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Strengthening Civic Cohesion in Europe

Cohesion policy / REPORT
Danielle Brady , Louisa Slavkova , Denitza Vidolova Vidolova

Date: 28/03/2024
This report examines the critical issue of troubled democratic participation in Europe,
characterised by the emergence of ‘civic deserts’ and ‘regional development traps’. It introduces
‘civic cohesion’ as a framework to rejuvenate civic engagement, addressing disparities in regional
participation and promoting the role of civic infrastructure and literacy. The paper proposes
viewing civic cohesion as a fundamental European principle, integral to the European Union's
policies and programmes, notably its Cohesion Policy.

It highlights the political costs of unattended civic challenges, such as increased support for
Eurosceptic movements and the decline in democratic participation. As well as the
need for place-based policies that prioritise people, focusing on social well-being and civic
engagement alongside economic growth.

The concept of civic cohesion is based on three pillars: Civic Infrastructure, Civic Literacy, and Civic
Capital. It differentiates civic cohesion from other concepts such as civic space and social
cohesion, underscoring its unique role in democratic engagement.

The paper argues for embedding civic cohesion into key EU policies, including the Cohesion
Policy, the Enlargement Policy, and the Rule of Law mechanism. It presents strategies to
strengthen civic cohesion, such as expanding support for initiatives, incorporating it into
discussions on the Beyond GDP and well-being economy agendas, and integrating it into the
EU's Cohesion Policy framework.

Key recommendations:
  1. Embed civic cohesion: Advocate for its inclusion as a core principle in EU policies.
  2. Counter democratic erosion: Integrate civic cohesion to address civic deserts and regional disparities.
  3. Pillars of civic cohesion: Emphasise Civic Infrastructure, Literacy, and Capital in policy design.
  4. Enact through EU policies: Include civic cohesion in the Cohesion Policy and well-being economy discussions.
  5. Investment and research: Enhance backing for initiatives and research on the impact of civic cohesion.
  6. Pilot projects: Implement pilot projects to test and refine approaches for civic cohesion

Read the full paper here.

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