21 February 2013
What are the most pressing issues for the EU to deal with? What should be the focus of the Union in the next decade? At two citizens' dialogue events in Sweden and Italy, Europeans discussed the future of European cooperation with Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström. During the European Year of Citizens 2013, and in the run-up to the European elections next year, the European Commission has launched an in-depth debate with dialogue events in all 27 member states.
In Gothenburg, Sweden, the home town of the Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström discussed with 300 young citizens from the region about their expectations for the European Union, and where the EU should be in 2020. Ten secondary schools and youth organisations in the region participated in the event, taking place at the Hvitfeldtska high school on February 18. Members of the Swedish parliament, as well as local and regional politicians, formed part of the listening audience. Participants listed the climate and the economic crisis as the two areas where increased European cooperation is the most important. They wished to see sanctions against countries who violate emissions rules, paired with greater investments into energy efficiency. In terms of staying informed about European cooperation, participants in Gothenburg underlined that they see social media as their foremost source of information – another lesson for European institutions to take note of. Accordingly, a simultaneous debate took place on Twitter, under the #cdSWE and #EUdeb8 hashtags.
"It has been tremendously inspiring to witness the passionate commitment of participants here today. I found it particularly interesting that several working groups highlighted the importance of enhanced European cooperation, and the need to defend fundamental European values in times of crisis and xenophobia", Malmström said after the event.
Later the same week, citizens discussed issues relating to protection and security with Commissioner Malmström at the Teatro Regio in Torino, Italy, together with the Mayor of the city, Piero Fassino. Discussions focused on EU cooperation around the fight against crime, corruption, drugs and terrorism, as well as in the area of migration, control of external borders, asylum seekers' rights and trafficking of human beings.
"What a morning! Lots of questions and suggestions on asylum, migration, organised crime and fundamental rights", Commissioner Malmström tweeted from the event.
The results from these dialogue meetings will feed into future proposals from the European Commission. Also, the Gothenburg dialogue had instant impact; at the Commission meeting of 20 February, Commissioner Malmström fed the results from the event into the discussion.
"Discussion in the college about climate and energy. I am conveying suggestions from the Gothenburg dialogue about a new, more costly system for emissions trading and the need for European leadership", Malmström tweeted from the College meeting.