C2 - Civil Society

ECAS’ objective of strengthening the role of civil society with the EU Institutions certainly achieved some success with more and more areas of activity represented (see 20 achievements in 20 years). But there is a long way to go before a better balance is achieved between public interest and commercial interests, which still make up the vast majority of some 14,000 lobbyists round the EU. ECAS’ role is to help civil society organisations become more professional in fundraising, lobbying and networking. As under C1, ECAS activity has been influenced by the process of enlargement with training programmes and policy work on civil society development starting in Central Europe and more recently in the Western Balkans.

The objective of increasing the role of civil society in European affairs is pursued through the publication of practical guide, training and advocacy.

Guide to European funding for civil society organisations – now in its 19th edition – is the flagship project. The guide has helped hundreds of CSOs get started with European activity. The advantage of the guide is that it brings together in one volume (200 pages) all the funding information scattered over the European Commission website. It provides tips for the would-be European fundraiser, contact details, all the relevant budget lines - development, environment, health, human rights, social policy etc - and a chapter on funding by foundations. 2013 is the last year of the current financial perspectives. What does the future EU budget look like for civil society? Who are likely winners and losers? A special chapter is devoted to the financial perspectives 2014-2020.

Partnership in European Cohesion policy There is a tendency for people to compete for funds under small European programmes and ignore the possibilities of accessing at home the more significant social and regional funds. ECAS has produced a guide to the Commission proposals for the future of Cohesion policy in 2014-2020 focussing on aspects relevant for civil society: enhanced partnership, local community development, the fight against social exclusion and social innovation (see the publication). This analysis is being updated in the light of the negotiations in the Council and European Parliament.

Starting with a project COOPERATE for training civil society leaders and officials for new member states on Cohesion policy, ECAS has regularly promoted the partnership principle, for example by organising several events during the Open Days for cities and regions held every year in early October in Brussels (see ECAS webpages on Open Days 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012).

Tips for the would-be European lobbyist Since it was founded 21 years ago, ECAS has regularly up-dated its 12 lobbying tips and has often presented them at training sessions or seminars (see in publication section). European lobbying certainly pays off, but as the EU agenda and lobbying scene becomes increasingly crowded, the investment required is a prohibitive factor especially to influence national governments. Lobbying is necessary, but there have to be other ways for civil society to be heard and above all listened to by the EU Institutions.

Research on relations between civil society and the EU Institutions ECAS was a prime supporter of a more open dialogue with civil society in the run-up to the Commission’s white paper on European governance and had a strong influence on the Commission’s minimum standards of consultation of December 1992. Consultation is not enough as recognised by article 11 of the Lisbon Treaty on participatory democracy. More recently, ECAS has produced and up-dated a report on compacts or national framework agreements with civil society as a model which should encourage the European Union Institutions to take action.

Towards a Europe-wide sustainable civil society The European Commission is often more progressive in its support politically for civil society as an ally and instrument for reforms in the enlargement process that it is for the internal affairs of the Union. Following an earlier information, training and scholarship programme which involved training groups of CSOs and hosting individuals in Brussels, ECAS has helped the Polish NGO office and more recently a Croatian office set up by the National Foundation for Civil Society Development and the IMPACT Centre in Zadar. 2013 is the year of Croatian accession to the EU on 1 July, so that activity is concentrated on involving citizens and civil society from the new member state. ECAS has helped promote a more multilateral regional approach with cooperation and benchmarking to promote civil society development in Western Balkans and Turkey. In this respect, the 10 point Ljubljana declaration of April 2008 was a landmark achievement, and one which has been followed up by bringing together national reports and a common statement at a conference in Zadar in September 2012.

Find out more at the ECAS Publications webpage

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