“Citizens speak up about their vision of Europe”
Debrecen, Hajdú-Bihar (H), 16 May 2006
Citizens believe that that the EU offers them many opportunities, but they need much clearer information from the European institutions if they are to really be able to access and take advantage of these possibilities. This was the clear message that came from participants in the first Citizens’ Forum on the Future of Europe, organised today by the Assembly of European Regions (AER) in the County of Hajdú-Bihar-HU*. The citizens of Hajdú-Bihar had the opportunity to discuss their views on Europe with some of Hungary’s key representatives in the European Union, including Kinga Kollár, European Commission Representation in Hungary, Roy Perry, former Member of the European Parliament, and István Sért_-Radics, Member of the Committee of the Regions.
“We discussed the future of the European Union with our citizens. Among the main requests made by the citizens were that they wanted to be better informed about how their interests could be represented in the EU, for example through the European Parliament and the Committee of the Regions. I am really happy that today the European decision-makers had the opportunity to listen carefully to the needs and wishes of the citizens of our County, and that they have committed themselves to take these messages back to the European institutions in Brussels”, said Dr. Juhászné Lévai Katalin, President of Hajdú-Bihar County Council.
The AER organised this debate within the framework of the European Union’s so-called ‘1000 debates on Europe’. This initiative aims to stimulate debate upon key European issues at the local and regional level. ‘One of the main challenges facing the European Union today is how its institutions can bridge the gap that has emerged between them and the citizen’, said Lars-Gerhard Westberg, Vice-President of the AER Committee for Institutional Affairs and Regional Councillor from Västra-Götaland-S. ‘The EU has not always been successful in conveying its successes and good news in a way that relates to the citizens in the regions. Today has demonstrated the important role that the regions can play in bringing the European institutions together with the citizens and in helping to explain European policies in the context of local issues.
‘This event was so constructive that the AER has decided to organise similar debates in other member regions in the near future. “Such Citizens’ Forums will allow us to understand the expectations of the citizens of Europe, and to be able to better represent their needs at the European level. This will help to ensure that the Europe Union becomes understandable to European citizens and responsive to their needs”, concluded Lars-Gerhard Westberg.*18 of the 19 Hungarian Counties are members of the AER: Bács-Kiskun, Baranya, Békés, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén, Fejér, Gyõr-Moson-Sopron, Hajdú-Bihar, Heves, Jász-Nagykun-Szol-nok, Ko-márom-Eszter-gom, Nógrád, Pest, Somogy, Szabolcs-Szat-már-Bereg, Tolna, Vas, Veszprém, Zala.
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