Civil society organisations across Europe are calling for a “change of direction”

Civil society organisations across Europe are calling for a “change of direction” in the wake of this week’s EU summit.

That is the message from the European Civic Forum, a transnational association of over 100 NGOs in 28 member states.

 In a statement, it said, "The EU needs to radically change direction, putting people and the common good at the core of the European project. We need policies which make Europe sustainable for present and future generations and ensure equal access to fundamental rights. We want a Europe that can be a global leader in the pursuit of the sustainable development goals." 

The outcry from civil society comes as a leaked copy of the EU’s council draft strategic plan for 2019-2024 caused controversy among member states.

The draft strategic plan appears to have been prepared before the European elections and gives top priority to the issue of migration rather than tackling climate change and social exclusion.

However, an in-depth survey conducted before the elections found that six countries were more concerned with emmigration and Europe’s “brain-drain” than by new arrivals.

Although the study confirmed that immigration is a worry for nearly a third of those surveyed, other factors like corruption, climate change and unemployment rank as high, if not higher, with many voters.

The study was discussed at a recent conference in Berlin organised by the State of North Rhine Westphalia in collaboration with the European Council of Foreign Relations, who commissioned the survey.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Roger Casale,  Founder and Secretary General of New Europeans and a Vice-President of the European Civic Forum, who attended the conference in Berlin, said:

"The draft strategic plan is disappointing and lacking in ambition.It seems to me to have been written before the election, expecting a nationalist and populist surge which failed to materialise. Europe has many challenges including the need to police its own borders.

"But we are not living in the Vienna of 1529 under siege from the Suleiman the Magnificent, we are living in the twenty-first century."

The European Civic Forum statement went on to say:"Europeans expect a Europe that protects them. All dangers do not come from outside Europe. Many are the consequences of European and national policies." 

The European Civic Forum is undertaking a two year project on the Future of Europe called Make Europe Great for All

The project is working with civil society actors including local communities, human rights activists, trade unions, and businesses to shape a  grassroots agenda for Europe drawing on people's day-today needs and experiences and anchored in European values of democracy, solidarity and respect for the rule of law.

The statement said, "The scenario that is emerging following the recent elections could well be limited to an alternative: either a European Union of rights for all; or dark times that would bring nothing good for those who live there."

Prof.Juliet Lodge, member of New Europeans and former European Woman of the Year, said: "The EU's draft strategic plan sounds dull, unconvincing and tired. On migration, the EU needs to demonstrate its values by reverting to being a model not apologist for integration."

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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