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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 state authorities.

A civil society organisation is an organisational structure whose members serve the general interest through a democratic process and which plays the role of mediator between public authorities and citizens.

Article 15 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union recognises civil society’s role in the good governance of the European Union (EU). Article 11 of the Treaty on European Union stresses the need for the EU to have an open, transparent and regular dialogue with civil society organisations, for example when preparing proposals for EU laws.

Examples of such organisations include:

  • social partners (trades unions and employers’ groups);
  • non-governmental organisations (e.g. for environmental and consumer protection);
  • grassroots organisations (e.g. youth and family groupings).

The European Economic and Social Committee represents workers’ and employers’ organisations at the EU level and has a vital role in the lawmaking process of the EU. Sectoral social dialogue committees are established to further involve social partners in the decision-making process.

The European Commission regularly engages with non-governmental organisations through initiatives such as the EU stakeholder dialogue or the ‘Progress’ programme.