The Chances of Framework Agreements for a Citizen-Powered Europe. Conclusions from the European Year of Citizens 2013

Europe Bottom Up-Nr.7 | 27.02.2014 I Frank Heuberger, Mirko Schwärzel I The Chances of Framework Agreements for a Citizen-Powered Europe Conclusions from the European Year of Citizens 2013

1. Preamble

In times of economic crises, austerity measures, and the rise of extremism and populism across the European continent, we believe now more than ever is the time for the EU-institutions and governments of the Member States to invest their efforts in developing and maintaining effective and diverse channels that enable civic participation in government to take place, and to have a real measurable impact on decision-making. Governments and the institutions of the EU must make themselves easily accessible to civil society in order to bring them closer to the citizens and thus deplete the alienation of European politics from the citizens.

We believe that civic participation in governance goes beyond consultations on government-defined topics, or a check-box survey filling exercise, with a oneway information exchange. We affirm that civic participation must be a deliberative exercise where representative organisations and citizens can make their views known during all stages of the legislative and administrative process. Enabling civic participation does not always need to lead to a longer decisionmaking process, and even if it were the case, the reward is a greater sense of ownership and acceptance of decisions taken by decision-makers, thereby reinvigorating support for our political democracies and in particular the democratic legitimacy of the European project. It is in this context that the European Parliament has to be strengthened too in its role to control the European Commission and the Council in its unjustified manner to decide single-handedly over the fate of the European Union and its citizens. For this purpose the European Parliament and the organised civil society should move closer together.

Against the background of the positive experiences of the formation of a unified voice of the European civil society within the EYV2013-Alliance1 , it is ENNA’s2 view that truly participative government means enabling stakeholders to help draft, amend, develop, execute, and evaluate government initiatives so that initiatives can truly be the result of a participative citizen-driven exercise. It means creating clear entry points, providing sufficient frequency of these, allowing enough time for stakeholders to react, and ensuring that civil society organisations and citizens have seats at negotiating tables. It is critical that stakeholders are self-defined, rather than government defined in order to enable new actors to participate in full.

1. The European Year of Citizens Alliance (EYCA) is an open network of European and national civil society organisations willing to promote active citizenship as a core element of the European democracy in the frame of the European Year of Citizens 2013. The 62 European members of the EYCA represent more than 4000 individual organisations in 50 European countries. For the results of the debates, conferences, screenings, workshops, exhibitions etc. of the EYCA 2013 members see: It’s about us, it’s about Europe! Towards democratic European citizenship.

2. The European Network of National Civil Society Associations (ENNA) is a membership organisation, bringing together organisations, platforms, and associations that work at a national level to promote the cross-sectoral interests of the not-for-profit/public benefit/civil society sector. The present paper is based on a request from the ENNA board to bring together the recommendations of the EYCA 2013 with the experiences of the ENNA members during this year. Nonetheless the paper reflects predominantly the position of the authors.