The EESC believes that there is much more to European citizenship, and that a political system such as the EU must cultivate and strengthen the political, social and cultural dimensions of the Union. If we want people to feel truly connected to Europe, we need to develop their ability to exercise political power ("power" in the sense of participation in governance). We can develop that ability by providing knowledge about the political system and using mechanisms that allow for participation from the bottom up.
This report examines the extent to which European citizens engage in participatory
democracy, and the extent to which they believe that political decision-making can be
influenced through their own actions and through those of civil society organisations.
This book argues that civil society, by which we mean associations, interest groups and the employers’and union organisations, is an essential pillar of democracy. During meetings with representatives of organised civil society, the writer has gathered a series of examples of how they have made their voices heard in the EU.
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).
"From April 2012, European citizens will enjoy a new right, which will give them a stronger voice in EU affairs when the European Citizens’ Initiative enters into force. From that moment on, they will be able to express their demands in a new, unprecedented way. By collecting one million signatures across Europe, they can call upon the European Commission to propose or change European legislation. The European Economic and Social Committee has been an advocate of citizens’ rights to participate since the beginning of the European project.