Strasbourg, France - December 28, 2017: Set of European flags in front of the European Parliament on a winter day

Słubice, Poland, 28-29 March 2019. The CEO of the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute (DOC), Jean-Christophe Bas, took part in the 3rd European Civic Academy, organised by Civil Society Europe (CSE). CSE coordinates and represents around 30 civil society organisations across Europe.

Under the title of ‘(Un) civil society and populism’, the 2019 edition focused on the impact of populism on civil society, the upcoming European elections, and Brexit. The European Civic Academy aims annually to bring together civil society actors, academics, and researchers to discuss challenges to democratic processes, as well as build partnerships between the academic world and civil society.

CEO Bas chaired the plenary session ‘Populism, Euroscepticism & Civic Space’, during which academics and activists gave keynote speeches, including Professor Emilia Palonen from the University of Helsinki; Luuk Molthof, Think Tank for Political Participation; and Swantje Green, Campaign Manager of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

During his speech, CEO Bas stressed: “The nature of the relations between Governments and the people is radically changing. The traditional divide between the executive branch, the legislative branch, civil society organizations and the people no longer works; who can validly represent the people and speak on their behalf, at the time of social media and “unstructured” forms of expression? How can we build a governance scheme that combines effectiveness, inclusiveness and participation? “

CEO Bas on the left side, Jean Marc Roirant, President of CSE and member of Economics and Social Committee of the EU. In the middle is Karolina Dreszer, Vice-president of the national Fedration of Polish NGO’s, OFOP, and member of the Economics and Social Committee of the EU, on the left side is Jürgen Grote, Senior Researcher at DOC.

This year’s Academy resulted in two objectives: 1) deeper cooperation with people at the grassroot level across localities and regions and 2) alliance building, both nationally and at the European level, among civil society organisations working on a variety of issues. To make headway in addressing the second objective,CSE representatives Jean Marc Roirant (President of CSE and member of the Economic and Social Committee of the EU) and Karolina Dreszer (Vice-President of the National Federation of Polish NGOs, OFOP, and member of the Economic and Social Committee of the EU) met with Jean-Christophe Bas and Jürgen Grote (Senior Researcher at DOC). Specifically, the group explored possible avenues for making the Academy more structurally and organisationally stable. The DOC representatives fully embraced the objectives of the Academy and proposed with various forms of collaborations.

With the European Civic Academy CSE aims to give activists key insights into these developments and concrete tools to address them. The aim of the 2019 edition of the Academy has been to scrutinize the phenomenon of shrinking spaces for civil society, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, and to look for ways to improve the current situation. The Academy has adopted a declaration for decision makers ahead of the European elections and will also produce a conference report on the topic.

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