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Citizen ET in Lithuania - Ambassadorship

by Bjinse Tue Dec 10th, 2013 at 09:46:47 AM EST

It took some querying, but I've now received the definite programme of the Closing Conference of the European Year of Citizens 2013, which will start coming Thursday in Vilnius, Lithuania, which I'll attend. The draft programme was already available, the definite programme is here (pdf) and can also be explored at the EYCA website.

In comparison to the draft programme, some additions were made to the speakers and some changes who chairs the sessions. Also prime minster Algirdas Butkevičius has been added. As described in the first diary, there are several panel sessions to attend. A central event for the conference will be the handing over of the policy recommendations which "contribute to making Union citizenship at the heart of the political agenda".

For those interested, the conference will be live streamed through the internet, probably at this website.

Below the fold some further info and some brief thoughts about my ambassadorship for ET during the event.

The conference is organized by the European Commission, in close cooperation with EYCA: European Year of Citizens Alliance (Facebook, Twitter). By itself, EYCA is also a creation by the European Commission:

eurolocal-cas » Blog Archive » European Citizenship is more than rights! (EYCA: European Year of Citizens 2013 Alliance).

On 11 August 2011, the European Commission proposed to designate 2013 as the "European Year of Citizens" to mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the European Union Citizenship under the Maastricht Treaty in 1993. European civil society organisations and networks members of the EESC Liaison Group have created a civil society Alliance aiming to advocate on MEPs for a broader understanding of European citizenship within the proposal to designate 2013 the European year of Citizens. The Alliance benfits from the support of the European Economic and Social Committee and is aiming, in the long run, to mobilise and coordinate wide civil society engagement in the activities which will be scheduled during the European Year of Citizens 2013, to initiate a European-wide debate on issues relating to the exercise of European citizens rights and to citizens' participation in the democratic life of the EU.

It should thus be less surprising, then, that EC Vice-President Viviane Reding, also Commissioner of  Citizenship is part of the programme and will receive the EYCA policy recommendations.

Chairman of the EYCA is Jean-Marc Roirant (French wiki) who also heads the European Civic Forum, an organization responsible for these kind of programs:

Popular support for the European project has dramatically decreased over the last years, whereas European issues are increasingly piercing the public sphere and discourses all over Europe. This paradox of political disenchantment requires more work than ever on democratic values and standards which underpin the European building process.

Should this be priority of the EU? Are teachers, educators and civil society organisations equipped to "teach European citizenship" and build active, informed and responsible citizenry in the context of rapidly changing social, political and economic environments? What is the role of non-formal education providers and EU organisations? Should we have a common module on EU citizenship in our schools?

The niggling concern I have with this kind of language (and this sort of project) is that it so obviously puts the horse behind the cart. It's the responsibility of EU organisations to engage citizens by dint of setting political frameworks for a social and economic environment positively effecting EU citizens. Dispelling political disenchantment via educational programs, while the same EU currently bears responsibility for social and economic harm, that seems a sure way to generate further mockery - at minimum.

I suspect and fear that the conference will bring a variety of examples in the same vein.

During the conference, besides impromptu networking, I'll focus on working through the policy proposals of the EYCA. Further, I'll aim for a better understanding of the existing structures to interface with the EU. Where possible and at relevant venues, I'll attempt to put in some critical questions - the demise of Presseurop comes to mind, or the European Citizens' Initiative, etc.

I also incorporate askod's input:

A swedish kind of death:

more genuine[e] questions about how the systems as presented should be understood in light of the ongoing constitutional crisis. Even if their standard model appears to be limited to a run of the mill liberal democracy, they might have interesting thoughts outside of the prepared presentation.

I'm not, or was ever, keen for an activist stance with posing outright rebellious questions to Reding or others on the EU's current economic policies for example. Personally, I feel more comfortable with my role as an inquisitive but critical journalist.

Finally, while attending the conference, I'm well aware that I'll also be presenting European Tribune. In introductions, I'll present ET as a left-orientated forum for the sharing of information and discussion on European and international news, with a large focus on political, economic and environmental topics. I'll mention we have input from across the world, and while discussion is mostly in English, any language and nationality is welcome. Where I can, I will mention Jerome as a core founder, his focus on financing offshore wind and his directorship at Green Giraffe. If I left out something essential, let's hear it in the comments.

The conference seems well organized and includes all modern advances of the blog age - wifi should be freely available during the conference and in the rather luxuriously looking accommodation that was provided. It looks like I'll be able to pop in during the days to provide a number of updates.

welcomed. I'll fly out tomorrow.
by Bjinse on Tue Dec 10th, 2013 at 09:48:07 AM EST
European Tribune - Citizen ET in Lithuania - Ambassadorship
I'm not, or was ever, keen for an activist stance with posing outright rebellious questions to Reding or others on the EU's current economic policies for example. Personally, I feel more comfortable with my role as an inquisitive but critical journalist.

quite.... much more subversive! <;0)

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Dec 11th, 2013 at 06:55:27 AM EST
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I had Europe-awareness events (meetings, information, organized by the Council of Europe) when I was in my final secondary years at school in England. They certainly broadened my horizon, but please... Are we saying that citizenship doesn't seem to matter to citizens because they didn't get information at school?

Citizenship doesn't matter because it doesn't amount to very much and hasn't evolved in any major way that impacts people's lives over the past 20 years (since this is a commemorative event). (See my take and that of Alain Lamassoure on the content of EU citizenship here, it isn't really dated).

At the same time, it has become crystal clear that power in the EU belongs even less to citizens than in their member-states (if that were possible). And that power can be, is being, exercised to the detriment of ordinary citizens.

Citizenship without much in the way of rights and next to nothing by way of political power is a hollow concept. Which is why the EU population at large is not engaged by it (to speak politely).

So you're right. The horse needs to go in front of the cart.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Dec 10th, 2013 at 12:03:50 PM EST
afew's take is on the money.

and the EU can't be serious about "democracy" while at the same time forcing trade agreements which completely subvert the concept.

Whatever the initials denoting the US-EU trade agreement, it must be a topic of discussion as it allows corporations to subvert even what democracy there remains both in the EU and in the nation-states.

Personal Opinion: I'd like to see Bjinse be well-informed about this trade agreement, as it cuts the ground from under a discussion of democracy in Europe. Especially that this is global and not just for the EU, as we see with the new WTO agreement, and the mirror agreement for the Pacific nations.

And i very much like that Bjinse brings up the demise of Presseurope.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Dec 11th, 2013 at 04:31:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
to be clear, how can one discuss democracy when corporations can sue if my country has higher food protection or environmental standards?

Of course, one must be more delicate than I in pointing out the nakedness of the Emperor.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Dec 11th, 2013 at 04:34:24 AM EST
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The EU has definitely lost its way with respect to citizenship. I yearn to be a European citizen, but there is no concrete instance of EU citizenship to identify with.

The way forward is for the EU (the Commission, I suppose) to create or promote supranational instances which provide value for citizens, probably on a sectorial basis (for professionals, for associations etc) ... The example of the Erasmus program shows that it doesn't have to cost a lot, it just has to provide real utility in opening doors between citizens of different countries, that people wouldn't have thought of themselves, or for which the barriers are too high currently.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Dec 11th, 2013 at 09:07:18 AM EST
Thanks for the comments and input so far, I've taken notes.

At minimum what this conference brings is an opportunity to meet fellow bloggers and critical minds. There was a neatly organized meet and greet for the invited bloggers yesterday evening. A few links and tips:

Jacques Zammit, from Malta, but based in Luxembourg blogs at akkuza and is worth a look.

Similarly recommendable should be Christos Mouzeviris, from Greece, but based in Ireland, who writes personally at the unforgettably named The Eblana European Democratic Movement and at One Europe.

From Spain, colourfully dressed Jorge Juan Morante López joined, he blogs in Spanish at Ciudadano Morante.

Another journalist from Poland, Pawel Rogaliński, with his blog here.

The story that really hit home yesterday came from Bulgaria where citizens are still barricading around the Parliament in Sofia, a protest movement which has been fading away from  the headlines. Justine Toms, who is part of the movement and blogs in Bulgarian here, could bring some poignancy (sorry afew) to a conference on what EU citizenship should actually mean.

Blogging in Lithuania, like everywhere else, is on retreat and moving to Twitter and Facebook. There were a couple of bloggers from Lithuania, most prominently Valdas Lopeta, a former journalist who has moved into PR, and is now blogging only through his Facebook page.

Although I wasn't able to meet and talk extensively with everyone, there was a general feeling amongst the bloggers I did talk to that the EU has lost the plot on citizenship. Considering we're attending a conference around celebrating EU citizenship, that could get nicely schizophrenic. So it should be interesting what today will bring. I hope to pop in for a recap of the first day of the conference.

Finally, it's a pity Helen is not ET's representative, because Vilnius seems to have a decent amount of draught beers and ciders to sample.

by Bjinse on Thu Dec 12th, 2013 at 03:12:45 AM EST
I was recently at a Voice of the Researchers conference in Brussels organised by the European Commission. I'd say "the EU has lost the plot on research careers, so the conference was a bit schizophrenic" pretty much describes my impression.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 12th, 2013 at 03:28:03 AM EST
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