Democracy and the Responsibility of Civil Society
Europe remains in shock and uncertainty after the majority decision by UK voters to leave the European Union. The European Union has never before experienced such a big crisis as this. Even EU Commission President Juncker speaks of “an existential crisis of the Union” – an expression that has never been used before in the past 70 years. However, so far EU leaders are carefully avoiding any reference to “democracy” or to modern forms of citizen participation as a way to address the crisis.
There is no quick fix. But the current crisis highlights the urgent need to devote sufficient time to reflecting on fundamental questions: How do we ensure that the European project reclaims its promise of peace, democracy and solidarity? How can Europe work with, by and for its people? While everyone agrees that change within the EU must happen, now the crucial question is how? What is the role of citizens’ participation and what can we as citizens and civil society do and prepare in order to overcome this fundamental crisis?
None of the EU leaders has come forward with a promising plan or a vision for the future of our continent. So it is up to us in civil society to step in. Brexit is providing the necessary wake-up call for citizens and NGOs concerned about the future of the European Union. It is not only about changes in institutions and policies. It is about opening up the knowledge, ideas and wisdom of European Civil Society for another and better Europe, a Europe of the citizens.
We are inviting you to work on these questions and to co-create recommendations for future ELIANT and civil society actions. As we prepare this workshop we are convinced that there are many answers to the above-mentioned questions and that we only can overcome this crisis if we come together and work together.
Carsten Berg (Director of the ECI Campaign
Carsten Berg is known as one of the "fathers" of the European Citizens' Initiative. He has advocated for the ECI and participatory democracy for nearly 20 years. He successfully campaigned for the inclusion of the ECI into EU law during the 2002-2003 Convention on the Future of Europe. He has since led The ECI Campaign (www.citizens-initiative.eu) which works exclusively for the successful implementation of the ECI by monitoring ECI use, advocating for reform and supporting ECI organisers with help desk services. Moreover he also is initiator of a number of NGOs in the field of democracy & education and board member of the Association for the ECI which supports the advancement of EU participatory democracy.
Gerald Häfner was born in Munich, Germany. Presently he is a board member of Democracy International, publicist, Waldorf teacher and lecturer on political, legal and contemporary issues. Mr. Häfner is one of the founders of the Green Party in Bavaria (GER), where he served in several important functions. He has been member of the German Bundestag for ten years and member of the European Parliament from 2009 to 2014. He has contributed numerous publications, focusing on questions of contemporary history, economics, democracy and politics. For his work he was honored with official awards, including Silver Microphone for best speaker of the Deputies of the German Democratic Republic and National Leadership Award for Political Innovation of the 2005 Economic Forum in Germany.
He has served as member of the Board of the Anthroposophical Society in Germany for several years. Since 2015 he is the head of the Section for Social Sciences of the School of Spiritual Science in Dornach/ Switzerland.