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Statement on trio urges civil involvement
Report on the civil society conference in Budapest on 30 November 2010

Cooperation with civil society complements the work and assists the recognition of EU Presidencies. This is the message of the joint position on the trio EU Presidencies issued by Spanish, Belgian and Hungarian civil society organisations and presented in Budapest on 30 November 2010.

The trio EU Presidency aims to strengthen the efficiency of the European
Union by the close cooperation of three subsequent member states holding
the EU Presidency, as prescribed by the Lisbon Treaty of 2009 (this set
up has been operational since 2007). As a consequence the trio develops
a common programme of priorities and for the first time the current trio
(Spain, Belgium and Hungary from January 2010 to June 2011) has a
unified graphic appearance under the same logo.

The institutional restructuring under the Lisbon Treaty points to the
direction of supranationality of the European Union and changes the
competences of the different actors. While the half-year EU Presidency
looses from its importance in terms of agenda setting (e.g. with the
establishment of the permanent post of the President of the European
Council) it remains an important actor in delivering results of EU
policies. This direction is not only a logical consequence of the Lisbon
Treaty but is the tendency of the current trio, argued Mr Zoltán
Horváth, university professor from Hungary to an audience of 70 Spanish,
Belgian and Hungarian civil society representatives in Budapest at a
civil conference organised by the European Movement and the European
House in Budapest on 30 November 2010.

The other stipulations of the Lisbon Treaty including the European
Citizens’ Initiative provide ammunition for civil society actors. Using
the European dimension is an important tool to nurture civil society
issues which was manifested among others during the European Civic Days
in Malaga in May 2010, the central civil event of the Spanish EU
Presidency, said Ms Eva Vazquez Salguieros from Foundation ONCE, Madrid.

The enhanced cooperation with decision-makers on European level may
influence in a positive direction government-civil relations on the
national level too. Cooperation on a partnership basis (e.g. in the form
of the development of compact agreements) would be a benefit to the
society in general, said Mr Denis Stokkink, president of the European
think tank Pour la Solidarité from Belgium. Decision-makers should
realise that participatory democracy (citizens, civil society and its
organisations) should be considered an ally to representative democracy
(governments). Positive signs of a more open approach can be experienced
during the current Belgian Presidency, but the involvement of civil
society actors still lacks appropriate methodology through which their
views could be incorporated into the EU Presidency policies, added Ms
Maïté Abram, director of the Belgian European Movement.

Cooperation within civil society actors is an important prerequisite of
involvement. This idea is manifested by the EU2011 Civil Working Group
of Hungary which, as a network of 17 Hungarian CSOs has been active in
civil society preparations for the Hungarian EU Presidency since 2008,
added Mr László Flamm, EU researcher and member of the EU2011 Civil
Working Group of Hungary. Learning from and building on the experience
of others can only strengthen civil activism and the current cooperation
and common civil statement strengthens the position of civil society,
said Mr Tibor Asbóth, secretary general of the Hungarian Council of the
European Movement.

The goal: open and transparent EU policies developed with the
involvement of civil society is reiterated by the common CSO statement
which urges civil involvement in the development of the priorities and
programmes of the EU Presidency and requests its open and transparent
operation. Furthermore it asks for “active civil involvement in the
implementation of the programmes of the EU Presidency”, which can take
different forms and forums including the holding of regular European
civil events during EU Presidencies. Rightly so, after all the policy
decisions serve one person: the citizen – concluded Mr Miklós Barabás,
initiator of the trio statement, director of European House, Budapest
and coordinator of the EU2011 Civil Working Group of Hungary.

Spanish-Belgian-Hungarian civil society statement on the trio EU Presidency

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