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27 June, 2012

Europe's economic prosperity relies on civic participation, say EU reports

A series of reports for the European Commission says Europe's economic policies will lead to unrest if isolated from participatory citizenship.

The authors warn against concentrating on economic policies - at the expense of participation and social cohesion - to create growth in European countries.

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'Strategies are needed to encourage people to get more involved,' the reports say.

The reports, from the Participatory Citizenship in the European Union study, examine people in the 27 EU member states (including the UK).

The reports look at how those people take part in society, communities and politics, how much they get involved, and what barriers are in their way.

The study was led by Dr Bryony Hoskins at the University of Southampton and co-led by David Kerr at the Citizenship Foundation.

‘The current harsh economic climate across Europe and austerity policies are leading to a critical loss of trust in political leaders and a move towards more extremist parties,' says David Kerr.

‘It is important for people, especially the young and unemployed, to have their voices heard in the political decision making if levels of trust in democracy are to be rebuilt.

‘The study maps the state of play on levels of citizen engagement, and identifies policies and practices to facilitate this across Europe and help to find effective strategies to encourage people to get involved.'

Results show that, in relation to the economic crisis and creating growth, participatory citizenship, economic competitiveness and social cohesion are interrelated and reinforce each other.

The reports recommend that strategies are needed to encourage people to get more involved in communities, politics and decision making, at both national level in EU countries, and more locally within individual countries.

The study's key policy recommendations:

  • Place an emphasis on learning citizenship, both in schools and outside of school. The study shows people who vote and take an interest in politics and decision- making are usually engaged in diverse forms of learning at different levels;
  • Target groups most at risk of unemployment and exclusion. Achieve this through engagement in schools; vocational education or training; and youth work;
  • Provide long-term strategic and sustainable funding for projects, non-governmental organisations and programmes encouraging participatory citizenship (to counter those being cut due to the financial crisis);
  • Encourage collaboration and partnerships between different types of organisations, such as schools, local authorities, youth groups, charities and businesses;
  • Explore the use of new social media to enable wider participation in decision-making, by providing more interactive forums for the exchange of information between citizens and politicians.

The reports identify some key barriers and challenges to participatory citizenship:

  • A lack of trust in politicians;
  • Dialogue between politicians and the public;
  • A decline in participatory citizenship generally;
  • International issues such as the globalised economy, climate change, an ageing population and a larger European Union.
The findings will help to shape European policy and funding programmes. In particular:
Find the full reports on the European Union website. Share

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