Europe is much different now than at the beginning of the passed year. One could hardly say how much it will change in 2012. The financial crisis, which hit the economies of all the European States, and then afflicted so much the Eurozone, is now setting the agenda of all the European summits. However, one of the victims of this last year is not only economy but also the perception that citizens have of the European Project.
Now, public opinion sees it as a project, which is punishing the “hopeless” States. This is, however, an old and well knowns trick of the European Members States that put on the European Union the role of scapegoat of all the troubles. The European Project is, for us, a vision of a common area of peace and wealth, which is now jeopardised by this 2011 and all its measures to address financial defaults
The participation of citizens to the future and difficult decisions for the European Union can’t be suspended “till the crisis will pass or dealt with”. Any decision must have a participatory approach and it should consider citizens and its civil society able to understand and address the problems, together. It is high time to put citizens and European Citizenship and identity high in the agenda. The tougher will be the times in the future, the more we need to relaunch the European project and the European identity, based on values and common objectives.
The real focus on human rights, democratic and participative societies and bottom up approach must lead the future decision making in the European Union, inside the EU and also in their policies with the Neighbouring States (Eastern Partnership and Med) and even more in the Enlargement process. Europe must be perceived even more now a choice of society and values and not be flattened to sorting out our budgets, no matters how much important are these issues as we know. The approach must give value and resources to the programme Europe for Citizens (and not the other way round) and give further resources to local governance and civil society engagement in the cooperation programmes of the EU. Otherwise, once we would have found our way out financially speaking, we shall realise that nobody wants to be part of the club, any longer…
In front of us, there is a lot to do this year and in the upcoming period 2014 – 2020. Sooner than this, we will focus on the Year of Citizenship for 2013 and prepare it as good as possible, first lobbying for considering it as a year of European Identity and Citizenship and not in legal and strict assumption. We should incentive the European stakeholders to consider it a great and timing opportunity to raise the issue at all levels, accompanying the strict and painful measures that will affect us all.