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European Commission kick-starts the 2013 European Year of Citizens
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11/01/2013 00:00:00

As we enter into 2013, the European Commission kicks off the European Year of Citizens, a year dedicated to you and to your rights. This European Year comes at a critical juncture in European integration - 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of EU Citizenship, which was introduced by the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, and it is also one year before the European Parliament elections.

    European Commission kick-starts the 2013 European Year of Citizens

    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. 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.

    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 (see IP/12/461). 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. See the results here

    Background

    Thanks to EU citizenship – which does not replace national citizenship but complements it – all nationals of the 27 EU Member States have a set of additional rights as EU citizens. These include the right to vote and stand in local and European elections in the EU country they live in, the right to consular protection abroad under the same conditions as nationals and the right to petition the European Parliament, complain to the European Ombudsman, or, as of 2012, take part in a European Citizens' Initiative.

    There are many rights that derive from European citizenship – but people are not always aware of them. A survey from 2010 showed that too many people still do not feel adequately informed about the different rights available to them: only 43% know the meaning of the term 'citizen of the European Union' and almost half of European citizens (48%) indicate that they are ‘not well informed’ about their rights. The European Year of Citizens will be about explaining these rights and making sure people are aware of them and do not face any obstacles in exercising them.

    For example, freedom of movement is the most cherished right of EU citizenship (see press release No. 14/2011). Indeed, Europeans make over a billion journeys within the EU per year and more and more Europeans are benefiting from the right to live in another EU Member State. Yet whilst more than one third (35%) of workers would consider taking a job in another Member State, nearly one in five still considers that there are too many obstacles to actually doing so. Together with language difficulties, a chronic lack of information is the most important barrier to cross-border commuting.

    The European Commission is working to remove these obstacles. The EU Citizenship Report 2010 (see IP/10/1390 and MEMO/10/525) outlined 25 concrete actions to remove the remaining obstacles to EU citizens exercising their right to free movement in the EU. One of these is to strengthen people's awareness of their EU citizenship status, their rights and what these rights mean in their daily lives.

    During the European Year of Citizens in 2013, the Commission will publish a second EU citizenship report, which will serve as an action plan for the removal of the remaining obstacles that hinder citizens from fully enjoying their rights as EU citizens.

    By designating 2013 as the European Year of Citizens, the European Commission is delivering on the promise made in the EU Citizenship Report and answering the European Parliament's call for such a year.

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