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Procedure : 2015/2329(INI)
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PV 02/03/2017 - 3
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Thursday, 2 March 2017 - Brussels
Implementation of the Europe for Citizens programme

European Parliament resolution of 2 March 2017 on the implementation of Council Regulation (EU) No 390/2014 of 14 April 2014 establishing the ʻEurope for Citizensʼ programme for the period 2014-2020 (2015/2329(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 10 and 11 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), which state that ‘every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union’, that ‘the institutions shall, by appropriate means, give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views in all areas of Union action’, and that ‘the institutions shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society’,

–  having regard to Protocol No 1 on the role of National Parliaments in the European Union,

–  having regard to Protocol No 2 on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality,

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EU) No 390/2014 of 14 April 2014 establishing the ‘Europe for Citizens’ programme for the period 2014-2020(1),

–  having regard to its resolution of 19 January 2016 on the role of intercultural dialogue, cultural diversity and education in promoting EU fundamental values(2),

–  having regard to the report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the implementation, results and overall assessment of the ‘Europe for Citizens’ programme 2007-2013 (COM(2015)0652),

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure, as well as Article 1(1)(e) of, and Annex 3 to, the decision of the Conference of Presidents of 12 December 2002 on the procedure for granting authorisation to draw up own-initiative reports,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Culture and Education and the opinions of the Committee on Budgets and the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (A8-0017/2017),

A.  whereas the Europe for Citizens programme is a unique and highly symbolic programme, insofar as it is a listening exercise on civil society’s debate, as it stimulates critical thinking on the European project, its history and that of the movements and ideas that have promoted it and as it contributes to a better knowledge of the European decision-making process, improving the conditions for civic and democratic participation at Union level;

B.  whereas the Europe for Citizens programme aims to strengthen a sense of European citizenship and belonging, enhance solidarity, mutual tolerance and respect, to promote a better understanding of the EU, its origin and development, its values, its institutions and competences and to foster an active dialogue between EU citizens; whereas the activities under the programme can be seen as part of informal lifelong education in citizenship;

C.  whereas the ‘one euro per citizen’ campaign for the Europe for Citizens programme is aimed at sending a strong symbolic message about listening to citizens’ voices in Europe;

D.  whereas the current rise of ‘Euroscepticism’ – which is reflected by anti-European forces calling into question the very existence of the European project and culminated recently in the vote in favour of Brexit – highlights the importance of such programmes and reinforces the need to foster the development of a shared sense of European identity, to reflect on the causes of the European Union’s loss of credibility, to encourage civic participation and to launch an in-depth debate on European values, which should involve the whole of civil society and the institutions themselves – and a training campaign on the functioning of EU institutions – while highlighting the opportunities brought about by belonging to the EU;

E.  whereas, before the accession of a country to the European Union takes place, profound, holistic preparation involving issues of remembrance, coming to terms with the past and ensuring the active participation of citizens in the civic life of the country concerned is required;

F.  whereas, in line with Article 11 of the TEU, the EU institutions are under an obligation to give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to exchange their views in all areas of Union action publicly; whereas this provision also entails the EU institutions’ obligation to engage in an open, transparent and regular dialogue with civil society and the Commission’s duty to carry out broad consultations with all stakeholders;

G.  whereas Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) establishes the fundamental status of Union citizenship and details the rights attached to it, and whereas a better understanding of the EU and its values is an important precondition to empower citizens to fully enjoy these rights;

H.  whereas active citizenship, education for citizenship and intercultural dialogue are key to building open, inclusive and resilient societies;

I.  whereas the current programme is founded on Article 352 of the TFEU, which only granted Parliament the right to express its position under the consent procedure and was vigorously contested by Parliament at the time that the proposal was submitted by the Commission as it strongly contradicts the democratic nature of the programme;

J.  whereas the ex-post evaluation conducted by the Commission confirmed the relevance of the programme’s objectives and the fact that, as it is distinct from other programmes in terms of its scope, objectives, activities and target groups, it has enabled initiatives that could not have been funded elsewhere;

K.  whereas, following the budgetary cuts resulting from the negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-2020, the financial envelope for the Europe for Citizens programme was reduced by around EUR 29,5 million, and whereas the limited financial envelope of EUR 185,47 million for the programme only represents 0,0171 % of the MFF;

L.  whereas it has been noted that Member States tend to disengage from the co-financing of these projects and that local authorities find themselves in difficulties when it comes to European projects with high co-financing rates;

M.  whereas, as a consequence of the reduction in the financial envelope, the number of projects that could be financed in 2014 fell by almost 25 % compared to the previous programme;

N.  whereas non-formal and informal learning, as well as volunteering, sport, the arts and culture, provide many opportunities for citizenship education and active citizenship;

O.  whereas further synergies with other programmes and better communication with other DGs are needed in order to reduce overlap and reinforce the impact of the programme;

P.  whereas there is a proven value of the existing international twinning of cities and municipalities (Town twinning – Networks of Towns), which enhances mutual understanding between citizens and fosters friendship and cooperation;

Main conclusions

1.  Underlines that the overall funding available (EUR 185,47 million) to the only programme dedicated entirely to European citizenship, i.e. the Europe for Citizens programme, is negligible in comparison with other education and culture programmes, such as Creative Europe (EUR 1,46 billion) and Erasmus+ (EUR 14,7 billion), with the result that applicants’ expectations will be disappointed;

2.  Welcomes the fact that in the first two years of the new funding cycle, the Europe for Citizens programme, which is set to bridge the gap between the EU institutions and European citizens, seems to be running well, with a rising number of applicants, high project quality and sound project implementation;

3.  Recognises that the main obstacle to the successful implementation of the programme is insufficient financial allocation and deeply regrets that it was cut by 13,7 % under the MFF 2014-2020, which has dramatically reduced the number of financeable projects and means that the high demand cannot be met, causing frustration among candidates with valuable projects;

4.  Notes that, owing to budgetary constraints, the total number of funded projects is too small to achieve the programme’s ambitious goals and that only around 6 % of the European remembrance and civil society projects could be financed in 2015, which is very low in comparison to the Creative Europe programme results for the same year (19,64 % for Culture and 45,6 % for MEDIA); indicates that the funding for these two strands of the Europe for Citizens programme should be substantially increased in line with the ambitions of the programme;

5.  Recognises the success of the city twinning projects all over the EU, and calls on the Member States to promote the scheme among municipalities and to facilitate cooperation;

6.  Welcomes the Europe for Citizens newsletter and the database on funded projects, launched by the Commission;

7.  Highlights the fact that the Europe for Citizens’ national contact points (NCPs) play an important role in raising awareness and providing support and guidance to potential applicants (in particular first-time applicants in target countries), as well as European and national associations of local and regional government and civil society organisations;

8.  Welcomes the multidisciplinary approach of the programme, its clear and simple application form and reporting requirements and its focus on specific activities;

9.  Welcomes the fact that the priorities defined for both strands of the programme, ‘European remembrance’ and ‘Democratic engagement and civic participation’, which were previously modified annually, have henceforth become multiannual and will apply throughout the remaining period of the programme (2016-2020);

10.  Acknowledges the fact that the impact of the programme remains proportionally high, as is shown by the fact that in 2015 an estimated 1 100 000 participants were involved in the 408 projects selected; considers also that the high number of applications – 2 087 in 2014 and 2 791 in 2015 – and the quality of projects indicate a high level of interest in the programme and the need to dedicate more human and financial resources to the programme in order to increase the number of projects supported;


Legal aspects of implementation

11.  Recommends that the next generation of the Europe for Citizens programme should be adopted with a legal base enabling Parliament to be involved in the adoption of the programme as a co-legislator under the ordinary legislative procedure, on an equal footing with the Council; encourages the Commission to think of possible solutions to achieve this objective;

Financial aspect of implementation

12.  Considers that high quality projects, such as European remembrance and civil society projects (6 % success rate, as opposed to 19,64 % for Culture and 45,6 % for MEDIA in the Creative Europe Programme), have been rejected because of the lack of sufficient funding in the Europe for Citizens programme; regarding the decisive role played by this programme as a prerequisite for citizens’ participation in the democratic life of the Union, considers that a substantial increase in the current budget would be necessary in order to achieve a higher target rate; calls, therefore, on the Commission, the Council and the Member States to consider a total financial envelope of approximately EUR 500 million for the Europe for Citizens programme under the next MFF, which only represent EUR 1 per citizen;

13.  Recognizes the common goal of and the potential synergies between the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) and the Europe for Citizens Programme (EfC) in enabling citizens to participate directly in the development of EU policies; calls nevertheless on the Commission to ensure that ECI is not financed under the EfC programme’s limited budget, as it is currently the case, and urges the Member States to be more involved in financial support to both actions;

14.  Notes that the lump sum or flat rate system should take into consideration price differences across the EU, depending on the cost of living in the Member States; recommends rethinking this scheme and the reduction in pre-financing in order to ensure the sustainability of the funded projects and to provide better support to cooperation among local administrations or organisations at a wider distance, and in particular to facilitate the involvement of smaller organisations with a limited financial capacity and participants with special needs;

15.  Requests that the Commission and the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) regularly assess the impact that a number of budgetary arrangements have had on applicants and potential eligible applicants; requests in particular an assessment of whether the reduced rate of pre-financing (from 50 % to 40 % for projects and from 80 % to 50 % for operating grants and national contact points (NCPs)) applied in 2015, owing to an acute shortage of payment appropriations, the need for co-financing and the application of the same parameters irrespective of the actual cost of living and geographical remoteness, may have put – and may continue to put – some types of organisations and specific Member States at a disadvantage; requests, moreover, that they develop further strategies to bring European institutions closer to citizens and to better inform citizens on various EU policies;

16.  Notes that a further parameter should be incorporated into the lump sum or flat rate system, so that persons with special needs can be accommodated more effectively, since many more staff and, often, additional measures, which in turn generate higher costs, are needed in order to enable persons with a disability to participate;

17.  Underlines that operating grants guarantee independence to beneficiaries (i.e. think tanks) and offer the possibility of long-term planning to realise vision-oriented activities and to develop expertise; recommends the use of specific criteria, indicators and annual reporting to monitor progress towards their goals and to make sure that these funding schemes do not lead to the beneficiary’s dependency on the Commission;

18.  Calls for the Commission and the EACEA to account publicly for the expenses incurred through strand 3 on Horizontal Action – Valorisation – Analysis, dissemination and use of project results;

19.  Invites the Commission and the EACEA to include in the interim evaluation report, due by 31 December 2017, a thorough assessment of the financial and budgetary implementation of the programme and to draw lessons from this assessment with a view to redefining the future goals and adjusting the budgetary requirements of the programme in the next multiannual financial framework;

Coordination and communication aspects

20.  Calls on the Commission to gather together all useful information regarding the Europe for Citizens programme (programme guide, priorities, calls for proposals, ongoing and past projects, outcomes and lessons learned, newsletter), along with all the programmes, actions, grants and structural funds that come under the umbrella of European citizenship (such as the European Citizens’ Initiative and the European Voluntary Service), in a unique, user-friendly communication portal (one-stop-shop online platform) also accessible to persons with disabilities; recommends that this platform should be used as a public register of the beneficiaries’ contact details and as a tool to access the projects’ descriptions and to find partners in other countries;

21.  Emphasises that rejected applications should be responded to satisfactorily, indicating the reasons for the rejection, especially when the entity that lodged an application asks for an explanation; suggests considering, where possible, the identification of priority issues from similar rejected applications;

22.  Points out that certain objectives of the Europe for Citizens programme are similar or complementary to those of the European Citizens’ Initiative, in particular the aspiration to involve citizens in the EU; believes, for that reason, that efforts should be made to follow a common approach in designing EU policies on citizens’ participation and participatory democracy, supported by a consistent communication strategy, in order to include under one umbrella all the Commission’s programmes related to European citizenship, possibly by promoting and enhancing direct experiences and grassroots involvement;

23.  Underlines the need to create an open list of potential partners in each Member State in order to facilitate partnerships between those who would like to access the Europe for Citizens programme;

24.  Recommends as well the creation of an online platform for the main organisations working in the field of citizenship and benefiting from the programme in order to pool good practices, reinforce capacities and enhance visibility once projects have finished;

25.  Calls on the Commission to raise the programme’s profile and make the public more aware of its objectives, by implementing an engaging communication strategy for European citizenship – using social networks, radio, TV advertisement and billboards – by reinforcing local engagement with the active involvement of NCPs and by constantly updating content and reaching new audiences in the participating countries, with a particular focus on those in which the level of participation is lower, and on young people, persons with disabilities and vulnerable people;

26.  Takes the view that the programme should also serve to publicise existing channels of direct participation in the European Union, such as the European Citizens’ Initiative, citizens’ forums and public consultations, so as to raise public awareness of the opportunities for direct participation within the EU’s institutional framework;

27.  Urges the participating countries which have not yet done so to designate a national contact point; recommends reinforcing the coordination and synergy among these countries, the Member States and the Commission;

28.  Acknowledges that the biggest challenge is to achieve the current ambitious goals with the limited funding available; emphasises the importance of the Member States, regions and local governments in increasing the effectiveness and popularity of the programme, including by maximising the potential of the NCPs through an exchange of experience with entities responsible for similar projects, such as Erasmus+ and Creative Europe; encourages the EACEA to facilitate and boost, wherever possible, synergies across EU programmes such as Creative Europe, Erasmus+ and the European Social Fund, so as to improve impact;

29.  Calls on the Commission to increase to an even greater extent its efforts on administrative simplification, considering that formal requirements are sometimes difficult to overcome for particularly small organisations that should not be discriminated against for bureaucratic reasons;

30.  Recommends that the funds allocated to communication should not be used to cover institutional communication of the priorities of the Union, as is currently set out in Article 12 of the present programme, but should be used to publicise the programme itself in the participating countries, especially those in which the level of participation is lower;

Focus and objectives of the programme

31.  Recommends, in the next generation programme, formalising the multiannual approach in the definition of the priorities and enhancing synergies among the strands and the components of the programme; stresses that any changes to the structure of the programme should be made in such a way as to prevent the possibility of confusion amongst its end users, thereby reducing its impact;

32.  Welcomes the strong focus on citizens and societal aspects of the EU, allowing EU institutions to engage directly with civil society on the ground; highlights within the priorities of the programme the importance of projects focused on current challenges for Europe, on issues such as diversity, migration, refugees, preventing radicalisation, fostering social inclusion, intercultural dialogue, addressing financing problems and identifying the common European cultural legacy; invites the Commission and Member States to strengthen the links between the programme’s priorities and the policies linked to European citizenship as well as the daily life of European citizens;

33.  Argues that the programme should reach out to a wider range of participants, guarantee the participation of people with special needs, promote the participation of marginalised and disenfranchised people, including migrants, refugees and asylum seekers;

34.  Is of the opinion that, where relevant, the programme should build on existing successful grassroots initiatives such as town twinning;

35.  Stresses the need to develop – within the ‘European Remembrance’ strand – a European identity that should be oriented towards the future and not only the past, plural, transcultural and open to migration flows and influences from the rest of the world, with a view to achieving a common integration founded on European values and European secular and spiritual heritage; stresses the need to ensure that history is not used as a divisive tool, but as an opportunity to address contemporary challenges through sensitive interpretation and skilful, targeted education programmes; emphasises the importance of fostering inter-generational projects that allow exchanges of experience between older and younger generations;

36.  Stresses the need to encourage projects presenting new formats of discussion with citizens, in an attractive format and style, and with a multidimensional approach;

37.  Proposes the yearly publication by the Commission of a synthetic report containing the main proposals to improve the European project voiced by the participants in the projects financed by the ‘Europe for Citizens’ programme;

38.  Stresses the need to enrich the programme with proposals on citizens’ participation in the democratic process and in EU decision-making, in a way that contributes to empowering citizens to make use of their rights, for instance through the implementation of e-democracy; calls on the Union and its Member States, in order to achieve this, to develop actions and policies to strengthen transferable, critical and creative thinking skills as well as digital and media literacy, the inclusion of their citizens and stimulate curiosity, especially amongst children and young people, so that they will be able to take informed decisions and make a positive contribution to democratic processes;

39.  Points out that participation in the programme by countries seeking EU membership leads to better mutual understanding and closer cooperation; recommends greater internationalisation of the programme, notably by inviting all European Free Trade Association (EFTA), European Economic Area (EEA), accession and candidate countries to join forces with EU Member States in applying for projects, and calls for more cooperation between NGOs from the EU, Eastern and Southern Partnership countries and potential candidates in order to bring the EU closer to citizens; proposes promoting cooperation between organisations in the EU and in neighbouring countries on European values;

40.  Stresses the need to develop town twinning, focusing on ways of making greater use of the scheme, its promotion and results, including the adequate allocation of financial resources;

o   o

41.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1) OJ L 115, 17.4.2014, p. 3.
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0005.

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