The ECI DAY 2017 focused on the individual involvement of citizens and their active role in policy shaping. It was organised in the context of the 60th anniversary of the Rome treaties, the first treaty to talk about European citizenship, in order to show all the positive developments of the concept and a number of new tools to involve citizens. The theme "I participate!" was to underline the importance of citizens' personal involvement in building up a comprehensive democratic system in the EU.
This year's Civil Society Days will take place right after the plenary session at which the European Economic and Social Committee celebrates its 60th anniversary.
The focus of this Civil Society Days will be on fostering the current debate about the future of Europe and on highlighting the role across Europe of the civil society organisations which come together in the EESC to represent "Europe at work".
In line with this twofold emphasis, the CivSocDays 2018 will address Europe at work in relation to a dimension which has permeated our everyday working and living environment and will affect and shape our future, as well as the future of Europe: the digital world.
The EESC has been working on an information report the aim of which was to investigate how European Parliament election procedures are determined in each Member State, taking into account the needs of persons with disabilities and how this affects their right to vote.
In this context, a public hearing was organized to present the first conclusions of the report and to look into successful projects and practices.
On 6-7 December, the Diversity Europe Group held its extraordinary meeting at the EESC premises (VMA Building - Room VMA3). During this meeting entitled 'Bursting Brussels' 'Bubble': How to communicate Your Europe', EESC Group III Members learned more about efficient communication tools in order to become EU 'ambassadors' and to communicate the way they feel about Europe.
This is the fourth edition of the Civil Society Day, so this initiative is rather young however with a solid ground. And let me tell you why. The Civil Society Day is the living proof of a partnership which is dear to me and to many of us in the EESC, a partnership between the EESC and European civil society expert networks in the form of what we call the Liaison Group. It is in the Liaison Group meetings last year that the civil society alliance for the European Year of Citizens was conceived and took form. This alliance is our partner for this conference and its members, European networks and national networks are here with us today.
Introduced on 1 April 2012 by the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Citizens' Initiative is the most important instrument of participative democracy in the European Union. By collecting at least 1 million signatures from at least 7 EU Member States, citizens have the right to call directly on the European Commission to propose a legal act or modify the existing one. This Guide is to provide you with an idea of how to get involved.
This afternoon we would like to make an assessment of the work we have done together and I would like us to have an open and honest debate about the way forward for this group to function in the best way possible. Thank you very much for the four contributions we received to our questionnaire. We wanted to survey all members before this meeting, but I believe this format, this space and time is also a good opportunity to assess and talk about the future prospects. It is also my last meeting as co-chair of the EESC Liaison Group.
The organisation of the annual ECI Day - which I hope will remain a landmark in years to come with more and more partners on board - is also clear proof of our commitment to initiate dialogue on this tool. Last year's event was only a small seminar to celebrate the launch of the ECI process, but it attracted many people.
We have also supported the ECI process by hosting technical working groups on the online signature collection software, bringing together IT experts and ECI organisers to see what can be improved on (participants will hear about the ongoing work during the afternoon's panel).
The Commission has proposed to designate 2013 as the European Year of Citizens. The year will mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of Union citizenship under the Maastricht Treaty and will precede and prepare the European Parliament's elections in 2014.
The main objective of the Commission's proposal is to inform Union citizens about their rights as such. Particular importance is given to the right to move and reside freely, which is essential to enable individuals, businesses and society to benefit from the opportunities of the single market.