The Lisbon Treaty at the end of 2009 led to a number of changes towards bringing the Union closer to its citizens and fostering greater cross-border debate about Union policy issues. The new Article 11 of the Treaty on European Union introduces a whole new dimension of participatory democracy Europe has a challenging agenda for the next seven years, with serious issues at stake. With decisions and policies needed on issues ranging from economic growth, security and Europe’s role in the world, it is now more important than ever for citizens to take part in discussions and help shape policies.
Considering the European citizenship as an important element in strengthening and safeguarding the process of European integration, the European Commission continues encouraging the engagement of European citizens in all aspects of the life of their community, thus enabling them to participate in the construction of an ever closer Europe.
In this context, the Europe for Citizens Programme (link to: http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/europe-for-citizens_en) adopted for the period 2014-2020 is an important instrument aimed at getting the Union’s 500 million inhabitants to play a greater part in the development of the Union. By funding schemes and activities in which citizens can participate, the Programme is promoting Europe’s shared history and values, and fostering a sense of ownership for how the Union develops.
Under the overall aim of bringing the Union closer to citizens the general objectives are:
- To contribute to citizens’ understanding of the Union, its history and diversity;
- To foster European citizenship and to improve conditions for civic and democratic participation at Union level.
Specific objectives shall be pursued on a transnational level or with a European dimension:
- Raise awareness of remembrance, common history and values and the Union’s aim that is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples by stimulating debate, reflection and development of networks;
- Encourage democratic and civic participation of citizens at Union level, by developing citizens’ understanding of the Union policy making-process and promoting opportunities for societal and intercultural engagement and volunteering at Union level.
The European Commission committed itself to promoting intercultural dialogue through different initiatives and Programmes. The Europe for Citizens Programme can contribute to achieving this objective by bringing European citizens of different nationalities and different languages together and by giving them the opportunity to participate in common activities. Participation in such a project should raise awareness on the richness of the cultural and linguistic environment in Europe. It should also promote mutual understanding and tolerance, thereby contributing to the development of a respectful, dynamic and multifaceted European identity.
The Programme is implemented through two Strands:
Strand 1: European remembrance: Raise awareness of remembrance, common history and values and the Union’s aim.
Strand 2: Democratic engagement and civic participation: Encourage democratic and civic participation of citizens at Union level.
The two strands are complemented by a horizontal action, valorisation: analysis, dissemination and use of project results.