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Citizens’ Europe

1. Citizen decision-makers

The EU needs more honesty...People in the EU will no longer accept Europe as a collective project if they can no longer identify the point or aims of such cooperation. They will lose interest if they are not adequately informed about the results of political decisions taken at the EU level...Now is the time to change that. It is time to transform Europe from a project of the elite back into a project of the people. German MEP Manfred Weber, speaking to Spiegel Online in May 2010.

The EU is large and growing: some 500 million people, 27 states, and more waiting in the wings from Turkey in the south to Iceland in the north. The more complex the EU becomes the more it needs to reach out to its citizens and include them in its decision-making structures. At stake is the democratic legitimacy of the entire European project.

To avoid any accusations of elitism, the EU is working with every layer of society – individuals, civil society organisations, and regional and national authorities – on everything from volunteer programmes to town-twinning projects. These programmes aim to improve mutual understanding, boost democratic participation, and ultimately create a ‘European identity’ from the bottom up.

This work is explained in on a dedicated website, showcasing the EU’s four major lines of action:

  • Active citizens for Europe: including both town-twinning projects for urban dwellers and citizens’ panels to ensure a voice for those living in rural areas;
  • Active civil society in Europe: providing support for think-tanks and international groups of NGOs;
  • Together for Europe: carrying out citizens’ surveys and awarding prizes for the best cross-border projects;
  • Active European Remembrance: recalling the original raison d'ętre ’ of the European project and how it grew out of the ashes of World War II.

In line with these projects, in April 2010 the Commission launched a public consultation on “EU Citizens' Rights – The Way Forward”. This sought concrete suggestions on how to streamline the free movement of persons, diplomatic and consular protection, and electoral and consumers' rights. A major part of the Stockholm Programme (2010-2014), the ultimate goal is to make European rights as straightforward to understand and claim as national rights.

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