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Seminar : relationships between civil society and public authorities in Europe

Prague, 2005

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The context

No one can deny that the European economic and political project has made considerable advances over the last few years. The entry of ten new countries into the EU and the aspirations of several others to join bear witness to the interest the body provokes in different countries.

However, following the rejection of the Constitution in spring 2005 by France and the Netherlands and the uncertain nature of the forthcoming consultations in other countries, we can only conclude that European politics are currently at an impasse. There are several explanations for this deadlock. One of these, in particular, should not be underestimated: the lack of representation of European civil society bodies in the discussions and decisions taken by the institutions of the EU.

Nonetheless, several actors in society are busy developing many types of civil society organisation. These forums represent a wide variety of voices – in ways that may well be only partial, occasional or poorly articulated overall, but which reveal views that deserve to be known, communicated and confronted. These experiences can be seen as promising models for the construction of a "Citizens’ Europe", representing as they do the signs of an organised civil society that is capable of bringing pressure on democratic institutions and being taken into account by these at every level.

With this context, a European Seminar was organized by Développement et Civilisations - Lebret-Irfed and Ekumenická akademie Praha in the Czech Republic (Prague, October 27-29, 2005). The participants from the region came from Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania. Others from Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, also involved in a similar process in their own regions, likewise participated to link up their different experiences.

To prepare the seminar in concrete terms – both in terms of allowing the participants to get to know each other and in respect of the content to be discussed – two preparatory workshops took place earlier. The first was held at Chênex in the Savoy region (on the Franco-Swiss border) in January 2005, and the second at Bratislava (Slovakia) in June of the same year.

The objectives

An overall objective

To contribute to the improvement and strengthening of the democratic processes underlying the European Union by promoting dialogue and understanding between civil society and institutions.

Specific objectives

  • To help bring together actors in civil society from the different areas of Europe with the aim of overcoming the fear and ignorance existing between populations
  • To systematise local experiences, notably in cross-border regions, encouraging the genuine exercise of democracy by groups of peoples within Europe.
  • To promote and strengthen the involvement of social actors in the process of building a European civil society
  • To communicate the experiences and the educational and methodological tools instituted by the seminar for the benefit of a larger audience in each of the countries involved.

You can download the seminar report here.

Attached documents

  • Prague Seminary Report February 2008 - (PDF - 659.6 kb)

    Relationships between civil society and public authorities in Europe


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