The European Commission has proposed 2013 to be the “European Year of Citizens”. Its aims, sorry, challenges, are to:
- raise citizens’ awareness of their right to reside freely within the European Union and of how they can benefit from EU rights and policies;
- stimulate citizens’ active participation in EU policy-making;
- build debate about the impact and potential of the right to free movement, especially on strengthening cohesion and people’s mutual understanding of one another.
Now most of these “Years” seek raise awareness of an issue. The concept is favoured by UNESCO, Council of Europe, various UN agencies as well as the EU. One major weakness is that very few of the promoters put any money behind them; they expect others to spend their own money to deliver the results. I haven’t seen any serious long-term evaluation of the years but they seem to be liked by officials and politicians.
The concept of European citizenship is important and in my view a Good Thing. Indeed if we are to survive the eurocrisis over the next few years then a greater shared sense of community amongst voters is essential. We can no longer continue to live in a Europe with its own variation of the Clash of Civilisations.
So how can we be better European citizens and what can the powers that be do? Here are five ideas:
* EU citizens living in other EU countries should be allowed to vote in the national elections as well as local and regional. No taxations without representation worked in a country two hundred or so years ago. Voting is not the end of the world but it indicates a degree of equality and of belonging.
* If you have a bank account in one EU country then you should be able to able an account in another automatically. No more Catch-22s when moving within the EU.
* Ministries of Foreign Affairs should be renamed European and Foreign Ministries (some, Austria have done this). Again to demonstrate that being European is not being foreign.
* The next elections for the European Parliament should be contested in the name of the political groupings in the Parliament with a single EU wide manifesto and not by domestic political parties. Citizens should vote for the various presidents directly, of Council and Commission.
* No discrimination in various tax and social security systems between EU citizens and domestic citizens.
There will be more.. please add them