The European Conference on Citizenship and Twinning kicked off in Rome, on 15 December 2014, with close to 300 participants from more than 30 countries, including representatives from municipalities and regions, European institutions, the Italian national government, the civil society and.experts in citizenship and town twinning. Mayors, councillors, active citizens, civil society and business leaders have endorsed 25 proposals to re-vive the European project. The Conference was organised by the UCLG European Section, the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), in partnership with its Italian association (AICCRE), and with the support of the European Commission.
In a message addressed to local and regional elected representatives, Former President of France, former President of the Convention on the future of Europe and President emeritus of CEMR, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, said: there is a yawning gap between citizens and Europe and member states seem to only to take into account their short term national interests. More than ever, CEMR, its member associations and local and regional governments must provide constant support in the debate in favour of an ambitious and efficient Europe that is close to the citizens.
During the Congress opening, participants discussed local governments' role in integrating all citizens in a community's public life, CEMR executive president, Anders Knape, stressing the importance of such event, an opportunity to celebrate local democracy and citizenship throughout Europe. This was also underlined by AICCRE president, Michele Picciano: the objective of this conference is to pave the way to a strengthened democracy in Europe. It allows us to improve the sense of belonging to a common history and a common European citizenship.
A representative of the European Commission, Floriana Sipala, was also invited to briefly present the Europe for citizens programme, a tool for local and regional governments having a real impact on the ground.
These welcoming words and keynote addresses were followed with a debate on citizen participation. The president of the European Civic Forum, Jean-Marc Roirant, pointed out that strong associations and strong civil society organisations are testimonies to the democratic vitality and plurality on the ground. Other speakers included, vice-president of AICCRE, Carla Rey; director of Debating Europe, Adam Nyman; Local Government and Decentralisation Unit, UN-HABITAT, Diana Lopez Caramazana; and deputy mayor of Molenbeek (Belgium), in charge of housing, Karim Majoros.
The text entitled "Hope for Europe! 25 proposals to revive the European project" has been designed with both local and regional elected representatives and European institutions in mind. It presents solutions to reconnect citizens with public action at every level: local, regional, national and European. To this aim, it stresses the importance of active participation in the decision-making process including, in particular, those people from social groups that are still poorly represented - especially women, young people and migrants.