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Relancer l'Europe : Retrouver l'esprit de Rome - version anglaise

22 février 2017 : Relancer l'Europe : Retrouver l'esprit de Rome - version anglaise ( rapport d'information )


The appearance of new power relationships between Continent States such as the United States, China and Russia could be a sufficient condition for reform to move in the direction of the strengthening of the European Union. Nevertheless, this will only be possible if its men and women wish to share a common destiny. This «will to live together», we have between us and throughout the world, is what is at stake for European citizenship. In addition to the milestones already set, it seems possible to further contribute to the strengthening of this European citizenship (1) in particular, by ensuring that Europe is seen as an opportunity by as many people as possible (2).

1. Promoting European citizenship
a) A building sui generis today established in the Treaties
(1) European citizenship, a relatively recent recognition

Although present in the spirit of the founding fathers since the 50s, the contemporary idea of European citizenship was defined in the mid-70s, in parallel with the discussion on the introduction of political cooperation. European Parliament elections by universal suffrage in 1979 were seen as the expression of European citizenship, hereafter requiring election, and the strengthening of ties between Europe and the citizens of the Member States. In the same way the Fontainebleau European Council decided in 1984 to introduce an ad hoc committee in view of the introduction of a «people's Europe».

At this time, achievements such as the Schengen Agreement in 1985, the launch of the Erasmus programme in 1987 and the prospect of the single market by the end of 1992 helped to popularise the idea of the emergence of European citizenship.

In 1992, the Maastricht Treaty legally instituted European citizenship and paved the way for the creation of the single currency as well as the second and third pillars of the Union, turning their attention to areas traditionally thought of as sovereign. This process continued, treaty by treaty, advancing the process of the building of Europe.

(2) Specific rights established in the Treaties

As well as benefiting from the principal of non-discrimination21(*), European citizens can see a list of their rights in Article 20 TFEU and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights (Chapter V, «Citizens' rights»)22(*).

The main constituent rights of European citizens

ï The right to move and reside freely, under certain conditions, in the territory of Member States;

ï The right to enjoy the protection of the diplomatic and consular authorities of another Member State, on the territory of a third country in which the Member State of which they are nationals is not represented.

ï The right to vote and stand for election at elections to the European Parliament and at municipal elections in the Member State of residence;

ï The right to petition the European Parliament , to apply to the European Ombudsman, and to address the institutions and advisory bodies of the Union in any of the Constitution's languages and to obtain a reply in the same language.

ï The right to propose legislative initiatives. (known as citizens' initiatives)

Although composed of two elements which traditionally define democratic citizenship (fundamental rights and rights of political participation), European citizenship presents two distinctive features:

- on the one hand, despite the formula contained in Article 20§2 TFEU23(*), European citizenship does not as yet impose duties on Union citizens.

- on the other hand, it is restricted to nationals of Member States and therefore is not open to non-member residents. Finally, the way it is issued remains national as the definition of nationality falls within the competence of the Member States.

b) Actions carried out towards a better understood and more tangible citizenship

It falls to the European Commission24(*) to submit every three year, a report on European citizenship and to propose actions aimed at making it more effective. This is why the third report from the Commission, submitted in January 201725(*) providing an update on the progress of the 12 actions announced in 2013 and aimed at «improving the lives of EU citizens and removing barriers which prevent them from enjoying the EU rights accorded to them».

A review of these actions has made two observations:

- firstly, the Commission has indeed acted (amongst others through legislative initiatives) to respond to commitments made in 2013, which merits acclaim;

- secondly, with the exception of the launch on 7 December 2016 of the European Solidarity Corps26(*); it is clear that the majority of the measures and actions set out relate to the implementing the current rights of citizens27(*) by improving the information provided by them and by national administrations. It also involves addressing everyday issues, for example trans-border problems or those relating to online purchases.

Consular protection of European Union citizens in third countries is a good working example of this citizenship28(*). It should be commended but also noted that the current repayment conditions set out between the Member States do not go as far as real mutual responsibility within the European Union.

c) Reaching European citizens more directly

Action taken by the Commission to address practical questions and to provide information to citizens is nonetheless useful. It should be remembered that in 2016, 87% of European citizens were aware of their status29(*), 47% knew what it implied and only 40% claimed to be well-informed about their rights30(*).

It seems however, that initiatives could also be taken which address the concerns of European citizens more directly. The proposals that we are formulating to that effect follow on from the work carried out by the Senate in recent years31(*).

The first proposal could be centred around strong symbols of belonging. This could lead to the creation of a European identity card which all citizens, who already have a national identity card, could take advantage of.

Furthermore, building on the increasing association of the European flag and national flags, it would be advisable to encourage Member States to play the European anthem each time their national anthem is played.

In accordance with the European resolution adopted by the Senate on 9 October 2013, the second proposal relates to the creation of a radio station, «Radio France Europe». It would be dedicated to Europe and more specifically to better mutual understanding, as well as a closer union between European peoples and not purely focused on information-based news from European institutions (which already exists). The aim would be the eventual establishment of this type of radio station in each country in the Union, drawing in particular on finance from the European Commission targeted at this type of initiative as part of the action programme for citizenship32(*). Opportunities offered by new technology, and in particular the Internet, should also be used to this end: a channel dedicated to the European Union using an online video platform could also be set up.

2. Refocusing youth on the European ambition: a new Erasmus?
a) Building on the thirty-year success of Erasmus

The Erasmus programme is one of the undisputed successes of the European Union. Created in 1987 under Jacques Delors, the then president of the European Commission, it has, over 30 years, enabled over 3 million students to complete part of their university studies in another Member State. In addition to its primary purpose, university and professional exchange, Erasmus has also been a genuine society phenomenon which has contributed to European citizenship. Anecdotally, the figure of a million «Erasmus couple33(*)» children is often quoted.

The celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the programme was an opportunity to express renewed ambition. The aim is to involve 4 million Europeans, including 500,000 French, by 2020.

b) Going further

Although the Erasmus programme,34(*) is already open to apprentices, they only account for a very small percentage of participants and their stays are very short: averaging less than a month, as opposed to six months for university students.

In its work programme for 2017, the European Commission is committed to working towards enhancing the mobility of apprentices. This intention has been put into action with the announcement last December of the «Erasmus Pro» initiative, aimed at enabling 50,000 apprentices to access a longer period of mobility - 6 to 12 months - in another Member State by 2020. The creation of the Erasmus Pro label should help to strengthen communication around the possibilities offered to apprentices by the European Union and to enhance awareness among those involved: training institutions, businesses, and also young people and their families.

We want this initiative to become for apprentices what Erasmus is for students. This is a real challenge for European citizenship. In effect the perception that Erasmus is an opportunity is more common among higher education graduates than among other young people. This echoes the divides which are seen more generally in our societies in terms of support for the European project.

As a result, we are calling for:

- the target of 50,000 young people to be increased in order to achieve a real «critical mass» effect, comparable to that of Erasmus students.

- the measure not to be focused solely on opportunities following on from higher education but which encompass all levels of training.

One of the ways to achieve these objectives is without doubt to pay particular attention to trans-border young people since they can provide an excellent talent pool.

It is therefore vital that young people speak at least one or two languages used within the European Union, in addition to their mother tongue. It is also worth remembering that French is one of the two official languages of the European Union and should be used more in EU publications.

Recommendations for European citizens

- Introduce a European identity card which all citizens, who already have a national identity card, could take advantage of;

- Encourage Member States to play the European anthem each time their national anthem is played;

- Create a radio station, «Radio France Europe», and an online video platform channel. They would promote better mutual understanding between Union peoples;

- Create the conditions for success for the new Erasmus Pro programme, starting with trans-border areas, following on from the announcements from the Commission.

* 21 Laid down in Articles 18 and 19 TFEU

* 22 It is laid down in the Treaty that the Union establishes these rights through different legislative acts.

* 23 Citizens of the Union shall enjoy the rights and be subject to the duties provided for in the Treaties (...)

* 24 By Article 25 TFEU

* 25

* 26 The mission of the European Solidarity Corps is to offer young people aged 18 to 30 the opportunity to take part in a wide range of activities, to help those facing difficult situations in the EU.

* 27 In criminal, commercial, social or political participation matters.

* 28 Council Directive (EU) 2015/637 of 20 April 2015 establishing the coordination and cooperation measures necessary to facilitate the consular protection of Union citizens in third countries and repealing Decision 95/553/EC

* 29 Highest figure ever recorded, referred to in the Commission report cited above.

* 30 The strong growth in these last two figures (+14% on average since 2007) provided by Eurobarometer is highly encouraging for the action carried out by the Commission.

* 31 In particular from information report n° 407 (2013-2014) by Mr Pierre Bernard-Reymond, on behalf of the European Affairs Committee, filed on 26 February 2014.

* 32 Action n° 12 (3): Exploring ways to strengthen and widen European public space.

* 33 Figure recently quoted by the French Minister of National Education at an event celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the programme.

* 34 More specifically, they are part of the integrated mobility programme called Erasmus Plus.