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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 11 July 2013

Future of Europe Debate: Commissioner Damanaki speaks with Citizens' in Crete, Greece

As the debate about the future of Europe and the consequences of the economic crisis is gathering pace, the European Commission is reaching out to different European towns to listen to citizens, their concerns and hopes for the future. On 12 July 2013, Commissioner Maria Damanaki will be in Crete (Greece) to hold a debate with over 500 citizens.

"I look forward to our dialogue with citizens in Crete. It's not very often that we get a chance to discuss openly at this level. Though, these opportunities are, more than ever, necessary today in the midst of the economic crisis. To regain trust in the European Union, we have to try to include everyone in the dialogue, by explaining citizens' rights and discussing with them how Europe can recover. Greece's immense potential for Blue Growth is one way towards this. As Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries I will discuss with them how together we can make the most out of our seas and coasts."

The debate will take place in the Basilica of Saint Mark, Heraklion. Crete is a fitting location: it is the biggest island in Greece and one of the most popular destinations worldwide in the area of cruise tourism. Crete is also a significant player in regional cooperation for maritime policy and its marine biology research institute, ELKETHE, is one of the key research centres in the field.

Europe's growth strategy to recover from the economic crisis and the potential for the region of Crete will be at the centre of the debate between Commissioner Maria Damanaki and the citizens. The dialogue will be opened by Mr Stavros Arnaoutakis, Governor of the Region of Crete and Mr Giannis Kourakis, Mayor of the city of Heraklion. Greek member of the European Parliament, Mr Spyros Danellis will also speak the debate.

The debate can be followed live on via web stream on http://webcast.ec.europa.eu. Citizens from all over Europe can also participate via Twitter by following @DialogosPoliton and using the hashtag #EUDeb8.

Background

What are the citizens' dialogues about?

In January, the European Commission kicked off the European Year of Citizens (IP/13/2), a year dedicated to citizens and their rights. 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of EU Citizenship, which was introduced by the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, and it is also one year before the European Parliament elections in 2014. Throughout the year, members of the Commission will hold debates with citizens about their expectations for the future in Citizens' Dialogues (townhall meetings) all over the EU.

Vice-President Reding has already held debates in Cádiz (Spain), in Graz (Austria), in Berlin (Germany), in Dublin (Ireland), in Coimbra (Portugal), in Thessaloniki (Greece), in Brussels (Belgium) and in Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg). Commissioner Andor held a debate in Naples (Italy), Commissioner Malmström participated in Citizens' dialogues in Göteborg (Sweden) and Turin (Italy) and Vice-President Tajani debated with citizens in Rome (Italy). Many more Dialogues will be held all over the European Union throughout 2013 – which will see European, national and local politicians engaging in a debate with citizens from all walks of life. Follow all the debates here: http://ec.europa.eu/european-debate.

A lot has been achieved in the twenty years since the introduction of EU Citizenship: an EU survey published earlier this year shows that today 63% of citizens feel "European". In Greece this figure is just 46% - though 63% of Greeks say they feel closer to citizens in other European countries as a consequence of the crisis.

Across the EU, citizens are using their rights on a daily basis. Europeans are benefiting from increased protection on cross-border purchases, guaranteed treatment in other EU Member States through the European Health Card and cheaper roaming charges all thanks to European legislation. But people are not always aware of these rights. For example, surveys show that around two in three Greeks say that they are not well informed about their rights as EU citizens. Whilst more than six in ten Greeks say that they want to know more about their rights as EU citizens.

This is why the Commission has made 2013 the European Year of Citizens, a year dedicated to citizens and their rights. The aim is two-fold: Half of the work will be about explaining – explaining what it means to be a European citizens and the rights that people enjoy by virtue of being a European citizen.

And the other half will be about listening. Throughout the year, Vice-President Reding and her fellow Commissioners will join forces with national and local politicians in holding debates with citizens all across Europe in all member states – to have a direct debate with citizens about what they want, how they feel about their rights and where they want to see the Union progress to in the next ten years. European citizens’ must be able to voice their concerns and prepare the ground for future elections.

Why is the Commission doing this now?

Because today Europe is at a cross roads. The future of Europe is the talk of the town – with many voices talking about moving towards political union a Federation of Nation States or a United States of Europe. The coming months and years will be decisive for the future course of the European Union. Further European integration must go hand in hand with strengthening the Union's democratic legitimacy

Since the State of the Union Speech by Commission President Barroso in September (SPEECH/12/596), the debate about the future of Europe is in full swing. On 29 November 2012, the Commission already outlined its Blueprint for moving towards full economic, monetary and budgetary union, and the Presidents of the European Council, European Commission, Eurogroup and European Central Bank issued a joint report on 5 December 2012. The Commission and the other institutions are now working on a roadmap for Political Union. Citizens need to have a say in the debate about the future of the European Union and the dialogues will be one way of giving them a voice and a platform for discussion.

European citizens should be able to voice their hopes and concerns­ before the European Parliament elections in 2014 and before any Treaty changes are proposed.

Currently more than half of Europeans (68%) feel that their voice does not count in Europe - this must change.

What will be the outcome of the dialogues?

The feedback from citizens' dialogues will help guide the Commission as it draws up plans for a future reform of the EU. One of the main purposes of the Dialogues will also be to prepare the ground for the 2014 European elections.

On 8 May 2013 the European Commission published its second EU Citizenship Report, which puts forward 12 new concrete measures to solve problems citizens still have (IP/13/410 and MEMO/13/409). The Citizens' Report is the Commission's answer to a major online consultation held from May 2012 (IP/12/461) and the questions raised and suggestions made in citizens' dialogues on EU citizens' right and their future. Twelve thousand EU citizens took part in the consultation, with Poles constituting the single largest group and accounting for 18% of the total number of contributions.

For more information

Further information on the dialogue: http://www.citizensdialogue.gr/

Debates with citizens on the Future of Europe: http://ec.europa.eu/european-debate

European Year of Citizens: http://europa.eu/citizens-2013

Europeans have their say: Results of the consultation on EU citizens’ rights:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/citizen/files/eu-citizen-brochure_en.pdf

Contacts :

Oliver Drewes (+32 2 299 24 21)

Lone Mikkelsen (+32 2 296 05 67)

ANNEX (Source: EB Standard 78 EL National report)

1. Greeks say EU best able to tackle the financial and economic crisis

2. Greece sees same positive results as the rest of Europe

3. Fewer than half of Greeks feel they are a citizen of the EU

4. Fewer than four in ten Greeks feel informed on rights as EU citizens

5. People in Greece are least likely to feel well informed about the EU

Source: EB Standard 78 EL National report


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