18 August 2022

EESC presses for empowerment of European civil society in EU policy design

In the framework of the 2023 European Commission work programme, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has called for empowering European civil society and involving all civil actors in designing EU policies. The EESC adopted a resolution containing its recommendations during its plenary assembly on 17 July.

As a member of the EESC Civil Society Organisations (CSO) Liaison Group, Philea directly contributed to defining the role of philanthropy, civil society, and the Social Economy in drafting the recommendations. Philea underlined the alignment between the takeaways from the Conference on the Future of Europe and citizens’ demands, and the necessity to integrate a strategy for civil society into the Commission work plan. Concretely, the Commission should consider the pivotal role that civil society plays in a series of policy files, and put in place measures to improve civil dialogue, such as shaping and monitoring trade tools. In the long term, civil stakeholders should be provided with tools to shape those policies directly affecting them.

As the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have highlighted the necessity of strengthening Europe’s democratic institutions, the EESC emphasised in its resolution the centrality of the rule of law and democracy for the European Union’s identity. The main takeaway that emerged from the resolution is the need to protect these core principles from the secondary effects of the multiple emergencies we are facing.

Moreover, as the consequences of the pandemic and the Ukrainian conflict will persist in the medium-long term, civil society should be included in the definition of the contingency plan. Consistent with a letter addressed to President Ursula von der Leyen and signed by Philea and other civil networks, the EESC asked the Commission to increasingly involve community-based organisations in the Rule of Law Review Cycle.

Despite the unparalleled situation, the EESC also called on the Commission to not lose sight of the implementation of a sustainable development model as an “[…] overarching goal of all policies, programs and actions”. The resolution asked for the implementation of measures that are simultaneously beneficial for the economy and the environment, ideally providing a blueprint to ease the transition to a climate-neutral economic system.

Finally, a pressing need to defend the European way of life against the ongoing setbacks appeared as a serious concern both for governments and civil society. Particularly in the context of the refugee crisis following the war in Ukraine, the resolution stressed the importance of granting appropriate funding for foundations, civil networks and organisations acting on the ground.

During a panel event hosted by Philea, Margaritis Schinas also raised the necessity to improve the operating space for philanthropy. In his intervention, he stressed the paradoxical condition of a Single Market that does not enable philanthropy to work on a cross-border scale, and the willingness of the Commission to overcome this contradiction.

Philea will continue monitoring the development of the European Commission work programme and how it will address our policy recommendations.


Hanna Surmatz
Head of Policy