Despite the usual criticisms about Europe being in the hands of powerful lobby groups an handful of bureaucrats, the European Union is in a listening mood today. While it is embracing the participatory channel out of need, the European Union has never been perceived so far away by its citizens. Europe wants to hear your voice regardless of who you are and what you do in life.
After years of silence, civil society is organizing itself, and as a result is more vocal than ever. But who is civil society? Civil society creates itself. It is not the product of the state, nor of the market. It is rather made of self-mobilizing citizens like you who organize themselves.
In more and more countries, notably the most developed ones, civil society is, at least the some degree, institutionalized and is regularly heard through a set of specific mechanisms.
We saw that in the European Union, the privilege fora for civil society are the European Parliament in which people’s representatives sit, and the European Economic and Social Committee gathering all organized interests of society such as those of the employers and the employees.
The committee can be seen as the house of the citizens in Europe. It provides a unique institutional forum through which citizens can mobilize on European themes of societal, cultural, and economic interests and host events in Brussels.
We often talk about civil society as though it were one thing and the very same thing
whereever it is found. This is obviously not the case. And European civil society, it is not an exception. Civil society exists in a space between the state and the political an economic society and in important ways it mediates between them.
We will see that while European citizens benefit from a privileged entry access into the European game also citizens coming from non-European countries and foreign companies interested in the European market may actually have a say in Europe and shape its policies.