EU citizenship in 2020 What role for regions and cities?
A collection of essays from European students
This publication has been ďŹ nanced with the support of the Committee of the Regions. It represents the views of its author only, and the Committee of the Regions shall not be held responsible for the use made of the information contained therein. EU citizenship in 2020: What role for regions and cities? Linguistic version: EN Catalogue number: QG-01-13-488-EN-C ISBN: 978-92-895-0747-9 DOI: 10.2863/8995 CoR_1997/09-2013/EN
EU citizenship in 2020 What role for regions and cities?
A collection of essays from European students
EU citizenship in 2020 What role for regions and cities?
Michael Schneider, President of the EPP Group in the Committee of the Regions
Europe is in a phase of reflection. As we approach the European Elections 2014 where new MEPs will be elected and a new Commission will be instated, it is time to think about what we want for the future of the European project. It is impossible to foster dialogue with citizens and promote their rights without giving local government a strong role. Throughout 2013, the European Year of Citizenship, the Committee of the Regions has continued to propose concrete measures on issues such as migration, asylum, equal opportunities and citizensâ€™ rights. We are also convinced that the principle of multilevel governance must be at the heart of cooperation between the European Union, its Member States and local/regional authorities.
On behalf of the EPP Group in the Committee of the Regions, I am delighted to be able to present this collection of essays from the participants to the 5th edition of the Study Visit for Masters Students in November 2012. Over the years, we have learnt that this is not only an occasion for students to visit Brussels and get a first-hand experience of EU decision making, but it is also an opportunity for us, representatives of local and regional authorities, to listen to our constituents and the voice of our next generation. I hope that these essays will inspire and guide you in debates on the future of citizenship and the role of local and regional authorities in the future.
Local and regional authorities do a lot in order to enable European citizens to enjoy their rights and thus to fully benefit from the opportunities that our common project offers in particular to our youth. I am also convinced that the involvement of the new voters to the EU elections is an essential element in developing a spirit of being European citizens. The Committee of the Regions will continue its efforts as an important link between Europe and the citizens."
RamĂłn Luis ValcĂĄrcel Siso, President of the Committee of the Regions
Vice-President Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship
Wilfried Martens, President of the European People’s Party
Ahead of the European elections next year and at this challenging time for the EU, it is more important than ever that we reach out to EU citizens and make them aware of the concrete and positive impact the EU has on their daily life. That is what the European Year of Citizens is all about and that is why the Commission is holding citizens’ dialogues all across Europe. Cities and regions, which are the closest level of government to citizens, have a key role to play in this process. I am glad I can count on the Committee of the Regions to promote the debate in towns, municipalities and regions and am thrilled to see students all across Europe taking part in this initiative. This is a perfect example of European solidarity in action – showing that Europe is much more than Brussels. It is all of us Europeans putting our efforts and resources together, for the greatest result and benefit of Europeans.
The first contact many citizens have with the res publica is often at the local level in their village, city or region. Therefore, it is the role of the Committee of the Regions to connect the citizens, through these crucial levels of government, to the larger European Union. The European project is still evolving and the European People's Party seeks to ensure a better and more prosperous future for Europeans. But this project cannot be successful without the participation of the citizens themselves. The excellent initiative of the EPP Group in the Committee of the Regions to involve students and to publish their essays about EU citizenship in 2020, including in the context of the role of regions and cities, will strengthen the work of the EPP, especially in view of the upcoming European elections in 2014. Combining the ideas of the youth with a local and regional perspective, these papers will constitute an important contribution to the EPP's efforts to advance the European project.
I greatly welcome this initiative which aims to narrow the distance between European and local levels between politicians and the young generation. This is indeed what is needed the most. The EU is not facing a democratic deficit, but we might rightly say that it is facing a communication deficit. The initiative, organised by the EPP Group and the Committee of the Regions, is an effective way to fill this gap and to give a voice to the young generation to project their aspirations.
Joseph Daul, Chairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament
EU citizenship in 2020 What role for regions and cities?
To mark the 2013 European Year of Citizens, the EPP Group in the Committee of the Regions asked EU citizens to share what European Citizenship means to them through an illustration. The aim was to give citizens a chance to share their views and ideas on tomorrow's policies.
Winning entry: â€œBecause I'm an EU citizen I have the freedom to study all over Europe.â€? Laura Gaynor, Ireland
The EPP Group in the Committee of the Regions has held an annual competition for citizens since 2007. Throughout this book, entries to the competitions have been used to illustrate the essays.
Second place: â€œBeing a European Citizen means to have a word to say, to move the community, to do the path.â€? Tiago Veras, Portugal
EU citizenship in 2020 What role for regions and cities? A collection of essays from European students
“One would need a crystal ball at this stage to see in what way the EU will come out of this crisis.”
Providing a truthful vision of the European Union in 2020, is by definition an impossible task. The EU has been the victim during the last couple of years of a severe crisis which has shaken significantly the relations between the member states as well as the federal balancing act between the EUinstitutions and the member states. The current economic crisis will most definitely leave its mark on the future of the European Union’s institutional framework. One would need a crystal ball at this stage to see in what way the EU will come out of this crisis. The future of the European Union will of course not only be in the hands of the EU-elites. The citizens’ voice of the European Union has grown stronger over the years. However, these voices have not always been positive. Since the economic crisis, criticism on “democratic deficits” in the European Union has risen significantly. The economic crisis, its outcomes and the rising euroscepticism will be the main challenges for the European Union.
The question arises in this light what kind of role regions and cities will have in this. Firstly, I want to stress the factor of
European identity. If regions can make their voice heard on a European level, they could have a strong role in the case of forming a “European Identity”, which in turn could decrease euroscepticism. Cities and regions can take the opportunity to create/invest/organise European-related events. This could include for example museums on the city’s or region’s connection with Europe or other European countries. Also a makeover of the EU’s “twin towns and sister cities”-program, with more interaction between the “family-towns”, could foster more Europeanization.
Secondly, one might also wonder how the European Union will look like in terms of membership in 2020 and what the consequences are for the Committee of the Regions. In my opinion, the CoR can play an active role in the foreseeable future with recognised EU-candidates such as Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. These countries still face serious problems in regards to freedom, justice and democracy. The Council of Europe argues that democracy and human rights can root best if decentralized, that is on a regional level,
something I agree with thoroughly. In the light of growing relations of the EU with countries with low human rights records, the Committee of the Regions might help regions/cities reach European democratic standards. Therefore, I can foresee an active role of the CoR in human rightsrelated issues in the event of the accession of countries with less positive human rights-records.
In conclusion, one can argue that the regions and cities can play an active role in the foreseeable future in fostering a European public sphere by stressing its relations with general European history or other member states. Also a reboot of the “twin towns” programs with increased interaction between the “twin towns” could certainly prove a sufficient counterweight to the growing euroscepticism. Secondly, given the growing list of candidate EU-members with low human rights-records, the Committee of The Regions could act as an active participant in democratisation.
EU citizenship in 2020 What role for regions and cities? A collection of essays from European students
â€œBy bringing Europe to people in a positive way, the European horizon for citizens can be broadenedâ€?
Although EU Citizenship has already been in force since 1993, the question which in these times of economic crisis is of particular interest is to what extent EU citizens make fully use of their right to travel, settle and work freely across the European Union. My vision of EU citizenship in 2020 is that more people will make use of this right and consider the EU as their working field, rather than their home country.
As soon as I finished my secondary school education, I moved to France to work on a camping site for the summer season. When I came back home, I studied English and spent part of my time in Malta. After my graduation, I got an EU grant to work as a language assistant in Greece. Thinking back about what has sparked this enthusiasm about studying and working in other EU Member States, the trip that my secondary school organized to Hungary has played an important role. It was then that Europe became something real for me and that I learned how interesting it is to intermingle with other European citizens.
During my first job as an English teacher, I wanted to pass this experience on to my pupils and set up Comenius projects with other European schools. The first project was with the same Hungarian school I had visited as a pupil. I felt it was important to broaden the European horizon of my pupils by bringing them in touch with their peers from other Member States. Letting pupils experience the right to travel and stay in another Member State from a young age onwards, even if it is for a limited period of time, is a good start to see the EU as a place to work and live in. Therefore, the regions and the cities have to stimulate European cooperation between schools and should guard that no budget cuts take place in the funding that makes this possible.
To increase my knowledge about the EU, I quit my job and started the Erasmus Mundus Master of Excellence Euroculture: Europe in the Wider World. One of the topics that I follow in the Netherlands and Spain focusses on the role culture can play in the European integration process. As part of my studies I did an internship for Lwd2018 that aims to make Leeuwarden the European
Capital of Culture in 2018. This event is a very strong tool to bind citizens to Europe. Instead of just focussing on the city, Lwd2018 also involves the region in its plans. The role that lies here for the Committee of the Regions is to make politicians at home enthusiastic about putting their cities in their regional context forward as candidates.
It is only by bringing Europe to people in a positive way that the European horizon of EU citizens will be broadened and that working in other Member States becomes an interesting option.
EU citizenship in 2020 What role for regions and cities? A collection of essays from European students
“To foster a sense of European identity one needs to place European public discourse on the even more basic level – municipal level, i.e. cities.”
Over the course of post-war European unification, the idea of European regions is becoming more popular in the economic, legal, social and cultural contexts due to the fact that concepts of nation states and national citizenship are becoming more obsolete. Nation states undergo progressive erosion of their powers, mainly due to the process of European integration which limits traditional sovereign rights and directs common future developments of member states. Also, regional institutions and local bodies are acquiring greater independence in the management of their own affairs. Therefore, these two processes, which are to continue in the future, increase the importance of two actors: supranational institutions (such as the European Commission) and local institutions (such as cities and regions). Still, the question remains: what will and can be the role of regions and cities for the EU citizenship in 2020?
Regions tend to reflect better the cultural and national divisions within Europe and, therefore, provide more adequate framework to tackle variety of problems left unsolved by the ‘’obsolete’’ national
structures. As noted by some federalists, the bigger the power and the size of the State, the bigger the potential risk of driving toward the conflict (Kohr, 1957). Strong national feelings always had tendency to grow into nationalistic conflicts which have proved to be a great threat throughout European history. Regional reorganisation could have a neutralising ideological effect on whose foundations a new, European identity could be built. In the long term, I can even envision regions overtaking some of the traditionally national prerogatives. But in order to push for more power of the regions, and foster a sense of European identity one needs to place European public discourse on the even more basic level – municipal level, i.e. cities.
Cities are the first ‘’official’’ social communities in which each individual participates and therefore very important for shaping the image of Europe, its future, role of citizens and active civic engagement. A 2010 survey found only 43% of people know the meaning of the term ‘’citizen of the European Union’’ and almost half say they are ‘’not well informed’’ about their rights. Since it is
reasonable not to expect a rapid push towards Euro-centric national school curricula, cities can be great partners in educating citizens on their rights. For some time I have been managing EU Info Centers located in five cities. We have partnered with several schools in which we have been educating pupils on various EU-related issues through carefully developed programme suited for different ages and audiences. This has proven to be a great success in neutralising hostility towards the abstract notion of EU centralisation but also in developing a sense of regional identity and a possible place for regions in the EU puzzle.
I strongly believe that cities should invest in educating their citizens on EU-related themes which would foster their knowledge of European idea. However, knowledge is instrumental and it needs to be coupled with European identity, since only with this synergy EU citizens will be able to exercise their rights in full.
â€œWe need to bring Europe into homes, living rooms and workspacesâ€?
EU citizenship is strongly based on the participation of European people in the mechanisms of democracy in Europe. It is distinctive in that it brings together people from all backgrounds. It does not cater solely to people with a background in law or political science, but allows each and every European citizen to experience the concepts and the practice of European democracy in a truly democratic way. The core of the project is raising the awareness of the strengths but also the shortfalls within Europe. It offers the opportunity for citizens to grasp these two sides of the sphere and bring their strengths forward to work together to combat these shortfalls for the betterment of Europe, that is shaping a Europe that is not only stronger but more representative of its people.
European Citizenship allows us to experience the dialogue processes of the European Union. Members of the European Parliament have the opportunity to hear introductory speeches from Commissioners on their respective proposals and to exercise their parliamentary right to ask them questions regarding these. Regions are the messengers between the Commission,
between the Parliament and European people. This avenue of communication is a transactional process, whereby the Committee of Regions voices the concerns of the people and delivers the response. This brings Europe into the homes, the living rooms, the workspaces and ensures that we embrace the principles of regional development and cultural diversity that form the core of the European Union.
Europe in 2020 can be a single platform for each member state to provide their opinions, allowing the wider spectrum of Europe to discuss their opinions. This brings each European together and aligns them as members of a community, nevertheless preserving their cultural heritage. Further, cities will be the structure that binds a common Europe but will remain the epicentre of individual member states, safeguarding historical legacy and traditions, yet representing the modern EU where diversity and interconnectedness are paramount to the changing face of Europe. By 2020, I envisage that the EU has passed from what it was once a trade partnership to almost a single state with a common currency, a common post-modern way of
communication and most importantly the opportunity for each and every citizen to impact European politics and legislation. As a result, we emerge as a society with a better understanding of the dynamics of representative democracy in the European Union and a citizenship with accountability for Europe. In short, European politics and dynamism will be mirrored in reality, given the large number of citizens who choose to involve themselves in active European citizenship through the means of e-governance and grass-root politics.
To conclude, regions and cities possess the capacity to act as contributors to the goal of European integration and to the promotion of the fundamental principles upon which the European Union is founded: freedom, democracy, justice and solidarity. Itsâ€™ activities aim to help to create new generations of socially conscious and active citizens who identify themselves as European and promote the idea of a common European identity.
“The recognition of EU citizenship is the first and most basic step towards a more united Europe.”
From a culture theoretical perspective a shift in identity formation and identification process have to occur. People will always fear the unknown, and when the unknown is the EU, they will automatically say no to everything that is not immediately transparent. From my point of view, the focus should be put on youngsters.
If the EU were a product, no one would buy it because the citizens of the EU are not able to identify with it. It may sound very unorthodox; nonetheless it might contain parts of the solution. People buy what they like and because they feel it is identifiable with their individual personality, however, in this time of crisis the EU is not a preferable product. To say the least, the branding going on in the media at the moment with the debt crisis, the possible demise of the euro, the lack of funding of Erasmus, and so on and so forth are not exactly helping the EU gain more pro citizens, it is only creating critical ones. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being critical, however it has to be appropriate, and it is in nobody’s interest for the EU to cease existing – the people just don’t know it.
I picture a more active Committee of the Regions that is able to reach citizens. How do they do that? I feel it is important to engage face to face, person to person, with topics, explanations and so forth in a manner people can understand and picture for themselves. The problem I face on a day to day basis in JEF Denmark is the abstraction level of EU politics, even if the reaches in at a level close to the individual citizens, they feel very remote to the whole notion of the EU. Not enough is being done to inform and enlighten, even if you feel you do your part, because there are still loads of people out there out of the loop, and more to come. It is a continuous assignment to explain, explain and explain again.
The CoR must be present by constantly explaining and reminding the EU citizens what the EU is all about. Be explicit; be real and truthful in an informative manner about the EU, the good things as well as the bad things. For the citizens of the EU, to identify themselves as just that they have to understand why the EU matters and why their involvement matters, for example with the EP elections.
A whole other aspect that has to be taken into consideration is a change in the rhetoric and discourses that surrounds the EU and EU citizenship. Today the discourse surrounding EU citizenship is excluding, meaning that you cannot contain multiple identities at the same time, and that has to change. The identification process and the one-sided identity creation that is taking place in the member states on all levels of society, needs alteration. Basically, it has to emerge from the most individual level and all the way up to the national political level, because the other way around, right now at least, is not possible due to popular national political fears of not being re-elected.
“I was a bit surprised that one of the biggest problems of the EU is to reach citizens”
Last November thirty students were guests of the Committee of the Regions during the 98th Plenary Session. Being one of thirty I got the great opportunity of participation on the study visit in Brussels. As that was my very first visit there, I was a bit anxious about it, but I have to admit that this trip had a great impact on me, and exceeded all my expectations. By chance I met one of my old friends on the plane (escorting the Minister of Foreign Affairs), what’s more the first man I saw in JDE was the mayor of my home-town! After such an encouraging start those enormous buildings were a bit more hospitable.
In accordance with the EU exertions, I am convinced that EU citizens should be well informed about their rights and get involved in EU related matters in order to reduce democratic deficit. I study European Integration, and took an exam in Diplomatic and Consular Law, I was a bit surprised that one of the biggest problems of the EU is to reach citizens. At the same time my husband was quite surprised reading in the Passport (produced by the Committee of the Regions) that EU citizens have the right
to diplomatic and consular protection of any member states. EU citizens’ rights are so obvious for me but not for every citizen, therefore I also have the responsibility to do what I can at local level and inform my network, and teach them for the EU. Viviane Reding was definitely right when she cited Monnet: “What is possible for the fathers, is natural for the sons.” I am sure that in this mission the Committee of the Regions can bridge the gap between Brussels and regions. Its members are usually mayors or members of regional governments, where most of EU investments take place, they are those who really know the problems of the region.
One personal opinion about EU skepticism: I really liked the debate with Michael Schneider and Telmo Baltazar because it was an open discussion in which we could make our voice heard. My point of view is that we can’t hear enough news related to the EU. Even during the presidency of my country people could hear hardly any EU related news. Actually media does care only about scandals instead of silent growth. Therefore the EU should have own public
TV channel in order not only to communicate, but to say what it actually believes. Although I could understand the skepticism of net contributor states, but I was really surprised by the criticisms of some of my fellows saying that the EU is out-of-date. How can he say this when you can find an EU-funded project on every corner?
“The EU exists for its citizens. They should be encouraged to set the European agenda.”
In 2012 I had the opportunity to witness the launch of an ‘EU Citizens Passport’ in the presence of Vice President Reding. The distribution of this Passport, which provides information on EU citizenship and citizens’ rights, shall bring to terms the true meaning of citizenship to which Reding referred to as ‘not just a concept, but a practical reality that brings tangible benefits to citizens’.
Formally established by the Treaty on the European Union, EU citizenship has had a significant effect on the lives of millions of Europeans across Europe with the right to movement being the most cherished, allowing citizens to work, live, travel, shop or seek medical aid in any Member State. Yet, the vision for the years ahead is as much cultural and political as it is economic and juridical.
The citizens ought to see themselves as European by feeling a deep sense of belonging wherever they are in the EU – if this is so, they will be willing to voice their concerns, be more participative in EU affairs and voting in elections will be boosted. Yet, this is not possible without
the profound contribution of local and regional bodies who can guarantee the full exercise of EU citizens’ rights.
As the citizens’ first port of call, regions and cities need to empower citizens by increasing their awareness of their rights and duties as EU citizens.
Whilst some regions have a welldeveloped regional civil society with a strong regional government, others are marked by the erosion of social rights with limited opportunities for political and civil participation. This is a deep cause for concern and the authorities, in line also with the EU 2020 targets, have the responsibility to undertake policy measures to remove obstacles that hinder participation, reduce needless bureaucratic costs and fully enforce citizens’ rights on the ground.
In realisation of the Europe 2020 strategy, the rights we enjoy today will have major impact in the future given the sheer importance of labour mobility, crossborder employability or lifelong learning.
Thus, local stakeholders have to be inspired to facilitate and promote EU citizenship at all times if the targets are to be met. After all, the citizens are the key element in trying to solve the major problems being faced by Europe today.
The EU exists for its citizens and it is they who must be enabled and encouraged, in many different ways, to set the European agenda. Hence, the European Year of Citizens comes in very timely ahead of the next European Parliament elections where citizens express themselves in the most visible way through their vote. If citizenship is to give added value to the European Union as it should, then the link between the EU and its citizens should be made more visible and apparent. This is not only a challenge for regions and cities who should strive to increase truly active civic participation but also for us citizens who should take the first step in making our voices heard. In doing this, we would be making the first step in turning this vision into a true reality.
“With a growing economy and cooperation between states and regions, the EU can do more for all of its citizens.”
In 2020 a lot will have been accomplished. States and regions will have successfully achieved the plan of a growing sustainable economy and they will be reaching the targets set out under the Europe 2020 Strategy. Although every state and region had their own targets, they still managed to make the EU-wide objectives happen.
States and regions play a very important role in reducing unemployment where 75% of people between the ages of 20 to 64 now have a job. What may have also helped for people to find new or better jobs is a new possibility for people who are 30-34-year-olds to complete a tertiary education. Even the number of school drop outs has decreased by 10% thanks to the many new work places created for young people. What is more, the plan to reduce the poverty is now working. Since 2012 about 20 million people were saved from the risk of the poverty as well as social exclusion. As the climate change was a very big problem in the past, now the EU managed to decrease greenhouse emissions by 30% from what it was in the 1990s. Also, EU citizens can save some more money on energy as 20% of energy
is now made from renewables. The economy in the EU still keeps growing, creating new and securing old work places. The EU budget is synchronized, 3% of the EU’s GDP is invested in innovation. Multilevel governance helps states and regions to cooperate and help each other.
In 2020 states and regions have an important role not only to keep the economy growing and continue providing EU citizens with positive results but also set new targets and goals for the future. States and regions are also responsible for a successful cooperation between each other as well as willingness to help each other. The Committee of the Regions has also done a lot to make sure that all basic plans for 2020 are set and accomplished. The CoR created a Europe 2020 Monitoring Platform. By taking surveys, holding meetings and studying citizens’ needs they contributed in setting and implementing the 2020 strategy for the European Union. The role of states and regions is also to try to keep youth active by participating in conferences and seminars not only locally but also on a regional level. This is not going to be
difficult as there are many jobs created for young professionals who always want to improve. In 2020 is a little bit easier for states and regions, as they cooperate much more now, they have growing economies as well as they have met all the set targets.
“A willingness to find solutions together is the answer for 2020”
Structural change: there is a phrase that is almost too familiar to private corporations and to public administration. The word “change” is upholstered with a negative atmosphere and uncomfortable feelings. That is a shame because we have an opportunity to continue to have strong and well-being regions in European Union, but this is only possible with change.
Communities, towns, cities and regions everywhere in the EU are facing more or less the same kind of problems in the near future. The key question is: how they are prepared to respond to changing environment? The EU never was and never will be ready; it’s a living and breathing organ that changes all the time via its citizens. That is the great richness of the EU, though at the same time policy making can be rather difficult from time to time. An aging population and youth unemployment are just few of the biggest problems that the EU and all of its regions are handling. Before answering the above questions, the EU needs to take hold of the ongoing economic turmoil that has continued since 2008. Recession has tried to paralyze EU administration at every
level. Luckily member states have continued with responsible policy making.
The role of the regions can grow in the near future, but this is largely dependent on their own willingness to do so. Regions are in the front line to show member states the importance of open relationship to cooperate with all the partners. Like national level policy so regional level ones need to take one extra step to find new visions and possible partners to cooperate with them. Public administration needs to have more and more contact with the private one. This is very crucial on many levels. Regions are usually the ones who maintain the public sector services, thus their willingness to regenerate themselves is sending an important message to the whole of the EU. Because of the variety of regions in the EU, policy makers need to be more active to find resolutions outside national borders. It does not matter if it is sparsely populated areas, regions with only one industry: tourism, agriculture, mills etc. or something different, the regions willingness to find solutions together is the answer for 2020.
Changing service structure is and will be the hot topic in regions and throughout the EU. The most import thing is that we don’t let the EU go into solidification mode. Policy making is a major tool, but we need visions and to be brave as well. This is something that is too often forgotten, ideas and visions need to be worth fighting for. Member states and regions need to come up and stand by their visions and opinions, what we need is not empty promises but instead straightforward policy making and leaders that have opportunity to lead us, even when the times are hard.
“Local government has a great chance to increase participation in the EU.”
I am rather an optimist when it comes to the European project, and believe in widening and deepening also when it comes to EU citizenship. By 2020 it should be extended to other Balkan states and Iceland. In terms of deepening, I think that identities in the EU will evolve and definitely more people will feel European. This prediction is based on statistical data, as in 2009 11.9 million EU citizens lived in another member state than their own. Also exchange programmes like Erasmus significantly contribute to the formation of a European community of citizens. It is therefore no wonder that the first ever registered European Citizens’ Initiative is on increasing budgetary spending on such educational and professional exchange schemes.
What concerns regions, I would not be as optimistic as to see the idea of a ‘Europe of the Regions’ realised by 2020, but the Committee of the Regions, looking at its fast development into an important body so far, will definitely have a bigger say in the Union’s politics. In this way, it has a huge potential to raise awareness, to take Union’s politics local and promote EU citizenship – its benefits and the
opportunities it entails – among local populations. I recall the very inspiring talk by Vice-President Viviane Reding, given during our study trip, on listening to the problems and ideas of citizens as paramount to a healthy democratic system. The local governments of European regions and cities have a great task and a great chance of increasing citizenship participation in the EU. Through their work citizens are able to see the impact of the EU on their daily life more and more.
Finally, 2020 will surely be a great time for e-citizenship and the European Citizens’ Initiative. Effective and convenient e-public services will definitely be much more widespread or even the only form of contact between citizens and institutions on all governance levels. The European eGovernment Action Plan 2011-2015 which we were handed among other documents during the trip, is a great hope for what it calls “harnessing ICT to promote smart, sustainable and innovative Government”. I am also very positive about the future of the European Citizens’ Initiative. A step towards increasing citizens’ participation, it still
seems still too restrictive and too bureaucratic. For now its procedure allows both national government institutions and the Commission to block it, but by 2020 after many successful Initiatives the procedure will hopefully be simplified and liberalised so that any such Initiative would have to be debated directly by the European Parliament.
'ski Konrad Jagodzin
“EU citizenship will be a success on the condition that citizens understand how European policies protect their interests.”
The year 2013 will be dedicated to the promotion of European citizenship, to make European citizens aware of both their rights and duties. In this context and with regards to the European 2020 strategy, European regions and cities have a key role to play for the effectiveness of European citizenship.
First and foremost, local representatives involved in European affairs should advertise about European local policies, so as to raise people’s awareness about the EU achievement in their daily life. They are voters’ first interlocutors, when it comes to defend European local projects. Thus, if EU citizens clearly understand the legitimacy of some EU policies, they will be proud to claim European citizenship.
Region and city representatives, because of their proximity with people, should devote time to gather citizens together to listen to their concerns about the local impact of some EU policies. Part of their duty is to respond to these worries, whenever it is possible. If no solution could be provided locally, European
decision makers should be informed in order to proceed to the required changes in EU policies. Being a relay of citizen’s demands, local representatives strengthen citizens’ voice in Europe.
Regions and cities are central players to bring EU citizens living in different European Member States closer. They have created various networks not only to share knowledge about relevant practices to stimulate citizen’s interest about the European Union, but also to solve common difficulties they are facing. Besides, through twinning and partnerships, regions and cities have developed common projects gathering nationals from different countries. They have encouraged cultural exchanges resulting in a decrease of misunderstandings between peoples. In that sense, regions and cities deeply contribute to the claim of ownership of the EU citizenship by the EU inhabitants fostering various forms of exchanges.
EU citizenship offers the unique opportunity to every EU citizen, if he/she lives in an EU member state different
from his/her own country, to vote for European elections and municipal elections. In the years to come, local representatives should maybe think about allowing these citizens coming from a different member state, to have a bigger say in local affairs. As they experienced different administrative cultures and ways to deal with local issues, their experience could be highly beneficial to local authorities of their new country of residence.
In a nutshell, regional and local representatives have a major role to reinforce the effectiveness of EU citizenship. Indeed, EU citizenship will be a success on the condition that EU citizens understand, through their representatives, how European policies protect their own interests day by day.
“In this time of difficulty we need to move towards a renewed citizen-based union.”
As the EU seeks to develop the concept of European citizenship into a more inclusive and encompassing reality for its citizens, it will become increasingly necessary for Europe to become embedded in peoples’ everyday lives. A transnational entity like the EU can easily be seen as distant or ‘other’ by those living in its member states if they do not see direct connections between themselves and the grand structure or if the benefits of the EU and EU citizenship remain at an abstract remove. Therefore if a true, meaningful EU citizenship is to become a reality that citizens identify with and embrace, it is at the local and regional level that these connections must be rooted.
The means by which this change can be accomplished vary from the abstract to the everyday realities. In terms of specifics, regional European ‘citizen advice centres’ could be developed across the union where citizens could go and request information on their rights and entitlements as EU citizens. As more and more legislation that affects citizens’ everyday lives is introduced at the European level, it will become more important for citizens to have accessible
focal points where they engage with informed individuals about how EU legislation aids and affects them. This in turn would serve the purpose of ‘normalising’ EU citizenship. By establishing such centres across the union, citizenship is seen as an identity shared with those from other member states and citizenship ceases to be seen as a somewhat ‘artificial’ construct.
Other specific programmes that will foster EU citizenship as a realised concept are already in the works such as Erasmus for All. It cannot be overstated how much of a positive impact such programmes have not just in connecting young people with those in other member states but in connecting with the EU as a resource and mechanism that works to their benefit. It would be beneficial perhaps if all the colleges in a city or region were paired with specific cities and regions across the union which may help to develop stronger bonds between different areas which could have positive spillovers outside the college environment. Erasmus for all its many benefits remains a somewhat individualised experience and there are clear opportunities here for the
development of community bonds across states in line with a broader view of citizenship. Similarly, cultural exchange programmes of other kinds could also be developed outside the Erasmus structures. After all national citizenship works because communities in one area see themselves as sharing a bond with communities in distant areas of the country. The EU would benefit from similar thinking.
It is important to remember that in a number of member states that this is the first period in which young people are growing up and establishing themselves against a backdrop where the costs and benefits of EU membership are perhaps more hotly debated than ever before. It is no longer taken for granted everywhere that the union has been to everyone’s benefit. In this time of difficulty for the EU and for its citizens, emphasising the micro, local connections between different regions and cities of the EU and underlining its day-to-day benefits to its citizens will be necessary to produce the solidarity needed to persevere through and move towards a renewed citizenbased union.
“To develop a European identity, we need to bridge the gap between utility and awareness.”
I believe that the legal institute of European Citizenship embodies the greatest part of what it should embody, but there is still room for improvement. However, most improvements, in my opinion, should not come as changes in the legal form or rights associated with citizenship, since they are quite comprehensive. The improvement I am talking about should come by way of an increased awareness and selfidentification of Europeans as European citizens.
While in its present form, citizenship gives European citizens a wide array of rights and the citizens utilize these rights in their everyday lives, they mostly do not consciously associate these rights with the legal institute of European citizenship. As citizenship is meant to be the primary tool for the development of a European identity, there is a need to bridge the gap between utility and awareness. The regions and cities, as the governments closest to the citizen, can and should take the forefront in this endeavor.
Since one of the most apparent rights that EU citizenship gives to its holders is to vote or even stand in European or local elections in their place of residence, the region and city governments should promote such participation, so that by 2020 the large concentrations of immigrants from other EU countries which are currently forming in several different locations in Europe, are proportionally represented in their local governments. This could be achieved by a more active promotional and educational work of local government institutions currently working in the field of immigrant integration. This could also avert the current tensions felt by traditional residents of these locales, who in some cases regard the immigrants as outsiders who don’t really care about the future of the community, who are only there to make money and leave. Thus by promoting political inclusion of these immigrants the local governments could “force” them to show their interest in the future of the municipality. Replacing the current duality of traditional local residents versus the immigrants would lead to a wider acceptance of a common European identity.
The lack of duties associated with European citizenship (as opposed to national citizenships, which not only give rights, but demand fulfillment of duties) could be seen as an obstacle to this vision of Europe at 2020. For example, to get Latvian citizenship, you have to know Latvian at a basic level and pass a naturalisation exam. While this may be seen as restrictive, these conditions ensure that Latvian citizens cannot be excluded from the society at large by default, since they know the language of their compatriots. The knowledge on the Latvian legal and government system, gained while studying for the naturalisation exam, can spur the people who are so inclined to become active participants of the political life. Should they be awarded citizenship without these preconditions, most would probably not even notice this, as has sadly happened with the European citizenship.
Thus, I believe that for the vision of an actively European identity-fostering citizenship to come to fruition by 2020, some revisions should be made in this legal institute by then.
Aigars Lazdin s ¸˘
EU citizenship in 2020 What role for regions and cities?
“EU citizenship is already a reality on paper, but often not in the minds of Europeans.”
Regional identity – European identity
A collection of essays from European students
Citizenship is an important element of building identity. It could be and should be understood as an element to create a European “demos” – a European society. In the future it will be the task for cities and regions in the European Union to develop closer links between the European Union and its citizens. Across the European Union there are strong regional identities. But an EU citizenship must not be seen contradictory to those identities or nationality, but as a complement that should be reinforced until 2020. Regions and cities, in the form of the Committee of the Regions in Brussels, take part in the European decision making process and should accept their role as a link between the people and the supranational institutions of the EU until 2020.
passport issued by a European authority. Cities and regions should therefore become the executive authority of the European Union – and not only of the member state. All this aspects could help to promote an active EU citizenship at every level of governance. Initiatives arise often on the local level, where problems are most visible. The mission for territorial entities and their administrations is to assist their citizens, but also to evaluate proposals made by people. For a long time, the Committee of the Regions is aware of this new task for the regional and local level in Europe. According to the principle of subsidiarity, the closest level to the people could therefore help to integrate the new possibilities EU citizens have with the European citizens’ initiative.
Let the people set the agenda! Towards an active EU citizenship An important civil liberty is the right to vote. In 2020 it should be normal for every European citizen to participate in general elections of the member state of residence. We also need a real European
This European citizens’ initiative has been claimed for a long time by several political and interest groups. Its introduction by the Lisbon treaty is a milestone in European direct democracy. The challenge for cities and regions in the next years until 2020 is to inform about
the possibility and to encourage the EU citizens to use their new right and to play thus their role as EU citizens. It is also of importance to see if local and regional entities are able to use the European citizens’ initiative to enforce their power in the institutional framework of the union and whether or not this helps to promote democracy in Europe. The Committee of the Regions could meanwhile play the role as an assembly of exchange between the cities and regions of the Union. An active citizenship lives by the support of stakeholders on the lowest level.
â€œIf we want to have a vision of EU citizenship, we need to have EU citizens.â€?
Regions and cities play a crucial role in every state. These units create the whole state, the community. Thanks to regions and cities people can feel solidarity and this feeling is the most important part in creating identity. I do not think that we are only part of the state, no; we also belong to the community, to our region, to our city.
Every person has some space in his or her identity for a state, for a motherland. However, this space is not very large. On the contrary, it is actually a tiny space. To a large extent, the feeling of national identity depends on pride in the country we come from. At a time when feelings of national dissatisfaction are growing and trust in the state is on the decrease, the space in our identity, which should belong to the states, grows smaller and smaller. In the end, we feel closer to our immediate regional and local identity.
This is the opportunity for creating an EU identity, an EU citizenship. If we want to promote EU citizenship, we need to have truly European citizens. And there, in the
regions, is the space for creating them. It must start in the regions. People cannot be forced to be an EU citizen, they should feel that way. To achieve this, one must be able to feel proud of being European. This is at the very core.
In the Czech Republic, many people perceive the EU as an elitist club who wants to take away from them such things as their favourite spreading butter. And this is the reason why people have strong negative feelings to the EU. To combat these Euro myths, the EU must be seen as an organisation with renewed purpose. At the time of creation, the goal of the EU was to reunite Europe after the Second World War and citizens could relate to this necessity. Now, fifty years on, the EU should create a new big project for itself, something striking. Moreover, it must allow every person to feel part of it. And this is the first step towards achieving and promoting EU citizenship.
The second step must take place at the level of regions. The EU should come up
with projects, which come directly from the regions and which are controlled at the level of the EU. In this way, people could believe that the EU can really help those who need it most and this would instil a sense of pride in them.
' Michaela Linhartova
“Hardly any other concept incorporates the political dimension of European integration as well as the citizenship.”
Though everybody who extends his activities beyond the borders through traveling, working, studying or just shopping is already taking advantage of his “membership” in the common Europe through the notion of EU citizenship, the majority of people are still absolutely unaware of their rights and benefits.
But what can be done to get the “bottomup” approach more enhanced? There exist many ways which lead to failure. But there is just one leading to success – to join all marginal details into one working unit. But what does it imply in the context of the common European integration? Nothing but to support the primary, highly heterogeneous wall stones of the EU cities and regions in their necessary work. Then who else is more confronted with the daily problems and necessary needs and requirements of the EU citizens in various areas of their daily lives such as health, education and social services and thus has such a direct impact on their life quality than their own municipalities?
I do not want to talk about the legal obstacles standing in the way of citizens to benefit from their rights, because there still exists a gap between the law and its implementation. Let us think rather about the vision of EU citizenship as a measure against the current financial meltdown, against a crisis which could be traced back to a heavy moral crisis of an individual. First and foremost, it is the development of regions and cities which directly points out and bears witness to benefits of the European integration for one’s own interest, who thinks of European authorities rather as impersonal instances far apart from his everyday duties and worries. Consequently, I see the primary objective for regions and cities in being the strongholds of transparency and responsibility towards people in order to create favorable conditions for ensuring the “free society”. The saying about the three coppers: one for our children, one for us and the last one for our ascendants should become the sign of the new transformation which is essential to build up prospering Europe. And the key
role should be played by the regions and the cities.
The policy tools should consist of a clearer division of responsibilities, clearer guidelines and objectives and communicable principles. In addition, not only the amount but especially the autonomy in spending could improve regions’ efficiency. The regions should share their knowledge and communicate with the neighbouring municipalities more intensively to strengthen synergies between the various regional players. I believe that a similar toolkit could significantly increase transparency and efficiency of our municipalities to be able to play the key role in bringing Europe closer to its citizens and in turn the citizens closer to Europe.
“Europe is like a tree with many branches swaying jointly from the trunk. These branches are regions, provinces, cities and hence European citizens.”
The day after the entry into force of the treaty of Lisbon, and after the last EU enlargement from 27 to 28 Member States, one should ask what does being a European citizen mean nowadays. The European Union is the best institutional experience that has ever been developed in the world history. Therefore, all European citizens should be proud because we are part of this experiment and because it has brought many positive results so far.
It is not easy to identify the key features shared by the EU citizens: we do not have a common language and we have been fighting for centuries. Then, with the end of the Second World War, we archived our hostilities in order to build together a common project: the European Union. It took just half a century to understand that our future and prosperity depended directly from the great desire to build such an entity. Interestingly, despite all the differences there is a common value that characterises our Europe: democracy.
Democracy makes homogeneous all the institutions of every European State, and
it is the core value shared by all the EU citizens. In this view, regions and cities are above all mainstays of democracy. They strongly support cultural diversity in Europe and they are major partners in socio-economic development. Meanwhile, they provide knowledge and tools to be able to really talk about an EU active citizenship. An active citizenship which recognizes new powers and responsibilities alongside former rights and duties. One can consider Europe as a tree, which consists of a main body and several branches that sway jointly with the trunk. These branches are regions, provinces, cities and hence the citizens. They often lead the innovation of new policies with the benefit of first-hand experience of what works and what does not. This is the real Europe, that one which is closest to the citizens.
These regions and cities need to be equipped with the right tools to guarantee citizens’ rights and to encourage citizens towards a proactive role in the EU. It is up to regional and local authorities to enrich and strengthen the European society. They may, in their area of competence and in coordination
with EU institutions, undertake more concrete cross-border initiatives in favour of the citizens, such as in the economics (employment), the environment, regional planning on education (twinning). Furthermore, they should enhance civic education debates by improving citizens’ skills and abilities needed to participate in shaping European democracy.
Today, EU citizens represent an extensive online community, therefore regions and cities should take advantage of the new interaction tools because they can raise the level of citizens’ participation. Regions and cities should face the upcoming challenge, which also means promoting a wider inclusiveness by avoiding social exclusion of any kind. This is what EU citizens expect from their local communities. There are significant challenges ahead, and if citizens keep on participating in the European arena with the support of the local institutions the horizon looks certainly brighter than the sun.
“We are Europeans living in different cities and regions but are aware of a common European heritage.”
It is the year 2020 and a lot has changed. Europe has changed. People have changed. The economic crisis of 2008 was the main driving force for a more integrated EU. The EU is no longer an association of states; it is more like an association of people. The State is a concept of 20th century. Citizens are the ones that rule. They actively participate in civic foras. Technology has made it possible. We have e-government, e-elections, e-everything. And all is accessible to all. The language barrier does not even exist anymore. Machine translation is so advanced, that nobody learns foreign languages, one language is enough, so everybody speaks in their own mother tongue. We are finally equal.
We are Europeans living in different cities, regions. We promote our cities, regions, but are aware of common European heritage. E.g. let’s say that I go on vacation to Burkina Faso and I have a problem with local corrupt officials, I seek assistance in Embassy of EU, not Slovenia. I am aware of my rights as an EU citizen and I use them to my
advantage. I “travel” a lot. Even within the EU. In fact, the verb to travel and actual traveling is also a 20th century concept. So I communicate instead. I work from home, for a company that is not from my region. I move only for pleasure, not for business. Some people move also for work, but there are not many. I enjoy my micro environment. Commuting for more than half an hour is complete waste of resources. This also means that there are no advantages of being from London or Paris. Cohesion policies worked. The standard of living is more or less comparable and differences are tolerable. We are now one big nation of approximately 500 million souls. We are respected members of a global international society.
I have already established that cities and regions are at the political heart of the EU. And this is because citizens of the EU are more involved in regional politics. They react when there is snow outside and roads are not cleaned afterwards. They care. So they act. Now, when they are able to act from their living room, there are no more excuses. It is so simple. And everybody and everything is connected,
so good praxis is implemented elsewhere. This direct democracy has grown organically. More a citizens means better society. Alienation from others is not so present. Citizens in 2020 discuss everything. No more small issues, big issues. Some are not familiar with certain issues, but that is a not a problem. They can instantly debate with others, acquire knowledge and then make their own opinion. And their opinion matters. This process of making decisions is also very fast. Since artificial intelligence has vastly improved, there is no more wasting time when filtering and analyzing information. We use computer power for data analysis, but this power is not directed via keyboard and mouse, it is directed directly with our brains. And all this brains are connected. Imagine, for every problem there is a perfect solution.
â€œWhat first occurs to me is a need for the EU project to rediscover itself thought its citizens and their real aspirations for Europe.â€?
A lack of information about what is happening in the European Union increases the general disinterest of the population towards the EU. It is important to stop these tendencies so as to promote, inform, live and imagine the EU for its people, for 2020 and for all the years ahead.
In this task I would like to address the role that regions and cities can play towards a more constructive and effective European citizenship for 2020. There is a pressing need for people to be re-educated about the European Union, not only regarding its formation and history, but as an actual present day institution which affects our daily lives. Even with the great information effort made through the social media, it should be done directly, face to face with people, taking advantage of the closer bond between city councils, regional authorities and their population since local initiatives can reach them easier. For instance through targeted non-formal education and workshops, public town hall debates on European subjects, creating opportunities for study/visit trips to European institutions and a wider range of exchange programs not only for students,
but for teachers, public officers and other work groups. These initiatives should be under the responsibility of regional/local authorities and municipalities, funded by means of a common EU fund assigned equally to all the European regions to promote European Union awareness. This might not be the most innovative measure ever, but from my own experience it is fair to say that in many places it would be a new thing for its inhabitants. Besides, it would reinforce the powers of regional authorities in these matters since I believe the national state has been disregarding its main role as focal point for the interaction between citizens and the EU.
the democratic deficit in the Union and develop a new way of thinking. In addition, the expansion of electoral rights across the EU as its now being discussed should be expanded even further till 2020, subsequently people could vote both in their home country elections as well as in their host country elections, if living there for a significantly period of time. This would be an important step towards a strong European citizenship too, breaking the walls of unreasonable nationalisms within the EU and not letting the freedom of movement and living in the EU being obstacles to the exercise of an active citizenship.
By 2020, I would also like to see a more direct relation between elected national representatives for the EU institutions and their voters, meaning that the citizens would know the person they voted for and could relate to their representatives in a truly democratic way. If this started being developed at a local level with the adoption or reinforcement of uninominal electoral districts circles system, then through the elected representatives of municipalities and regions in the Committee of the Regions, it would reduce
Last but not least, it is important to embrace the endogenous potential of the regions, investing in their specialized productive sectors, reinforcing the local knowledge and promoting regional employment. A stronger decision-making role must be played by authorities such as the Committee of the Regions which possess the necessary expertise to defend and reflect the regional interests of the populations.
“Cities and regions have a responsibility to provide greater opportunities for younger generations”
The European Commission has dedicated 2013 to the European Year of Citizens. This project has as a crucial aim: to allow citizens of the EU to participate, promote their views and imagination for the future of society.
This agenda has to be seen in the wider context of the Europe 2020 Strategy, which aims to put the economy of Europe back on track and to encourage growth. Under this strategy, all EU countries have to prepare a National Reform Programme. This programme includes structural economic and employment policies for macroeconomic environment.
Municipalities and regions have the responsibility to deliver these targets and actions by setting bylaws and issuing permits. As a result, these measures play an important role for the economic and social development of the local and regional society. Consequently, each member state is responsible to bring its society back to the path of growth. Each member state through its cities and regions sets their own targets and actions to reach these goals. No one can reach
this goal without a multilevel governance and National Reform Programmes.
Another way to achieve the Europe 2020 goals is through taxation and charges which can include taxation for private cars in urban centres, charging for commercial and domestic waste collection. Furthermore, improvement on education, research and society by the regions and cities help the project significantly. Moreover, cities and regions have to provide the young generation greater opportunities on several sectors such as education, job opportunities, healthier environment, good transportation network etc.
Taking all these characteristics into account, the Europe 2020 Strategy goals and objectives will help citizens to have a better life within their regions and cities. Thus by dedicating 2013 as the European Year of Citizens, we are further encouraged to debate the rights which come with the right of citizenship within the EU. Through this year, the EU aims to encourage dialogue among the levels of government, civil society and business
level through events and conferences to build a vision of how EU should be in 2020.
I believe the EU should duly consider citizens’ suggestions for a better city… a better region… a better European Union…and a better LIFE.
â€œAs citizens get a greater understanding of the EU, there will be more trust in its laws and principles.â€?
Since its humble beginnings in a war-torn Europe, the European Union has slowly but surely developed into its present form. As dark clouds gather above the world, the European Union has managed to maintain its course and remain steadfast through economic troubles and other conflicts. It seems as though in 2013, the European Union has become stronger. There are promises of free-trade agreements with powerful nations, and many other countries are knocking at the door of the EU, wanting to become part of its family. This development is promising. The apparent success of the EU has however not come haphazardly. It is through inspired and visionary leadership from its early days until the present time. These leaders have built what is today a legitimate and powerful sphere of influence for good. Despite the sometimes critical view that citizens may have, believing that the decision-making process in the EU is very distant, the building of a solid foundation has been necessary. As the foundation lies steady, it is time to build. I believe that the vision for today and for the future, and the key to success, lies in the heart of the Union: Its
regions and cities. It is the citizens of these areas that will in 2020 direct the work of the Union.
In 2020, regions and cities will be the key players in decision making. If one looks at the legitimacy of the Committee of the Regions, it is quite apparent that key leaders and policy makers are more and more looking to local leaders for counsel regarding legislation and other important issues. The positive development will hopefully lead to greater subsidiarity and a greater sphere of influence for the CoR and its members. Leaders in regions and cities will be able to directly influence EU policy. Voters in these cities and regions will subsequently feel more involved in the legislative matters, and see the fruits of their local involvement on a supranational level. As these citizens sense a greater involvement and understanding in the affairs of the EU, this will subsequently lead to a greater sense of trust in its laws and principles. This in turn will have a positive effect on how they live. There will be greater mobility of persons, goods, services, and capital.
There will be greater involvement when wanting to participate in elections. There will be a greater sense of European identity. And this greater sense of European identity will in turn lead to a greater sense of solidarity amongst citizens across the EU.
I feel very strongly that a greater influence of regions and cities in policymaking will bring Europe closer to its citizens by 2020. As the EU decentralizes itself from Brussels, Strasbourg, and Luxembourg, its citizens will also feel a greater sense of belonging to a community of 500 million people. The direction is set, and 2020 will hopefully be a year of celebration for all European citizens.
“Regional and local government has the political obligation to tackle the economic, social and environmental issues with a territorial perspective.”
Every national of an EU country is also a citizen of the Union. In addition to national privileges, they hold an additional set of rights, guaranteed by the EU’s treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. Citizenship gives people the right to live, work, travel and shop anywhere in the 28 member countries, as if they were in their own country.
With the European Union’s ‘Europe 2020’ strategy, the EU wants to become a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy and achieve general targets on employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate/energy. However, each Member State has adopted its own national objectives within these different areas. Regional and local governments have got, in this point, such an important role to play.
Achieving the targets of the EU’s strategy 2020 needs a dialogue between national, regional and local government. These two last governments will bring the EU’s priorities closer to people, strengthening the feeling of ownership needed to get
everyone involved in moving Europe towards the 2020 objectives. In this context, the regional and local government has the political obligation to tackle the economic, social and environmental issues with a territorial perspective. This is the reason why, in many Member States, the regional or local authorities are responsible for policy areas linked to the Europe 2020 strategy such as education and training, entrepreneurship, labour market, infrastructure or energy efficiency.
The European Union’s Committee of the Regions helps mobilising regional and local authorities. It has set up the Europe 2020 Monitoring Platform comprising more than 150 regions and cities networking on growth and jobs, exchanging good practices and contributing to the EU debate on the Europe 2020 strategy. With the same objective, the European Commission provides an online networking platform. The Committee of the Regions, in close cooperation with the European Commission, drew up the ‘Handbook on the Europe 2020 strategy for cities and regions’. The handbook capitalises on
examples of good practice collected through the surveys conducted by the Committee of the Regions’ Europe 2020 Monitoring Platform or existing databases of good practices managed by the European Commission.
Both the triple objectives of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and the seven flagship initiatives reflect the local and regional authorities’ challenges and concerns and have the Committee of the Regions support. However, as stated by the President of the Committee of the Regions Mr. Ramón Luis Valcárcel, it is necessary to examine the fundamental question of financial means if we want to encourage the Europe 2020 Strategy. I also must say, as it was already indicated at the Committee of the Regions’ Plenary Session, that the Europe 2020 strategy’s effectiveness will be still limited if local and regional governments are excluded from the decision-making process and if they are relegated to a simple enforcement role.
'a Pen ’n Marı ˜arrubia Ban ˜o
“A union without the support of its citizens is like a sailboat without sails.”
This year marks the 20th anniversary since European citizenship was introduced with the Maastricht Treaty with the idea to create a direct political link between the people, who are living in the member states, and the people representing them within the Union. This link between the two sides of the Union is seen as a precondition for more active participation. Moreover, it empowers the dialogue on all levels and gives the people a stronger voice on all the issues on the agenda.
Nowadays we find the Union in a very difficult place. The most severe crisis in the world’s history has shaken not only the economy of the Union, but also the attitude towards it. The concepts of its future vary through the different member states because the representatives do not have a homogeneous view where the EU should be in twenty, fifty and hundred years from now. Therefore, now, more than ever, a stronger commitment to the European idea is needed. Otherwise, the present achievements will not be able to function properly in the future. Although the current attainments are source for happiness and pride, all of them need further improvement, so they could respond actively to the challenges of the
time to come. If they do not get refined, they will become irrelevant to the future conditions.
This represents a weak point on the top of the representative pyramid of the EU, but this is not the only place where the Union is facing difficulties. On a citizens’ level in the EU there is also problem – its citizens do not feel that they are represented well enough. Moreover, they are disconnected from the decisionmaking process. The democratic deficit is regarded as a key problem. For that reason changes should be made in order to re-establish Europe to be accountable towards its citizens. The two mentioned problems are based on two different levels - the top level and bottom level. There is logical connection between both of them, which in reality does not function properly. Maybe, exactly the communication between representatives and the people, who are being represented, can be regarded as solution to the both problems.
People in my home country (Bulgaria) believe in the EU, but they do not fully understand their role and potential as
European citizens. Belief is the very exact word, which describes the attitude of my fellow citizens towards Europe – an irrational feeling, which is not based on solid understanding. Therefore, the regions and cities have a vital role for greater engagement of citizens with the European issues. Brussels, the centre of Europe, might be far away, but the cities and regions could bring European issues closer to the citizens. They could also make people’s voice heard and respected. This is the only way for a sustainable further integration of member states and overall prosperity. A union without the support of its citizens is like a sailboat without sails – there is no possible way to capture the right circumstances, opportunities and to move towards a desired direction. They should be able to regularly provide an input into the political system, since the effectiveness of the same system requires it. For this particular aspect of the citizenship’s importance, the regions have a crucial role.
“In 2020 we will talk about a dual identity, where European citizenship will be considered as important as the national one.”
Since the early stages of European integration, we can notice an incipient phase of the European citizenship, when European rights started to be defined under the ECSC Treaty. Nowadays, citizenship involves many dimensions, including identity, membership, rights, participation and other issues related to the individual or the community which he is part of.
The European Year of citizens wishes to create a closer bridge between the citizens and the European institutions, and to involve Europeans in the decision making process. Due to the drastic austerity measures taken in many countries, citizens lost slowly their trust in the European institutions and consequently, their vision about the EU citizenship turned to be more of a concept than a reality. In my opinion, better multi-level governance, better transparency, equal access and opportunities, genuine sustainable policies will partially restore citizens’ confidence in the EU.
In order to narrow the distance between the EU institutions and the European
citizens, local and regional authorities can play a crucial role, transforming themselves into European “messengers” and the voice of citizens. For example, each region should attract more investments in the information and communication technology. From the single market until the medical health care and banking system, everything is deeply influenced by the revolution of ICT, an important factor of knowledge externalities, enabling lower transmission costs and a proper codification of knowledge.
with the national identity and moreover, it will be considered as important as the national one or even more. Furthermore, the choice will remain in the hands of the citizen, whether he will feel more European or more national, but the factors that will influence this choice will be related to the work and results of the local and regional authorities, the European Commission, European Parliament, European Council and all the other EU bodies, that build and influence the policies that shape the daily life of the European citizen.
These advances can provide European citizens access to a flow of news, documents adopted, petitions and the work of their representatives. Nevertheless, this transparency can be assured only if governments provide an adequate regulatory framework and appropriate technical means through effective e-government applications.
In conclusion, I believe that the EU will develop a greater sense of self and the EU citizens’ attachment to Europe will increase but only if all actors involved in the decision-making process take the right decisions; decisions that will bring benefits for all the Europeans. I don’t believe that in 2020 we will talk only about a European citizenship but about a dual identity, where the European citizenship will be considered at least, as important as the national one.
Europe is a large, diverse and complex place where multiple identities are cohabiting. In the long run we will take part at the development of a „we-feeling”, where the European identity will coexist
“A new generation of young Europeans is growing up now: we will take part and use our chances. ”
The story of our New Europe began in 2012, when finally the strong head winds of the financial crisis and the increasing economic pressure for families all around Europe started to ease off. But it was not by coincidence that the big five EMILEproblems (environment, migration, industry, labour and education) suddenly turned into the motors of change.
It all started to improve with the decision of the European Union to grant people the right to start Citizen’s Initiatives (CI’s), which then in turn delivered a request to the Commission for a legislative proposal. From their hour of birth on May 9th 2012 (Europe Day) onwards the people started to sign and didn’t stop to call for change, step by step they made Europe their own.
By the end of this year, every European will on average have signed 9,8 petitions, that is more than one per year! Such an active participation was beyond all expectations and couldn’t have been planned if intended. The avalanche got set off by the first initiatives in 2012 and 2013 which started a vivid public discussion in newspapers, blogs on the
internet, in town halls and parliaments all around Europe. This had far-reaching consequences. The civil society was in a fundamental discussion about the common future of Europe and the role of citizens.
The discussion resulted in some more CI’s and triggered the core reform, the most extensive educational reform since the introduction of compulsory schooling. The reform included multilingual tuition and a new subject called “ONE” (Our New Europe) for all children in all schools.
With the momentum of the successful educational reform people all around Europe gained consciousness of their power and possibilities but also responsibilities. Reforms for a sustainable way of life, a reorganisation of the labour market and the ideas for the attraction for new sustainable industries were introduced.
The way citizens regarded Europe changed completely. Former scepticism towards the European idea transformed
to even the greater activism and participation. People from all genders, ages and backgrounds started to gather regularly in their local communities, discussed their ideas and discovered the possibilities of their regional delegates in Brussels. Citizen’s Initiatives in 2014, 2015 and 2019 helped to reorganize Europe further. A new generation of young Europeans is growing up now, they will live in ONE and they will take part and use their chances. The reformed CI’s are their instrument of choice. They are proud to be locals of Europe and this makes the story of Europe to an unprecedented success. The spirit of Europe lives in us!
Eva Nicola Rinner
“Whilst citizens engage with the EU, particularly on a local level, it is essential that their voices are heard, acted upon and their diversity respected.”
With recovery from the crisis as both the focus of the efforts of the institutions, as well as challenging many Europeans’ conceptions of how the EU should operate, the necessity of vision for EU citizenship is more apparent than ever. In this light, the European Year of Citizens 2013 could not come at a more appropriate time, and the Parliamentary election in the following year will provide the yard stick to measure the success of this and hopefully lead towards a more integrated Europe in 2020. My experiences in Brussels on the EPP/CoR’s 5th Study Visit 28-30th November 2012 have helped to illustrate that regions and cities, assisted by the Committee of the Regions, will have a significant role to play in consolidating the idea that within the EU we have the same rights and obligations wherever and whoever we are.
From the CoR Forum “Regions and cities ready for the European Year 2013” it became clear that recognition of what has already been achieved is essential to the future of EU Citizenship, particularly the right to live and work anywhere in the EU. The forthcoming House of European
History as presented by Hans-Gert Pöttering should provide a located and powerful effort to do this. Certainly as a British citizen, having grown up in London, the value of the internal market and the four freedoms are self-evident but this is not necessarily true for everyone. I am confident that in London, realising this could be used to reassert Britain’s pride in the EU from the bottom up at a time when it is being questioned. Hence, communicating to people at a local scale what the EU has achieved and the way in which it facilitates their lives is crucial to EU citizenship.
Looking to the future, employment as well as the democratic character of the Union is central to promoting European citizenship. The former is dependent on Europe’s fiscal and economic stability, along with a confidence in them both. The post crisis situation of regions with unprecedented levels of unemployment, particularly amongst young people, is a direct and localised challenge to EU citizenship. Both job mobility as well as social mobility will be necessary to overcome these issues. Secondly, the democratic character of the union is
dependent on the engagement of the citizens themselves, whether it is through the 2014 parliamentary elections, or making use of new opportunities such as eGovernment or The Citizens Initiative. However there must also be some role for Europe’s politicians, in the words of Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission: “politics should not be an ivory tower”, and whilst citizens engage with the EU, particularly on a local level, it is essential that their voices are heard, acted upon and their diversity respected.
Thus, my vision for EU citizenship is based on reasserting the successes of the EU from the bottom up, as well as creating a more democratic, economically stable, and fairer Union, in which citizens have sufficient access to jobs and means of voicing their needs and concerns within their regions.
“When one arrives in Brussels, one breaths Europe. Flags, signs, buildings… the atmosphere is colonized by this amazing European touch.”
This trip was an excellent way of getting to know not only how the Committee of the Regions works but also how the EU works. Many different regions with extremely different backgrounds configure the European Union; ensuring policy coordination between all European regions is key for the long term European success.
The very first thing I realized after my first day in Brussels is the important role that the Committee of the Regions plays for the cohesion of all European regions. The fact of being able to discuss several regional issues where the ‘regions’ thoughts can be heard and discuss between other regional representatives is a benefit that every European region should ‘use’.
As a Navarro I believe Navarra’s Government should be a lot more active within the CoR. Some government representatives are not aware of what is going on outside theirs provinces’ borders. The CoR allows regional and local representatives to get together and discuss common issues. If I was a
Navarra representative, being able to know how a local representative from Poland for example deals similar problems that concern Navarra, could help citizens to feel better in the province. The point I am trying to make here is that the amount of positive knowledge that could be gained from all CoR meetings could be extremely rewarding when elaborating new policies.
Considering that one third of the European budget goes to the regions, I believe the cooperation between all European regions with the European Commission and the European Parliament is key in order to have an accurate view of the regions’ needs. This is essential in my own opinion. I could see that Mr. Barroso and Mr Valcarcel had a really good relationship meaning that the European Commission is aware of the importance of the CoR.
During the trip, we spoke about how we could make Europe more visible to its citizens. I believe this is a key issue that would certainly make Europeans to get a bit more involved with EU issues. It is
true that when one arrives to Brussels, one breaths Europe. Flags, signs, buildings… the atmosphere is colonized by this amazing European touch. Visuals around European cities are important as I argued on the first discussion but it is clear that is not enough.
I strongly believe that regional Chiefs of Staff could easily send information to the local and regional media about European issues concerning the regions in order to get local citizens involved. Why no one in Navarra knows about the European Entrepreneurial Regions 2014?. Maybe a CoR insider could visit the Chief of Staff in one national meeting and address them with a smile, short and catchy pitch letting them know the important role of the Regions and the important role they could play.
“The better we are informed about our rights and opportunities, the more we can be involved in decisions regarding our personal lives.”
The EU is a coalition of people. 2013 will be the Year of Citizens and therefore the opportunity for citizens to debate and build the future of EU together with the politicians. But according to statistics, in 2012 one in three citizens questioned thinks that their voice is not being heard enough and many of them are not fully aware of the rights and opportunities they have as EU citizens.
So what can the local authorities and Committee of Regions (CoR) do to improve the awareness of citizen rights and duties? City and regional governance must play a key role in this project. They must develop a strong communication bond between the region and its residents and find out what citizens expect to benefit from EU. They can stimulate the active involvement of EU citizens by organising dialogues, debates, workshops, conferences, etc. in EU institutions and local environment. Besides that, town meetings should not take place in capitals (so we can find out what people´s expectations in rural regions are). Also exchanging experiences of good practices on regional and national level among the authorities
and organisations are required. Local media should organize the media campaigns including young people, local representatives, CoR members and daily report about the positive sides of the Year of Citizenship.
also able to participate in the decision making process. It also gives us the feeling that we can contribute our part in creating EU policies. I think this right is crucial and will mostly stimulate young people into active citizenship.
I think that the Study Visit we attended in November 2012 was an opportunity for the CoR to discuss with young people and was also educational, because we learned about our individual rights and responsibilities as EU citizens and we also got an “EU passport”. With such communication actions, the EU can inform about the benefits of being an EU citizen and promote the EU identity among the people. The better we will be informed about our rights and opportunities, the more we could be involved in decisions regarding our personal lives.
In democratic countries, citizens have the right to publicly unveil their opinion. People are demonstrating all over the world, because they are unsatisfied with the social and economic status. As EU citizens we have the right to demonstrate. EU and political parties must therefore incorporate people to participate directly in democratic decision making process. And this is the goal of Citizenship – improving the participation young people in politics. For a healthier EU in the future, citizens must come together and have an active part in voting and creating legislation starting on local, then on regional and EU level.
I think that the rights most important for young people are to study, work and live in any Member State and to have access to a quality education system. With the voting rights and rights to stand as a candidates and elections in 2014, we are
หec Nastja Sus
â€œI truly believe that even if we have to wait for it, Europe can be united and people can really be European citizensâ€?
Nowadays everybody is talking about European citizenship and I realized that a lot of people do not understand what it means for them. More precisely, that the European citizenship will not replace their national citizenship, but complete it. This means that just like in the case of the countries, the European citizens has the same rights and freedom of moving inside Europe.
In my opinion, citizenship means equality between the people both in rights and obligations. As I see, Romanians are not welcomed in other countries. Moreover, some of them want to put them out from their territory. In some points of view I understand the reasons, but if all of us are European citizens, than none should be looked down or excluded.
Another issue is, for example in Romania, that people are not aware of the possibilities in the European Union. In these areas, the civil organizations or the European representatives should help them to get a better knowledge about the European Institutions and the function of these. In fact, citizens should have the possibility to get to know their European
representatives too and to get personal help through real contact with the people.
A third problem which is also close to me is that the level of education is not the same in Europe. I think, there should be in every member state at least one University which is on the same level of education as others in Europe, so if the students want to continue their studies abroad, than they could do it without having any kind of deficiency in their knowledge in contrast to the others.
During the EPP CoR Study Visit I heard about the fact that in some countries e-health has started to work effectively, which means that hospitals share the patientsâ€™ data if needed. In Romania it is not yet possible to be included in this sort of EU scheme because the public and private hospitals do not yet share information so how could they communicate with other countries hospitals.
In conclusion, there is a lot to develop in Romania, but I think that if people would understand and use the possibilities
which are given by the European Union, this improvement could be realized faster and easier. I do not say that a slow process will not give good results, because history has proved that. I truly believe that even if we have to wait for it, Europe can be united and people can really be European citizens whilst keeping their multiculturalism which was, is and will always be very important. After all, we are united in diversity.
EU citizenship in 2020 What role for regions and cities?
Students with Barroso
The 2012 Study Visit for Masters Students of European Studies gave 30 students from Europe an opportunity to meet with many high-level EU representatives including European Commission President, JosĂŠ Manuel Barroso, and President of the Committee of the Regions, Ramon Luis ValcĂĄrcel Siso. Emphasising the importance of listening to Europe's young people, President Barroso encouraged participants to learn as much as they can and to become ambassadors for Europe when they return to their regions and cities. "I count on you all" he concluded.
Committee of the Regions
EPP Group in the CoR Rue Belliard/Belliardstraat, 101 _ 1040 Bruxelles/Brussel _ BELGIQUE/BELGIĂ‹ Tel.: +32 2 2822250 _ Fax: +32 2 2822329 www.epp.cor.europa.eu
A collection of essays from European students