Involving Civil Society
Heads of State and Government represent the whole population of their country, members of national parliaments represent the population of their constituencies, and trade unions represent different types of workers. Civil society organisations are the only organisations that represent the interests of people that gather around specific characteristics: for example, youths and older people, people living in poverty, people with disabilities, migrants etc. The voices of these groups are generally less heard in policy-making than others. They might be voters or trade unionists but they also have demands that are not necessarily taken up by political parties or trade unions. Because of this, we need civil dialogue; it can make our societies better by ensuring that decision-makers consult civil society organisations when making policies that concern the groups they represent. At EU level, this civil dialogue would complement the existing social dialogue between trade unions, employers and EU institutions.
What is the EU doing?
Despite the EU treaties laying the foundation for civil dialogue (article 11.2 of the Treaty on European Union), civil society organisations do not currently take part in a structured dialogue with the EU institutions. At the moment, consultation of civil society organisations depends on the goodwill of the EU institutions. A truly open, transparent and regular civil dialogue at both EU and national level would strengthen legitimacy, accountability and efficiency of policy-making.
What does Social Platform want?
Social Platform has developed and nurtured positive relationships with key stakeholders in the EU institutions to make sure that the voice of civil society organisations is heard. We regularly speak at events on how to build a more Social Europe and highlight the important role of civil society organisations in this work to ensure that the reforms correspond to challenges on the ground. We are the only civil society organisation regularly invited to attend informal meetings of the European Council’s Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) meetings to make the case for social rights, alongside social partners.
To improve the quality of civil dialogue, we advocate for four principles:
- The right to be consulted in decision-making: as well as agenda-setting and policy-making, civil society organisations should be actively involved in implementation, evaluation, and monitoring.
- The need for transparent and open decision-making processes, such as the introduction of a mandatory Transparency Register for all EU institutions.
- The need for protective regulatory and financial framework civil society organisations.
- Greater institutional recognition of the importance of civil dialogue.
- Position paper, ‘Building Social Europe: A comprehensive implementation approach for an effective European Pillar of Social Rights‘ (2018)
- Position paper, ‘Civil Society Participation & Partnership: Four principles for the meaningful involvement of civil society in the EU decision-making process‘ (2016)
- Press release, ‘Building Social Europe: People-centred economics and participation are key to social progress in Europe’ (2019)