Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has proved to be an endurance test for human and social rights, democratic values, the rule of law and economic resilience in the EU. While navigating stormy waters, organised civil society is playing a key role in coping with the countless pandemic-related challenges at European, national, regional and local level.
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At a time when citizens are demanding broader involvement in shaping European policies, the EESC Civil Society Days are intended to be a public forum to connect European citizens, civil society organisations and European institutions for a debate about the defining task of our times and the most pressing challenge for Europe, namely "keeping our planet and people healthy". In other words, putting the European economy and society as well as the planet on a more sustainable path.
The Civil Society Days 2019 will take place at a crucial moment for Europe, namely after the Sibiu Summit and the European elections and ahead of the constitution of the new European Parliament and European Commission.
Current pressures on our democratic systems are threatening fundamental values (respect for human rights, individual liberty, equality, the rule of law) and the civil society space within the European Union. The alarming consequence is an erosion of democracy and restricted civic space in several parts of the EU.
Against this backdrop and in consideration of the transformation processes the EU is facing, namely on economic, energy and ecological, social, and democratic and participatory level, this year's Civil Society Days will focus on two main pillars, Democracy and Sustainability, and will explore their links and interactions.
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 Europe we strive for" will be organised civil society's call for a new political impulse to relaunch the EU on the basis of our values and roots.
It will focus on four themes:
- Populism, and how to develop a counter-narrative through education and culture;
- Technological revolution: transforming work, minds and society;
- Empowerment of civil society organisations, rights and the shrinking space for civil society;
- Urban and rural dimensions, moving towards more social and territorial cohesion.
These Days are a symbol of the cooperation between the EESC and the members of the Liaison Group representing European civil society organisations and networks.
This year, it will focus on migration and on how Europe can be made more open and adapt to what needs to be seen as a structural change.
In a time in which news relate daily crisis and problems to which we are obviously not prepared, it is clear that Europe must move from management by crisis to management by foresight and anticipation. Europe must cast on this phenomena and problems a wider and deeper vision, based on an open debate and a reflexion rooted in our common values and capable of frankly coping with the problems that our societies face.