Europe for Citizens Annual Forum

Europe for Citizens annual forum was organized within the European Commission’s new program called “Europe for Citizens”, which has been recently opened also for applications from Croatia. The program will last seven years and is intended to provide financial support to various forms of activities of civil society as well as different town-twinning initiatives.
The forum gathered representatives of local self-government and civil society organizations from all Europe, together with some of the successful beneficiaries of the program. Among others, the forum hosted a ceremony of handing out the Golden Stars Awards 2007, whereby ten most successful projects of the program were awarded.
Ms. Odile Quintin, Director-General of the Directorate-General for Education and Culture, highlighted that the very name of the program implies that it should serve as the Commissions’ instrument which is targeting European citizens with a view to achieve the following objectives: strengthening of the sense of belonging to Europe, fostering the dialogue and active cooperation, promotion of intercultural dialogue and mutual respect of differences and coexistence, and strengthening of the principle of solidarity in Europe. The forum is a result of the Commission’s initiative to gather all stakeholders of the program in order to bring together information about needs and priorities that citizens themselves recognize as potential for further development of the program.
Parallel to all other priorities set by the program, a year 2008 will be marked primarily with the issue of intercultural dialogue. In this context, the forum discussed the question of common European culture as a precondition for creation of structured dialogue among all cultural stakeholders in Europe, as according to Ms. Quintin “culture unites people and goes beyond differences”. As all programs of the Directorate-General belong to the sphere of interculturality, the European Commission is implementing activities of visibility and promotion of the values of the program with a view to insure the sustainability of its own cultural policy, exchange ideas and form a long-term partnership with civil society.
Both integration of differences and the process of structuring of the European society under the principle of multicultural diversity are recognized as a new common challenge for European people. At the same time, one should take into account the common heritage of active citizenship and social cohesion which transcends particular identities for the sake of the wealth of differences. Therefore, an enabling environment for development of intercultural dialogue should be created, that would include all potential spheres (national and supranational levels, working and media environment etc.), based on common values of freedom and equality as well as on multilingualism and intercultural skills. In this sense, the sustainable strategy should be developed that will transcend mere economic unity of the Europe and creative active stakeholders instead of passive observers. Furthermore, the new member states will not be absorbed or assimilated by the European majority, for they will actively participate in Europe: the aim is to create a bottom-up cultural integration of European citizens.
The Golden Starts Awards 2007 brochure of the town-twinning and civil society projects awarded in 2007 can be downloaded here.