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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 5 November 2013

Commission, Parliament and European Council bring together non-confessional organisations to discuss European citizenship

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso today hosted a meeting with around twenty representatives from philosophical and non-confessional organisations in the Commission's headquarters in Brussels. This high-level meeting, taking place in the context of the European Year of Citizens 2013, was called under the motto 'Putting citizens at the heart of the European project in times of change'. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, and Vice-President of the European Parliament László Surján co-chaired the meeting together with President Barroso. The European leaders and the representatives engaged in an open discussion on how to bring Europe closer to its citizens and how to bring citizens back at the heart of our common project of European integration.

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission invited representatives from philosophical and non-confessional organisations to actively contribute to the public debate currently on-going within the European Year of Citizens 2013 as well as the recently launched initiative on a New Narrative for Europe. He said: "We need a real debate on how the European Union should evolve in the years to come, both in the economic and in the political sense. A debate which engages every citizen, of every persuasion and from every generation. Yes, I do believe that what unites us is stronger than what divides us. It is for Europeans themselves to express their commitment to Europe and their desire to preserve the values basic to a project that has no equivalent anywhere else in the world." Referring to the economic crisis and globalisation, he expressed his "firm conviction" that "the solution to our problems is to be found within Europe, not outside it."

László Surján, Vice-President of the European Parliament, said: "Putting citizens at the heart of the EU is a necessary condition for democratic legitimacy. In May 2014 citizens will be at the epicentre of Europe as they will shape the most important European elections to date. This is an opportunity not to be missed: voters will choose who is in charge in Europe and in which direction the EU should go."

Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, recalled that, for him, "the essence of being European is, to borrow the superb phrase of the biologist Jean Rostand, to be 'solitary' and at the same time to show 'solidarity', to be free and at the same time to be responsible towards society". He said: "The European project is Europe's only future. The only way to develop our identity is by taking the best of what we have, even though it is unfulfilled, or can be improved on". And he ended with the words "I know that in your organisations you 'produce'. You develop ideas which, carried forward by your members, manage to change the world, to try to make it better, wiser, stronger and more beautiful. That is why I shall listen very attentively today to your suggestions as how to better respond to the urgent need of European citizenship."


High-level meetings between European institutions and philosophical and non-confessional organisations, as well as with churches and religious associations or communities, have become a solid tradition. Today's high-level meeting with representatives of philosophical and non-confessional organisations is the ninth in the series of meetings launched by President Barroso in 2005.

The dialogue with churches and communities of conviction is enshrined into primary law (Art 17 TFEU) since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. Beyond regular seminars with the different interlocutors, there is one annual high-level meeting with religious leaders (organised in spring, the last one took place on 30 May) and one with philosophical and non-confessional representatives (usually in autumn).

The question: how to intensify the dialogue with citizens and societal organisations on the future of Europe and about the fundamental, individual and collective rights that are guaranteed by European citizenship was the topic of this year's meeting. The contribution of the representatives of philosophical and non-confessional organisations directly fed into the broader, on-going Europe-wide debate amongst citizens, businesses, civil society and government organisations, in the context of the European Year of Citizens 2013. The European Commission is bringing Europe closer to the Citizens with a large number of initiatives: the Citizens' Dialogues, the initiative New Narrative for Europe and actions under the "Europe for Citizens Programme".

The meeting took place in the Commission's Berlaymont building in Brussels.

More information

For a full list of participants: see MEMO/13/942

Information on the European Year of Citizens 2013:

Information on the European Commission's dialogue with churches, religious communities and philosophical and non-confessional organisations:

Information on the New Narrative for Europe:

Website of José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission:

Contacts :

Cezary Lewanowicz (+32 2 299 30 50)

Dirk Volckaerts (+32 2 299 39 44)

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