The future of democracy in Europe was debated at a two-day European-level conference organised by EESC president George Dassis in the auditorium of Athens' Acropolis museum on 1 and 2 March. Facing an audience of actively engaged participants from EU institutions, Greek government, civil society organizations and universities, George Dassis clearly made the case that the future of democracy is directly linked to a peaceful and federal Europe.
"Populism, which is rising dangerously in European countries, cannot be fought with words. The European Union must provide tangible answers to citizens' need for a safe life and for work for themselves and a future for their children", said EESC President George Dassis. "We want a Union that can deliver equal opportunities for all. To tackle populism, to counter the frustration felt by the most vulnerable people in our countries, we must now bring social aspects to the fore, without of course letting the EU economy fall apart."
George Dassis called for a European finance minister, who should be accountable and elected. Mentioning the upcoming European elections, he expressed support for transnational lists that can ensure that the verdict of the citizens would be heard. "Otherwise", he stressed, "elections will be about national, not European stakes".
National sovereignty is already lost and cannot be gained back, he said. "Even larger Member States are too small to address the bigger problems. Only by standing together can Europe count on the world stage and be on equal terms with the US and other major players".
On the issue of a federal Europe, George Dassis pointed out that the future of our children depends on a peaceful and federal Europe. "Citizens need security to travel, work and study. The promise of fundamental social rights as delivered in Gothenburg should become a practice and a reality".
"There is a need to redefine participatory democracy" continued Mr. Dassis. "Participatory democracy cannot only mean disseminating the message. People need to take part and be properly informed. The EESC and national economic and social councils represent a large part of European civil society and are therefore an essential instrument of participative democracy.
George Dassis concluded the conference saying: "We are bound to work together and find a common understanding. A United Europe without democracy in the broadest sense of the term (including cultural or economic democracy) is impossible."
As a side event to the conference, George Dassis received an award from the Greek Economic and Social Council (ESC) for his commitment to and support of social dialogue in Europe.