7 Mar 2013 Ref: 20/2013 EU leaders need civil society to legitimise their decisions European 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.
While Europe faces economic and social challenges, EU citizens continue to involve themselves in participatory democracy activities, including signing petitions and becoming active members of non-governmental organisations, mainly at local and national level. A Flash Eurobarometer measuring citizens’ engagement shows that Europeans trust civil society organisations to influence policies and make a difference in the life of their communities.