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Leonard Orban

European Commissioner responsible for Multilingualism

" EU actors: an important link in building and communicating the European Union"

EurActiv conference: EU actors: how to interact with EU capitals?
Brussels, 8 November 2007

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very glad to participate in this conference, together with Ms. Kuneva, as recent commissioners. I think the reflection proposed by Euractiv is very important and touches upon an essential field, important for the European democracy: dialogue with EU citizens. I am very happy to speak about the interaction between EU actors and EU capitals, for several reasons:

Firstly, I am the commissioner for multilingualism and, although this field is not new among the fields of activity of the Commission, this is the first time a distinct portfolio for multilingualism has been set up. It is clear that I cannot do this alone: to build a policy able to meet the expectations of the European citizens, of companies, language practitioners etc. To build a sustainable multilingualism policy, we first need to know what Europeans want and what their needs are. This is why I have visited many Member States. I met representatives of the governments, of parliaments, but also experts in this field, professors or practitioners of languages, representatives of civil society. I launched an online consultation and a Have your say corner on my website. In November, we will organise a business forum in Lisbon, to identify how multilingualism can contribute to the competitiveness of European companies. A business conference was organised in Brussels in September. A Group of Intellectuals is carrying out an analysis on the contribution of multilingualism to the year of intercultural dialogue. A ministerial conference will be organised at the beginning of next year. The High Level Group on Multilingualism, comprising experts in this field, presented its first report on the 26th of September. I highly value their work, as they are the professionals of languages. All these inputs will feed into the communication on multilingualism, to be issued next year. I also want to underline that not only this dialogue allows us to know the needs of the European, but lets us identify and share best practices. I take advantage of this conference to launch an appeal to you to add your ideas and suggestions to the almost 2200 contributions to the online consultation on multilingualism. Because, through the future multilingualism policy, I want to address the needs of citizens, of stakeholders, of Member States.

The second reason why I am very happy to talk about the EU and actors and their interaction with EU capitals is the fact that the commissioners have a special relation with the countries they know best. During my visits in Romania, I meet officials responsible for multilingualism, education etc., but I also meet other officials responsible with EU affairs. I was asked why I discussed other issues than those strictly related to my portfolio. The answer is simple, although manifold: as a member of the College of Commissioners, I participate in the decisions taken both with regard to the whole of Europe and with regard to Romania, especially those related to the implementation of the Community acquis. I consider it is my duty to explain to Romanian authorities, to Romanian citizens, why the Commission is taking one decision or another, why rules have been set at the Community level, what these rules are and why respecting them is so important for Romanians and for all the EU citizens.

I need to underline that the dialogue of a commissioner is not confined to the country he or she knows best or strictly to his or her portfolio. This dialogue is continuous and comprehensive, comprising all the Member States, political authorities, but also civil society or other stakeholders.

What is the role of the EU actors in relation with European capitals, with the Member States? I am a European commissioner, so I will speak about my duties, but I look forward to finding the opinions of other speakers, as well. While accomplishing its role of putting forward legislation, the European Commission needs to take into account both the global picture and particular situations, so everybody is better off in the medium and long run. Decisions on all the files are based on profound debates, both at technical level and at the level of the College. In these debates, each commissioner brings his or her own contribution. Because the decisions we take should not create punctual unbalances that might distort the global situation of the Union. Therefore, each commissioner can explain the rationale behind these decisions.

The same principles apply when the Commission acts as “the guardian of the Treaties”. The rules are very clear and there is no exception for any Member State. But these decisions must be explained, in order to avoid the impression that "Brussels takes arbitrary decisions and does not take into account specificities."

In the future, the issue of communication can become even more acute. Big challenges lie ahead of us. I am referring to globalisation, climate change, energy security, the fight against terrorism. I am referring to the need for increased competitiveness inside and outside the EU. I am referring to ensuring sustainable economic growth, to reforming labour markets. These are not easy tasks. They require resolute decisions. They require the efforts and cooperation of Member States, of stakeholders, of citizens. At the same time, they require an effective communication, a good explanation of decisions taken in Brussels or at the national level. Let’s be very frank: the EU institutions, the media or politicians cannot do it alone, without the civil society.

Ladies and gentlemen, you, as representatives of companies, trade unions, or other stakeholders, contribute both to the shaping of decision, but also to their communication. I know the importance of business associations, trade unions or other stakeholders in disseminating information, in explaining it, in helping companies or citizens to be better prepared and more competitive.

At the same time, you are in contact with citizens; you know their interests, what they want, what are their needs. In order to build good policies at the EU level, we need your feedback, your contribution.

This is why, ladies and gentlemen, I consider you a very important, credible and professional link in building and communicating the European Union. You can help us get closer to EU citizens, to understand them better and make us better understood. Together, we can build a dialogue between EU actors and EU capitals, EU towns and villages.

Thank you for you attention.

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