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Civil Society links strengthened as European Delegation visits Wales

25 October 2022

The European Union’s leading civil society body, the EESC, headed to Wales last week on a post-Brexit fact finding mission.

The Wales Civil Society Forum, which is a project run by Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre and the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, hosted the visit by the European Economic and Social Committee alongside the Senedd Cymru and Welsh Government.

On the 18 and 19 October the project hosted discussions between the EESC’s EU-UK Follow-up Committee and civil society stakeholders, Members of the Senedd and Welsh Government officials.

The Committee’s core function is to help build bridges between civil society at the devolved and UK levels and the EU. It also provides a monitoring function for the EU around the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement – the part of the UK / EU relationship that guarantees EU and UK Citizens’ Rights and the much talked about Northern Ireland Protocol.

The Wales Civil Society Forum Coordinator, Charles Whitmore said:

"We still don’t have a clear overarching picture of how Welsh – EU civic society cross-border activities, programmes and partnerships may have changed following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. The Covid-19 pandemic has likely delayed the perception of some of these changes and stakeholder reactions to the shifting landscape, but we do know that there are some significant differences.

"For example civil society in Wales and other parts of the UK now takes part in statutory dialogues with the UK and EU about the new relationship by virtue of the Domestic Advisory Group and Civil Society Forum mechanisms. Meanwhile the UK has withdrawn from a variety of cross-border programmes like Creative Europe, the European Solidarity Corps and of course Erasmus+, though the Taith scheme in Wales, and Turing Scheme at the UK level have attempted to mitigate some of this.

"All parties are keen to see relations between EU and Welsh civil society flourish in this new context and discussions such as these will form a crucial part in building our understanding of how these relationships are changing and might be fostered moving forward."

The Committee heard from organisations representing Welsh business and employers’ interests, trade unions and a wider cross-section of third sector bodies. They further undertook a separate meeting specifically on EU Citizens Rights’ in Wales, which included the Swansea based Independent Monitoring Authority – the body responsible for monitoring and protecting these rights.

Following the mission the Committee will produce an information report which will be used to feed into EU - UK discussions and inform action to strengthen cross-border civic society relationships. If any civil society organisations wish to feed into this work, the Committee has also made this online survey available until 28 October 2022.

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