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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 16 July 2013

Dialogue between EU Commissioner Viviane Reding and citizens in Heidelberg: "The EU needs more democracy"

"Europe is democratic, but must become even more democratic in the future, if it is to be given new competences".

This is what the Vice-President of the European Commission, Viviane Reding, is calling for in the run-up to a discussion with citizens, which she and the Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, will hold today, 16 July, in Heidelberg. The discussion is one of the Citizens' Dialogues on the future of Europe that have been initiated by the Commission. After twenty-four dialogues in fourteen EU Member States, it is now the turn of around four hundred citizens in Heidelberg to share with the politicians their opinions, concerns, visions and questions regarding Europe's future, the consequences of the economic crisis and their rights as EU citizens.

"Baden-Württemberg is aiming to foster civic participation. That is something I support. We also need more civic participation in European questions, and I would like to discuss how best to achieve this with the participants in Heidelberg," said the Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. "The Heidelberg Assembly of 1848 was a milestone on the way to the assembly in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt, and thus to the development of democracy in Germany. We need a similar democratic impetus in today's Europe".

The Citizens' Dialogue takes place today, 16 July, from 19:00 to 21:00 in Halle02 in Heidelberg. It will be webstreamed live and will be moderated by Mathias Zurawski, a journalist from the south-western radio station (SWR). Citizens from all over Europe can also participate in the debate via Twitter (#EUdeb8). In the run-up to the event, interested parties have been able to obtain information and to participate via Twitter @EU_Muenchen and Facebook.

General context

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. Throughout the year, European Commissioners, MEPs and leading national politicians are taking part in a series of face-to-face debates with citizens in all twenty-eight Member States about their expectations for the future.

The Citizens' Dialogue in Heidelberg is the third to be held in Germany, after events in Berlin (10.11.2012) and Düsseldorf (8.5.2013). Other Citizens' Dialogues have also been held at locations including Cadiz, Coimbra, Graz, Dublin, Turin, Thessaloniki, Brussels, Esch-sur-Alzette, Warsaw and Crete. In addition, other citizens' forums were held in Tübingen, Karlsruhe, Mannheim, Erbach and Darmstadt prior to the Heidelberg Citizens' Dialogue in order to involve as many EU citizens as possible in the discussion on Europe's future. You can follow all the debates at: http://ec.europa.eu/european-debate/index_en.htm.

The Citizens' Dialogues all address people's views on the future of the EU and whether more must be done to promote EU citizens' rights, for example to freedom of movement within the EU, in everyday life. The results should feed into the proposals for the further development of the EU which the European Commission plans to present in 2014.

Why is the Commission holding these dialogues just now?

Today Europe is at a crossroads. Everyone is talking about the future of Europe. There is often talk of a political union, a federation of national states or the 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.

Moreover, people often feel that they are not well enough informed of their rights as EU citizens. According to the latest Eurobarometer survey 74% of the citizens questioned (63% in Germany) feel that they are 'Europeans', yet 42% (54% in Germany) do not know which rights this gives them.

The dialogues are a good opportunity to inform EU citizens of their rights and at the same time to get their feedback on the further development of the EU so as to prepare for the 2014 European Parliamentary elections.

How can citizens influence EU decisions?

Every five years when they elect the European Parliament- the next time in May 2014.

The European Parliament subsequently elects the President of the European Commission on a proposal from the European Council. After its approval by the European Parliament, the Commission as a whole is appointed by the European Council. The Commission has also recommended that the political parties nominate a candidate for the office of President of the Commission before the next European elections (IP/13/215).

All EU citizens have the right to petition the European Parliament on matters falling within the EU's sphere of competence that affect them personally.

A European Citizens' Initiative requires at least one million citizens from at least seven Member States to request that the European Commission propose a legislative act.

The Commission regularly conducts consultations on specific matters in which all citizens can participate.

Further information

Debates on the future of Europe (EU Citizens' Dialogues)

http://ec.europa.eu/debate-future-europe/citizens-dialogues/index_en.htm

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

The European Citizens' Initiative:

http://ec.europa.eu/citizens-initiative/public/welcome

Central portal for consultations, blogs and European Commission websites on EU citizens' rights:

http://europa.eu/citizens-2013/en/about/your-eu-rights

Results of the on-line consultation on EU citizens' rights:

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

The website of Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/reding/index_en.htm

Follow the Vice-President on Twitter: @VivianeRedingEU

Take part in the debate on Twitter: #EUdeb8

Contact:

Mina Andreeva (+32 2 299 13 82)

Natasha Bertaud (+32 2 296 74 56)

ANNEX

1. Young Germans will take part in the European Elections because they believe in the importance of democracy.

Source: Flash Eurobarometer 375: Telephone survey in April 2013 of participants from fifteen to thirty years old.

2. Germans feel 'European', but do not know enough about their rights as EU citizens

Source: Standard Eurobarometer 78:

3. Germans expect the EU above all to combat the economic crisis and to promote cooperation between the Member States.

Source: Standard Eurobarometer 78:


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