Welcome to this Medina Session on 'Integrating Civil Society in policy-making'. This session has been organised by the European Economic and Social Committee, but as you can see it also involves many notable guest speakers from a variety of civil society organisations who will share their experiences with us.….I shall not name you all because I think it is important we move to the discussion but you shall all have the opportunity to take the floor.
Relations between the EU and its southern neighbours constitute one of our priorities. Our work covers a wide variety of areas, such as the participation of civil society in political and civil dialogue, democratic transition, youth employment, sustainable development, mobility and immigration, trade, renewable energy and business development.
The EESC has been working on these issues since 1995. Following changes in the region in 2010, we have adjusted our objectives accordingly, aiming to:
- Support civil society organisations in countries undergoing transition. Such support is targeted, in particular, at trade unions and employers’ organisations, as well as women’s, youth and farmers’ associations.
- Maintain bilateral relations with national economic and social councils in the region, and work towards creating conditions for the inclusion of civil society in political dialogue in the southern partner countries.
- Issue opinions and joint reports on the key policy challenges facing the region.
- Hold regular meetings with European institutions and international organisations to discuss the policies concerning civil society across the region.
- Organise an annual summit for economic and social councils and similar institutions, at which key policy recommendations on the region’s main challenges are put to policy-makers from national governments and the EU.
In November 1995, at the Euro-Mediterranean Conference in Barcelona, foreign affairs ministers of the EU and Mediterranean partner countries concluded a regional partnership, the aim of which was to establish a common area of peace and stability, create an area of shared prosperity, develop human resources, promote understanding between cultures and foster exchanges between civil societies. The Barcelona process was born and provided the foundation for broader cooperation across the Mediterranean.
Gaddafi's regime is now falling apart and the EU under UN leadership is mobilising to help the Libyan people build a free, open, secure and democratic state. The fight is not over yet, however I do hope for a positive outcome. I salute the determined action taken by the UN and some EU Member States to protect civilians from their dictator's mad fight against his own people.