Europe is not about the elite. Europe is about every European citizen
On 18 May, Ioannina hosted a Citizens’ Dialogue with Commissioner Christos Stylianides. The Dialogue was co-organised with the University of Ioannina -one of the bigger Greek Universities. The Dialogue was lively with an engaged audience. The questions focused mainly on the future of Europe and on humanitarian aid and civil protection.
After a warm welcome by the mayor of the town and the Rector of the University, Commissioner Stylianides kicked off the debate by explaining how important the EU is for citizens. “I am not here to make propaganda. I am here to listen to you. I grew up in a time of confrontation. I know well what peace means, what migration means. Europe is our common house. If we don’t like it we must not demolish it, but renovate it” he said.
In the ensuing discussion, several questions touched upon solidarity between the EU counties. This region has some good practices with respect to relocating refugees. Participants called for more solidarity and more volunteering.
Other participants wanted to know more about the crisis in Greece and how the EU will help further. Commissioner Stylianides acknowledged that Greece is a special case and needs more help. “Greece has benefitted from EUR 162 billion” he said. He then explained clearly how the special mechanism to help Greece with the refugee crisis was launched in a very short time, in just fifteen days.
Further questions and comments were voiced on the need to put more effort into social issues and having measures that target the needs of people.
Most of the questions were also linked to the way decisions are taken in the EU and what will happen in the future. “We moved forward quickly and we left citizens behind us. Now is the right moment to rethink and re-examine what we want, where we are going and which is the best scenario”, the Commissioner said.
The heated discussion continued well after its scheduled end with several rounds of questions and answers that also touched upon rising nationalism, the elections in France, and the role of the markets in Europe.
The general impression was that participants called for more Europe, more solidarity and a higher European budget.
The event in Ioannina was part of a series of Citizens' Dialogues that involve the whole European Commission and take place in all EU Member States.