On 10 January 2013, Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Vice-President Viviane Reding will join forces with Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton to open the European Year of Citizens 2013 in the Rotunda of Dublin City Hall. Over 200 citizens from Dublin will participate in an open debate with Europe's leaders on the future of the European Union. The Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Eamon Gilmore and Irish MEPs from the region will also participate in the debate.
"We need the direct involvement of citizens in building a stronger and more political Union. That is why 2013 is the European Year of Citizens – a year dedicated to you and your rights as Europeans," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "Union citizenship is more than a concept. It is a practical reality that brings tangible benefits to citizens. The European Commission wants to help people understand how they can directly benefit from their rights and listen to their views about where Europe is headed. European citizens must be able to voice their concerns and prepare the ground for future European elections. It's time we all took ownership of our common future."
To mark the European Year of Citizens 2013, a range of events, conferences and seminars will be organised across the EU at Union, national, regional or local level (see the calendar of events here: http://europa.eu/citizens-2013). The Commission will also strengthen the visibility of the multilingual Europe Direct and Your Europe web portals as key elements of a 'one-stop-shop' information system on Union citizens' rights, as well as the role and visibility of problem solving tools, such as SOLVIT, to allow Union citizens to better make use of and defend their rights.
Throughout the year 2013, Vice-President Reding and other EU Commissioners will join forces with national and local politicians to hold debates with citizens all across Europe – to listen to them and answer their questions. Vice-President Reding has already held debates in Cadiz (Spain), Graz (Austria) and Berlin (Germany) and Commissioner Andor held a debate in Naples (Italy). Many more will be held throughout European municipalities in 2013 and will see European and local political decision makers engage in a debate with citizens from all walks of life across the whole EU. Follow all the debates here.
A calendar of related events in Malta will soon be published.
To prepare the ground for the European Year, the Commission held a broad public consultation between 9 May and 9 September 2012 asking citizens what problems they have encountered in exercising their rights as EU citizens.
Respondents made clear that they are very attached to their EU rights – especially free movement and political rights. They would like to see a true European area in which they can live, work, move, study and shop without facing red tape or discrimination. But they also pointed out that there is still some way to go. They highlighted various problems, notably in getting EU rights respected at local level – issues which the Commission will be taking up in the next EU Citizenship Report, planned during 2013.