Logo of the 2nd trio of the EU Presidency ProjectThe 1st of January 2021 marks the start of another Portuguese Presidency of the European Union (EU). Portugal will preside over the work of the EU Council for six months, at a time that is crucial for the future of the Community. The following weeks will be decisive in determining the priorities for the Portuguese Civil Society through a process coordinated by the Portuguese NGDO Platform.

For the first six months of 2012, Portugal will be at the centre of Europe, when it will occupy the rotating presidency of the EU Council from January to June. This period is expected to be marked by key decisions affecting the future of the EU—from Brexit to the implementation of the European Green Deal. At this time when the dynamics of international cooperation in the relationship between the European Union and Africa are being redefined, it is also expected that the Portuguese presidency will be marked by decisions that are fundamental to the future of development.

Hence, the implementation of the project Towards an open, fair and sustainable Europe in the world. This partnership between the Portuguese NGDO Platform, its German and Slovenian counterparts, VENRO and SLOGA, and the European platform CONCORD has as its objective to advocate for coherent, fair, and sustainable European development policies, with a special emphasis on issues such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, development cooperation, human rights, and the protection of an enabling environment for civil society.

As the presidency of the EU Council is an important window of opportunity for civil society organisations (CSOs)—organisations that distinguish themselves by their proximity to the situations most affected by the global challenges we face—for them to defend the making of political decisions that promote a more open, fairer, and more sustainable Europe, the Platform is consulting the Portuguese Civil Society Organisations. The objective of this initiative is to select the priorities of a broad set of civil society organisations and to reflect the main concerns of those organisations within the context of the EU Presidency.

The consultative process was kicked off with a workshop last November 4th, which brought together dozens of representatives of Portuguese organisations to discuss the main issues currently on the European agenda. This initiative was followed by the publication of an online questionnaire that seeks to assess the sensitivity of the Portuguese civil society to the fundamental questions that need to be dealt with. The result of this process will be the publication of the Civil Society Priorities for the Portuguese EU Council Presidency, a document that will guide the intervention of the Portuguese NGDO platform within the scope of the project during the first half of 2021.

At a time when important decisions are on the agenda, it is fundamental that the discussions consider the concerns of the Civil Society, given the knowledge held by these organisations and their proximity to the people, current affairs and needs, and their ability to provide services and reach out to the most vulnerable and marginalised people, many times serving as their voice. Because of the role they play in the defence and promotion of pluralism and democratic values, representing a force for equilibrium and the monitoring of state behaviour, civil society organisations are essential for raising public awareness and involving citizens in the policies that affect us all. For all these reasons, the Portuguese Presidency of the EU Council must ensure the involvement and participation of the civil society at every moment.

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