Citizens learn to participate in their communities, their local councils their municipalities, where they can address their everyday needs and have a direct impact on their environment and -finally- their quality of life. This is the essence of democracy. The role of the citizens at the core level of any state -the local level.
That was the main message of the event “active cities active citizens” that was organized in Brussels on 29 March 2023. It was the kick-off event of the project Active cities for EU, that is financed by the European Commission under the Network of Towns Programme with the participation of local authorities from Greece, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia and Spain.
During the event, the partners had the opportunity to present their organisations and best practices of public consultation and citizens engagement in their areas.
At the opening of the event, Michela Beati, project adviser of the European Education and Culture Executive Agency presented the aims and the goals of the Network of Towns programme and focused on the 2 horizontal issues, gender equality and children, and the main priorities: migration, racism, social inclusion and the green deal.
Giorgos Kyriakopoulos, Vice Mayor of Kallithea in Greece -the lead partner of the project- explained how the city organizes public consultations, based on the Greek legal framework and the initiatives of the municipality. He also presented the Youth festival an initiative of participatory policymaking for young people.
Ferenc Gyergyak, Secretary General of the Hungarian National Association of Local authorities, noted the assistance TOOSZ provides to local authorities in Hungary, and focused on the Miskolc Participation Programme that aims to involve citizens in local policymaking but also give them responsibilities in their neighborhood.
Soledat Colomer Belda, Youth technician and Aranxta Suarez Mateu, Sociologist from the municipality of Xativa in Spain presented the work of the Youth and the Woman and Equality Departments. They described how citizens are involved in planning and implementing activities and how the departments activate all citizens, by making them feel that their opinion counts.
Viktor Kovacic, EU project and Policy advisor for the Slovenian business and research association, showcased examples of participatory practices in strategic planning, participatory budget and digital solutions, underlining that quality, ownership and acceptance of local policies extend democracy.
Madalin Trafandir, Communication officer of the Brussels office of the National Union of County Councils of Romania, analysed the legislative framework for public consultations in Romania and three case studies from the counties of Brasov (online digital services), Timis (public consultation portal) and Harghita (multilingual consultations).
Florian Marin, Member of the ECO Commission of the European Economic and Social Committee presented the work of the EESC that produces over 200 opinions per year, after public consultation for each one of them and how it links the local with the European level.
Dimitris Karnavos, the Mayor of Kallithea, emphasized the need to involve further the citizens in local policy making, as active and equal participation for all genders and groups is fundamental, and noted projects like this one increase citizens engagement.
He also thanked all partners for their participation and invited them for the next event of the project that will be held in Kallithea on 21 April 2023.
You can find all the presentations of the event here.