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.