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Procedure : 2011/0217(COD)
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Document selected : A7-0271/2012

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Debates :

PV 22/10/2012 - 20
CRE 22/10/2012 - 20

Votes :

PV 23/10/2012 - 13.5
CRE 23/10/2012 - 13.5
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

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Verbatim report of proceedings
Monday, 22 October 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

20. European Year of Citizens (2013) (debate)
Video of the speeches

  President. – The next item is the report (A7-0271/2012) by Antigoni Papadopoulou, on behalf of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Year of Citizens (2013) (COM(2011)0489 – C7-0217/2011 – 2011/0217(COD).


  Antigoni Papadopoulou, rapporteur. Mr President, I would like to express my deep appreciation to Commissioner Reding for proposing 2013 as the European Year of Citizens and for launching the biggest ever web-based EU public consultation on citizens’ rights.

I thank the shadow rapporteurs for their excellent contributions, the Danish and Cyprus Presidencies for successfully concluding the trialogues and the administrators for their valuable assistance.

Colleagues, EU citizens today feel disappointed about the ongoing economic crisis, rising unemployment and the lack of effective solutions. Brussels seems far away; important decisions are taken for them without them; the lack of information and language problems remain persistent barriers preventing full enjoyment of Union citizenship within the EU and in cross-border situations.

Despite the great disappointment, it is, however, encouraging that the vast majority of European citizens have not turned their backs on the EU. They still consider EU membership to be a good thing, according to the latest Eurobarometer survey of August 2012. A better and deeper Europe is, however, required.

Further discussions on European integration require strong democratic support. EU political leaders and institutions must endorse the concerns of 500 million European citizens, fulfil their expectations and regain their trust. At a time of economic, political, and social crisis only twenty months before the next European elections, putting Union citizenship and participative democracy at the centre of the political agenda is absolutely essential.

This is exactly the aim of the European Year of Citizens 2013: to mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of Union citizenship by the Treaty of Maastricht and to give a new momentum to the debate on Union citizenship. All EU citizens must be informed and enjoy without discrimination all the rights granted to them by Union law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, i.e. the right to move and reside freely within the EU, to vote and to stand as candidates in European and municipal elections; to enjoy protection by the diplomatic or consular authorities of any Member State in a third country; to petition the European Parliament; to apply to the European Ombudsman; to address the institutions of the Union; to enjoy the free movement of goods and services, consumer protection, public health, equal opportunities, equal treatment, access to employment and social protection; to enjoy the new right of the European Citizens Initiative granted by the Lisbon Treaty, and to strengthen participative democracy through access to documents, information, good governance and administration.

In conclusion, all the initiatives launched for the European Year of Citizens should enhance awareness of Union citizenship, improve understanding of European integration and enhance cooperation among Union citizens, institutions and Member States. As Members of the European Parliament – the only directly elected EU institution – we have a crucial role to play in promoting the aims of the European Year of Citizens 2013 by bridging the gap between Brussels and Member States, communicating the rights and benefits of EU citizenship, endorsing citizens’ concerns in formulating EU policies and promoting participative democracy.

In view of the forthcoming European elections, we must raise awareness of the legislative powers of the European Parliament and encourage citizens to vote so that their voice is heard clearly by EU decision-makers. A Union of growth, stability and solidarity can only be built with the active involvement of well-informed active citizens.


  Andreas Mavroyiannis, President-in-Office of the Council. Mr President, I would like to begin my remarks this afternoon by welcoming the agreement reached between the Council and Parliament on this important issue.

The designation of 2013 as the European Year of Citizens is an important signal that we want to increase public awareness of the rights and responsibilities of citizens across the European Union. We hope, in particular, that it will highlight the rights of citizens to move and reside freely within the European Union. These issues are all the more important in the run-up to the European elections of 2014.

It was this Parliament which first proposed this initiative at the end of 2010. At that time you highlighted the need to stimulate discussion on Union citizenship and to inform Union citizens of their rights, in particular those resulting from the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. We are happy that the idea was taken up and moved forward by Commissioner Reding.

The Treaty on European Union first introduced the concept of citizenship of the Union, so next year will mark the 20th anniversary. It is therefore particularly appropriate that 2013 will be designated as the Year of Citizens. The Cyprus Presidency, building on the work of the Danish Presidency, was able to conclude negotiations on this proposal in the first few weeks of its term in office. I would like to thank in particular the rapporteur, Mrs Papadopoulou, for her enthusiasm for this initiative and for her willingness to negotiate in such a cooperative manner with the Council. I welcome the vote that will be taking place this week on this proposal and have no doubt that the initiative will be strongly endorsed by this Parliament.

The general objective of the European Year of Citizens in 2013 is to enhance awareness and knowledge of the rights – but also of the responsibilities – attached to Union citizenship. As is clear from the legal basis chosen by the Commission, the proposal aimed first and foremost to help citizens to make full use of their right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.

However, in the context of free movement, the European Year will also provide an opportunity to promote other rights. The free movement of persons is one of the four basic freedoms, but at the same time there is clearly also a way to bridge the gap between what the rules state and how they operate in practice. Citizens still encounter difficulties when moving to another Member State, whether as workers, students, entrepreneurs, job seekers or consumers. It is therefore essential that all citizens are fully aware of their legal rights.

This initiative will also provide an opportunity to raise awareness of other rights related to free movement, such as the right to vote and stand as a candidate in elections to the European Parliament and in local elections in the Member State of residence, the right to petition the European Parliament, the right to apply to the European Ombudsman and the right to address EU institutions, as well as a wide range of other rights, such as the free movement of goods and services, consumer protection and public health, equal opportunities and equal treatment.

We very much hope that this proposal will play an important role in encouraging and empowering citizens to uphold their right to engage actively at European level, not least in view of the 2014 European elections.

Of course, the European Year of Citizens is not a one-off event. It now needs to seek the launch of a longer-term process of building awareness and encouraging participation. I know this Parliament has a pivotal role in ensuring that this is the case. We also look forward to the 2013 European Union citizenship report, which will assess progress in this area and propose further initiatives to remove the obstacles which prevent citizens from fully enjoying their rights.

This is an important decision which serves the interest of all our citizens. All of us – this Parliament as well as our own national governments and parliaments – have a role in helping to increase awareness of what it means to be a citizen of the European Union. We are ready to play our role. I have no doubt that the European Parliament will be very active, not just in 2013 but also beyond, in highlighting this message.

Thank you for your attention.


  Janusz Lewandowski, Member of the Commission. Mr President, honourable Members, on behalf of the Commission I wish to thank very much the rapporteur, Mrs Papadopoulou, and the members of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and all the committees involved in shaping what is now, finally, a solid basis for compromise in this area that should suit all parties.

The European Year of Citizens 2013 will take place in a very special context, as next year also marks the 20th anniversary of EU citizenship, as introduced by the Maastricht Treaty. This is an opportunity to illustrate, with concrete examples, the benefits of EU citizenship in the daily lives of students, residents, tourists, workers, private individuals and businesses.

The Commission is ready to provide the second so-called ‘citizenship report’ on how to remove the remaining obstacles and barriers which make it difficult, in daily life, for European citizens to move around Europe.

The year also falls on the eve of the European elections. Therefore, it is a good opportunity to remind people that participation is legally possible wherever citizens may reside in the European Union. As mentioned already, this is a matter of raising awareness of the real value of citizenship, going beyond participation in the democratic life of the European Union, as already described on many occasions, to the rights to consular protection and to petition the European Parliament, address the Institutions and apply to the Ombudsman.

Last but not least, this is an opportunity to highlight the prerogatives of this assembly, which is an assembly of people elected by the people. I am happy now that we have a solid basis between the institutions, and I am sure that together we can make the European Year of Citizens a real success.




  Inês Cristina Zuber, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. − (PT) Mr President, commemorating the European Year of Citizens in 2013 is yet another means the European Union has found to try to legitimise the notion of the European Union as an area of democracy, equality, solidarity and citizens’ participation. Nowadays, however, the fact remains that public opinion and the workers of various countries increasingly perceive the EU as an area of inequality, exploitation and wage slavery, in which the rights that people have conquered over centuries of struggle are being eroded.

Let’s be honest: rather than an area of free movement of persons, the European Union is, in fact, an area of free movement of capital and goods for the benefit of international monopolies. To talk about the free movement of persons nowadays is to talk primarily about the reality of millions of workers who are unable to remain in their own country and are forced to seek a livelihood for their families by emigrating.

In this very difficult context, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs draws attention to the need to defend workers’ social security and trade union rights without discrimination of any kind.


  Marie-Christine Vergiat, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Culture and Education. (FR) Mr President, I should like to thank our rapporteur in particular, but also our shadow rapporteurs, especially those from the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and the Committee on Culture.

I would like to say, ‘What a long way we have come!’, not least because our discussions with the Council, under the Danish Presidency, did not get off to a very good start. It has to be said that the initial proposal was unacceptable to Parliament. We could not allow a European Year of Citizens with no reference to citizenship, to the way in which citizens can become more involved in the operation of our institutions and in the definition of the EU policies which given them all their place. Moreover, we are aware that we still have a lot of work to do.

We could not allow people to say that, if a gulf was opening up between the European institutions and their citizens, it was only because those citizens failed to appreciate their rights as regards freedom of movement. We know how things stand.

European citizens cannot be regarded simply as consumers who fail to appreciate their rights, and who are given a chance to vote in the European elections every five years. Education and culture also have their place in this debate.

I hope that we are blazing a trail here, making a start on the great integration project that is European citizenship, at the same time, of course, respecting the competencies of each Member State. I have only one regret, and that is that we have not given ourselves the resources to enable us to do the job.

Thanks to the Cyprus Presidency for being there and for including this priority in …

(The President cut off the speaker)


  Nikolaos Salavrakos, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Petitions. − (EL) Mr President, I congratulate Ms Papadopoulou on the excellent work she has done and the extremely important report she has tabled on the European Citizen.

I hope that this initiative will become a reality and not remain mere rhetoric. As the Committee on Petitions, which I represent here, we are making proposals, and specifically stressing the right of every EU citizen and every natural and legal person to bring a petition before the European Parliament; this right contributes to the thorough examination of democratic institutions. We lay particular stress on the right of citizens to free movement, partly as a means of attaining the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy, and as such we believe that the movement of young people, particularly students, is of vital importance for the European Union. It is also important for citizens to be informed about their rights, specifically through the European e-Justice portal. However, Mr President, I would like to send a message, because we emphasise these major ideas, we applaud them, but in reality we undermine them. The economic crisis we are going through has ruptured relations with citizens. I hope that the European Union will be given the opportunity to rebuild these relations. The crisis will pass.


  Marietta Giannakou, on behalf of the PPE Group. – (EL) Mr President, my congratulations to Ms Papadopoulou on her report.

In 2013 we will be celebrating the European Year of Citizens, 20 years after the concept of European citizenship arose, when it was accepted by the European Union. This is linked not only to the free movement of goods, services, people and capital, and mainly people, not only to cross-border relations and cooperation, but also to citizens’ rights as set out in the Treaty of Lisbon, for instance the citizens’ initiative and the right of consultation, which have enormous significance.

If today there is a drawback in the EU, it is precisely that many of its citizens only have a general and limited picture of the EU, but do not know who does what, what their responsibilities are and at what level they act. Since governments usually believe or say that anything good comes from national governments and, by contrast, anything unpleasant comes from Brussels, the European Year of Citizens could provide the opportunity for us to understand things better, for us to raise awareness among European citizens so that they perceive that it is possible to have both access to information and also participation. Of course, Mr President, the new report that is being prepared on the European political parties deals with providing access to and direct participation in the European political parties, and this will give great flexibility, help the national political parties and in general give citizens a better understanding of what the European Union is and where it is going.


  Kinga Göncz, on behalf of the S&D Group. – (HU) Mr President, the aim for 2013 is to draw attention to the rights of European citizens, the rights to which they are entitled. However, this year will be truly successful if European citizens see that they actually can assert their rights, and that the institutions of the European Union take their own fundamental principles and values seriously. Can citizens actually exercise the right to work in another country and have their qualifications recognised? Does the right to non-discrimination actually apply to everyone, for example those who seek their fortune in another Member State as Roma? Does the European Union take the guarantee of democratic rights seriously, and will it speak out if democracy is violated in any Member State and people cannot enjoy their democratic rights?

They are curious to know whether they can enjoy their social rights, and whether the fundamental principle of solidarity works. Will those who have been hit hardest by the crisis receive help? Will solidarity also manifest itself in the budget after 2014? If we can make progress in these areas, I think this year will be a successful one.


  Nathalie Griesbeck, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, 2013 is to be the European Year of Citizens, the year of European citizenship, 20 years after the creation of European citizenship and, as has been said several times this evening, one year before the renewal of the European Parliament. It is therefore a very symbolic year, even a very serious year, particularly in the present context.

In fact, the latest surveys show that, since autumn 2009, there has been a very worrying and very noticeable trend towards a serious and very substantial loss of confidence in Community actions and the Community acquis, even, when it comes to rights and freedoms, within the European Union itself.

Faced with this situation, the essential question has always been, and still is, the need to consolidate a European identity, to succeed in creating a common feeling of belonging, to make a real success of defining the shape of this European citizenship, a shape which will be applicable to all Europeans. There is no doubt that this objective which has been announced can be achieved in 2013, but only by means of more information, more dialogue, more meetings, more exchanges and more sharing.

Although I am delighted with the excellent quality of the text, I wish that our institutions, when making their choices and decisions, would show enough determination to give themselves the means of achieving their objectives, and would thereby demonstrate a strong political willingness to practice what they preach. Moreover, though of course I am happy about the results obtained in the negotiations, in particular by Ms Papadopoulou, who showed great determination, especially regarding the broadening of the scope of this European Year of Citizens in the decision-making process, the European civil dialogue, etc., I have strong reservations about the ridiculous budget allocated to this European Year, the smallest ever given to a European Year.

Since the task is so enormous, I am sorry that the Council and certain members of the Committee on Budgets have refused to grant resources for this Year, which is, without doubt, one of the most important and one which, in my opinion, should be regarded as the Union’s first priority, because without European citizens we have no Europe and we cannot integrate Europe.


  Jean Lambert, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Mr President, my thanks as well to the rapporteur, not least for trying to push through a wider vision of what the European Year of Citizens should be about, rather than just focusing on the rights to free movement.

These rights do need to be better understood. We know that they are crucially important and that for many citizens they are seen as the key indicator of equality within an EU setting, along with coordination of social security rights – maybe this is why certain governments and parties feel that to help make the European Union less acceptable they have to call those rights into question at the moment.

As our rapporteur says, the EU needs to be able to answer the bigger questions about what role citizens are playing in decision-making in the European Union. The current crisis certainly makes many feel that they are on the receiving end of decisions made elsewhere, and that decisions are being made to suit unaccountable markets rather than individuals and families living with the consequences. Maybe one of the outcomes we should be looking at for this European Year is to have a real citizens’ charter.


  Emma McClarkin, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, well, here we are discussing the proposed European Year of Citizens, making 2013 the year the EU tries to sell its benefits to its citizens. I have always said that if there are such great benefits, they should be felt by the man in the street and not have to be read about or pushed down on them. That is the true test of them.

It is described as a timely opportunity, given that it is one year before the European elections, and it has a budget request of EUR 5 million.

This European Year is not for the citizens but is for the EU itself to promote the EU project.

Colleagues, we are in the midst of the most severe economic crisis in living memory. If this was truly to be a year for European citizens, we would do better to listen to them, cut red tape and barmy laws, create more jobs and growth and stop spending their money on pointless buildings, monuments and programmes and show some real solidarity with the people who are struggling and who we are supposed to represent.

As a proud British citizen, I also find it impossible to support a report which seeks to place EU citizen status above my national citizenship. It is therefore easy for me to say that I will oppose this report.


  Roger Helmer, on behalf of the EFD Group. – Mr President, we are here tonight to talk about European citizenship – but what is this European citizenship? I never wanted it, I never asked for it, I never voted for it, I never accepted it. I absolutely reject and repudiate your European citizenship. I was born a British citizen and a subject of the Queen, and I intend to remain that way. This whole exercise is merely a propaganda project, spending the taxpayers’ money to try and convince the taxpayer – in a futile attempt – that he loves the European Union. But with the EU teetering between failure and disaster, with the euro creating grinding deflation, poverty, hunger and unemployment across southern Europe, the citizen does not love the European Union. We in my country have had enough of it: we want out.


  Lena Kolarska-Bobińska (PPE). (PL) Mr President, at a time of crisis, it is especially important to discuss and to develop a European identity. We talk about a banking union, a monetary union, a political union, but none of that can become an enduring reality if we do not strengthen the identity associated with it. I believe that this is one of the purposes served by the year we have been discussing.

However, we have talked only about rights. In my opinion, it is time to begin discussing citizens’ responsibilities too. It is not just a question of freedom of movement; citizenship of any country carries with it responsibilities. One of these responsibilities – and also a privilege – is the duty to vote. In some countries, it is not uncommon for the turnout in parliamentary elections to be 20 to 25 % or 30 % of the electorate. I think that we need to focus on this issue, as there are people – I have met some of them – who are not even aware that they are entitled to vote in European Parliament elections.

Our budget for this year is obviously limited, but I think that we MEPs need to start thinking about how and what to communicate. We must begin to exchange best practice. It is here that we must forge the European identity that we will promote. This is not an issue that can be addressed for us by the institution or through programmes. It is we who, in our conversations with people, must deliver the message. I therefore call on Members to use their time here to exchange best practice.


  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D). (SK) Mr President, just at this time of crisis, with its dramatic impacts, European Union citizens are gradually ceasing to believe in the European Union. Therefore, I am convinced that increasing their awareness of the rights which they derive from European citizenship may renew their trust in the EU.

EU citizenship encompasses such significant rights as the right to freedom of movement, the right to protection from diplomatic or consular authorities, the right to petition the European Parliament and many others. Citizens of the EU can now enjoy safer, cheaper air travel, better, cheaper telephone calls, consumer protection, food safety and access to healthcare systems all over the EU. Thanks to the Single Market, they can live, work, study and travel in the European Union.

However, it is precisely lack of information and awareness of their rights that is one of the most common problems encountered by citizens living, studying or working in other countries. These barriers are even increasing as a result of the adverse effects of the crisis, including growth in unemployment rates and social unrest.


  Sandrine Bélier (Verts/ALE). (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we cannot go on creating Europe without its citizens. The year 2013 will be the European Year of Citizens. This is good news. There is a lot at stake here, and we shall have to give ourselves the resources to enable us, in the difficult situation which the European Union is experiencing, faced with disaffection and lack of confidence, to turn the European Year of Citizens into Year One of European citizenship in everyday life.

Our citizens are the reason for our presence here, and we must send them the message that Parliament and the European Union do not take citizens’ rights lightly, that they are at the heart of all the decisions that we take on a day-to-day basis. We need a campaign which matches the level of what is at stake. Savings in the budget must not be made on this aspect if we do not want the gulf between the Union and its citizens to become even wider.

The action programme will have to be ambitious. The tools of participative democracy must be developed and distributed: petitions, access to the Ombudsman, European citizens’ initiatives, citizens’ forums, consultations, etc.

I am sorry to say that our citizens fail to appreciate the rights and tools of participative democracy. In 2013, let us put our citizens back into the heart of our institutions and, in so doing, put Europe back into the heart of its Member States.


  Oreste Rossi (EFD). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, 20 years after the establishment of Union citizenship – on 1 November 1993, with the Treaty of Maastricht – the European Commission has proposed that 2013 be designated the European Year of Citizens.

All European citizens can take an active part in the decision-making process by petitioning the European Parliament or applying to the European Ombudsman. It is essential that we give a higher profile to the web portals ‘Europe direct’ and ‘Your Europe’ as part of a one-stop-shop system for information on the rights of citizens of the Union, and to the existence and role of problem-solving tools such as SOLVIT or the protection provided by consulates, which we shall be discussing this very week.

Support for research and innovation are objectives to be met in connection with the Europe 2020 strategy. However, the text does not pay enough attention to the unfair competition which can result from the free movement of persons and the mobility of workers and undertakings between Member States with different tax systems and administrative regulations. For this reason, I shall abstain.


  Auke Zijlstra (NI). (NL) Mr President, the European Year of Citizens is being organised again, and it is cheaper than ever! In 2010, it still cost EUR 27 million, in 2011 it was EUR 11 million and now it can be done for as little as EUR 1 million!

But what is the Commission trying to achieve with one million that is not achieved with a multiple of that amount? The Commission wants to spend the money on translating and distributing propaganda for the European project. Does that give citizens an understanding of the Union and its institutions? No, of course not! As long as the Union restricts freedom and wreaks havoc on the economy, citizens will not understand the decisions taken in Brussels.

The creation of a European identity, then. Well, ask the Greeks about that; they have been given hundreds of billions. The Commission has come up with a proposal that no citizen has asked for and not even the Commission itself believes in. That is clear from this budget. And, Mr President, even that EUR 1 million is money wasted.


  Andrew Henry William Brons (NI). – Mr President, citizenship is quite different from nationality. Whereas the latter is inherited and felt intuitively, the former, if not based on nationality, is a legal relationship which is artificial and contrived. European citizenship is artificial because it is not based on a European nationality.

Now, there is a European identity, but it is not based on common values; it is not a campaigning group. It is based on overlapping but not conterminous ancestries and, to varying degrees, engrained similarities of behaviour and ability. Moreover, the European people share a common civilisation. However, Europeans are not a demos and cannot be the foundation of a European democracy.

European citizenship has been closely associated with freedom of movement of labour. However, movement of workers at the behest of capital is simply a sanitised version of human trafficking.


Catch-the-eye procedure


  Alajos Mészáros (PPE). (HU) Mr President, the report on the European Year of Citizens mentions the most significant stages in the 20-year development of Union citizenship. In 1993 the Treaty of Maastricht introduced the concept of Union citizenship, and the Treaty of Amsterdam and then the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009 reinforced the rights associated with Union citizenship. The Union-related rights of citizens have expanded, but this is still not enough, in my view. What is needed above all for Union identity to become a reality is the trust of Union citizens. They must assert these rights, which are enshrined in the Treaties, in practice too. The institutions, chiefly the Commission and Parliament, must strive to engage in dialogue with citizens. We must ensure equal opportunities and rights for all citizens.

I would like to draw the Commission’s attention to the fact that not all Union citizens will be able to exercise their rights properly until discriminatory legal provisions are erased from the legal systems of the Member States, without exception. As an example of this, I would like to mention the Slovak nationality law and the discriminatory parts of the Beneš Decrees.


  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D). (RO) Mr President, 2013, the European Year of Citizens, should continue the work of raising citizens’ awareness of their rights stemming from their status as EU citizens, when they exercise their right to move and reside freely in another Member State, for instance as students, workers, job seekers, volunteers, consumers, young entrepreneurs or pensioners. I urge that those obstacles still preventing people from exercising their rights as EU citizens should be removed.

In this context, I would stress the importance of eliminating the barriers that stand in the way of the free movement of Romanian and Bulgarian workers. We cannot truly speak of European citizenship while barriers and differences exist between the citizens of Member States. That is why I ask that, no later than the first quarter of 2013, all barriers imposed by some Member States against Romanian and Bulgarian workers should be lifted. Facilitating the freedom of movement of persons and enhancing workers’ mobility are important means by which to address the consequences of demographic changes in the labour market.


  Franz Obermayr (NI). (DE) Mr President, to announce 2013 as the European Year of Citizens sounds like a bad joke! For it is those same citizens that the EU is expropriating – without asking them. In the end, thanks to the ESM, the taxpayers will be liable for debts for which they are not responsible, without even being consulted. Under any civil law contract, such a serious change – and let me remind you that the Treaties actually include a bail-out clause – would require the assent of all parties concerned. In this case, the parties most concerned are, without doubt, the citizens and taxpayers, not the governments, nor the Commission. Citizens must have an opportunity to vote directly in their country on whether they want a conversion, a transfer operation, or whether they want the EU converted into a federal state. Instead of flowery words about Union citizenship, we should use 2013 finally to give a hearing to the citizens!


  Philippe Boulland (PPE). (FR) Mr President, it is necessary to establish one fact before this European Year of Citizens, particularly now after what we have just heard from our colleagues in the European Conservatives and Reformists Group.

When Member States talk about citizenship, they can quickly slide into nationalism. When Member States talk about Europe, they can also quickly slide into nationalism. This is why, for the European Year of Citizens, Europe should do more to base its discussions on subjects which differentiate it from Member States. Citizens are experiencing many difficulties, which often come to the attention of the Committee on Petitions.

The EU’s publicity campaign ought, I believe, to demonstrate the fact that Europe sometimes does just as much for its citizens in their day-to-day life as their own Member States do.


  Zita Gurmai (S&D). – Mr President, the European Year of Citizens will be a great opportunity to raise awareness about how citizens can truly benefit from EU rights and policies. This is of crucial importance if we want to foster a genuine European debate on democratic participation. This year will also provide good momentum to take stock of the obstacles and barriers that too many European citizens – students, workers and families – are still facing.

I still regret that they did not call it the European Year of Citizenship, as suggested by the rapporteur and myself, because the future of the European Union will not be achieved without a truly European citizenship. The European Union is, and has to be, more than a single market, and this starts with the European citizens.

Finally, I would like to underline once again the necessity to provide sufficient funding in order to make this European Year of Citizens a success. I would also point out the necessity for the European Parliament and its Members to be closely involved in all the activities and communications that take place in this framework.


  Sergio Gaetano Cofferati (S&D). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Mrs Papadopoulou has carried out valuable work and, as she herself has said, we must admit that the Commissioner has made a choice we might even call courageous in these times.

The crisis has highlighted the existence of negative views in some States, in many areas of institutional or political representation, which is that those who want to solve the problems of the crisis bring up the question of people’s rights – as though restricting rights would automatically give us a way out of the difficulties. These rights are variously those of the person as such, of workers, of women or men who have an occupation, and often they are rights denied to citizens.

I believe that rebuilding this link between the person – the worker, that is the function of production – and citizenship is an indispensable political and cultural choice. And the Year of Citizens will help us in that respect too.


  Nikos Chrysogelos (Verts/ALE).(EL) Mr President, it is very important, in fact, to talk, in the context of the European Year of Citizens, about the problems of citizens, and 2013 is extremely crucial because it is one year before the European elections, so it will be possible to define the image that citizens will have of Europe and the European Parliament as well as what they will be voting for, while at the same time they will be casting a vote in favour of Europe, and not just in favour of a particular party.

On the other hand, it is a year which comes after several years of crisis, and we must say that Europe has solutions for citizens’ problems, not just solutions for the numbers. It is very important to have more Europe, to have European solutions to the crisis, but not connected to austerity, not just to the removal of citizens’ rights.

In order for Europe to win back citizens it must have policies that are compatible with its values at the social level, at the democratic level, and at the political level. We want more Europe, we want European citizenship and we want citizens to participate in politics and for us to listen to them.


(End of the catch-the-eye procedure)


  Janusz Lewandowski, Member of the Commission. Mr President, given the majority position in this House, we do not need to convince ourselves that the European Year of Citizens is a good opportunity to bring our complex institutions a little bit closer to the citizens of Europe and perhaps to rediscover, as in the message from the Nobel Prize Academy in Oslo, the beauty of this project that I admired for many years from behind the Iron Curtain. I do not have to be convinced of the beauty of this European project.

Several pieces of information on the practical steps for next year’s celebrations: the EU media launch and kick-off event for the European Year 2013 will take place on 28 November 2012, in parallel with a general assembly of the Committee of the Regions. On the same date, the Commission is to launch the website that is a central hub of the year, with all the relevant information and the events calendar. This is an umbrella calendar, with any organisation or individual initiative allowed to advertise in the European Year of Citizens calendar.

This is about interaction with the citizens, but there are also high-level Presidency plans: understandably an opening ceremony in Ireland, as it is the Irish Presidency that is coming up at the beginning of the year, and a closing event in Lithuania in December 2013.

Nathalie Griesbeck is right that the budget for the whole year is rather modest. It is EUR 1 million, with additional money for this year’s preparations. It is not about EUR 5 million, as was mentioned in this discussion for unknown reasons.

I do not want to enter into a discussion on what is meant by nationality and citizenship. My understanding is that after 50 years of European integration the French do not feel less French or the Dutch less Dutch. I think that one can be a proud citizen of Tuscany, a proud Italian national, and also see Europe as the common destiny of all Europeans.


  Andreas Mavroyiannis, President-in-Office of the Council. Mr President, I would like to thank Parliament very warmly for the constructive spirit that has prevailed in this debate. Let me assure you that we have, of course, full respect for dissenting opinions.

I am really grateful to all the honourable Members who have expressed a call for better information, awareness-raising and involvement of citizens. The Cyprus Presidency fully shares these objectives. Citizens are at the heart of the EU in all policy areas.

Therefore, an initiative such as the European Year of Citizens is particularly welcome. Following this, and as a first step, all institutions and stakeholders should cooperate in order to make the European Year of Citizens a success. Furthermore, the European Year should be the cornerstone, launching a long-term and interactive debate on European citizenship.

A distinguished speaker – I think it was Mr Helmer – mentioned that the European Union is not a demos. Maybe not yet, but let us think. Would it not be better if it were to become a demos through participation and appropriation by all? I could not agree more with what Mrs Vergiat said about the importance of this chantier which is only just starting and needs to cover all fields of life, in an interactive manner and in constant osmosis, thus contributing to bridging the gap between the institutions and the citizens, making the Union more relevant and the European space a more friendly space for citizens and for their quality of life to thrive in. This is essential, now more than ever, given the dire times we are going through, with negative consequences in the daily lives of people and where we need to prove through effectiveness and deeds that the European Union is part of the solution.

We need to provide hope, and to work towards a better Europe for all. I would like, once again, to express my gratitude to the rapporteur, Mrs Antigoni Papadopoulou, for her comprehensive, visionary and far-reaching approach.


  Antigoni Papadopoulou, rapporteur. (EL) Mr President, I will not comment on what the euro-sceptics have said, because we often hear that they want to leave Europe. We will comment on what the majority said, what the shadow rapporteurs said, what the Cypriot Presidency said, what we struggled to achieve. We want a better Europe, and since, as a Cypriot, I feel that I am deprived of my right to free movement in my own country, because I cannot move freely from one end to the other as a result of the Turkish occupation of European territory (37 % of Cypriot territory), I believe in particular that Europe must be an area of freedom, and of free movement, not just of ideas and commodities, but of citizens.

Therefore, all the shadow rapporteurs and I, as rapporteur, worked hard, and with special interest, on this issue. I welcome the fact that the Cypriot Presidency was very positive in receiving our messages and in fact did a very good job in bringing this dossier to completion. I trust that we will soon have available to us the second report on European citizenship, which will contain specific actions to overcome the barriers faced by the 500 million European citizens, and I trust that the citizens’ charter will also be created, because we need it.

We believe in a better Europe, we will work to ensure that this year is a successful year, and I regret the fact that EUR 1 million is not enough. I trust that there will be second thoughts and that the amount will be increased, because we requested EUR 5 million and in the end I heard that only EUR 2 million would be approved. Other European years had EUR 11 million, and even more, available to them. I understand that this is a time of crisis, but nevertheless, if we want citizens to be at the heart of our policies and if we want more Europe and better Europe, then the right actions and good provision of information to citizens are needed. We believe in participatory democracy and this is the road towards a better future in the European family to which we belong.


  President. − The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Tuesday, 23 October 2012.

Written statements (Rule 149)


  Zuzana Brzobohatá (S&D), in writing. – (CS) On the occasion of the coming year, 2013, which is a Year of active citizenship, the European Union should direct more attention than it has done to date towards the development of civil society. Among the fundamental aims that the EU wants to achieve is an increase in European citizens’ awareness of their rights, freedoms and opportunities for political participation. I welcome this impulse and will support it through my activities in the European Parliament. I shall also highlight other areas covered by this Year of Citizens: access to information for all EU citizens, support of equal opportunities for women and development of citizens’ mutual respect and European awareness. Therefore, I consider it vital to support the education of citizens – both the younger and the older generations – in areas which help to strengthen European awareness and identity.

Initiatives in the regions of the individual Member States are very important, because it is precisely in the local sphere that political and civic activities originate. Citizens’ initiatives represent active citizens, and so require maximum support from the countries of the EU. Citizen participation is the key to preserving, further developing and building democracy.


  Filip Kaczmarek (PPE), in writing. – (PL) I welcome the European Year of Citizens taking place in 2013. I belong to a political party founded by citizens conscious of their rights and objectives. Our sense of citizenship was so important to us that we named our party ‘Civic Platform’ [Platforma Obywatelska] (PO). I believe that citizens are aware of and appreciate the work accomplished by PO politicians. It is worth always bearing in mind that good politics must stem from judicious concern for the common good. It was in that spirit that we founded Civic Platform and we continue to be guided by it. In addition to being Polish citizens, we also feel and are European. As Europeans, too, we should show awareness and commitment. I am certain that, as a result of the European Year of Citizens, awareness of the rights associated with European citizenship will improve. Campaigns will be organised to explain the rights enjoyed by those who study, work, set up businesses or spend their retirement in other Member States. The year 2013 will mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of EU citizenship. The rights of every citizen are guaranteed by the European Treaties, including the right to move and settle within another Member State, to vote and stand in European and local elections and to petition the European Parliament. It is important to know about and exercise these rights.


  Tunne Kelam (PPE), in writing. – The European Year of Citizens might be just another year Europe is proposing, but this time it is essential that all the institutions and Member States take this year seriously and bring Europe to all levels and all levels to Europe. Citizens are more and more facing fatigue from Europe and feeling politics at European level distancing itself from the people. In these crucial times in which we seek to deepen European integration, it is essential that our citizens understand and support the efforts of politicians and institutions. Citizens are the backbone of the EU and if we want to achieve true political and economic integration, we cannot bypass the people who would actually make it happen. We have to engage in meaningful dialogue and consultation with our citizens on European issues. Also, one year before the European elections, we need to step up our efforts to explain European-level politics and political parties. For the first time, European parties will be able to campaign, and this provides an excellent opportunity to have a real European debate at all levels across Europe. Our citizens need to feel that their opinion counts, that European elections matter and that Europe is our common home.


  Véronique Mathieu (PPE), in writing. – (FR) I supported this report so that 2013 would be declared the European Year of Citizens. Since its creation 20 years ago, European citizenship has enabled us to benefit from a large number of rights: the right to vote in local elections, consular protection abroad, compensation in the case of flight delays or cancellations, the right to an interpreter during a trial abroad, freedom of movement, etc. However, these rights remain insufficiently appreciated. This European Year will enable the spotlight to be trained on the rights of European citizens so that everyone knows their rights and can then assert them anywhere in Europe.


  Tiziano Motti (PPE), in writing. – (IT) The year 2013 has been declared the European Year of Citizens in order to strengthen the links between citizens and the European institutions and, above all, in order to explain properly to everyone what it means to have European citizenship and what rights are enjoyed by students, workers, jobseekers, volunteers, consumers, businesspeople or indeed pensioners when they choose to move to and remain freely in another Member State. It is important to raise the awareness of citizens – and also of national and European institutions – but too often the talk is of rights which then prove difficult to apply because of red tape and obstacles that interfere with implementing them. Our commitment must be to ensuring that, today, it is really possible for a young person – or even a not so young person – to study or work in any of the 27 Member States without feeling like an outsider, without having to jump through endless hoops, and that they are able to make use of the qualifications they already have from study in their country of origin and, indeed, to benefit from social security.


  Pavel Poc (S&D), in writing. – (CS) The European Union now stands at a crossroads in its further development. It cannot be denied that there has been progress on free market issues and the free movement of persons. However, for further progress to be made on European integration, it is vital to find a basis for European civic identity. This must be based on EU citizens’ sense of belonging and solidarity and on strengthening the democratic elements of its decision-making. As a matter of principle, the European Union must, in the framework of the European Year of Citizens (EYC 2013), strengthen knowledge about the existing rights of EU citizens. Awareness of EU citizens’ rights will create a generalised pressure on the representatives of Member States, facilitating a more intensive integration process. Therefore EYC 2013 is a very important initiative. All the European institutions, in co-operation with civil society, should try to improve the general level of knowledge about such fundamental matters. One especially important, responsible task is to create new stimuli for the section of European civil society that supports a more profound integration process. As the sole EU body elected by citizens, the European Parliament must play a leading role in that regard.


  Jarosław Leszek Wałęsa (PPE), in writing. – One of the crucial aims of the European Year of Citizens is to make EU citizens aware of their rights. As direct representatives of our citizens we have an obligation to inform them to the best of our abilities of the work and legislation that is handled by us. I feel strongly that the dedicated year of 2013 should only be used as a springboard for our future efforts to incorporate the citizens of this Union. I consider this undertaking to be crucial in educating society and bring it together to learn more about EU integration, values and policies, about the impact that EU legislation has on their lives and to help make them a part of this legislation by taking greater roles in the development of the EU. The EU uses the Year of 2013 as an opportunity to involve citizens in constructing and developing the programme. It will use all possible information and dissemination tools to raise awareness of the EU and attract public and media attention all across Europe. These occasions will develop a greater sense of belonging to a European community among EU citizens. Only with great communication between the EU and ordinary citizens can we contribute to Europe’s success and its standing in the world.

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