EU leaders need civil society to legitimise their decisions

debateEuropean leaders can no longer rely solely on elected politicians to pass on messages from their citizens. They also need civil society to ensure that their policies are more firmly rooted in citizens’ concerns, and to make their decisions more legitimate. Civil society represents millions of Europeans in all walks of life. The crisis has been further strengthening its role, both as a mouthpiece for voicing discontent, and also in providing an extra pair of hands, to act where help is needed and where budget cut-backs have reduced the welfare state to a minimum.

If the EU wants to regain the trust of its citizens and continue to operate, then all governments, EU leaders and civil society stakeholders must make the case for EU reform. Local engagement of people, their businesses and associations will give more powers to EU civil society, to bodies such as the European Economic and Social Council and ultimately to European citizens. These were the highlights of the Civil Society Day debates organised yesterday by the EESC in Brussels as part of the European Year of Citizens.

Over 250 civil society representatives gathered in Brussels to seek ways in which the young and old in Europe could gain better knowledge of their EU rights and become involved in the democratic life of the Union. Participants called on the EU institutions to stop putting procedures before results and involve citizens in actions and campaigns that affect them directly.

On the Civil Society Day, President Nilsson launched the book  “Civil society and democracy – the citizens’ shortcut to the EU”. It will serve as a guide for how citizens’ organisations can make their voices heard more clearly in Brussels. The examples, drawn from all over Europe, reflect just a fraction of all the work and passion that is put into civil society action on a local level and show how it can be successfully amplified on a European level.

Consult the book here.

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