24 Years of EU Citizenship: What We Stand to Lose

On 18 May 2016 ECAS organised the Conference “24 Years of EU Citizenship: What We Stand to Lose”, to discuss the achievements and challenges of EU Citizenship, close to 25 years after this concept was enshrined in EU Law. 

More than 70 participants took part in the Conference, which was held at the premises of the Representation of the Catalan Government to the EU in Brussels. In addition, the event was live streamed and video recorded and over 100 people could watch it online in total. New Europeans sent a delegation which consisted of Harry Bell, Brussels coordinator; Bella Kosmala, development officer and Samia Badani, board member, who was also one of the billed speakers.

Throughout the various presentations and interventions, one common message stood out: However crucial the role of EU institutions may be in advancing EU Citizenship, Member States share also their responsiblity in making it happen. EU Citizenship has to be viewed as an ecosystem, as it is a multi-faceted concept involving different rights and layers of decision-making and implementation which have to come together. Another key message was that more information and in particular civic education is needed to raise citizens’ awareness of their rights. Several speakers also stressed that EU citizens should not need to pro-actively claim their rights when they move abroad, but they should be rather welcomed and informed upon arrival by their host country.

The Conference was organised in the framework of the U-Impact project, funded under the Europe for Citizens Programme managed by DG Migration and Home Affairs. U-Impact – From Citizen Involvement to Policy Impact was a project running from April 2015 to June 2016 which supported the development of a European civic space through a series of national events where issues of concern for EU citizens were debated with national and European policy-makers.

The Conference was opened by Amadeu Altafaj, Permanent Representative to the EU of the Government of Catalonia. In his welcoming note, he stressed the significance of EU citizenship and theimportance to preserve it and urged the audience not to take it for granted.

In this keynote speech, EU official from DG Home Pavel Tychtl presented a tragic family story taken from the Nazi times to show how important it is to remember where we come from and what the European

 Union was set up for. 

The first panel of the Conference was moderated by ECAS' Director, Assya Kavrakova. Two video messages sent by MEPs Jo Leinen and György Schöpflin as a contribution to the event were screened. After that the floor was given to the invited pannelists to discuss the main achievements and remaining challenges of EU Citizenship and the rights associated with it.

The first panel was composed of: Marie-Hélène Boulanger (DG Justice of the European Commission); Rosita Agnew (EU Ombudsman); Isabell Hoffmann (Bertelsmann Stiftung) andJon Worth (EU Blogger).

In the second panel of the Conference civil society representatives discussed rights and values associated with EU citizenship and their practical implementation at national level. The panel was composed of: Samia Badani (New Europeans, UK), Flora Graioni (IREX Europe, France), Elsa Laino (Solidar, Belgium), Carles Cervera (Habitat3, Spain), Mariano Votta (ACN, Italy) and Petko Georgiev (ProInfo Foundation, Bulgaria).
The third panel looked into different examples of civic engagement and social entrepreneurship initiatives across Europe and how they can contribute to foster EU citizenship. The panel brought together speakers from very varied organisations active at both national and EU level, including: Aida Barquero (Fundacion Ciudadania, Spain), Ariola Agolli (Partners Albania for Change and Development), Carlota Besozzi (Civil Society Europe), Ioan Bucuras (JEF-Europe) and Claire Dheret (European Policy Centre).

Closing remarks by ECAS' Director: 'We can never succeed in making EU Citizenship work and tap its potential if we do not look at it as an ecosystem with different interdependent levels […] Even if the EU does everything perfect it will not be enough if Member States do not do their job […] Some important steps have to be taken at local level. A mobile citizen has to be welcomed when he moves to another EU country'.

Author: Marta Pont Guixa, ECAS


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