The Europe for Citizens event, which took place on April 2 & 3, 2019 in Brussels, revolved around the theme of "History Defines our Future". With EU Parliament elections in May 2019, the two-day event brought into focus the role of Europe’s citizens in defining the future of the European Union. It was open to any European citizen to attend alongside participants in the “Europe for Citizens” programme of the European Union and the Concert Nobel venue in Brussels was full to the brim with over 300 people on the first day which featured a concert by “Voix étouffées” followed by a political discussion.
In his opening address, host Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avrampoloulos dedicated the event to all European citizens, describing the occasion as being "about our European dream and our shared journey, along the roads of the past, which serve as a source of inspiration for our common future." According to Commissioner Avramopoulos, the key question is, how to strengthen European values, achievements and identity whilst maintaining pride in one's own heritage.
The Berlin Wall fell 30 years ago and it is 40 years since the first European Parliament elections, yet the battle of European values is ongoing to this day. "In these increasingly tumultuous times that we live in, we need to continue paying tribute to the struggles of our predecessors," he said. Peace and freedom should not be taken for granted. While democracy, solidarity and diversity are core to the European Union agenda then and now, "at the same time we hear more and more voices that wish to divide us. "It is only through collective, European actions that we can provide solutions to citizens’ concerns and challenges," he said.
Commissioner Avramopoulos was joined for a panel discussion by Vera Jourova, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality and by Corina Cretu, Commissioner for Regional Policy. Moderated by Beatrice Delvaux, the Chief Editor of leading Belgian newspaper Le Soir, the panellists agreed that Europe's citizens have a say about how they want the EU to go forward through casting their votes this May in the European Parliament elections 2019. Anybody who wishes to have their say is armed with a vote but Commissioner Avramopoulos has a word of caution for voters in the European elections 2019: "Do not ignore history," he said. "History defines our future if we ignore it."
The “History Defines our Future” theme was further developed the next day as Europe for Citizens workshops examined the roles of both remembrance and civic participation in the Europe of today and of tomorrow. Although countries of Europe have gone through different experiences (e.g. colonialism, holocaust, stalinism), there is a need to overcome divisions. One particular challenge of the present day is how to include the act of remembrance in digital spaces while remaining true to its essence.
We should develop a critical remembrance culture across Europe, focus on what unites us, build solidarity and a common European identity. The “civic participation” session explored the topics of media literacy, countering disinformation and the important role for civil society organisations in this. It was followed by the discussions on how best to expand the impact of projects, financed by “Europe for Citizens” programme and what changes are to be expected in the new financing cycle.