Civil society is a major component of European society. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs), grass-root groups, think tanks, charities, associations and unions play a key part in public life. Such a role needs developing at the EU level, and this is precisely what ‘Active civil society in Europe’ seeks to do.
Civil society organisations represent a unique link between citizens and government, helping make the voices of citizens heard and encouraging people’s active participation in the political process. In addition, think tanks and policy research organisations are invaluable in providing visions for the future, as well as generating ideas and recommendations on how to approach complex issues, such as EU policies, active European citizenship, identity and values.
Action 2 of the Europe for Citizens programme seeks to help and encourage civil society organisations to work together at European level in such a way as to foster action, debate and reflection in relation to European citizenship and democracy, shared values, common history and culture.
This action supports think tanks and civil society organisations, as unique links between European citizens and the European Union.
European public policy research organisations have a specific role to play in providing ideas and reflections on European issues, on active European citizenship or European values, and in fuelling debate at European level.
Civil society organisations at European, national, regional and local levels are important for encouraging citizens' active participation in society, and help to invigorate all aspects of public life.
In order to enable these organisations at European level to extend and structure their activities, the European Commission provides support in the form of operating grants covering part of their running costs.
Civil society organisations represent a major opportunity to involve citizens or to represent their interests in the European debate. One way to build enduring links across the EU is to assist these organisations in cooperating on common issues at the EU level.
The European Commission supports concrete joint projects between civil society organisations from different participating countries – whether they work at regional, national or European level. These projects should address issues of European interest and focus on putting forward concrete solutions, through cross-border cooperation or coordination.
This collaboration can take a variety of forms, such as seminars, thematic workshops, training seminars, the production and dissemination of publications, information campaigns, artistic workshops, amateur sporting events, exhibitions, grassroots initiatives, etc.
Networking activities should seek to establish the foundation for, or encourage the development of, long-lasting and enduring networks between civil society organisations from different countries which are active in a particular field.