Europe Direct: Annual Report 2012 - page 7

7
Facilitating dialogue in Austria
The importance of the Europe Direct network in helping bring
Europe closer to citizens was illustrated recently in Austria.
(Austria)
was instrumental in organising and
preparing Vice-President Viviane Reding’s debate in Graz on the
future of Europe, the second in a series of Citizens’ Dialogues
designed to inspire and engage people from across Europe.
“We were involved in the whole process,” explains Dr Heidi
Zikulnig who has worked with EDIC Styria since its inception in
2006. “We were able to bring our knowledge and understanding
of regional issues, and reach as many people as possible. We
told schools and universities, who sent delegations, as well as
local and regional politicians. We informed all our EDIC partners
that the event would be streamed live on the web. We received
responses from places like Malta and France saying: ‘Great! We’ll
have a look!’”
Some 500 people attended the event, held in an old university
building in the city centre. The audience comprised a cross-section
of society. While Dr Zikulnig was proud of the organisational work
put in by the EDIC, she was also impressed by the quality of
debate.
“Many of the questions inevitably focused on the financial crisis,
but participants were also interested in the future of the EU and
opportunities for young people”. Afterwards, Vice-President Reding
participated in one-on-one conversations, and met with local
people involved in cultural activities.
“Another important aspect of the event was that it was held in
German,” says Dr Zikulnig. “This was significant, as when discus-
sions are in English or another language, not everyone is confident in
asking a question or following the debate. At the end of the day, it is
not always easy to bring 500 people together for an event on the EU.”
Dr Zikulnig believes that the dialogue was an effective means
of communication. Citizens were able to learn first-hand about
what the EU does – and continues to do – to improve the lives of
citizens, while Vice-President Reding was informed about specific
regional problems and issues. “This is why Europe Direct is so
important, and why the institutions need to listen to us,” concludes
Dr Zikulnig. “Without us, they wouldn’t hear about certain prob-
lems. We are a really good connection to citizens.”
© EDIC Styria
Heidi Zikulnig with Commissioner Viviane Reding
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