Naxxar Local Council participated in the Greek project “FOCUS – Stimulating new forms of active civic participation through focus on Social and Solidarity Economy” that organised and implemented by Agia municipality in Larissa Prefecture, in the Thessaly region in Greece.
The project “FOCUS” sought to :
- a) contribute to citizens’ understanding of the European Union, of its history and achievements and of the EU policy making-process,
- b) create the space for a deeper discussion on the future of Europe,
- c) give responses to the questions for the kind of Europe citizens want, thus, for a strong, sustainable, prosperous, inclusive, democratic and integrated united Europe,
- d) raise awareness of forms of active civic engagement, reinforce those already existing and stimulate new ones,
- e) encourage democratic participation of citizens by promoting opportunities for societal and intercultural engagement and volunteering such as the occupation in cooperatives, non-profit organisation, charities and generally speaking, in social and solidarity economy structures.
The project attempted to situate social economy into a broader political context and investigate its relation with the empowerment of democratic life inside the EU dealing with those citizens who have not been involved so far in European issues, or who reject the Union outright or put in question its achievements, shortly speaking, with the target groups of social economy as a channel and alternative way of organising their democratic life, motivating new forms of their civic participation inside EU and forming their role as a full partners in EU policy.
For the project, this modern and innovative Economy, for the reason that it moves between the government (public sector’s economy) and business (private economy), it can be seen equal to the civil society’s economy, based on interests and wills of citizens and as part of the Solidarity Economy, the economy of vulnerable and disadvantaged people, usually indifferent in civic participation either at local or EU level, due to their poverty and social exclusion, In particular in this time of financial and humanitarian crisis where the fundamental rights are restraining and the Euro-scepticism gains continuously ground in Member States ranging from the criticism to the Euro-phobia.
Thus, the core question for all of us as participants was: How societal and intercultural engagement and volunteering of citizens – especially of vulnerable social groups, of those who most affected by economic and humanitarian crisis- in social economy structures and solidarity innovations and mechanisms, could maximise their civic and democratic participation in the United Europe, empower them to play a full part in EU policy and strengthen the democracy inside Europe!!
The project was co-funded by “Europe for Citizens” Programme of the European Union.
Four events have been carried out within this project attempting to situate the term, the forms, the factors and the participants in Social and Solidarity Economy structures into a broader political context and investigate the relation with the well-known traditional theories and practices concerning the civic participation and the citizens engagement in the democratic life of the United Europe.
Event 1 : from 16/10/2015 to 16/10/2015
The aim of the 1st event (One – day Workshop – Open debate – Public Hearing) was the citizens’ better understanding of the European Union virtues, of its history, achievements and basic fundamental principles as well as of the EU policy making-processes and the function of its mayor institutions. Sub-sessions were dedicated to the celebration of the anniversary of 20+ years of the idea of European citizenship and the diverse instruments of participatory democracy inside the Europe (e.g. referendums), as well as to the results of citizens indifference to participate as political actors and electorate body in the democratic decision-making processes (e.g. elections, debates’ for a and platforms, movements, etc.) Emphasis was given to the “Europe for citizens” programme as a mental space for a deeper discussion on the future of Europe and on the kind of Europe citizens want, as well as a meaningful challenge for the enhancement of democracy inside the united Europe.
Event 2: from 17/10/2015 to 18/10/2015
The aim of the 2nd event (Two – day informal education Workshop) was the raising awareness of already existing institutions, factors and forms of active civic engagement in the democratic life at national and European level, as well as the stimulation of new ones through the encouragement of democratic participation of citizens, particularly of youth and those people from vulnerable groups, by promoting to them opportunities for societal and intercultural engagement and volunteering such as their occupation in cooperatives, non-profit organisations, charities and generally speaking, in social and solidarity economy structures, entrepreneurship and innovations. Emphasis was given to the role of Local Government authorities for a strong, sustainable, prosperous, inclusive, democratic and integrated united Europe and the relative goal of extension of the present network between the national and international partners beyond the framework of “FOCUS” project.
Event 3 : from 02/06/2016 to 04/06/2016
The aim of the 3rd event (Three – day lab of expertise and know-how) was the highlight of social entrepreneurship and solidarity economy structures as an alternative to the financial and humanitarian crisis and a way out the deny of the most vulnerable and excluded people-victims of this crisis to play their role as active citizens and support the democratic idea of European Union. Emphasis was given to the areas of Social and Solidarity Entrepreneurship that involve Euro-sceptics, youngsters, third country nationals, marginalised, underprivileged and disadvantaged persons, who totally reject the Union or have hard questions about its work and achievements in a period of rising anti-European political forces and movements, extremist or populist movements, deep frustration and loss of public confidence in the idea of European integration.
Event 4 : from 03/06/2016 to 07/06/2016
The aim of the event (Five – day lab of best practices) was the further promotion of different forms of Social and Solidarity Economy and Entrepreneurship such as Co-operatives, Worker-Owned Societies, Mutual Benefit Societies, Insertion Companies, Special Employment Centres, Guilds and Disability Associations in agricultural sector, tourism, retail and distribution, education and healthcare, Voluntary Organisations and Foundations of “public utility”, Manufacturing services of waste collection, recycling, traffic control, etc., opposite to the great need to identify further ways in which to motivate citizens, particularly the young generation and foster generally the civic participation in democratic life inside the Europe.
Naxxar Local Council’s participants were Councillor Pierre Sciberras and Executive Secretary Paul Gatt. They were actively involved in the discussions and they also prepared presentations to share knowledge and experience in the subject.