Civil Society Meets in Brussels for Dialogue on Shaping Europe’s Green Future with Policymakers

More than 60 civil society organisations (CSOs) from across Europe and beyond met in Brussels for the fifth edition of the “Civil Society Forum for Sustainability: Shaping the European Green Deal” on the 26th and 27th of June 2023. Over the course of two days, CSOs with an interest in the just transition, deliberative democracy, social justice, and environmental sustainability came together to discuss the future of the European Green Deal and Agenda 2030

Organised by the REAL DEAL project, the Civil Society Forum is a space for CSOs and other stakeholders from across Europe to exchange views on the European Green Deal (EGD), the EU’s strategy to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050. The forum is co-organised by SOLIDARSDG Watch Europe, and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), alongside REAL DEAL project partners.

The event focused on strategies to advance Europe’s green transition towards the 2030 Agenda and the future of the EGD, with a specific focus on its social, economic, participatory, environmental, and international dimensions. The aim of the meeting was to develop policy recommendations through a discussion with policymakers, CSOs, and other stakeholders.

Civil society in dialogue with policymakers

On day one, CSOs met at the European Parliament for an event on the EU Voluntary Review, a report on the EU’s progress towards achieving the SDGs. The meeting opened with a speech from Marta Iglesias López, Board Member of SOLIDAR, who emphasised the importance of SDGs and their implementation for our common future. This was followed by presentations on the Voluntary Review from Petros Kokkalis MEP, SDG Alliance, Udo Bullmann MEP, SDG Alliance, Petra Petran, from the Cabinet of Paolo Gentiloni, and from representatives of the European Commission.

The first day also included a presentation from Julie Rosenkilde, member of the SDG Watch Europe Steering Group, of the Civil Society Spotlight Report: “How far is Europe from achieving the SDGs?” co-authored by the Real Deal project. Rosenkilde delivered the report’s core messages to policymakers, which focused on how the EU should move forward on SDG implementation, emphasising the importance of an overarching strategy and a costed action plan, a shift to a well-being economy, economic system change, and the need for greater adherence to the principle of policy coherence for sustainable development.

Marta Iglesias López of SOLIDAR opens the floor as SDG Watch Europe presents key messages from the Civil Society Spotlight Report at the European Parliament.

During the panel, the civil society representatives had the opportunity to directly interact with policymakers, exchange ideas, and discuss strategies for ensuring that there is follow-up strategy on the European Green Deal (EGD).

The way forward and future of the European Green Deal

The second day hosted discussions on the future of the European Green Deal. Presentations were delivered by speakers from the scientific, academic, policy, and civil society spheres, including representatives from the Heinrich Böll Foundation, European Environmental Bureau, Fair Trade Advocacy Office, Social Platform, the European Association for Local Democracy, and Climate Action Network Europe. Jeffrey Moxom of the EEB presented the Real Deal Gap Analysis of the European Green Deal report, highlighting the report’s central findings, including the main deficiencies of the EGD according to civil society organisations, alongside key recommendations.

At the forum, Stephen Sec presented the REAL DEAL Handbook: Citizen Consultation and Participation for the European Green Deal[AW1]  The Handbook delivers practical guidance for citizens, civil society organizations, implementing authorities, governments, legal professionals, and other stakeholders engaged in consultation and participation related to the EGD.

Imme Scholz, Co-President of the Heinrich Böll Foundation and Co-Chair of the Group of Independent Scientists emphasized that the achievement of the SDGs can only be realized through systemic change and ambitious public policy that is supported by the public and CSOs.

Jeffrey Moxom, SDG Watch Europe Coordinator, EEB presented the main findings of the Gap Assessment of the European Green Deal Report.

Patrizia Heidegger, Deputy Secretary General and Director for EU Governance, Sustainability and Global Policies highlighted the importance of transformative system change and the establishment of a new social–ecological contract that fosters ‘hope’ for people residing in Europe.

The panel discussion with leading CSO representatives from left to right: Eric Ponthieu, Fair Trade Advocacy Office, Silvia Valentini, CAN Europe, Barbara Caracciolo, SOLIDAR, Adrien Licha, ALDA, and Laura de Bonfils, Social Platform. The panellists shared strategies to ensure that the EGD is more comprehensive, effective, and impactful.

The forum included working group discussions in which participants deliberated on the future of the EGD. Five working groups, each focusing on a specific dimension of the EGD (social, economic, participatory, environmental, and international) were formed to develop policy recommendations.

The forum also welcomed European policymakers for a closing dialogue with CSOs and other stakeholders. During this policy dialogue session, participants shared their input with policymakers, including: :

  • Thaís Gonçalves, Policy Officer, DG EMPL, European Commission
  • Aurelie Godefroy, Deputy head of unit, DG INTPA, European Commission,
  • Tanja Buzek, coordinator for the Domestic Advisory groups in trade agreements, EESC,
  • Margarida Marques, MEP from the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats

European policymakers participate in a closing dialogue with CSOs moderated by Rose Heffernan, WECF

The closing panel facilitated knowledge sharing and debate about the future of the EGD between policymakers and CSOs. The results of the discussions will be compiled into a policy brief and shared with relevant policymakers, such as DGs in the European Commission, MEPs and EP Committees, Permanent Representatives to the EU, and other stakeholders.

Coming soon! Join us for the next meeting!

The Forum will gather three times in the second year of the REAL DEAL project. The next meeting of the Forum will take place online in Autumn 2023. Keep an eye on the REAL DEAL website for updates and further information.