EU citizens and decision makers 'MOVE TOGETHER' on urban mobility
Improving public transport in the Union's major cities means satisfying a complex range of economic, environmental and social demands. The groundbreaking MOVE TOGETHER project includes average citizens from all EU Member States, working to ensure that people in high places get the message from down in the streets.
© Peter Gutierrez
Speaking in Brussels at the MOVE TOGETHER Conference on 16 June 2008, Director of the European Commission’s DG RTD Transport Directorate András Siegler said, "Urban mobility is a major concern for our citizens. Urban populations with growing transport demands create damage to our quality of life and our economy.
"Since the rejection of the draft Constitutional Treaty in France and the Netherlands in 2005, a clear priority of the European Commission has been to create a citizens’ ownership of EU policies, to make them understandable and relevant, and to make EU institutions accountable and reliable to those they serve. MOVE TOGETHER, with its citizens' conferences and events like today's where EU policy-makers and citizens confront their views and debate the way forward, is an expression of that goal."
© Peter Gutierrez
"Never before have we had so many means for instant communication," said Stephane Buffetaut of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), which hosted the conference. "This means actual physical mobility is less necessary, but in spite of this we are still seeing people moving away from rural areas and into our cities, increasing problems of congestion, delay of services, and rising environmental impacts. The MOVE TOGETHER initiative should be concerned with re-inventing public mobility and defining a 'new modernity' for an aging European continent."
A more inclusive approach
The MOVE TOGETHER group is significant because each of its 27 members comes from a different EU country, epitomising both European diversity and unity. Working on a volunteer basis, group members have issued a preliminary statement, which stresses, among other things, "...fostering genuine partnership with other stakeholders regarding mobility decisions and quality of life in the city."
© Peter Gutierrez
"Without the end users' help, research will not succeed in delivering new and better means of mobility," says project coordinator Carlo Sessa of Italy's Institute of Studies for the Integration of Systems (ISIS). "This is officially a launch conference, but we have already delivered a first key result in the form of the Citizens' Statement."
The new document, explained Sessa, is based on an initial assessment by the group of 60 research projects on 18 topics being supported by European Union funding.
In its initial conclusions, the groups says, "...we found that much good research is being done, but the emphasis is mainly on optimising existing technologies, and the motivation for the research often seems to be to create a technological solution without fully analysing the needs that exist. We believe that the citizens should be consulted at all stages of research, and that there should be much greater emphasis on including anthropological and sociological research in the scope of technological projects."
"In addition," the group states, "attempts to communicate the results of research to the lay public are often too technical, and more emphasis should be put on finding better ways of educating and involving citizens."
Meet the members
MOVE TOGETHER members were selected randomly from a group of average citizens who expressed interest in the project. Here is what just a few of them said during the conference in Brussels:
"I'm concerned about the environment, so this is a great way for me to make a real difference;"
Kate Pressmanan, Estonia
"If you don't speak up, if you don't take the opportunity to play a role and voice your opinion, then you don't have the right to complain afterwards."
Hanne Malmborg, Denmark
"We wanted to know if things could be changed. I hope our message will be heard."
"I understand that moving people and goods is important in our society, and I want to see better means of transport for my parents, who are getting old, for myself and for my children."
Arto Kekki, Finland
"It's already a success that we are able to be here today, all of us together, and I hope that we can do even greater things as the project moves forward."
Cezary Michal Kozlowski, Poland
"Mobility affects our daily lives, but citizens' voices are still not being heard. The institutions are too detached from our everyday lives."
Ilze Gabrane, Latvia
"We need reliable public transport. The car should come after public transport when we think about improving urban mobility."
Nuno Gouvela, Portugal
"This project is an excellent example of the value added by lay-person expertise," said Buffetaut. "The sincerity and quality of the Citizens' Statement have impressed me. The EESC should consider drawing more often on the lay expertise of European citizens."
"The key belief of this project," said Sessa, "is that raising the awareness of current or expected achievements of EU research will help citizens and decision makers across Europe to 'move together' towards a new and more sustainable urban mobility culture."
© Peter Gutierrez
"On a more personal level," said Sessa, "I think we've all learned something by participating in this project. It has made us feel like genuine European citizens, and it's given us a new way of thinking about public transport. This approach should be expanded to apply to all areas of research and even other EU policy areas."
The next MOVE TOGETHER Conference will take place in Rome in autumn 2008. A 'MOVE TOGETHER exhibition' will travel across Europe in 2009 and parallel 'Town exhibitions' will appear in a number of European cities during 'European Mobility Week', also in 2009.