EU Institutions Must Respect Treaty on EU and Implement Structured Civil Dialogue Now

Posted on 22 Jan 2024 Last updated on 30 Jan 2024

On 24 January 2024, European civil society sent an open letter to the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Parliament, and the Belgian presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The signatories of the letter urge the three main institutions of the European Union (EU) involved in EU decision-making to take concrete measures to implement an open, transparent and regular dialogue with civil society organisations in all policy areas, as set out in Article 11 of the Treaty on European Union. The open letter was initiated by the Civil Society Organisations' Group of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and Civil Society Europe and includes specific proposals for implementation.  The letter gained the support of a total of 156 signatories (of which The Wheel is one) from 26 Member States. The signatories include 39 European networks, 85 national organisations and 60 Members of the EESC's Civil Society Organisations' Group.

Civil dialogue remains patchy and unstructured across the EU institutions, in spite of the legal provisions.

This is why the signatories of the open letter are calling on the EU institutions to: 

  • initiate an inter-institutional agreement on civil dialogue; 
  • establish within each institution leadership positions in charge of relations with civil society; 
  • encourage and promote greater cooperation between civil and social actors; building on the recommendations of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

As a first step, the signatories suggest a European Commission Communication on strengthening civil dialogue at EU level. "The European institutions have all the necessary tools to make considerable progress on our proposals," said Séamus Boland, the President of the EESC's Civil Society Organisations' Group, on the eve of the letter's launch. "In the next European Commission, a vice-president should take on the task of dialogue with civil society, and civil society coordinators should be appointed in each directorate-general," added Mr Boland.

Gabriella Civico, the President of Civil Society Europe, said: "The Secretariat of the Council of the EU and the offices of the European Parliament and Commission at the national level need to establish a regular dialogue with civil society. Civil society organisations need direct channels to engage in the EU policy-making process."

While the signatories respect the prerogatives of the social partners in social dialogue, they are calling for structured civil dialogue to complement it. Séamus Boland explained: "Effective and responsible civil society organisations can cooperate with governments, and with employers' and workers' organisations in many areas of policy. The input of their knowledge and expertise can ensure that EU policies in all fields and on all socio-economic issues are more targeted and effective." 

Gabriella Civico concluded: "Real civil dialogue and cooperation will lead to EU policies better securing the support of citizens and gaining more legitimacy in their eyes, and thus ensure smoother policy implementation. This is particularly important in a complex and rapidly changing world with many challenges that our communities and societies need to address." 

Read the open letter