Members of the European Committee of the Regions have adopted an opinion on the ‘EU Citizenship Report 2017’ lead by rapporteur Guillermo Martínez Suárez (ES/PES), Minister of the Presidency of the Principality of Asturias. The adopted opinion provides CoR's view on the Commission's assessment of obstacles that citizens encounter in enjoying their rights and on the priorities to raise European citizenship awareness.
Much of the responsibility for implementing fundamental rights and freedoms in Europe as well as rights stemming from EU citizenship is in the hands of the nearly 100.000 local and regional authorities of the European Union. The opinion adopted by the EU's assembly of local and regional authorities last 30 November responds to and defines recommendations on the European Commission's EU citizenship report published in January 2017.
Members welcome the commitment to set up a European Pillar of Social Rights as it will benefit EU citizens, but insist that strengthening social rights should be supported by adequate legal, economic and financial measures.
CoR members agree on the need to empower citizens through strong social policies, education and training, including minimum wages and access to housing and basic services as well as promoting gender equality and the fight against LGBTI groups' discrimination.
In the context of Brexit, members consider imperative to guarantee, on a reciprocal basis, the rights of European citizens and their families residing in the UK, including access to health and social services.
Rapporteur Martínez Suárez said: ‘It is vital to strengthen citizen’s sense of belonging to the European project. We must pay special attention to our youth. There is a loss of confidence in the integration project and the European citizenship as a guarantee of people's personal and professional development".
EU citizenship was introduced 25 years ago by the Maastricht Treaty. EU citizenship complements national citizenship. It gives citizens rights such as free movement, consular protection, as well as the right to vote and stand as candidate in local and European Parliament elections wherever they live in the EU.
Like the Commission's report, the opinion covers four chapters: promoting EU citizenship rights and EU common values, enhancing citizen's participation in a democratic EU, simplifying citizen's daily lives and strengthening security and equality.
As regards the 2019 European Parliament elections, local and regional leaders support the proposal to establish transnational lists. The existence of different national rules governing the elections runs counter the very European essence of EP elections, members stress. Cities and regions also call for including the participation in regional elections within European citizens' rights in the future.
CoR members recall European citizens trust local and regional authorities the most. CoR members thus request a much greater role in the EU decision-making process as to better integrate citizens' views.
With the objective of reconnecting the European project with its citizens and channelling their opinion, the European Committee of the Regions is implementing the " Reflecting on Europe " campaign which has led to more than 150 Citizens' Dialogues since it was launched in March 2016. Citizens' Dialogues will continue in 2018 and contribute to boosting the participation to the European Parliament elections in 2019.
An online survey and a dedicated App that include a set of questions related to the future of EU policies are also being used to collect citizens' feedback. More than 11.000 respondents have been registered so far. The goal is to listen to citizens' concerns and report back to EU institutions via a CoR opinion on the future of Europe to be adopted in October 2018.
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