Europe. This new platform aims at becoming a permanent space for horizontal exchanges and a strong voice for paradigm shift to restore and promote the values of equality, solidarity, democracy and inclusiveness among EU Member States and its people.
Aspirations for change
European Parliament Vice-President Sylvie Guillaume responsible for citizenship chaired the press conference, together with Jean-Marc Roirant, President of the European Civic Forum and founding member of Civil Society Europe, marking the milestone of this coordination in the European Civil Society landscape. “Since the European Year of Citizens 2013, when this mobilisation process started, we learned to overcome our differences and our sectorial approaches, to speak out with a single voice in favour of policy change pushing forward collective interests in a society globally dominated by individual and particular interests”, said J-M. Roirant.
These aspirations for change are substantial of Civil Society Europe work, uniting about 40 major European networks and platforms of associations behind shared values and a common vision for Europe. As Mr. Roirant pointed out: “We want more social justice, we want a genuine European democracy and fair access for fundamental rights for all”. Civil Society Europe is determined to gain a permanent seat at the table of civil dialogue, to make sure the voice of civic associations and movements is heard, alongside the voice of the social partners and corporate interests.
A “Timely Initiative”
Vice-President Sylvie Guillaume saluted this “timely initiative” which comes in a context when “the notion of citizenship and our shared values mentioned before, are being seriously shaken over the last few years by the crisis”.
While considering this “last chance” mandate for European institutions to prove their capacity to answer citizens’ needs and aspirations, she thinks “the spontaneous, as well as the more programmatic and organised expression of citizenship is vital and we do need to provide open and permanent space to listen to those calling for policy and political change.”
Civil Society Europe just opened the door for this civil dialogue. European institutions are now expected to cross the threshold and start the conversation.