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January 9, 2013

European Year of Citizens 2013

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Written by: Politis

The European Commission has designated 2013 as the European Year of Citizens, to commemorate the creation of European citizenship 20 years ago.

In an interview with Deutsche Welle today Justice and Citizenship Commissioner Viviane Reding explained, “As Europeans, we have to hold on to our specific roots, and that’s exactly what we do. That should not be replaced with some kind of uniformity. That’s also what makes Europe so attractive, because we can share this diversity with each other. And this is exactly what it is we want to explain in our dialogue with citizens.”

But what does such citizenship consist of in constructive terms?

The European Year of Citizens 2013 Alliance, a grouping of some 40 civil society organizations throughout Europe, has published the following manifesto on their web site. “For us,” they write, “active citizenship is:

  • a democratic citizenship which is based on citizens’ legal status and includes all aspects of life in a democratic society relating to a vast range of topics such as, inter alia, education, culture, sustainable development, non discrimination, inclusion of ethnic minorities, participation in society of people with disabilities, gender equality including the equal representation of women and men in decision making, etc;
  • a democratic citizenship which guarantees that citizens and civil society organisations have a say in the EU policy-shaping and decision-making processes by electing their representatives to the European Parliament. With the prospect of the upcoming elections in 2014 and at a time when we are facing an ever growing gap between the European Union and its citizens, as confirmed by the turnout in the latest European elections and by surveys which repeatedly show citizens’ lack of awareness of European citizenship and identity, the stakes could not be higher;
  • a democratic citizenship which implies that European institutions enjoy public confidence and can secure active involvement of citizens and organised civil society players in the decision-making processes at all levels, from local and national to European one; therefore, the adoption of an inter-institutional agreement for a structured framework for European civil dialogue would give a permanent practical substance to such an active and participatory citizenship alongside with the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty, besides the European Citizens’ Initiative.
  • a democratic citizenship which perforce must also operate at Member States’ level, so that the structures for citizens’ engagement are accessible and form part of every citizen’s experience. While benefiting of their rights and taking their responsibilities, EU citizens as well as all residents from acceding, candidate countries and beyond, should be fully involved in the activities of the EU2013 that should foster their involvement in local governance issue, through enhancing cooperation also with local authorities as one of the main stakeholders of the EY2013;
  • a democratic citizenship that guarantees that all citizens can participate in the life of their communities and the shaping of public policies, including the most disadvantaged groups which are more than often the most remote from the European building process. One cannot exercise her/his civic and political citizenship rights unless in capacity to enjoy the social and economic citizenship rights and the European Union should not miss out the contribution of the most disadvantaged.”

 






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