Liaison Group Newsletter - September 2019

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Restart or kick-start for civil dialogue?

by Conny Reuter, Co-Chair of the Liaison Group

The president-elect of the European Commission has been approved by the Council and, by a narrow majority of nine votes, the European Parliament. In democracies we know that a majority is a majority – so far so good. Majorities are also constantly evolving and shifting, as the votes in the EESC regularly prove. And this is a good thing, as it enforces a principle that is too often neglected nowadays: that of compromise. So far Ms von der Leyen has only presented promises and not yet drawn red lines around the democratic rule of law, fundamental rights and freedoms, employment and social standards, and many other sectors. That will be the moment of truth, and hopefully prove wrong the old adage that "if you try to please everybody, you will please nobody". Unfortunately, we cannot help but notice that civil dialogue is nowhere to be seen, unless you count the costly "Citizens' Dialogue" communication exercise.

Why are those in government so keen on communicating with the people, while all too often ignoring the real dialogue with organised civil society? It might be necessary to remind them of Article 11 and what it means. Luckily we, as European networks, have the opportunity to be part of civil dialogue through the EESC. We probably need to take on more of an influencing and agenda-setting role. And it would be helpful if organised civil society could coordinate a joint strategy instead of racing to be the first. In the end, implementing civil dialogue means changing the culture from communication and consultation to dialogue. Just dare to do it.