A new push for democracy: are we seizing the opportunity?
High expectations were set in the European Commission (EC) work programme for 2023. Apart from indicating the direction Europe plans to take over the next year(s), this programme is also the first political roadmap since the May 2022 proposals from the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE). While civil society was overlooked in Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's State of the Union address in September, the EC work programme reveals an ambition to deliver on what citizens, organised civil society, social partners and governments at all levels have asked for: to continue the fruitful dialogue with EU institutions that began during the CoFoE, and to involve these groups more closely in shaping policies at European level. This is not a new ask, but rather an expected result of the Treaty's implementation, in particular Article 11 on civil dialogue.
Citizens' panels resulting from CoFoE are set to become a regular feature of our democratic life. This is definitely a good first step towards new models of deliberative and participatory democracy, and should indeed give European democracy a new push. Such a boost is needed now more than ever, with democracy under huge pressure and the EU facing a multitude of crises and challenges. Democratic values have never been more threatened.
This shows that our European civic space should not be taken for granted. Civil society organisations are reliable partners when it comes to upholding and defending our democratic values, fundamental rights, the rule of law, equality and many other shared European principles.