When I heard in the first place that next year will be the “European Year for Citizens” I was in upbeat mood. A whole year just for the promotion of citizenship, one year to discuss more European matters next to economics which determine the current debate in the EU.
Then just yesterday John Worth posted on Twitter about the European Year and I replied. Here the very brief conversation:
This made me think and I looked up some stuff via the internet.
EU budget designed in old ways
Well, the first thing brings us to a very old discussion about the general structure of the EU budget. If you look at the budget of 2012 you see that “Citizenship” has an overall turnout of 0,5% of the annual budget of the European Union. Half a percent in times when the EU itself and maybe the whole European idea in general is in big turmoil due to the financial cris
is. Lots of money still go to the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) even if restructuring is planned. From my point of view that has to be changed fundamentally. Every speech mentions the importance of staying together in Europe to prevail the challenges of the 21st century. But hen it comes to money we are doing policy like back in the 60s. I guess CAP is not the policy area which will take much attention in the coming decades. Anyway, we all know who is defending old benefices.
Budget of the EYC 2013
If you then look closer you’ll find that the projects for the European Year will also get funding from the European level – 1 Million Euros. Yes, correct – A European Year for Citizens provides for almost 500 Million European citizens in 27 respectively 28 countries (Croatia will join on July 01st 2013) one Million Euros. If you translate it you will have 0,002 Euro per citizen or around 37.000 Euros per member state. Hm, I don’t have an imagination what you can do with 37.000 Euro in one year in the whole of Germany? Not enough for my taste. If you want to achieve at least something throughout the year you have to set it on fertile ground.
The main goal of European Commission, Council of Ministers and European Parliament
It gets even more interesting when you look at the official decision of the CoM and the EP (on basis of the Commission proposal) COM (2011) 489 . The document set out the aims of the European Year and for me it is very confusing that obviously all three European institutions are focusing mainly on the rights of citizens in the European context. It seems that the overall aim is to “enhance awareness of the rights attached to the Union citizenship, in order to help citizens to make full use of their right to move freely and reside within the territory of the Member States“.
Other players with more heart
This is not enough – again. I would recommend to strengthen European awareness in a more general way. The approach must be to install a sustainable European education covering all aspects of the EU not only the four freedoms, even if they are central for European integration.
What can you do with 1 million Euros and the goal to strengthen the awareness to move freely in Europe? The European institutions seem not to have a real aspiration to promote European citizenship and include citizens in European issues.
This leaves all the work again to civil society. NGOs for example have to fill this gap without much support. This make it even harder to achieve outstanding successes throughout Europe.
In some way John Worth is right in his pessimistic view. But I’m not going to accept it. Everybody should use the coming year to promote a real citizens approach. At least there is a official platform which should be filled as much as possible. Let the European institutions see what really is possible if you just want it by heart.