The homeless peoples' choir in the EP hemicycle

To the European Parliament’s hemicycle this morning for the opening session of the Citizens’ Agora on crises and poverties, jointly organised with the European Economic and Social Committee. Under the chairmanship of the two EP Vice-Presidents with responsibility for the Agora, Libor Roucek and Isabelle Durant, the plenary heard, variously from Parliament’s President, Jerzy Buzek, the EESC’s President, Staffan Nilsson, the President of the Committee of Regions, Mercedes Bresso, the Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Laszlo Andor, and Hungary’s permanent representative, Peter Gyorkos. But what made this opening different to a typical run of set-piece speeches was the presence of a choir of homeless people from the streets, the ‘Chorale des Sans-Abri Au clair de la rue’, whose songs interspersed the speeches, and the presence in the hemicycle – Parliament’s plenary chamber, let us not forget – of an assembly of representatives of civil society and organised civil society. The Citizens’ Agora, organised on a thematic basis,  is part of the European Parliament’s response to its obligation, under Article 11 of the Lisbon Treaty, to enter into structured dialogue with organised civil society. It is a considered response to an obligation which, it could be argued, seems slightly ‘out of area’ for an institution which directly represents 500 million citizens and it therefore seems entirely logical that, as Buzek, Roucek and Durant all made clear, the Parliament should join forces with the EU body that does represent organised civil society, the European Economic and Social Committee. The opening question-and-answer session promises a productive two days ahead!