Original publication: May 2018
Author: Katja Mäkinen
Short link to this post: http://bit.ly/2J0NXxX
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Europe for Citizens: Towards the Next Programme Generation

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We are not born as citizens but we become citizens by acting as citizens and by using citizens’ rights. The Europe for Citizens programme can support citizens in their processes of becoming citizens. Citizenship is a key element of democracy, and citizens’ participation is needed for democracy to function. Its unique combination of remembrance and participation makes the EfC programme a platform in which citizenship can be addressed and promoted as a complex agency – beyond the narrow understanding of citizenship as a legal status or as an entitlement to electoral rights. Projects funded by the EfC may help tackling polarisation and marginalisation of societies, populism and extremism as long as they make space for diversity of actors and perspectives.

As interests and challenges touching citizens do not follow the state borders, it is important that citizens’ activity also crosses borders. Citizens have always acted on several scales from local and regional to national and international, for example via international organizations and movements. The funding distributed through the Europe for Citizens programme is therefore crucial.

The aim of the present study is to provide a qualitative analysis on the Europe for Citizens programme (EfC). It will inform the debates about how to develop the programme in the following programme period. The analysis draws insights from the academic research focusing on the Europe for Citizens programme and the topics related to it as well as experiences of the beneficiaries of the EfC programme. The question regarding decision making via delegated and implementing acts is analysed through the Council Regulation (2014) on EfC and the work programmes concerning the programme in 2014-2018.

The analysis brings first-hand information about the practical reality of the Europe for Citizens programme based on actors’ experiences. Previous studies cover several actors, such as national contact points, members of the Civil Dialogue Group and beneficiaries (e.g. Deloitte and Coffey 2018; European Parliament 2017a, Jefferies and Rohmer 2016). To develop the programme, it is important to learn more about the experiences of the funded projects themselves. Therefore an email interview was conducted with the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries’ experiences of the EfC programme are predominantly very positive and indicate that the programme provides significant support for the activities in the civil society and towns.

The recommendations suggested in this analysis concern streamlining the programme, the role of the beneficiaries, structure of the programme, budget, decision making, practicalities, and relationships of EfC to other EU activities. They aim to increase the thematic cohesion and simplicity of the programme, so that its different elements and topics would link to each other seamlessly and consistently. Therefore it is recommended to streamline the programme in a more consistent way around citizenship, participation and democracy that are the core topics of the programme. The objectives of EfC are crucial for strengthening citizenship and democracy in the EU and therefore it is important that decision-making regarding the core elements of the programme is conducted in the basic act to ensure the democratic legitimacy of the decision-making. Moreover, in the legal base of the programme, the Parliament should have the co-decision-making power together with the Council. The recommendations conclude that Europe for Citizens is a unique funding instrument and the budget of the programme should be substantially increased.

Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/617-478

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Image 1: The aims and structure of the programme – a suggestion

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