|Camilla Hillier-Fry of EuroCitizens (centre) with Dani Méndez of the Instituto Andaluz de Juventud, Erasmus at the University of Lancaster, and Clara Fajardo, of La Vanguardia and Café Babel, la revista europea de Sevilla|
lunes, 8 de mayo de 2017
EUROCITIZENS AT THE INTERGENERATIONAL DEBATE ORGANISED BY THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION
On Monday 8 May, the European Commission organised an intergenerational debate around the future of Europe at its Madrid Headquarters. Two representatives of EuroCitizens were invited to attend together with fifty-eight Spanish citizens drawn from all over Spain. The debate was moderated by the journalist María Ramírez with regular input from Jaume Duch, Spokesperson for and Director-General of Communication of the European Parliament.
The audience was divided into two groups, one for the under-thirties and the other for older citizens, mainly 60+. In the event, there seemed little difference between the points made by both groups, with all their attention on the future of the Union and very little reminiscing about the past. However, it was clear that the older group’s opinions were clearly tinged by their experience of pre- and post-Accession Spain.
All were enthusiastic about the European Union while quite open about its shortcomings. However, their focus was clearly on fixing the Union rather than leaving it. One of the problems the Union faces is that people are not always aware of which problems can be tackled by the EU and which ones are purely the responsibility of their own national governments, even though Brussels often ends up getting the blame when expectations are disappointed.
There was a clear consensus that the EU needed to get closer to its citizens, possibly by working at the municipal level, through schools and through twinning projects. Indeed, this debate was organised with a view to reaching a more typical audience than more traditional events aimed at civil servants and politicians – “the same old faces”.
Brexit was mentioned several times. It seemed that, while it was regretted, it had already been discounted and people want to get on with developing the European project. Jaume Duch made a point which was echoed by several other speakers: while people were initially worried by a domino effect post-Brexit, it has, in fact acted as a vaccine, making people aware of the true magnitude of a decision to leave the EU and less inclined to gamble away their future for reasons often not related to Europe at all.
One of the EuroCitizens representatives explained our demands to retain full citizenship rights and the need for any agreement to be ring-fenced. This elicited a very detailed response from Jaume Duch with a re-statement of the Commission’s point of view that an agreement on citizen’s existing rights was their first priority (although it takes two to tango). And that existing rights should be protected “until the end of their lives”.
The debate was streamed on youtube and can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=NjPGHaerD_w&list= PLNmP33ynWrSQZXyF7576s7- 6TjMItTxTH&index=1&shuffle=169
To see the debate from the very beginning, fast-forward ten minutes. To see
Camilla Hillier Fry’s intervention and Jaume Duch’s reply go to 1h 20’30”