Citizens are at the heart of the European project and are expected to exercise their rights as citizens of a European Union member country and also find ways to get involved in European politics and shape the EU’s political agenda.
The European Economic and Social Committee at its speech at Expectations for civil society involvement in the implementation of the Post-2015 agenda held at UN Headquarters emphasized the crucial role of the civil society in holding the government accountable and for pushing us further towards sustainable development.
The European Commission is very appreciative of the role the European Economic and Social Committee plays in linking stakeholder groups with EU institutions to exchange views and contribute to debates and policy processes.
A lot of civil dialogue is covered in the “Europe for citizens” Programme, which is in accordance with Article 11(2) of the Treaty on the European Union providing that the institutions are to maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society, and pursuing to Article 10 of Council Regulation establishing the ‘Europe for Citizens’ programme for the period 2014-2020.
Some of the general objectives of the Europe for Citizens Programme 2014-2020 are:
- to contribute to citizens’ understanding of the Union, its history and diversity;
- to foster European citizenship and to improve conditions for civic and democratic participation at Union level;
- to raise awareness of remembrance, the common history and values of the Union and the Union’s aim, namely to promote peace, the values of the Union and the well-being of its peoples by stimulating debate, reflection and the development of networks;
- to encourage democratic and civic participation of citizens at Union level, by developing citizens’ understanding of the Union policy making-process and promoting opportunities for societal and intercultural engagement and volunteering at Union level.
Europe for citizens Programme considers as another priority for 2015 its engagement in the current debate on the European Union in times of the economic crisis and following the European elections of May 2014, where there is a need to broaden further the debate on the future of Europe on what kind of Europe citizens want, also stimulating new forms of civic participation whilst reinforcing those existing. However, such debate should not be limited to citizens already keen on the idea of the European Union, but reach out to citizens who have not been involved so far, or who reject the Union or question its achievements.
Since 2010, the EU has supported the civil society organisations in Kosovo with more than 8 million EUR from three different civil society instruments:
- The Civil Society Facility supports the development of civil society to actively participate in public debates on democracy, human rights, social inclusion and the rule of law, and builds their capacity to influence policy and decision making processes.
- The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights supports innovative actions by civil society organisations in the field of human rights and democracy, in order to enhance respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and strengthen the role of civil society in promoting human rights and democratic reform.
- The EU Grant Scheme for the North supports the socio-economic development of northern Kosovo through improving basic municipal infrastructure and therefore directly impacting alleviation of unemployment, strengthening agriculture, environment, business and civil society sector, with a view to improving economic situation, social cohesion, integration and cooperation.
Some of the most prominent projects awarded under these three civil society instruments are tackling vital issues for Kosovo socio-economic development ranging from empowering civil society to participate effectively in policy and decision-making processes through dialogue with government institutions and strengthening the role of Women’s civil society organisations in promoting women’s human rights and political participation. The civil society grants have also promoted enhancing of youth capacity and action for change. Under the EU grant scheme for the North a lot of funds were allocated to social inclusion in Northern municipalities and civic-public social partnerships. Other components of EU support for civil society include promotion of culture through music and art events with an aim to rebuild ties and confidence between communities living in Kosovo.