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Access to EU Council


EU CSCG survey on

“how to improve relations between NGOs and the Council of the European Union

 

As part of a wider reflection on how to strengthen democracy in the European Union (EU), the CSCG looked at the relations between civil society organisations (CSOs) and the Council of the European Union (CoEU, i.e. the Member States), as the CSOs platforms coming together in the Contact Group felt that the current practices are not tapping the full potential of it.

 

A questionnaire(1) was developed and disseminated to the members of these platforms. The aim of this exercise was threefold:

  • to understand the current practices at European and national level
  • to identify good practices
  • to develop recommendations for CSOs, the Council and the Member States

 

Based on the responses received(2) to the questionnaire and discussions hold in a lunch debate on the issue, this survey identifies the main trends of the relations between the Council and CSOs, formulates recommendations for the Council and national ministries as well as for CSOs themselves.  The annexes describe in more detail the responses to the questionnaire and two experiences (one national and one European).

 

This document is also to be seen in relation with the implementation of Article 11 of the Lisbon Treaty that determines the legal basis of the EU institutions’ contacts with civil society organisations.  

 

Access the full survey here

 

Findings:

 

Trends in the relation between civil society organisations and Council

 

The information gathered gives the following picture of CSOs-EU Council relations:

  • involvement of CSOs with the Council is primarily the result of their own efforts

The Council doesn’t have a strategy of how to work with civil society organisations, therefore contacts between CSOs and the Council remain very informal and depend a lot on the CSOs’ willingness, capacity and resources to be involved.

  • contacts are more useful for information gathering and organisation profiling than for impacting decisions

The contacts are seen by the CSOs as useful for intelligence gathering and rising the organisations profile, but factual impact on the Council decisions is difficult, even impossible, to evaluate. Efforts by CSOs to be in contact with representatives of the Council, seem to fall on fertile ground in the sense that many Council officials are keen to receive information.

  • importance of partnerships at national level

EU presidencies that have experience of working with CSOs at national level seem to be interesting partners for CSOs wishing to extend and formalise contacts with the Council/Ministries.

 

Recommendations to the EU Council and Member States

 

The main fields of recommendations target together the Presidency, the Council Secretariat and the Member States’ ministries and can be summarised in the following 4 key issues:

  1. develop long term strategies for dialogue with and involvement of CSOs both at EU and national level
  2. appoint permanent representatives/focal points for the relations with CSOs both at EU and national level
  3. develop tools to improve communication and access to information both at EU and national level
  4. exchanges of good practices between member states and between EU and national level

 

Recommendations to the civil society organisations

 

The main fields of recommendations target both national / local organisations and European Platforms, and can be summarized in the following 5 key aspects:

  1. better anticipate early involvement in EU policy making
  2. improve coordination and mutual reinforcement both between EU and national level, and among European platforms
  3. “informally formalize” by building long term trust relationships
  4. adapt messages according to target level
  5. include the Council early in the building of an advocacy, communication and media strategy

 

Good Practices experiences

 

Social Platform intervening in informal Council of Social Affairs Ministers

 

The Social Platform has been invited since 2000 by the Presidency to attend the trio meeting that precedes informal Council meetings and brings together the three presidencies that have a common program. Since 2007, this invitation has been extended to a participation and intervention during the informal Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council itself. A joint press conference, with the presidency, the European Commission and the Social Platform takes place after the trio meetings.

 

Slovenian Presidency

 

During the Slovenian EU Presidency in the first semester of 2008, the participation of Slovenian and foreign NGO’s was supported through a web portal (www.Predsedovanje.si) Public administration bodies were motivated to use the web portal for regular information-sharing with NGOs and to engage in the e-dialogue with them. The Slovenian Ministry for Environment and Spatial Planning has organized three Council briefings with the specific aim of involving NGOs in the development of thematic dossiers prior to Environment Council meetings.

 


Notes:

(1) Find the questionnaire here.

(2) Responded to the questionnaire: 12 organisations working at EU level (from which 5 sectorial Platforms), 4 organisations from EU Member States (Bulgaria, Finland, Ireland, Slovenia), 1 organisation from a Non EU State