EESC IN A FLASH with Séamus Boland, EESC Diversity Europe Group President
The Conference on the Future of Europe and Civil Society
My expectation is that the Conference on the Future of Europe will finally liaise properly with ordinary citizens. Citizens through the civil society organisations need to be part of the decision-making process. Frankly, they need to be a social partner, in their own right.
And unless citizens are given that role in equal terms with the rest of social partnership, they will always be in an inferior place. That's not good enough. Citizens have seen what they can do through the pandemic. They see what they can do in terms of climate change.
They want to be part of that at the same level as the other social partners.
What can the Conference on the Future of Europe deliver to Civil Society?
I think seizing the momentum at this point in our history is essential, the momentum of COVID-19 and the changes that has brought are huge,people are working from home learning a different way of doing things. The questions being raised on how we solve climate change will go back right down to citizens' levels, their own houses, their own homes, their own transport. We will make that change necessary for climate change much quicker if we bring people with us.
What lessons can be learned from the pandemic?
Without civil society's involvement, the pandemic situation would be many , many times worse for citizens.
Civil society provided resources, help, basic food, water for people who are in lockdown.
We have to do things differently in terms of health. Civil society has learned a great deal and can contribute that learning to those who make policy decisions like the EU Commission, like individual governments.
So I think the lesson is: please listen to civil society. We will get a lot of good ideas from civil society.