The European Commission has adopted a recommendation to Member States to promote the engagement and effective participation of citizens and CSOs in public policy-making processes. It addresses key factors to ensure meaningful participation.

According to the Commission’s document, EU Member States are recommended to create and maintain a safe and enabling environment for civil society organisations, allowing them to effectively engage in public policy-making processes. Member States should also take effective measures to protect and support CSOs to ensure a thriving civic space.

Member States should promote and facilitate a framework allowing citizens and civil society organisations to participate in public policy-making processes (‘framework for participation’). The framework for participation should be inclusive and ensure that citizens and civil society organisations have an equal opportunity to participate and that there is a plurality of opinions taken into account.

Member States should encourage the creation of strategic partnerships between public authorities (at the local, regional and national levels) and civil society organisations, in order to foster their participation in public policy-making processes.

The European Commission adds that Member States should introduce citizen-led participatory and deliberative exercises on specific decisions and policies, and support individual and collective ways of participation, such as citizens panels, citizens assemblies, and other dialogue and co-creation formats. When doing so, Member States could draw inspiration from the experience and good practice gathered in the context of the Conference on the Future of Europe, and the subsequent European Citizens’ Panels.

In addition, Member States should undertake specific efforts to strengthen the participation of children and young people in political and democratic life at local, regional and national level. Measures should be taken by public authorities to promote children’s and young people’s meaningful and safe participation without discrimination of any kind.

The European Economic and Social Committee also published a document called Strengthening civil dialogue and participatory democracy in the EU: a path forward. The EESC calls as a first step for a strategy for civil dialogue, resulting in an action plan. Additionally, this could be aimed at seeking an interinstitutional agreement among EU institutions, setting out actions and the related resources to be used. This could be facilitated by the EESC, with the participation of civil society networks at EU level.

The document calls for an annual civil dialogue (or civic space) scoreboard on CSOs’ contribution to consultation processes. The impact assessment through an annual scoreboard could result in a biennial Civil Dialogue Report, tracing the EU’s engagement with civil society in general, and evaluating the state of play of civil dialogue and the effectiveness of CSOs.