On 26-27 June in Brussels EFIL has attended the conference “Civil Society Days 2017 – The Europe we strive for!” This conference was a result of civil organisations being recognised as having the key position between citizens and the European Institutions and as someone who can offer new perspectives for the EU and propose concrete solutions for the future of Europe.
Having gathered various participants, from representatives of EU institutions and representatives of different non-governmental organisations to independent participants, the civil society had a chance to contribute to the debate.
The focus was on four themes:
- Populism, and how to develop a counter-narrative through education and culture;
- Technological revolution: transforming work, minds and society;
- Empowerment of civil society organisations, rights and the shrinking space for civil society;
- Urban and rural dimensions, moving towards more social and territorial cohesion.
In the opening part of the conference, we had a chance to hear many interesting and different speakers. The keynote speech was given by Federica Mogherini , High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Here is a part of it: “I am still an activist, I began my political activities in civil society organisations, and the institutions need civil society to make the right choices and implement them. And civil society also needs good institutions to do its work. Exactly one year ago, we heard claims that the British referendum would be the beginning of the end of the EU. One year after, what we have seen is the awareness that closing yourself in your borders, and regaining sovereignty is an illusion, and that in the global world we live in, the only way to regain sovereignty is actually by being together as Europeans. In this context, I would like to stress that we need to do together. We see a shrinking space for civil society, sometimes also inside the EU, and this is something that worries me a lot, because we know that no society is strong if it’s not based on an open and participatory society. The usual approach is that we support your work, but the point is also how can we improve our partnership? We sometimes act as if we don’t see that Europe needs migration for economic and cultural reasons. I know that you have worked on an Opinion on the cost of non-Europe. Why don’t you work on an opinion on the cost of non-migration? Because my impression is that sectors of our economies would collapse the day after, if all migrants disappeared from one day to the other”.
During the afternoon, the participants to the conference split into three different groups in order to attend different workshops. EFIL attended the workshop “Challenging right-wing populism: the role of civic engagement, education and culture”. It started off with a panel debate about the importance of community cohesion, civic education and culture in combatting right-wing populism. It consisted of presentation of different initiatives regarding the topic of right-wing populism in the first part and splitting into small groups for more thorough discussions later on. The initiatives presented were the Polish Women Strike, ISIS Arts from the United Kingdom and Gemeinsam leben und lernen in Europe from Germany. The conclusions of this workshop was that public civic spaces need to be provided, in order to enable citizens to exchange and have a dialogue, as well as motivate them to join and start doing so.
These are the key demands from the conference:
- Social cohesion
- Ensure open civic space
- Positive communication
- Adoption of rural agenda
- Social protection
Read more about the Civil Society Days 2017 conference here: http://www.eesc.europa.eu/?i=portal.en.events-and-activities-civil-society-days-2017&_cldee=YW5pY2EucmltYWNAYWZzLm9yZw%3d%3d&urlid=4