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What are the prospects for Participatory Democracy in Europe?

Seminar - Belgium

On 22 March 2011, Group III hosted an important seminar under the above title. In a rapidly changing world, it should be noted that Group III has worked doggedly and consistently for well over twelve or more years in pursuance of an important objective, the nucleus of which has been recently concretised in Article 11 of the new Lisbon Treaty. It is felt that now is an opportune moment in time to define the outline and the details of a new objective, which intersects with the implementation of Article 11 and the changed context and practice of civil dialogue at EU level.

This seminar was a starting point for structured work on civil dialogue over the next two years and had three main objectives and an eventual goal in mind: 

  • recall what has been done so far
  • put in place a work strategy for the future, re-launching the new phase following the adoption of Article 11
  • outline the stages of a shared commitment within Group III

Looking to the future, we have given our goal the short title: "Second European convention of organised civil society" (following on from a similar successful event held at the EESC in 1999). Moreover, a preparatory phase for this will involve an exploratory opinion on the implementing provisions of the first two indents of Article 11. 

Major players and various representatives of organised civil society attended the event. A Compendium on "Participatory democracy: a retrospective overview of the story written by the EESC", was launched by Group III President, Luca JAHIER (IT). It documents, chronologically,the step-by-step development of the concept of Civil Dialogue from Contessa Beatrice Rangoni Machiavelli (President of the EESC, 1998-2000) to the current EESC President, Staffan Nilsson, and serves as an aid to establishing a common basis for all the 'old' and 'new' members for, among other things, dialogue with CSOs close to Group III.

During the day, intense discussions took place on a draft "Roadmap" paper, which will point the way to the future. Participants at the seminar, as well as people following and tweeting on Twitter, put forward their proposals and a drafting group worked on the document, adapting and updating it consistently throughout the entire day. At the closing session, Group III Vice-President, Jillian van TURNHOUT (IE) presented the draft "Roadmlap" to the assembly. This will now be translated into various languages and published in hardcopy and on the net.

In summing up the day's proceedings, Luca JAHIER, estimated that, taking into account the unthinkable costs that represents a non-Europe, the revival of the Community Method in the field of civil dialogue should be the next step: "The EESC must now organise its work in such a way that it leads to the development of a Green Paper on the practical implementation of civil dialogue, as was done for the citizens' initiative "he concluded.