Even since the establishment of the European Economic Community back in the fifties the European institutions are lacking an audience. Under the Maastricht Treaty that was signed twenty years ago the concept of European Union (EU) Citizenship first saw the light of day. With this citizenship inhabitants of EU member states are, for example, able to move freely throughout the Union. Many people are however unfamiliar with the rights the flow from EU Citizenship and are increasingly experiencing a gap between their daily lives and the European reality coming from Brussels. Strangely enough EU officials found a reason to celebrates this by designating 2013 as the European Year of Citizens: “We need the direct involvement of citizens in building a stronger and more political Union. That is why 2013 is the European Year of Citizens – a year dedicated to you and your rights as Europeans” (Commissioner Reding, EurActiv, 2013).
So let’s talk about involvement and relate this to one of the most important policy areas of the EU: Regional Policy. A few days ago the Eurobarometer told us 77% of all EU citizens recognize the positive impact of these investments (Inforegio, 2013). This is wonderful news to conclude a year of festivities with. Yet, when looking beyond I sincerely question if this number is saying something meaningful in the debate on involving citizens. Are ‘European citizens’ just seen are merely passive consumers of investments? And, is the Commission committed to listen and incorporated ideas coming from citizens. Indeed these are complex questions yet the deserve studying in my opinion. The following is based on I qualitative research I conducted in 2011. Read the rest of this entry »