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Ahead of EU elections, citizens take centre stage in first ever Civil Society Week

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The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has kicked off its first ever Civil Society Week, titled 'Rise Up For Democracy!'. This week-long event brings to Brussels more than 200 citizens' organisations and stakeholders from across Europe, including youth organisations, NGOs and journalists. They will be discussing the state of democracy, the challenges it faces, and the vital role civil society plays ahead of the EU elections, drawing up demands for the next EU leaders.

At a moment when democratic values are being tested by extremism and with the EU population facing the challenges of the twin transition, the war in Ukraine and persistent inflation, these discussions are not only timely but imperative. With less than 100 days to go until the 2024 European elections, the Civil Society Week presents an opportunity to magnify citizens' voices and participation in our democracy.

Oliver Röpke, EESC President, explains: "European democracies are under a stress test. The only way to pass this test is through a strong and united response. From all of us - civil society and European institutions. Today we are bringing more democracy to Europe, and more Europe to the citizens."  

Věra Jourová, Vice-President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency: "Safeguarding our democracy requires protecting electoral processes from many risks, including disinformation and foreign interference. We must keep elections free and fair, ensure their resilience by updating digital safeguards and preserve an open debate. In order to do so, we need an active engagement of everyone, including the civil society organisations and the citizens."

Erika Staël von Holstein, Chief Executive of Re-Imagine Europa: “Unless we break the cycle of distrust in which we are locked, the pre-eminence of democracy as the most effective political system developed by mankind is in real peril.”

With its five major initiatives – including the Civil Society DaysEuropean Citizens' Initiative DayYour Europe, Your Say! (YEYS)Civil Society Prize, and the Journalists' Seminar - the Civil Society Week aims to:

  • Empower citizens to engage with the EU and exercise their democratic rights.
  • Identify and address threats to democratic values such as disinformation and voter apathy.
  • Gather recommendations from civil society to inform the future direction of the EU.

In his political manifesto, EESC President Röpke pledged to establish a platform for citizens and civil society to voice their concerns. Civil Society Week will culminate in EU's first Civil Society Panel, during which civil society actors will discuss the way forward for the next five years. Panel discussions, along with input gathered throughout the week, will shape an EESC resolution in July outlining what civil society expects from the new European Parliament and Commission.

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The full programme of the Civil Society Week is available online.

Join the conversation and follow #CivSocWeek on all social media for updates!

Photo by arty on Unsplash

The European Economic and Social Committee represents the various economic and social components of organised civil society. It is an institutional consultative body established by the 1957 Treaty of Rome. Its consultative role enables its members, and hence the organisations they represent, to participate in the EU decision-making process.

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