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Civil society organisation

Civil society refers to all forms of social action carried out by individuals or groups who are neither connected to, nor managed by, the State.

The term civil society organisation applies to all organisational structures whose members serve the general interest through a democratic process, and who take on the role of mediator between public authorities and citizens.

In particular, civil society organisations represent:

  • participants in the labour market, through social partner organisations;
  • specific socio-economic groups;
  • non-governmental organisations which champion common causes (environmental protection, consumer rights, education and training, etc.);
  • grassroots organisations representing a section of society (youth movements, family associations, etc.)
  • and religious communities.

The Lisbon Treaty (Article 15 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – TFEU) recognises the importance of civil society participation to good governance in Europe.

Therefore, while the functioning of the European Union is founded on representative democracy, Article 11 of the Treaty on European Union provides for the establishment of an open, transparent and regular dialogue with civil society organisations. When preparing legislative proposals, the Commission consults civil society organisations concerned with Union activities.

The European Economic and Social Committee is a consultative body representing civil society at European level.

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