The European Economic and Social Committee is pleased to invite you to a comprehensive exhibition designed by Deyrolle pour l'Avenir,celebrating the European Year of Citizens and exploring the meaning and implications of citizenship.
The European Union is at its core a model of transnational governance based, inter alia, on democracy and the rule of law. There are two key findings from our survey: On the one hand, that civil dialogue is based on the primary or constitutional law of this Union and addresses the specific challenges of transnational democracy. On the other, that implementation remains a challenge.
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.
The study carried out by the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) aims to provide an analysis of the current consultation practices at the European Commission as well as to examine the potential of an intermediary body, such as the EESC, and organised civil society, in improving this tool for participatory democracy in the EU.