ECI DAY 2017 speakers - opening session

Georges DASSIS, president of the European Economic and Social Committee

Mr Dassis has been a trade-union activist in Greece from the age of 15 and an activist against the colonels' regime in Greece (1967-1974). He was a permanent member of the national staff of the Belgian General Federation of Labour (FGTB) from 1976 to 1980 and since 1981, he acted as a representative of the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) to the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC, formerly ICFTU) and to the International Labour Office (ILO). Since 1982, he has been member of the Executive Committee of the ETUC. He was member of the EESC from 1981 to 1990 and from 2002. Mr Dassis presided over the regional section of the EESC from 1986 to 1990. He is a founder member of the Labour Institute of the GSEE (1990) and secretary for international relations. He was a president of the ECO section of the EESC from 2004 to 2008 and president of the Workers' Group of the EESC from 2008 to 2015. He is now president of the EESC from 2015 to 2018. At the EESC, Georges Dassis has been a rapporteur on opinions such as the European minimum income, Social dialogue in the Economic and Monetary Union and the Cost of non-Europe.

Alberto ALEMANNO, academic, civic advocate and public interest lawyer

Alberto Alemanno is an academic, civic advocate and public interest lawyer. He’s currently Jean Monnet Professor of EU Law at HEC Paris and Global Professor of Law at New York University School of Law. Due to his commitment to bridge the gap between academic research and policy action, Alberto pioneered innovative forms of academic and civic engagement. Both his scholarship and public interest work on openness, transparency and civic engagement has considerably shaped EU institutional setting and practice. His MOOC Understanding Europe: Why It Matters and What It Can Offer You reached and empowered more than 100,000 participants across the EU and beyond. Its EU Public Interest Clinic trained dozens of public interest lawyers and served dozens of NGOs promoting the EU public interest. Today Alberto runs The Good Lobby, the first advocacy skill-sharing community aimed at connecting people with expertise with civil society organizations who need them in pursuit of the public interest. Alberto’s new book, ‘Lobbying for Change: Find Your Voice to Create a Better Society’ (Iconbooks, 2017), provides a timely analysis and guide to levelling the democratic playing field by empowering ordinary citizens to speak up and inform policy decisions at local, national and international level. Alberto has been named Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum and European Young Leader at Friends of Europe.

Soraya POST, member of the European Parliament

Soraya Post has been a Member of the European Parliament, representing the Swedish Feminist Initiative Party, since 2014. In the European Parliament, she is a member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and of the Subcommittee on Human Rights. Soraya is also a substitute member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. One of Soraya’s priorities is to work against anti-Gypsyism, the special kind of racism that is directed towards Roma people. Chair of ARDI’s Anti-Gypsyism Working Group Chair of ARDI’s Diversity management Working Group.

Markku MARKKULA, President of the European Committee of the Regions

Markku Markkula was elected President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) in February 2015 for a two and a half year term of office. Since joining the CoR in 2010 he has held several influential positions such as the first Vice-Chair of the CoR's EPP Group and Chair of the CoR's EPP Task Force on Europe 2020. He was the CoR's rapporteur in the field of innovation for subjects including: "The digital agenda for Europe", "The role of local and regional authorities in achieving the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy", "Enhancing and focusing EU international cooperation in research and innovation", "Horizon 2020", "Better governance for the single market", "Closing the innovation divide", "Creation of high-tech start-up ecosystems", and "The industrial policy package". He has also been a member of several High Level Expert Groups, such as the EU Smart Specialisation Mirror Group. Read more.

Frans TIMMERMANS, First Vice-President of the EU Commission

2014-present First Vice-President of the EU Commission, in charge of Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights; 2012-14 Minister of Foreign Affairs; 2010-12 Member of the Dutch parliament, representing Partij van de Arbeid (Dutch Labour Party); 2007-10 Minister of European Affairs; 1998-2007 Member of the Dutch parliament, representing Partij van de Arbeid (Dutch Labour Party). For full biography, please see the official website of the Vice-President.
ECI DAY 2017 speakers
Heike Aghte

Heike AGHTE, ECI “30 km/h – making streets liveable

Heike Aghte works as an advisor for the participation of the civil society in EU policy, with a special focus on environmental and transport policy. She organised the ECI “30 km/h – making streets liveable” and was speaker of its citizens´ committee. Heike closely co-operates with the ECI Campaign and has become a member of the Association for the ECI, in order achieve real progress for the ECI as a tool for participation of the citizens.

Carsten BERG, director of The ECI Campaign, director of the Association for the ECI e.V.

Carsten Berg is known as one of the "fathers" of the European Citizens' Initiative. He has advocated for the ECI and participatory democracy for nearly 20 years. Together with other civil society activists he successfully campaigned for the inclusion of the ECI into EU law during the 2002-2003 Convention on the Future of Europe. Since then he leads The ECI Campaign (www.citizens-initiative.eu) which works for the successful implementation of the ECI by monitoring ECI use, advocating for reform and supporting ECI organisers with online-collection software, campaign advice and other help desk services. He is also co-founder of Democracy International e.V. and the Association for the ECI e.V. which both support the advancement of EU participatory democracy. He currently conducts a PhD-research project at the University of Potsdam on how to further unfold the democratic potential of the ECI and participatory democracy in Europe.

Tiziano CATTANEO, Legambiente, organiser of the ECI People4Soil

Tiziano is a geographer and environmental communicator. Since 2011 he works for the most widespread environmental organisation in Italy and collaborates with CRCS - the national Research Centre on Soil Sealing. He started his professional career as a GIS specialist but then his passion for environmental and social communication led him to other areas of study and practice, especially community-based maps and awareness campaigns. He's the campaign coordinator of the ongoing ECI People4Soil.

Michel CERMAK, representative of the Stop TTIP & CETA campaign

Michel is in charge of research on commerce in the Belgian National Centre for Development Cooperation (Centre national de coopération au développement, CNCD-11.11.11). He was the representative for Belgium of the successful Stop TTIP & CETA campaign, refused by the European Commission for registration as the European Citizens' Initiative.

Maximilian CONRAD, Associate Professor at the University of Iceland

Maximilian Conrad is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Iceland. His research interests include questions regarding the nature of the European Union as a polity and the prospects for transnational deliberative and participatory democracy. Conrad holds a Ph.D. in Political Science at Lund University (2009) and has been Visiting Researcher at ARENA Centre for European Studies, University of Oslo (2005-2006) and at the University of Augsburg (2016-2017). Apart from various articles about the ECI, recent publications include the monograph “Europeans and the Public Sphere: Communication without Community” (Ibidem Press, 2014) and the edited volume “Bridging the Gap? Opportunities and Constraints of the European Citizens’ Initiative” (Nomos, 2016).

Frank DE BOER, coordinator of the Minority SafePack Initiative

Frank de Boer works as legal and policy advisor for FUEN, the largest umbrella organisation of the national minorities in Europe. His activities include advising in matters related to minority rights and policies in Europe. In 2012-2013 he drafted the text of the Minority SafePack Initiative, a European citizens’ initiative with several proposals to improve the protection of persons belonging to national and linguistic minorities and strengthen cultural and linguistic diversity in the European Union. The initiative was submitted by a citizens’ committee consisting of several important personalities from among the European minorities. After registration of the initiative was initially refused in September 2013, Frank has been supporting the lawyers for the case at the General Court of the EU. The legal case led in February 2017 to the annulment of the rejection decision and in April 2017, the European Commission adopted a new decision that enables the Minority SafePack Initiative to finally start with their campaign.

Kai HÄRMAND, Deputy Secretary-General in charge of better regulation issues, data protection, e-justice and competition law matters in the Estonian Ministry of Justice

Ms Härmand was appointed to the judiciary in 1999 and worked at the court of first instance as a civil judge, specialising on intellectual property rights and obligation law. As a judge she has been a member of the drafting committee of Estonian Copyright Act and Civil Procedure Act. She has been a lecturer on civil procedural law, intellectual property law, data protection law and legal drafting at Tartu University and Public Service Academy of Estonia for more than a decade. Ms Härmand is also a frequent lecturer of civil procedure for practitioners from various fields – patent attorneys, lawyers, court experts and judiciary. She has supervised students participating in EU Moot Court competition. Right now she works in the Ministry of Justice as the Deputy Secretary General and also Head of the Legal Policy Department. It is her task to ensure that Government’s Action Plan in her area of responsibility is fulfilled. Legal Policy Department drafts bills for the government and supports their subsequent proceedings in parliament on private and general public law, including intellectual property and competition law, coordinates EU law harmonization process and is responsible for the quality of legal drafting in the government. During EE PRES she is a programme manager on fundamental rights and rule of law; better regulation issues; data protection; e-justice and competition law matters.

Glyn HUGHES, organiser of the ECI "European Free Movement Instrument"

Glyn is a 57-year-old Engineering Designer from Derbyshire, who launched the ECI campaign to begin the process by which European Union passports can be issued to any EU citizen. He is the author of Squashed Philosophers, industrial designer, sculptor, husband, and a dog owner. He shares his views on life and human nature in his blog on philosophy, engineering, nature, food, society and inexpensive wine.

Bruno Kaufmann

Bruno KAUFMANN, president of the Initiative and Referendum Institute Europe

Bruno has been following the development of the European Citizens Initiative since the early days in 1991, when he cofounded the "eurotopia"-networking originally raising and promoting the very idea of the ECI. Today Bruno serves as Chairman of the Democracy Council and Election Commission in Falun (Sweden) and co-chairs the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy. Bruno Kaufmann is the global democracy correspondent at the Swiss Broadcasting Company and Editor-in-Chief of people2power.info. Since 2001 he chairs the Initiative and Referendum Institute Europe and serves as the Director for International Cooperation at the Swiss Democracy Foundation. Bruno is the author and co-author of many publications related to participative democracy including the ECI Pocket GuideEuropean Passport to Active Citizenship and the EESC Guide to the ECI. In September he will publish the Global Passport to Modern Direct Democracy at International IDEA.

Dr Raphaël KIES, senior researcher in Political Science at the University of Luxembourg

Raphaël Kies is a senior researcher in Political Science at the University of Luxembourg. He is co-responsible for the national and European electoral studies and for the introduction and evaluation of innovative methods of political participation at the national and European level. His publications include articles as well as books on e-democracy, local democracy, and deliberative democracy. Two recent publications are Promises and Limits of Web-Deliberation (Palgrave, 2010) and with Patrizia Nanz (ed.), Is Europe Listening to Us? Successes and Failures of EU Citizen Consultation (Ashgate, 2013).

Olga KURPISZ, ECI policy officer, Secretariat-General of the European Commission

Olga Kurpisz is a policy officer in charge of the European Citizens' Initiative in the Secretariat General of the European Commission. Holder of the Master of Law diplomas of the Warsaw University and of the College of Europe in Bruges, she has been working for the European Commission for the past 13 years, dealing with different institutional and citizens' matters such as access to documents, Experts Groups, Comitology and the European Transparency Register. She has contributed to the functioning of the European Citizens' Initiative instrument for almost five years now, having started in June 2012, only two months after the entry into application of the ECI Regulation.
Elisa Lironi

Elisa LIRONI, Digital Democracy Manager at the European Citizen Action Service, The ECI Support Centre

Elisa Lironi is the Digital Democracy Coordinator for the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS). She develops and leads ECAS’ Digital Democracy agenda by implementing projects and research studies in this focus area. She is currently managing the project Digital Ecosystem for E-Participation Linking Youth (Erasmus+ programme) and takes part in the EUCROWD project (Europe for Citizens). Her latest research projects were on e-participation and crowdsourcing at the EU level, and she is currently working on a study on e-consultations. She also coordinates ECAS’ Support Centre on the European Citizens’ Initiative.
Dr James Organ

Dr James ORGAN, Lecturer in Law at the School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool

James is a Lecturer at the School of Law and Social Justice at the University of Liverpool, who works in the area of EU participatory and direct democracy. James completed the doctoral research for his PhD on the legal framework for citizen participation through instruments of direct democracy, particularly the European Citizens Initiative and UK referenda. Since then James has published on the legal admissibility of European Citizen's Initiative proposals in the EU Constitutional law Review and in the publication An ECI that Works, and works closely with the ECI Campaign Group to support the implementation and development of the ECI. Last year James co-organised a major conference titled 'Democratic Participation in a Citizen's Europe: What next for the EU?'. James is co-editor of an edited collection with the same title, which is due out later this year. James has recently completed an article provisionally titled 'EU Citizen participation and the ECI: The TTIP Legacy', and is preparing a series of short pieces on the ECI related cases decided in the CJEU.

Joanna PAŃKOWSKA, organiser of the ECI “More Than Education

Joanna Pańkowska is the Projects and communications Director of AEGEE / European Students’ Forum. Operating without a national level, AEGEE brings students from 40 different countries directly in touch with each other, and doing so puts the ideal of a borderless Europe in practice . AEGEE was involved in the lobby for the implementation of the ECI in 2006 (“Take control” Project). Currently, AEGEE is running an ECI on civic education under the name “More Than Education - Shaping Active and Responsible Citizens”. Their approach to the ECI is twofold - fighting for improved civic education throughout Europe but also the informal learning of civic competences by AEGEE members involved in the Initiative. Joanna is one of the initiators and main drivers behind the Initiative.
Irini Pari

Irini Ivoni PARI, member of the European Economic and Social Committee, president of the ECI ad hoc Group

She is Permanent Delegate of SEV-Hellenic Federation of Enterprises in Brussels, Member of the Committee of Permanent Delegates of BUSINESSEUROPE–Confederation of European Business and Member of the European Social Dialogue Committee since 1995. Member of the European Economic and Social Committee since 1998 in the Group I – Employers. Currently she is President of the European Citizens’ Initiative Sub-Committee, Coordinator and rapporteur of the Ad Hoc group on the future of the EESC,  Member of the Bureau of the European Migration Forum and Member of the Social and Economic Sections as well as of the group on integration and immigration . She has been Vice-President of the European Economic and Social Committee responsible for Communication (2008-2010), Vice-President of the Employers’ Group (2006-2008), Vice-President of the Social Section (2004-2008) and President of the Immigration and Integration working group (2013-2015). She has worked as an Advisor in the European Commission at the Secretariat General and the Directorate General for Competition on State Aids (1988-1994). She studied Political Science and International Relations at University of Panteion in Athens and European Studies at Institut d’Etudes Européennes at ULB in Βrussels. Born in Kinshasa, she has two children.

Jean-Eric PAQUET, Deputy Secretary-General in charge of Policy Co-ordination, Data Protection and the Mediation Service, European Commission

Jean-Eric Paquet began his career in the European Commission in 1993 in the Directorate-General for Transport, in the International Relations area, and later as assistant to the Transport Director General , Robert Coleman. In 1999 he joined the office of Mr Verheugen (Member of the European Commission in charge of enlargement). In 2002 he became the deputy head of office of M. Busquin, member of the European Commission in charge of Research policy. Mr Paquet was EU Ambassador in the Islamic republic of Mauritania between 2004 and 2007. He returned to transport in 2007 where he led the development of the Trans-European Transport Network policy. As Director for the "European Mobility Network" he was responsible for Europe's transport infrastructure policy and investment strategies, the single European rail area, inland waterways and port policy. He joined DG Enlargement in November 2013 where he took over the Directorate in charge of relations with Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo. In January 2015 he became Director for Western Balkans, adding Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to his portfolio.In November 2015 he was appointed Deputy Secretary General of the European Commission responsible for Better Regulation and Policy Coordination (economic governance, internal market and competitiveness, resource efficiency and employment, education and social policies).

MARIA PEÑARRUBIA-BAÑÓN, Assistant Professor of EU law and a PhD candidate at the CEU San Pablo University at Madrid; town counsellor for Youth and Sports

Maria Peñarrubia-Bañón is currently a PhD candidate at the CEU San Pablo University, Madrid. She studied Law and Administrative and Political Sciences at the CEU Cardenal Herrera University, Valencia. After that, she obtained the Master’s programme in European Union at CEU San Pablo University awarded with Distinction. In addition to academic researching, she takes part in the active political life as a councillor for Youth and Sports in the town council of Villarta, Cuenca. She was a candidate for the Spanish Parliament in the elections of December 20, 2015 and June 26, 2016. Maria also obtained a Master’s degree in European Union in the speciality of Multilevel European Integration and Fundamental Rights with a Master’s final dissertation awarded with Distinction. She is part of the ELMC Organising Team since 2014.

Manuel PLEGUEZUELO ALONSO, Director General of Public Participation, European Union and External Affairs of the Regional Government of Murcia, Spain, member of the Committee of the Regions

Mr Manuel Pleguezuelo Alonso is currently the Director General of Public Participation, European Union and External Affairs of the Regional Government of Murcia, Spain, he is also Associate Professor of International Public Law and International Relations in the Faculty of Law of The University of Murcia. Mr Pleguezuelo has formerly accomplished a relevant experience on the Public Sector as a European Projects Legal Officer in the Agency for the Management of Energy of The Region of Murcia, as a coordinator of the Youth Observatory of the Region of Murcia and also was in charge of the evaluation of the 2006-2009 Regional Plan for Integration of Immigrant population and responsible of the gender equality plans for companies. He completed his first degree in law at the University of Murcia following a Degree in Political and Public Administration Sciences at the same University. His further education and training included several fields such a ceremonial and protocol, advice on migrations and caring actions and European Communities Policies.

Pablo SÁNCHEZ CENTELLAS, representative of the ECI Right2Water

Born in Barcelona in 1978, studied Political Science at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, the Sussex University and the Université Libre de Bruxelles. He lives in Brussels since 2008. From August 2010 until September 2015 has been responsible for campaigns European Public Service Union Federation and jointly responsible for the first successful European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) on the human right to water (www.right2water.eu). In September 2015 he was appointed Director of International Relations of the City Council until he returned to Brussels in February this year. He has lived in London, Edinburgh, Barcelona and Brussels.

György SCHÖPFLIN, member of the European Parliament, rapporteur of the ECI report

György Schöpflin was formerly Professor of Politics at University College London (SSEES). He also taught at the London School of Economic. His most recent books are: The Dilemmas of Identities, Tallinn University Press 2010 and Politics, Illusions Fallacies, Tallinn University Press 2012. He currently serves as Member of the European Parliament for Hungary (Fidesz-EPP), EPP coordinator in AFCO committee, substitute member in CULT, AFET, SEDE committees and he was the ECI rapporteur for the EP in 2015.

David SCHWARTZ, ECI Stop Glyphosate Campaign Coordinator, Brussels

David is based in Brussels, and is coordinating WeMove.EU’s European Citizens Initiative (ECI) campaign on Glyphosate. Before starting with WeMove.EU, David worked in communications, research, and digital with non-profits on a variety of issue-based campaigns, including on the debate surrounding the UK’s EU referendum result, minority rights in Israel, and the World Bank social and environmental safeguard policy review. David works closely with the WeMove.EU team and campaign partners to gather support for the ECI. He is interested in the topics of labour, migration, citizenship, and transnationalism. He also likes to dabble with tech, the web, and design.

Benjamin SNOW, CEO and co-founder of Civocracy

Benjamin is a social entrepreneur currently focused on the intersection of technology and political/social discussion. He is the CEO & cofounder of Civocracy.org, a platform facilitating discussion & decisionmaking in communities, and working with local governments in France, Germany and the Netherlands. Benjamin graduated with a B.A. in International Political Economy from The Colorado College, and received a Masters in Public Policy from the Hertie School of Governance. He has studied and lived in the U.S., India, Botswana, and currently, Germany. He was named “Social Entrepreneur to Watch 2016” by Ashoka.

Tomas SORIA ESTEBAN, ECI policy officer, Secretariat-General of the European Commission

Tomas Soria Esteban is a policy officer in charge of the Regulation on the European citizens' initiative in the Secretariat General of the European Commission. He began his career in the Commission in the Directorate-General for Information Society and Media (INFSO) working on the implementation of the EU regulatory framework for telecommunications; and subsequently Directorate-General Communications Networks, Content & Technology (CONNECT) dealing with EU policies, legislative negotiations and application of EU law in the field of electronic communications and the Digital Single Market. Prior to joining the European Commission, he worked in the European Parliament, the Embassy of Spain in Brussels and the United Nations in Copenhagen and Washington DC. He holds graduate and postgraduate degrees in law, political sciences and international affairs by the universities of Madrid, Paris, Brussels, Washington and the College of Europe in Bruges.

Michel SPONAR, Deputy Head of Unit "Marine Environment & Water Industry", European Commission Directorate-General for Environment

Michel Sponar is working since December 2015 as Deputy Head of Unit at the European Commission in the Directorate General Environment, in the Industrial Water and Marine Environment Unit. On top of managing a team of 22 persons, he is involved in several files such as the Plastic Strategy with a focus on marine litter, the revision of the Drinking Water Directive, the evaluation of the Urban Waste Water Directive and of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Before joining the water Unit, he was responsible for the review of the target of the Landfill, Packaging and Waste Framework Directives. He was involved in the preparation and adoption of the packages on Circular Economy. From 2002 to 2007, he was Policy Officer in the Unit Air, transport and Climate, Member of the team in charge of the preparation, adoption and follow up of the Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution. Between 1991 and 2002, he was Deputy Head of the Cabinet of the Minister for the Environment at the Brussels Region – in charge of municipal waste management, waste water management, air and climate, environmental permitting and inspection. He also worked during 3 years in the Seychelles and Madagascar in development projects related with rural development and environment. His background is Bio Engineer (Scientific education) with a complement in Business Management.

Janice THOMSON, Public Engagement Consultant

Janice Thomson promotes meaningful public involvement at all levels of government as a facilitator, writer, researcher and network weaver. Since 2007, she has worked with multiple partners, including Involve, The ECI Campaign, Citizens for Europe, The University of Liverpool and The European Parliament to develop diverse forms of public participation at EU level.