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Citizens' Dialogue with First Vice-President Frans Timmermans



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We need to realize that the EU is relatively small compared to the rest of the world. If we continue to have internal disagreement, then we cannot represent the interests of our citizens on a global scale.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans 

The Marekerk of Leiden, a landmark feature of the University city’s skyline, was full to the brim on 2 April 2019 as hundreds of students and other participants gathered to discuss Europe’s future with First Vice-President Timmermans. The building’s round dome provided the perfect backdrop for a flowing Citizens’ Dialogue on a vast array of topics including but not limited to; climate change, sustainability, youth policy and expectations for the future of Europe.

The 1500th Citizens’ Dialogue was marked by a vibrant debate that took place in a bustling room in the heart of Leiden. The city of Leiden had been holding a number of events on Europe in the run up to the European Elections - called the ‘Leids Europa Festival 2019’.

Surrounded by an exhibition on Leiden as a European city, as well a stand from the JRC on climate and energy, the debate was kicked off with some welcoming words from the Mayor of Leiden, Henri Lenferink, and was moderated by Joost Vullings - a well-known journalist and University of Leiden alumnus.

The first topic of discussion revolved around initiatives such as the ocean clean-up and the plastics ban, as well as preventing air pollution. Emphasising the increasing awareness of climate change and plastics, the First Vice-President highlighted the need to act now while public consciousness on the matter is so strong.

The ensuing effervescent debate covered the differences between various plastic types and their sustainability, as well as the forthcoming EU ban on throwaway plastics.  

From there, the energetic and enthusiastic students took full advantage of the opportunity to make their voices heard by asking the First Vice-President a wide range of questions.

Participants really wanted to know what the EU is doing to help citizens decrease their carbon footprint, especially in terms of travel and promoting the energy transition One participant shared his concern that whatever the EU does has a minimal impact on the environment compared to powers like India, the US and China.

On this theme, one participant asked how flights across Europe could continue to be so cheap. On this same issue, one participant questioned the First Vice-President about the EU’s plans to improve the speed of trains. The spirited discussion saw a lively and open discussion on policy-making and its impact on the environment.

This sparked a debate on the increase in nationalistic discourse across the EU and how the Commission would attempt to combat this. First Vice-President Timmermans outlined that Europe is built on diversity of race, religion and politics but there are optimists and pessimists in this world and they deal differently with these issues.

The First Vice-President rounded off the discussion by calling upon participants to remain critical but never to become indifferent to the world. He then encouraged people to use their voice and vote for the future of Europe they want to see.

The event in Leiden was part of a series of Citizens' Dialogues that involve the whole European Commission and take place in all EU Member States.

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2 April 2019, 16.30 - 19.00 (CEST)
Lange Mare 48