2013 is the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of EU citizenship. Last October the European Parliament voted to designate 2013 European Year of Citizens with the aim of raising awareness of the rights linked to EU citizenship. Events will be organised during the Year to explain the rights of citizens who decide to study, work, set up a business or draw their pension in another member state.
Every EU citizen enjoys a set of rights under the EU treaties, including the right to move and reside freely in another member state, the right to vote and stand as a candidate in European and local elections and the right to petition the European Parliament. Since joining the EU in 2004, anyone holding Maltese citizenship is automatically conferred EU citizenship and entitled to the corresponding rights and responsibilities.
EU citizens are often unaware of these rights and the European Year will aim to educate the general public, in particular young people, in how they can benefit from them. Parliament’s vote endorsed an agreement already reached between MEPs and EU ministers.
“At times of economic, political and social crisis, only 20 months before the next European elections, putting Union citizenship and participatory democracy at the centre of the political agenda is absolutely essential,” said Antigoni Papadopoulou (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, Cyprus), who steered the legislation through Parliament, after the report was adopted by 518 votes to 63, with 19 abstentions.
The activities organised for the European Year of Citizens will focus on explaining the rights linked to moving to and living in other EU countries, such as the recognition of academic and professional qualifications, passenger and consumer rights, access to cross-border healthcare and social security and schemes such as the Erasmus programme, which enables young people to study abroad.
Events during the Year will include hearings, conferences and education and awareness-raising campaigns. Platforms will also be set up for authorities at EU, national, regional and local level and other public and civil society organisations to share their experience.
[Source: EU Parliament website]