The Various Interests Group of the European Economic and Social Committee (Group III) held a conference in Riga, Latvia, on 25 March titled ‘Economic Growth and Social Progress in Rural and Urban Areas’. The objective was addressing the challenges facing the country in the aftermath of the economic crisis by identifying new instruments to enhance social cohesion in the country. Important factors identified on this road were the potential of social economy and social enterprises as well as dialogue with civil society.

According to Luca Jahier, President of the Various Interests Group, it is the concept of participatory democracy and active citizenship that links these topics together. „It is the idea that civil society and citizens need to take ownership of the process, they need to be engaged and active throughout.“

Apart from the legal obligation for dialogue with civil society and citizens defined in Article 11 of the EU Treaty he underlines that the economic crisis and the related rise of populist, anti-European, anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic Movements make citizen and civil society participation, social economy and social enterprises so important. It is the power of grassroots ideas and initiatives that the EU must learn from, as „we are too much ‘defenders’ rather than ‘openers’, too much ‘stayers’ rather than ‘movers’”.

Civil Society is also an important factor in the Europe 2020 stratgey. TSI and third sector stakeholders like the platform Civil Society Europe would welcome the Commission living up to this insights.

Download the conference editorial by Luca Jahier below.