Civil society groups urge changes in new Commission portfolios and nominees

Civil society groups say there is rising “grassroots pressure” for further changes to nominees and portfolios for the new European Commission.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

07 Oct 2019

The demand comes in an open letter, seen by this website, organised by European Civic Forum (ECF), a transnational network that brings together NGOs across 27 European states, working on issues such as citizenship and the defence of human rights.

Speaking to this website, Roger Casale, founder of New Europeans and a Vice-President of ECF, said that civil society groups had been “spurred on” by the “successful” rejection of the Hungarian and Romanian Commissioner-designates.

“Rejecting the two nominees at such an early stage of the ratification process was “an unprecedented move and a testimony to the growing strength and impact of civil society lobbying in Brussels,” he said.


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Civil society, among others, had pressed for Parliament to reject the Romanian and Hungarian candidates.

In the letter, signed by hundreds of civil society groups and sent to all MEPS, the civil society groups remind the European Parliament of its “longstanding commitment to developing a new dialogue with citizens and civil society,” in accordance with Article 11 of the Treaty of the European Union.

It urges MEPs to evaluate the new commissioners and their missions “accordingly.”

Arguably the most critical comments in the letter are reserved for the nomination of Margaritis Schinas, Commissioner in charge of “Protecting our European Way of Life.”

“This is a dangerous association that legitimises far-right rhetoric and goes against the EU values of equality, solidarity and human dignity” Jean-Marc Roirant, ECF President

“This is a dangerous association that legitimises far-right rhetoric and goes against the EU values of equality, solidarity and human dignity – these are the values that should be the foundation of the EU way of life,” explained Jean-Marc Roirant, President of the ECF.

“We are in a critical juncture with the EU,” Roirant added.

“This Commission and the newly-elected Parliament must protect civic space as a priority and make sure the voices of civic associations and movements are heard in Europe alongside those of social partners and corporations.”

Raffaella Bolini, Vice-President of the ECF, said that “recognising our role, defending and protecting our space should be a key responsibility of the European institutions willing to uphold the European democratic project.”

Casale said, “Today, the EU is not just a union of nations and states, of markets and money, it is also a union of citizens. The Commission needs to up its game and show that civil society actors can operate safely across the EU.”

The groups are also calling for a new framework for organising an “open, transparent and regular framework of dialogue with civil society,” consistent with the provisions and the requirements of Article 11 of the Treaty on European Union.

The Europe’s People’s Forum (EPF), an organisation which supports the engagement of citizens in European policy-making, is also calling for “clarity on how citizens living in rural areas can be reached so that their voices can be heard in the EU policymaking process.”

Bent Nørby Bonde, secretary general of EPF, added: “We also want to make sure that a similar programme to ‘Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values’ is included in the Multiannual Financial Framework so that fundamental EU values become a pre-condition for EU funding to individual Member States.”

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