The Role of NGOs in Promoting Active Citizenship
Mar 20 2014 | Category: Expert Roundtables UNITEE - Image 2013 © UNITEE

In view of the upcoming 2014 EU elections, the joint work of all relevant stakeholders to promote active citizenship among New Europeans is crucial. UNITEE organised the roundtable discussion ‘The Role of NGOs in Promoting Active Citizenship among New Europeans’, with the objectives to increase the engagement of New Europeans in the EU elections and to create more representative and inclusive democracies in Europe.

The event took place on 20th March at UNITEE’s office in Brussels and opened up a dialogue involving the following panel of speakers:

  • Mr Adem KUMCU, President of UNITEE, Chairperson of the Expert Meeting
  • Mr Michaël PRIVOT, Director of ENAR
  • Mr Doru FRANTESCU, Policy Director of VoteWatch
  • Mr Musa SOYDEMIR, New European entrepreneur
  • Mr Jan NIESSEN, Director of Migration Policy Group
  • Ms Brenda KING, Member of European Economic and Social Committee

Barriers to More Representative Democracies

The speakers acknowledged that Europe is still facing several challenges. Mr NIESSEN highlighted two major ones: the existing legislation, which in many countries makes voting less accessible, and the low participation rates in elections, especially from people with migrant backgrounds. These low rates of participation may be linked to the fact that there is a clear lack of representation of these people, as Ms KING pointed out. Furthermore, with the rise of the far right and the growing euro scepticism barriers are in the dangerous path of becoming more solid. Thus, Mr PRIVOT fears that the necessary increase of political engagement and the urgent mentality change that is needed are long and arduous processes.

Mentality Change

Mr KUMCU, conveyed his view that, in light of representing New Europeans, citizen’s activeness is pivotal and indispensable to achieve a more integrated society.  However, in order to accomplish these goals there is a need to change how people think and approach the matter. Given this, Mr SOYDEMIR, believes that many of these problems come from the absence of attractiveness of European politics and that more media coverage can increase the attention paid to the elections, making them more interesting and inviting. Similarly, Mr FRANTESCU, insisted on the importance of assuring a properly informed society and increasing the accessibility to information to assist the urgent mentality change towards a more open and inclusive society.

Surely, the cooperation of relevant stakeholders, such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs), orientated towards solutions and change, is vital in achieving these goals.

Read the full report here and view the gallery here.

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