On 14 April 2014, the Council of the European Union has unanimously adopted the Regulation setting up the ‘Europe for Citizens’ programme for the period 2014-2020. The new Europe for Citizens Programme guide has been made available in the 23 working languages of the EU on the EACEA website.
The annual work programme for 2014 is expected to be published in the upcoming days, along with the next generation of call for proposals, which will complement the fist strand of preparatory calls for proposals that were published in 2013 (Town Twinning, Networks of Towns, European remembrance and civil society projects).
The rationale for fostering active citizenship at European level: spinning a European identity
In the context of a perceived lack of democratic legitimacy of European institutions and rising tensions between European people due to economic troubles, it has become urgent to promote transnational dialogue and increase citizens involvement in policy making at European level. This should notably be achieved through raising awareness on the existence of a sense of common belonging and shared values between Europeans, as well as highlighting the link between the solution to a broad range of economic and social problems and the Union’s policies.
The EU ambition is obviously not to force a virtual common identity upon Europeans, and there still isn’t such as thing as a genuine European people. However, there is growing consensus on the need to increase solidarity between the different people that make up the EU and scale debates and issues up to European levels. This will also contribute to realizing the objectives of the EU 2020 Strategy, which has put the reinforcement of social cohesion at the top of its agenda. Here comes the Europe for Citizens programme into play.
Europe for citizens in a nutshell
A follow-up to the precedent edition of the programme (Europe for Citizens 2007-2013), the new Europe for Citizens programme for 2014-2020 will come into force with a 185,5 million euro budget for 2014-2020.
The scope of the programme is twofold. On the one hand, it should give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views in all domains of Union action, as well as further involving themselves in the EU policy-making. On the other hand, it should allow European citizens and inhabitants to actively engage in transnational exchange and cooperation activities, thereby forging a sense of belonging to common European ideals that adds up to the existing sense of national and regional identities. These objectives are obviously complementary, as getting citizens to give their full support to European integration requires laying a greater emphasis on their common values, history and culture.
Priorities and supported actions
The programme will be implemented along two strands, namely European remembrance on the one hand and Democratic engagement and Civic participation on the other hand. It will be open to organisations established in EU Member States as well as in potential and official candidate countries.
The European Remembrance strand of the programme focuses on preserving the memories of the crimes perpetrated by totalitarian regimes in the past and highlighting the role played by the EU in fostering peace on the continent and supporting democratic transition in countries formerly submitted to totalitarian systems.
The Democratic Engagement and Civic Participation strand of the programme will deal with citizens’ participation in the democratic life of the EU, ranging from local democracy to the empowerment of citizens to play a full part in EU policy. This shall pave the way for the creation of a genuine European public space, where European issues are discussed and debated from a European standpoint, allowing citizens to express and share views on issues of common European interest.
Activities to be supported by the programme will take the form of transnational partnerships, European civil society networks, citizens’ events, town twinning projects, and remembrance initiatives. Several of these activities are built around historical commemorations and political events for 2014, namely the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, the 10 years of enlargement of the European Union to Central and Eastern Europe and the elections to the European Parliament.