VITA

Austria: European Charter of active citizenship

29 Maggio Mag 2006 0200 29 maggio 2006

Clear and transparent principles for the participation of citizens' organizations in European and national policies. This is the principal purpose of the "European Charter of active citizenship"

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Clear and transparent principles for the participation of citizens' organizations in European and national policies. This is the principal purpose of the "European Charter of active citizenship"

European autonomous civic organizations promoting the "European Charter of active citizenship": clear and transparent principles for the relationship between civil society and Public Institutions Rights for the participation of citizens' organizations in European and national policies. This is the principal purpose of the "European Charter of active citizenship", presented in Vienna on the 22nd and the 23rd of May and promoted by Active Citizenship Network (ACN) and the Active Citizenship Foundation (Fondaca), with the support of the European Commission and Unicredit Group. The text is the outcome of a collaboration between ACN, Fondaca and nine Autonomous Civic Organizations (ACOs), which operate in the general interest, protect citizens¹ rights and/or preserve common goods: World of NGOs (Austria); Consumers Defense Association (Czech Republic); Sozialburo Main-Taunus (Germany); Ghaqda-tal-Konsumatori (Malta); Association of Polish Consumers (Poland); Animar (Portugal); Romanian Association for Consumer Protection (Romania); Legal Information Center for NGOs (Slovenia); Helsinki Citizens Assembly (Turkey). The Charter is based both on previous official documents on civic participation (from EU institutions, scientific community, ACOs, etc.), as well as on the concrete experience of ACOs' in their relationships with public institutions in Europe. These experiences were identified through 50 good practices of civic participation collected by the partner organizations and annexed to the Charter. The legal basis of the document is the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The two fundamental reasons why this Charter has been drawn up are: the existence of a paradox concerning citizens' participation in the democratic life of the European Union and the presence of a normative gap in European legal framework. While citizens and their autonomous organizations are usually asked to contribute with material and human resources to fill in the "democratic deficit" of the European Union, they are, at the same time, hardly considered and often mistrusted by public institutions. The European Charter of Active Citizenship aims at addressing this paradox and at filling the normative gap, by finally acknowledging the role of Autonomous Citizens' Organizations as legitimate and fundamental actors in the construction of Europe. The Charter has been sent to about 2.000 stakeholders (ACOs, public institutions, journalists, scholars, etc.) and their contributions were included in the draft. During the conference held in Vienna, the reviewed version of Charter was presented and discussed with some 70 participants coming from 25 European countries and representing civic organisations, public institutions, think tanks and trade unions. Several controversial points arose such as the definition of ACO - the new concept put forward in the Charter-, the unbalance between ACOs¹ rights and duties, the juridical status of the document, the need for selection criteria and the need for a more participative approach in the writing of the document. Though, the majority of the participants are willing to take part in the future initiatives regarding this project, specially to disseminate the Charter at local and national level and to advocate for its implementation. For further information, please check www.activecitizenship.net