Civil Society Europe steering committee meeting

As some of you may know, Volonteurope was a founding member of Civil Society Europe and I am on the steering committee.  This new platform was set up about 18 months ago to be the platform for civil society organisations and to be able to represent them to the European institutions, in the same way as Business Europe, for example, does for the private sector.  Those of us who formulated the idea really felt that civil society did not have as strong a voice as it might have and that we needed a new platform that could unite us and give us a presence.


Last week, we had one of our regular steering group meetings and one of the main items on the agenda was the preparation of the Annual General Assembly 2018.  So, I thought that it would be a good moment to write a short blog and bring everyone up to date with the activities of the platform.


Recently, colleagues from the steering group, along with Carlotta Besozzi, the Coordinator, had a meeting with DG Budget.  The main topic on the agenda was a discussion about the priorities for the new Multi-Annual Funding Framework which is due in 2020.  This is the document that sets out the EU budget, programmes and priorities for the next few years.  There should be a first draft of this document in May of this year.  Colleagues were dismayed to find that the Sustainable Development Goals figure nowhere on the agenda – the priorities are likely to be security, defence and migration.  Unsurprising but nevertheless disappointing that Member States’ governments do not put forward more progressive priorities.  These, it seems to me, play into the hands of the populists.


CSE also ran a communications workshop in February to think about how we could promote a more positive image of the role of civil society.


The General Assembly will take place on 26 April in the conference room in rue de Pascale, where, of course, Volonteurope also has our Brussels office.  The meeting will be joined by the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly and she will address the meeting on Civil Dialogue and Transparency of Decision-making within EU Institutions.  Ms O’Reilly will be followed by a session on civic space animated by two guests, Ricardo Gutierrez, Secretary General of the European Federation of Journalists and Christian Deloire, from Reporters without Borders.  Then the assembly will consider the activity report of the last year and, of course, the accounts for 2017.  There will be elections for the free steering committee places and consideration of the draft activity report for 2018.


The meeting discussed some up and coming events for 2018 especially around the EU presidencies.  Bulgaria has the presidency at the moment and will be followed by Austria for the second half of the year.  We also considered some activity and events that could be held before the EU elections in 2019.


Some of you will remember the European Civic Academy, now 2 years old.  In 2016, it was held in La Rochelle and last year in Brussels.  This year we will combine the academy with the SABIR Festival in Sicily in October and then plans are afoot to organise next year’s academy in Warsaw in collaboration with our partner umbrella organisation for NGOs in Poland, OFOP.  All member organisations are being encouraged to hold a board meeting or similar at the same time as the Civic Academy to ensure a good presence.


Oonagh Aitken, Volonteurope President