At its plenary session on 18 July, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) hosted a debate with Conny Reuter, co-chair of the EESC's Liaison Group with European civil society organisations and networks.
Mr Reuter presented the conclusions and the recommendations of the 2019 Civil Society Days, which took place in mid-June in Brussels, exploring the theme of sustainable democracy. He also spoke of the role of the Liaison Group, established in 2004 as a unique body within the EU, created to ensure a permanent dialogue between the EU institutions and the European network of civil society organisations at the EU level.
We are here to promote civil dialogue of a progressive and inclusive Europe, Mr Reuter told the plenary, stressing the Group's important role of offering an EU perspective on vital topics and policies, rising above national interests.
The EESC President Luca Jahier commended the good work of the EESC Liaison Group:
The Liaison Group is a forum of exchange, political dialogue and cooperation between the EESC and the EU's civil society organisations. I am looking forward to even more diversity.
We are trying to build bridges and not to shut doors. We are here to work together for a better Europe, the EESC President stressed.
As a symbol of their close cooperation, every year the Liaison Group and the EESC organise the Civil Society Days in order to highlight the contribution of civil society organisations to the building of a European Union which is more in tune with citizens' aspirations. The event has just marked its 10th anniversary.
Mr Jahier said the Civil Society Days became one of the Committee's flagship events. In June, more than 250 participants attended the event.
Commenting on the choice of this year's theme, Mr Reuter said:
Recent developments in Europe tell us that we should not take for granted that democracy is something that will last forever. Lessons from the past are very clear and history has taught us that democracy must be defended – we have many examples in the past when those who were for democracy did not ultimately stand up for it enough.
Mr Reuter told the plenary that the recommendations of the Civil Society Days were grouped into two chapters – "For a participatory democracy" and "For a sustainable Europe: climate-neutral and green, fair and social, strong and economically vibrant."
The proposals made as part of the recommendations included a call to implement an EU Democracy Semester containing democracy indicators to assess the state of democracy, fundamental rights and openness of the civic space across EU Member States. Among the proposals, Mr Reuter singled out the commitment to protecting and promoting academic and artistic freedom and securing financial support to civil society organisations.
Commitment to fiscal justice and the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights featured high among the proposals, as did the creation of a DG for Wellbeing and future generations. The recommendations are addressed to the European institutions.