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The European Year of Citizens

Monday, January 14th, 2013

This year is the “Year of Citizens” for the European Union, which officially kicked off the year-long focus this past week in Dublin, Ireland. Viviane Reding, a politician from Luxembourg and the vice-president of the European Commission, told her audience in Dublin’s City Hall that the vast majority of EU citizens—86 percent—don’t know what their rights as EU citizens are, and that almost 70 percent don’t believe that their voices are being heard. This year’s focus on citizenship is, she says, an effort to change that.

The Irish Times reports:

This is the European Year of Citizens, and to try to overcome the dominant image of remote Brussels bureaucrats, the commission has decided it will bring Europe to the citizens.

Over the year, key EU figures will hold what are called Citizens’ Dialogues in many EU states. The first was held [on January 10]  in Dublin’s City Hall, launched by EU Commission president José Manuel Barroso, along with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanáiste Eamon Gilmore.

Some 200 citizens attended the event but they were not truly representative of the population. To attend, people had to send in an application through the offices of the European Movement. As a result, only those with an interest would be moved to apply. Hence the audience, mostly young, was predominantly middle-class, well-educated, and (on the basis of the questions asked) largely pro-EU.

More information can be found at the EU’s Europe for Citizens program, which notes:

The EU’s strength is the diversity and potential of its nearly 500 million inhabitants. The Europe for citizens programme helps promote understanding between the Union and its citizens, seeks to deepen awareness of what it means to be a European, and assists in developing a sense of European identity.

The Europe for citizens programme […] aims to give the citizen a key role in the development of the European Union: promoting Europe’s common values and history, fostering a sense of ownership of the EU project among citizens, and developing ideas and activities with a European angle.