Active citizenship is the glue that keeps society together. Democracy doesn’t function properly without it, because effective democracy is more than just placing a mark on a voting slip.
You can read here 25 examples of how our members engage in active citizenship and get an idea how you can act as well!
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“Active citizenship is very important. It’s vital to be engaged in the things you think matter, to improve your life and the lives of others, and to make the world a better place to live in. It means understanding what rights you have and what role you can play; using those rights and being involved in activities.”
Andrzej Adamczyk understands as well as anyone the value of his civil rights. As a trade union activist under the Communist regime in Poland, he took an integral part in his country’s struggle for democracy. His union, Solidarnosc, was a key player in the transformation of the country. “Just that might be enough,” he reﬂects. “But now I am engaged in the work of the EESC. So it goes beyond the national level to the European level, which is especially appealing to me and to the Polish public. Poland is one of the most enthusiastic nations in the EU. This involvement means that I believe in trade unionism and in European integration. I believe it’s useful not only for Poland but for Europe as a whole.”
Mr Adamczyk argues that it is more important than ever, in the recent crisis, to be involved in the European movement. The European Union should be seen as part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Solidarnosc started in 1980. “Everybody mobilised,” he remembers. “There was a lot of enthusiasm. Ten million people were involved in the movement. Then after it was banned, in December 1981, I was still active – nothing special, but things like distributing leaﬂets, which of course was completely illegal!” After the union was legalised once more in 1989, MrAdamczyk started working ﬁ rst as a Solidarnosc press officer, and then in the international relations department.
“When the whole transformation started in 1989, one of the slogans repeated most often was: ‘We belong to Europe’. Everybody understood that our place is within the European community. We were somewhat disappointed because it took rather longer than we expected!” But in 1989, nobody could foresee that the whole Eastern bloc would collapse, he points out. With a long list of new countries waiting to join, the accession process was a lengthy one. “But maybe it was good,” he adds, “because we had the time and we used it to prepare better for membership.”
It’s vital to be engaged in the things you think matter, to improve your life and the lives of others, and to make the world a better place to live in.
An end to scepticism
Many events are taking place to mark Poland’s ﬁrst EU Presidency in 2011, and they are well covered by Polish media, he says. But citizens’ active support is due more to the changes that have taken place in Poland since 1 May 2004. “People can see them – especially when you look at the infrastructure that is developing. Poland was not hit by the crisis as badly as other countries. People live relatively well and they know that – they know that it is linked to our membership of the EU. Before accession there were fears that agriculture would collapse, that land would be bought up by people from other countries, that prices would rise quickly … but nothing happened. In fact the farmers beneﬁted most. Now the scepticism has virtually disappeared.”
Mr Adamczyk’s activities now focus mainly on international relations, through the International Trade Union Confederation and organisations like the ILO, the IMF and World Bank. “We have lots of contacts with trade unions in Eastern Europe, especially in countries where they are under pressure, like Belarus. We try to support them – we did the same in Russia and Ukraine. And we have regular contact with trade unions in Georgia. They have similar problems to the ones we had in Poland in the past.”