On 30 March 2023, the Civil Society Organisations' Group of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) will hold a hybrid conference on the topic of 'Civil society organisations defending and strengthening European democracy'.
As stated by the European Commission in its work programme, "our Union's stability, security and prosperity rely firmly on upholding our democratic values and institutions. We must therefore not relent in defending our fundamental rights and shared values such as equality and the rule of law, or in acting to protect the foundations of our free and democratic societies, such as media pluralism and freedom".
Civil society organisations (CSOs) are an important partner in this regard. Through their various activities, they not only foster equality and social cohesion, but also act as supervisory entities, hold decision-makers to account, and promote democratic values, the rule of law and fundamental rights.
While democracy is losing ground globally, there are also worrying trends in several EU Member States. Where democratic values are under attack, CSOs tend to be targeted as well. However, as recognised by the European Commission, these organisations are an indispensable part of the checks and balances system. Its 2022 Rule of Law report stresses:
[…] Attempts to restrict their operating space can present a threat to the rule of law.
Another essential characteristic of a living democracy is an open dialogue between politicians and policymakers on the one hand and citizens and CSOs on the other. The inclusion of civil society in policy dialogue is an important indicator of the quality of a legislative process. While shrinking space for CSOs in various European countries in this context needs to remain a point of attention, there are also inspiring examples of effective policy dialogue across the EU.
The conference 'Civil society organisations defending and strengthening European democracy' will address these questions and more. Together with panellists from European institutions and CSOs, the event will provide a platform to discuss:
- the role of CSOs in protecting the rule of law, recent developments in this regard and positive stories of cooperation;
- the relationship between CSOs and decision-makers, including good practice examples of effective dialogue from various EU Member States.
The event is being organised ahead of the publication of the European Commission's Defence of Democracy Package and the review of the implementation of the European Democracy Action Plan, and will feed into the debate on these topics. The draft programme is available on this page.
The conference is open to the public, but registrations are now closed. We invite you to follow the event via live stream at: https://europa.eu/!bKTWBr
Should you have further questions, please write to: EU-Democracy[at]eesc.europa.eu