Future of Europe Debate: Commissioner Piebalgs debates with Latvians in Riga

| October 18, 2013 | 0 Comments

apiebalgsHow do Latvians imagine the future of Europe? What are their worries regarding the economic situation? These will be some of the questions which EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs (pictured) and Latvian Defence Minister Dr Artis Pabriks will discuss about with about 200 citizens on 18 October in Riga.

Just a few months ahead of the entry of the country in the Eurozone, the Latvian Commissioner travels to his country of origin to host this event. It will be the 35th event in a series of Citizens’ Dialogues that European Commissioners are holding all over the European Union. As each debate, it will be centred on three main themes: the economic crisis, citizens’ rights and the future of Europe.

“These recent years have been challenging times for both Latvia and the rest of EU, with the economic boom being replaced by a severe crisis. Unemployment and social inequality have grown in most countries, and we have to act at both national and EU level to address these issues. This is an extremely interesting moment in Latvia as we are about to swap the lat for the euro, 10 years after voting to become part of the EU. What citizens think is more important than ever and I am looking forward to the debate in Riga”, said Commissioner Piebalgs.

The debate in Riga will also form part of the “Proud to be” campaign organised by the European Commission Representation in Latvia, promoting Latvia’s excellence in Europe and the benefits that EU membership has brought to the country and citizens.

The feedback received will provide important building blocks for a political communication on the Future of Europe in early spring 2014.

Background

What are the Citizens’ Dialogues about?

The Citizens’ Dialogue are an opportunity to bring together members of the European Commission, the European Parliament, national and local politicians, and European citizens, to hear about their expectations for the EU’s future.

More than 30 debates have been held so far, most recently in Helsinki (Finland), Györ (Hungary), Košice (Slovakia), Stockholm (Sweden) and Liège (Belgium).

A lot has been achieved in the 20 years since the introduction of EU Citizenship: the latest EU survey shows that today 62% of EU citizens feel “European”. In Latvia, this figure is 56%. Across the EU, citizens are using their rights on a daily basis. But people are not always aware of these rights. For example around two in three Latvians (66%) say that they would like to know more about their rights as EU citizens. (More details available in the Annex below).

This is why the Commission has made 2013 the European Year of Citizens. The Citizens’ Dialogues are at the heart of this year.

Why is the Commission doing this now?

Because Europe is at a crossroads. The future of Europe is the talk of the town – with many voices talking about moving towards political union – a Federation of Nation States or a United States of Europe. The coming months and years will be decisive for the future course of the European Union. Further European integration must go hand in hand with strengthening the Union’s democratic legitimacy. Giving citizens a voice in this debate is therefore more important than ever.

What will be the outcome of the Dialogues?

The feedback from citizens during the Dialogues will help guide the Commission as it draws up plans for future reform of the EU. One of the main purposes of the Dialogues will also be to prepare the ground for the 2014 European elections.

On 8 May 2013 the European Commission published its second EU Citizenship Report, which puts forward 12 new concrete measures to solve problems citizens still have (IP/13/410 and MEMO/13/409). The Citizens’ Report is the Commission’s answer to a major online consultation held from May 2012 (IP/12/461) and the questions raised and suggestions made during Citizens’ Dialogues on EU citizens’ rights and future.

For more information on the Riga Dialogue, click here.

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