Jean Lambert, the Green Party MEP for London, has tabled an amendment to the European Union budget calling for funding to assess demand for a European ‘citizen house' in Brussels.
She has asked for €350,000 to canvass NGOs and decision-makers about such a house, which would provide office space and practical support for charities and individuals that want to lobby at European level.
The idea was originally put forward by Tony Venables, director of European Citizen Action Service, an independent organisation that helps civil society make its voice heard in the EU.
Venables said the proposed house would offer desk space and face-to-face and online advice on lobbying for organisations that did not have a permanent presence in Brussels, particularly human rights and citizen participation organisations and cross-sector umbrella bodies.
NGOs from some sectors such as the environment, poverty and international aid were already well established in Brussels, he said.
The house would also follow up issues raised on organisations' behalf after they had left Brussels. "If people know where to start, they find the access in Brussels is better than to most national administrations," said Venables. "But decision-making takes a long time in the EU and things grind to a halt when they leave."
The citizen house could also provide a permanent base for international networks and foundations that were active in Brussels, said Venables. The house could be open within three years if foundations were willing to fund the acquisition of the building, but it was expected that the EU would also contribute to its costs, he said.
Oliver Henman, UK and international campaigning manager at the NCVO, praised the initiative. He said it would make it easier for national umbrella bodies to raise issues about sector support at EU level.