In her inauguration speech, Elisabet Nebreda, Secretary of Foreign and EU Action of the Catalan Government emphasized that the UN 2030 Agenda – a central part of the Catalan rotating presidency of the Four Motors for Europe – “will not be achieved without significant public awareness and engagement, and especially if we do not include a gender perspective”. Nebreda also expressed that “people’s participation is far from a theoretical or academic debate” and that it is about “the very preservation of our democratic societies”.
Mr. Ismael Peña-López, Director General of Citizen Participation and Electoral Processes, as representative of the Catalan Government presented the project of coordination and inter-administrative collaboration of the Network of Transparent Governments, with particular emphasis on the Participation group. Peña-López, showcased the different variables and possibilities that a network or ecosystem of participation needs, offers and the goals and objectives it has, displaying as an example of the ParticipaCatalunya.Cat and ParticipaLab programs.
Ms. Anna Gasquet, Manager on the European Information Center Europe Direct Drôme Ardèche, as representative of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, presented the importance of engaging with local stakeholders in order to build a European citizenship. To illustrate the work developed towards this objective, Gasquet, presented the initiatives conducted by the Union Régionale des Acteurs Locaux de l’Europe (URALE), Cross-border European Citizen’s Dialogues and the Europe Direct Network and finally adding the importance of creating diverse nexus between the European institutions and atmosphere and the citizens.
Mr. Timo Peters, Desk Officer in the office of the State Councillor for Civil Society and Civic Participation of Baden-Württemberg presented the Civic Participation in their region and the work and challenges developed by the governmental unit responsible for this task. Peters explained the huge demonstrations in Stuttgart which led to a change in policy and the beginning of “the Policies of Being Heard”, introduced by the Minister-President Kretschmann, that aims to change governance and participation. Peters, exemplified the different approach that the State Councillor has developed since then through its guidelines, qualifications and the participation platforms and the positive outcomes and changes it has encouraged.
Ms. Susanna Minghetti, Head of Youth policies and EU programming, Directorate General for Sport and Youth for the Regione Lombardia, focused the intervention in how to build youth dialogue: heritage, future and democracy. Minghetti explained the characteristics of Lombardy and the issues, problems and needs that the youth are facing related to their civic participation and inclusion before unfolding the different initiatives and projects undertaken through public policies. Mr. Andrea Mattioli, Digital trainer and animator from the Municipality of Cremona reasserted Lombardy’s regional objectives from a local perspective, through the Informagiovani initiative of their municipality, which enhances youth participation via many different cultural, online and educational initiatives.
This exchange of different strategies and policies was preceded by the recent opinion of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), presented by Declan McDonnell, Member of the CoR and rapporteur of this document. He underlined that the challenges of the COVID-19 make it necessary to think outside of the box and that it is now necessary to go where people are and engage them in new innovative ways. McDonnell also stated that it is a mistake to limit democracy to a vote, and that citizen’s need to be listened to, when and where they feel it necessary and on the topics that they consider relevant and that this will contribute to a more open, transparent, democratic and inclusive European Union.
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