On the 30th of June 2022, as a follow-up process of the Civil Society Convention for the Conference of the Future of Europe (CSOCoFoE), Civil Society Europe (CSE), the French Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE), and the Mouvement Associatif (LMA) held a High Level Conference on Civil Society and the Future of Europe that was organised under the auspices of the French Presidency of the European Union, at the Palais d’Iena, seat of the CESE and a masterpiece of the architect Auguste Perret. In total, the Conference gathered around 120 persons from civil society organisations, academia, trade unions, representatives of EU institutions and EU Members States’ governments.
The High Level Conference marked an important step in the follow-up of the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) from the perspective of civil society, and consisted of three main sessions.In the opening session, we heard introductory remarks from Thierry Beaudet, President of the CESE; Jean Marc Roirant, President of CSE; Claire Thoury, President of LMA; and Sandrine Gaudin, Secretary General for European Affairs and Europe Advisor to the French Prime Minister (SGAE), who represented the French Presidency of the Council of the EU.
This was followed by a discussion between three speakers: Colin Scicluna, Chief of Cabinet of EC Vice-President Dubravka Šuica, and the two co-chairs of the CSOCoFoE, Alexandrina Najmowicz, Secretary General of the European Civic Forum (ECF) and Milosh Ristovski, former Secretary General of the Young European Federalists (JEF Europe). The three speakers spoke about the positive and negative aspects of the CoFoE’s process and conclusions, as well as the next steps that will be taken by the EC and other EU institutions to ensure the implementation of the CoFoE’s conclusions.
The second session focused on redefining European social, economic and environmental objectives, as well as defending and strengthening democratic values in the EU. Françoise Sivignon, Member of the CESE and Vice-President of Reporters Without Borders, moderated the discussion which brought together five panellists: Patrizia Heidegger, Chair of the CSOCoFoE thematic cluster on the fight against Climate Change and Environmental Challenges, and Director for Global Policies and Sustainability of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB); Elisa Gambardella, Chair of the CSOCoFoE thematic cluster on Social Europe, and Education and Lifelong Learning Coordinator of SOLIDAR; Richard Youngs, Senior Fellow in the Democracy, Conflict and Governance Program of Carnegie Europe; Thierry Cadart, Questor of the CESE and former National Secretary of the French Federation of General Unions of National Education; and Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, Member of the EP who sits in the EP’s Constitutional Affairs Committee.
The third session focused on rethinking civil society’s political and institutional role in European decision-making processes, with a discussion on the key recommendations for a European strategy on civil society and for a stronger and institutionalised civil dialogue. Frédérique Pfrunder, a General Delegate of LMA, moderated the discussion which brought together four panellists: Gabriella Civico, Member of the Steering Committee of CSE and Director of Centre for European Volunteering; Floriant Covelli, General Director of the French Institute of the Monde Associatif; Katrĩna Leitāne, Member of the Civil Society Organisations’ Group of the European Economic and Social Committee; and Marie-Amélie Le Fur, President of the Associations’ Group of the CESE.
Ultimately, the primary output of the Conference was the Paris Declaration or #AppeldeParis, a collective statement prepared by CSE that sets all participants’ vision for the future of Europe and civil society’s role in its achievement. The draft declaration was then debated and discussed among participants, with approximately 20 amendments being made during the Conference.
As a result of the day’s collaborative work, we successfully adopted the Paris Declaration at the end of the event, with an overwhelming majority.
After the successful adoption of the Paris Declaration, representatives of the new Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU and Czech civil society took the floor. Specifically, we heard from Marek Havrda, Czech Deputy Minister for European Affairs; Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková, Czech Commissioner for Human Rights; and Petr Lebeda, Director of Glopolis, NeoN platform representative.
On a side note, many participants represented the Civil Society Convention for the CoFoE (CSOCoFoE), an initiative that will continue to exist through Civil Society Europe’s follow-up efforts. The Civil Society Convention’s collective recommendations for the CoFoE are available online.
We thank everyone for their active participation in our High Level Conference and we look forward to continuing the challenging but essential work to ensure a better future for all of us across the EU!