European Civic Days Citizenship – Participation – Policies: Building Europe from grassroots up







Project Lab Conference Hall / Club PEROTO, National Palace of Culture

BUILDING ON THE SUCCESS and carrying forward the legacy of civil society forums in countries holding the EU Presidencies over the last ten years, the European Civic Forum joins forces with the Citizen Participation Forum, the BlueLink Foundation and the European Citizen Action Service to organize a European conference “Citizenship – Participation – Policies: Building Europe from Grassroots up” on 29-31 May in Sofia.

Taking stock of the current state of democracy and civic space in Europe, this conference will spot positive examples of civic engagement and co-decision in policy making, placing civic participation in the broader context of European democracy with growing demands from citizens to have a real say in shaping their future in common.

As democratic representation is facing an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy and the gap between politics and citizens has been widening, in many cities, regions, countries, and often transnationally, new forms of engagement are emerging, outside the box of representative democracy.

Civic actors and movements build power upon strong local or regional support, but their claims need to be addressed in a wider context, as we live now in a multi-level governance system where policy-making responsibility is shared among a variety of actors at European, national and local levels.

How can the European Union better take into account its citizens concerns and expectations? What place should civil society organisations have in changing the way citizens are involved in decision-making? What are the challenges and opportunities of co-deciding with citizens at local, national and European levels? This event provides a unique space for civic actors to share and learn from different experiences, hear from a variety of stakeholders and envision ways forward towards a renewal of the European democracy along core values of equality, solidarity and inclusiveness.


Citizen Participation Forum is a network of over a 100 Bulgarian civil society organisations, working in different fields of society. The network is united by the idea to enhance citizen participation and CSOs’ involvement in policy-making and to foster institutions’ accountability.

The European Civic Forum (ECF) is a transnational network that brings together over 100 associations and NGOs across 27 countries in Europe, actively working on issues such as citizenship education, defence of human rights and the advocacy of democracy.

The European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) is an international, Brussels-based non-profit organisation with a pan-European membership and 27 years of experience. Our mission is to empower citizens in order to create a more inclusive and stronger European Union by:

  • Promoting and defending citizens’ rights
  • Developing and supporting mechanisms to increase citizens and citizen organisations’ democratic participation in, and engagement with, the EU. 

BlueLink was founded as a pioneer network in Bulgaria in 1998. Today BlueLink is a well established hub of coordination, exchange of information and information technology innovation among environmental civil society organisations (CSOs) and groups. BlueLink operates from Bulgaria across Central and Eastern Europe, the EU, South Eastern Europe, the former USSR, and globally as a member of the Association for Progressive Communications. It is also a member of other coalitions, platforms and initiatives across Europe (e.g. of Justice and Environment).


29 May 2018 | Tuesday

9:00 – 9:30


Venue: Project Lab Conference Hall, Sofia, bul. Maria Louisa 58

09:30 - 10:00

Opening of the first day and of the workshop on access to justice and environmental assessments

Pavel Antonov & Plamen Peev, BlueLink Foundation

10:00 - 12:00

Justice and Environment: national and EU perspectives

Siim Vahtrus, EELC, Estonia - on environmental assessments; Plamen Peev, BlueLink – Strategic environmental assessments; Enes Gerimagic, Zelena Akcija, Crotia - on energy and climate

13:00 - 15:00

The Bulgarian case: problems and challenges in access to justice and environmental assessments: discussion

Representatives of the For the Nature Coalition, international speakers, other civil society participants; Moderator: Plamen Peev, BlueLink Foundation

15:30 - 17:30

Truth-based journalism and democratic civil society

Pavel Antonov, Co-Founder, BlueLink Foundation; Silvia Velikova, Journalist; Irina Nedeva, Association of European Journalists; Vladimir Sestovic, European Civic Forum Communications’ Expert; Giada Negri, European Civic Forum

30 May 2018 | Wednesday

9:00 – 9:30


Venue: Club PEROTO, National Palace of Culture

09:30 - 10:00

Opening session

Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of EU; Assya Kavrakova, Director, ECAS; Jean-Marc Roirant, President, European Civic Forum; Pascal Herry, Team Leader - European Citizens’ Initiative, Secretariat-General, European Commission; Pavel Antonov, Executive Editor, BlueLink; Iva Taralezhkova, Chair, Citizen Participation Forum

10:00 - 10:30

Key note “Citizen Participation: a lost cause?”

Richard Youngs, Senior fellow in the Democracy and Rule of Law Program, Carnegie Europe, London

10:30 - 12:00

The State of Civil Society in Europe: challenges and opportunities

Dr. Lawrence Quintano, Executive Board member, EU Agency for Fundamental Rights; Marin Lessenski, Open Society Institute Sofia, The Catch Up Index, Democracy and Governance/Тhe Media Literacy Index; Dessi Hristova, CPF, Citizen Participation Index: the state of affairs in Bulgaria; Carlotta Besozzi, Coordinator, Civil Society Europe; Moderator: Luben Panov, European Center for Non-profit Law

13:00 - 14:30

Co-Deciding with Citizens

Daniela Bozhinova, Chair of the Board, Bulgarian Association for the Promotion of Citizen Initiative: Bulgaria: Bilboard Democracy vs Empowered Political Participation; Annija Emersone, Community Manager,, Latvia, Citizen initiatives platform on national level; Krassimir Bozhanov, Council of Ministers, Bulgaria, Open Government Partnership: a case of co-deciding; Pascal Herry, Team Leader - European Citizens’ Initiative, Secretariat-General, European Commission; Elisa Lironi, Digital Democracy Manager, ECAS, ECI Online Collaborative Platform; Moderator: Assya Kavrakova, Director, ECAS

14:30 - 16:00

"Take the Initiative”: new EU-wide communication campaign on the European Citizens’ Initiative; Photo booth and stands in parallel

Pascal Herry, Team Leader - European Citizens’ Initiative, Secretariat-General, European Commission; Fabien Dongradi, Campaign Manager at GOPA; Com. Atanas Slavov, PhD, Sofia University/Institute for Direct Democracy: ECI and the building of European civil society; Radostina Pavlova, Center for Legal Aid: Voice in Bulgaria: We are a welcoming Europe; Moderator: Assya Kavrakova, Director, ECAS

16:15 - 17:45

Think local, act European - Make Europe Great for All: How do we make policies for the common good? Striking the balance between differ-ent interests: the case of glyphosate

Camille Champeaux, Collectif On ne se taira pas, France; Natasha Dokovska, Journalists for Human Rights/World March of Women, Republic of Macedonia (FYROM); Cristian Pirvulescu, President, Associatia Pro Democratia, Romania; Participants: Maarten de Groot, ECI campaign; Marta Lempart, Polish Women Strike; Moderator: Alexandrina Najmowicz, Director, European Civic Forum

17:45 - 18:15

The road ahead for civil society within the EU

Discussion: Conclusions and recommendations to be passed to Austrian partners during the Austrian Presidency of the Council of EU; Franz Neunteufl, Austrian IGO – Interest Group of Not-for-Profit Organisations; Iva Taralezhkova, Citizen Participation Forum, Bulgaria; Alexandrina Najmowicz, Director, European Civic Forum

Contact persons

Desislava Hristova

Citizen Participation Forum


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