What kind of solutions can be found to bring citizens closer to the European project and strengthen their sense of belonging to the European Union?
In June 2016, after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union; google trends registered a spike with the question “What is the EU?”. It appears that a large majority of citizens who decided to vote for the Brexit had a tangible lack of understanding of what the European Union is and the benefits it brings. Educating European citizens is therefore essential to counter misinformation, Euroscepticism and to strengthen the internal cohesion of the EU.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) calls on the EU and its Member States to put in place measures to make the EU more inclusive by increasing citizens’ knowledge of the EU and highlighting its achievements. In its recent opinion on “Education in the EU”, drawn up at the request of the Romanian presidency, the EESC highlights the key role that education and learning play in strengthening citizens’ sense of identity, community and belonging to the EU, which could be crucial for the future of Europe.
In pursuit of this objective, the European Commission’s “Europe for Citizens” programme aims to contribute to citizens’ understanding of the EU, its history and diversity, and to encourage the democratic participation of citizens at European level. 4 calls for proposals opened on 17 December 2019 – “civil society projects” (01/09/2020), “network of cities” (03/03/2020), “European commemoration projects” (04/02/2020), and “town twinning” (04/02/2020). These schemes aim to promote European citizenship and improve the conditions for civic and democratic participation at EU level by:
- Supporting practical participation in the EU policy making process;
- Financing activities covering civic participation, focusing in particular on EU policies;
- Funding initiatives developing opportunities for mutual understanding, intercultural learning, solidarity, societal engagement and volunteering at EU level.
These funding opportunities are available for regional and local authorities, non-profit organizations, federations and associations.