Citizen participation and involvement are crucial for the evaluation and implementation of the Danube strategy
Following the success of the Fifth Danube Participation Day in Sofia, held 15-17 October and the main conclusions, a discussion with DG REGIO representatives was organised on 19th November to exchange ideas on how to overcome the largely marginalised position of civil society in the EUSDR and its implementation by:
- anchoring civil society participation in EUSDR governance structures
- improve the EUSDR communication and popularity by adopting a modern Communication Strategy
- opening the EUSDR fora to active civil society participation,
- organize platforms for interaction of civil society actors at various levels (e.g. Participation Days)
- micro-funding, easy to access and easy to administer
From CSOs side, Stefan Lütgenau (Foster Europe and DCSF), Iva Taralezhova (Citizen Participation Forum and DCSF), Irene Lucius (WWF and DCSF), Assya Kavrakova (ECAS) and Miklos Barabas (European House) took part, whereas the DGI REGIO was represented by Jean-Pierre Halkin, Csaba Hende, Roland Mayer-Frei.
The main points that the CSOs raised during the meeting were related to the involvement of civil society in better governance, spending and bringing the EU macro strategies closer to the citizens that would contribute to better knowledge and understanding of the regional policy and the EU itself. The inclusive and participatory approach in multilevel governance should be enhanced in managing the macro strategies as well. While the CSOs are challenged by the shrinking civic space and insufficient funding, its role in better regulation and transparency remains key.
This year´s Danube Participation Day in Sofia clearly called for a) communication efforts to make the EUSDR better known among citizens – a Call for EUSDR comms strategy; b) the need for small grants for CSO; c) the need of a more structured CSO involvement in EUSDR evaluation and planning e.g. through Monitoring Committees. Good practices and examples could be used in the next programming period for putting the EUSDR in the focus and involve civil society in structured dialogues.
DG REGIO emphasised the importance that CSOs speak in one voice to achieve better impact and search for viable partnerships with the business. Next cycle of macro regional strategies could offer more opportunities for capacity building and CSOs participation but civil society itself needs to be more active.
The civil society representatives agreed on an action plan to identify potential MEPs allies to advocate, find good entry points and opportunities to team up with business partners under the Better Regulation Platform.