Brussels , Belgium<br />
March , 06/2013</p>
<p>Civil Society Day 2013 .<br />
AS European as we can get . Bringing economy , solidarity and democracy together .</p>
<p>On this picture : Jean Marc Roirant / Staffan Nilsson / Antigoni papaopoulou / Christophe Rouillon</p>
<p>ï¿?EU2013All day today the European Economic and Social Committee has hosted a rich and animated conference designed to celebrate Civil Society Day 2013. The conference, entitled ‘As European as we can get! Bringing the economy, solidarity and democracy together’, brought to the Committee’s Jacques Delors headquarters building – the house of civil society, as more than one participant pointed out – an impressive array of representatives from civil society organisations, the academic and media worlds and the EU institutions, to debate such themes as ‘how to make local civil society heard at European level?’, ‘how can the effective exercise of economic and social rights reinforce active citizenship?’ and ‘active and participatory citizenship for a more legitimate Europe.’ The conference ended with concluding observations from European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding, based on the results of a recent Eurobarometer survey with, for the first time, questions specifically addressing the issue of Europeans’ engagement in participatory democracy. The picture shows the opening session, jointly chaired by EESC President Staffan Nilsson and Jean-Marc Roirant, President of the European Civic Forum and of the European Year of Citizens Alliance. Others on the podium: Christophe Rouillon, Mayor of Coulaines (France), Vice-President of the Association of French Mayors and a Member of the Committee of the Regions, Antigoni Papadopoulou, Member of the European Parliament and rapporteur for the European Year of Citizens (2013), and Anthony Allen, Research Director at TNS Opinion, which carried out the Eurobarometer survey. Together with the Eurobarometer poll findings (which demonstrated very clearly the important underpinning role played by civil society organisations in our democracies), I was very much interested in the findings of Thomas Persson, Associate Professor at Uppsala University, who used the Reach directive as a test case to demonstrate that whilst civil society involvement may improve democratic representation, it may also increase political inequality, because (a little self-evidently) some groups have a much better chance of influencing policy/legislation than others. His clear conclusion, however, was that the involvement of organised civil society is an important flanking support to representative democracy. All-in-all, it was a fascinating day’s reflections.