Policy Activities » Policy Activities » Participatory Democracy » Civil Dialogue
Civil dialogue describes an interaction between public institutions and civil society organisations. It goes beyond information and communication, and is based on mutual recognition and responsiveness. It covers various degrees of formalisation, ranging from informal to legally recognised structures, from ad hoc to continuous exchange.
If the development of civil dialogue in the EU found inspiration in practices at national an international level, it is marked by a much softer approach. The approach is characterized by the following elements:
The degree of openness and the actual practices of civil dialogue in the EU vary strongly within and between institutions.
The white paper on governance published in 2001 developed for the first time a quite comprehensive approach to consultation and dialogue. The white paper marked a change of paradigm for the EU by clearly defining the EU policy process as the result of different influences and mechanisms of dialogue and participation, which are not limited to the three main institutions (Parliament, Council, Commission) and by acknowledging the need to foster citizens' involvement. The white paper was followed by several attempts to define the framework of dialogue. In 2002 the "General principles and minimum standards for consultation of interested parties" were published, representing the Commission voluntary 'rules' on how to consult with stakeholders. The minimum standards are the following:
The members of the Civil Society Contact Group work together to develop the dialogue between civil society organisations and the EU institutions as an essential part of strengthening participatory democracy in the EU. We believe that NGOs across Europe should form part of a regular, structured, and guaranteed dialogue with the EU institutions and with the national governments on EU policies.
The Civil Society Contact Group study "Civil Dialogue: making it work better" provides an in-depth analysis of the state of play on civil dialogue on EU level and for concrete recommendations on how to make it work better.