Citizens have always been at the heart of the European project and in 2013 they get their own year dedicated to them. The 2013 Year of the Citizens will be an opportunity for people to discover what rights they enjoy under EU legislation. We spoke to EP vice president Georgios Papastamkos, a Christian Democrat MEP from Greece, about what can be done to help citizens and give them a voice.
Why have a special year for citizens? Shouldn't every year be a year of the citizens?
EU is lacking a truly European public sphere. EU citizens should become the centre of the public debate of Europe's future. It is high time the EU came closer to its citizens, firstly to listen and then to explain; explain that for more than half a century Europe has been a space of peace and friendship, rights and opportunities, mobility and exchanges, progress and prosperity, education and culture.
What can the European Parliament do to improve the lives of EU citizens?
The European Parliament is continuously working to establish direct, modern, open paths of interactive communication with the citizens. Its reinforced legislative powers have to direct the EU decision making process towards the amelioration of the citizens' living conditions, corresponding to their true needs; to decisively defend their interests in the negotiations with its institutional partners.
How would you assess how the citizens initiative that was launched in April is coming along?
The ECI contributes to the "bottom-up" building of the Union's construction. The citizens of the 27member states are showing an active interest in making use of an innovative Union's instrument, thus hammering their European identity in a more tangible manner. The European Parliament is called upon to function as a "guarantor" of the ECI's genuine character, against any attempt of disorientation or misuse.