22.03.12 16:53

Interview with EMI Secretary General Diogo Pinto on the European Year of Citizens - 2013

Europe III, a monthly magazine issued by the EESC Various Interests – Group III, interviewed EMI Secretary General Diogo Pinto on the upcoming European Year of Citizens – 2013.

Read the full text of the interview hereafter or download the PDF version, please click here

Facilitating the active participation of citizens and civil society organisations in building a better Europe

The  European  Movement  International  (EMI)  is  one  of  the largest  pan  and  pro-European  civil  society  organisations  with currently more than 70 Member Organisations, bringing together representatives  from  European  associations,  political  parties, enterprises and trade unions. The EMI aims to influence the reform process of the EU and to gain citizens’ support for it in line with its objectives to “contribute to the establishment of a united, federal Europe founded on the principles of peace, democracy, liberty, solidarity, and respect for basic human rights. It seeks to provide a structure to encourage and facilitate the active participation of citizens and civil society organisations in the development of a united Europe”.  Europe III interviewed EMI Secretary General Diogo Pinto on the upcoming European Year of Citizens – 2013.

The EESC in its draft opinion which will be voted on 28/29 March criticizes the EC proposal on the EU Year of Citizens (2013),  stating,  that  the  main  focus  should  be  on  active and participatory citizenship, rather than on mobility, as it is at this moment. What do you feel should be the principal priorities of the year?

I  would  like  to  start  by  stating  that  I  fully  agree  with  the views  expressed  by  the  EESC  in  its  draft  opinion.  I think that if 2013 will look at Citizenship as an individual rights-based approach only, it will be a missed opportunity. 2013 could and should also be the opportunity to look at how to promote and improve citizens’ access to full participation, on a permanent and structured way, in the political, social and cultural aspects of their lives as Europeans.

What are your main suggestions for managing the year? The EESC suggests focusing primarily on non-state actor activities rather than campaigns. Do you agree?

I totally agree. The EU Year of Citizens should focus primarily on activities and actions developed with and by civil society organisations, and serve the purpose of the recognition of their crucial role as mediating structures between the citizens and the institutions, and fundamental spaces for the expression of citizenship and for the process of European construction.

In the case where no significant changes are made to the current proposal, where do you see the biggest risks and potential?

I don’t even want to consider the possibility of the EC actually ignoring the almost consensual opinion that has been expressed by so many civil society organisations, the EESC and the European Parliament too. That would be a message in itself, and a very negative one too, that the EC would send to the citizens; one that would certainly be used and abused by the enemies of the EU and the European construction process. And I find that too big a risk to take on the eve of the upcoming 2014 European elections.

What would be your main comments on the EESC’s opinion and the Rapporteur’s innovative and participatory process (involvement of Liaison group, web stream, online information and questionnaire)?

I can’t but commend the Rapporteur for the innovative and participatory process he led, and for the opinion itself. Mr Gobins took his responsibilities as Rapporteur very seriously and went the extra mile to consult with all the stakeholders, listening and taking the time to understand their points of view, and taking them into account. By doing so, he proved that dialogue, inclusiveness, openness and transparency aren’t incompatible with efficiency.

Where do you see the role of the EESC in the implementation of the year and the main cooperation needs with your organisation?

First and foremost, I expect that the EESC doesn’t see the vote on this draft opinion as the end of the process; we need the EESC to continue to build alliances with the EP, civil society organisations and others, to keep the pressure on the EC and obtain significant changes to the current proposal. Once that is achieved, I hope that the EESC will remain open to involving civil society organisations in the implementation of the Year, and making sure that it will be an opportunity to improving the structures and the tools for civil dialogue at the EU level, and to bridging the gap between the EU institutions and its citizens. The European Movement International will be looking forward to cooperating further with the EESC in achieving these and other mutual objectives, for the sake of a more democratic and citizen-centered Europe.

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