In this own-initiative opinion, the Committee of the Regions emphasises how important it is for EU citizens to participate in the democratic life of the European Union, not least in their country of residence. European citizenship, by involving citizens in the process of European integration and in the political process of their country of residence, helps to build European democracy. The Committee points out that a sense of belonging plays a key role in making the European Union comprehensible for citizens; it is therefore vital to strengthen their allegiance to Europe and their awareness of citizenship. Bringing citizens closer to the European Union using the available tools and measures is an ongoing task.
Furthermore, the CoR emphasises that local and regional authorities play a key role in constantly promoting and raising awareness of EU citizenship and the rights associated with it. These bodies are closest to European Union citizens, and can make the biggest contribution to strengthening participatory democracy and raising awareness of the benefits offered by European integration.
With regard to the 2014 European elections, the CoR emphasises the need to make EU citizens aware of their rights, and of their electoral rights in their countries of residence, and to facilitate the exercise of those rights.
Keeping the subsidiarity principle in mind, the Committee of the Regions encourages Member States to ensure that EU citizens can exercise their electoral rights by enabling them to vote not only in local elections but also in regional ones. With due respect to the principle of subsidiarity, the CoR suggests that Member States could explore measures which would make it possible to synchronise local and regional elections with European elections; believes that this could help to raise awareness of the impact of European, regional and local elections on the everyday lives of EU citizens.
The full text of the opinion is available in all EU official languages on http://coropinions.cor.europa.eu/CORopinions.aspx (Opinion CdR 1652/2012).