On 17 October 2018, a delegation of 12 CIVEX members visited the network of the Europe Direct Information Centers' (EDICs) in Bologna (Italy), at the invitation of Ms Simonetta Saliera (IT/PES), CoR member and President of the Emilia Romagna Region Legislative Assembly.
The delegation was composed by Nicholas Chiotakis (GR/EPP), Jesús Gamallo Aller (ES/EPP), Dimitris Kalogeropoulos (GR/EPP), Emilian Oprea (RO/EPP), Vincenzo Bianco (IT/PES), Marco Dus (IT/PES), Jaroslav Hlinka (SK/PES), Christophe Rouillon (FR/PES), Doreen Huddart (UK/ALDE), Jerry Lundy (IE/ALDE), Maurice Golden (UK/ECR), Stanisław Szwabski (PL/EA).
The Emilia Romagna Region Legislative Assembly hosts an EDIC and coordinates the regional EDIC's network, made up of two local desks (in Bologna and in Modena) and other info- centres in all the provinces, run by different partners. The EDIC Emilia - Romagna is since 2007 part of the Europe Direct network that is currently made of 434 EDICs in the whole EU, out of which 44 in Italy. EDICs are conceived as "one stop shops", where citizens can receive advice and services and, if need be, directed to more specialized EU networks. In 2017, in the whole Emilia - Romagna Region more than 200.000 people contacted the EDICs network, out of which around 22.000 students.
The first part of the visit took place at the City of Bologna's premises, where participants where welcomed by Mr Marco Lombardo, Municipal Councillor for European and international relations of the City of Bologna, and by the EDIC staff.
The second part of the visit took place at the premises of the Emilia Romagna Legislative Assembly, where two panels were organized: one concerning the presentation of the regional network, the other focussing on the EDIC local desk in the City of Modena, followed by a meeting with experts from Partnership Local Network.
CIVEX members, welcomed by Ms Saliera, had the opportunity to exchange views with Mr Andrea Lombardi, President of the social cooperative Uniser, partner of EDIC Emilia – Romagna since 2013; Mr Giovanni Pattoneri, Director of GAL del Ducato, acting as decentralised desk for the rural area of Piacenza and Parma; Mr Filiberto Putzu, Municipal Councillor for European Programmes of the City of Piacenza, that hosts a decentralized desk of EDIC since 2014; Mr Andrea Bosi, Municipal Councillor for European affairs and International cooperation of City of Modena; Prof. Marco Gestri of the University of Modena – Reggio Emilia, that runs the Centre for Documentation and Research on the EU, part of the European Documentation Centres (EDC) network.
According to the experts, the main goals of the EDICs are to make the citizens aware and proud of the impact of the EU project on their territory and to inform them of the several opportunities linked to the European citizenship. One of the main fields of activity now concerns information on 2019 European elections: the aim is to get a high turnout and to offer to the citizens proper information. Specific attention is dedicated to young people, with projects on digital citizenship and the danger of disinformation have also been developed, such as the project EU2BE.
As emerged from the debate with CIVEX members, the communication on EU activities is becoming always more difficult as very often the EU is seen as a scapegoat for the economic crisis, for unemployment and for many other issues that citizens face in their everyday life while, on the other hand, the achievements reached thanks to the EU are not well known. Communication seems to be successful only when it focuses on fears and insecurity while it is hard to reach citizens with positive messages.
Many members and experts stressed the need for a long- term work targeting especially young people and based on civic education and dialogue.
As Ms Saliera stated at the end of the visit, it is necessary to "Think long - term but work very hard every single day" and local and regional authorities have a key role to play, being a link between EU and the citizens.