Conference on European citizenship and on 50 years anniversary of Elyzée Treaty

On Friday and on Saturday the 14th-15th of June a conference was organised focused on European citizenship and on 50 years anniversary of Treaty of Elyzée.  This event was organised by Representation of European Commission in Slovakia, by Information Office of European Parliament in Slovakia and by Pan European Union in Slovakia. the conference was held in a historical building of Bratislava city Gallery on Panská street.

Conference started on Friday by an official dinner which attended members of the European Parliament, Anna Zaborska and Eduard Kukan, as well asj representing counselor of Embassy of Germany, Reinhard Wiemer and the first secretary of French ambassy ,Sébastien Potaufeu, and also members of organisation team mentioned above.

 The Saturday’s part of the conference was opened by several speakers starting with a MEP Anna Záborská who is also a president of Pan European Union. The next speaker, Dušan Chrenek, Head of the Representation of European Commission in Slovakia, focused on 20th anniversary of the European citizenship established by Maastricht treaty. What is very positive is the fact, that 70% of Slovak interviewed said that they know about the European citizenship and 50% of them are sure to know what are their rights that flow from the citizenship. Opening statements had also members of the Information Office of European Parliament in Slovakia, Director Róbert Hajšel and manager of information activities Dionýz Hochel. Róbert Hajšel said that what would be also positive is the situation when rights of European citizens would be not only profitable for them, but also for the economy. He also wishes that Slovak would more participate at the elections to the European Parliament the next year because we have two times finished at the last rank of participation.

“I have various types of rights, but they finish where other person´s rights begin.”

 The first panel deals with European citizenship. It´s moderator Dionýz Hochel summed up types of rights of European citizens. Members of this panel were MEPs Katarína  Neveďalová and Anna Záborká, and  Miroslav Kocúr, director of a civic association Via iuris.

from left: Anna Záborská, a MEP; Katarína Neveďalová, a MEP; Žofia Jakubová, a vice-chairwoman of eD; Dionýz Hochel, Information Office of EP

Katarína Neveďalová, as a member of  the Committee for Culture,Education and Youth focused on the question of the participation and the will of citizens to be interested in European affairs. She personally stated that an approach which speaks about the distant  EU is not right because every country and each citizen is a part of the EU. She continued on Robert Hajšel´s speech with the announcement that even is we are at the bottom of the participation at the elections, we are the only one country where this number raises from 16,5% to 20%.

She stressed the need of participation of young people in the activities of the EU and she mention a new project: League of young voters. It is a platform to get more information from young people about their opinions and needs. According to her words,  67% of youth think that the EU is not for them.

Anna Záborska the chairwoman of the Committee Women’s Rights and Gender Equality dealt with European rights in the national perspective. According to her words, if more people would know about these rights, more young people would have left Slovakia. The only obstacle is insufficient level of a foreign language. She mentioned that thanks to travelling, studying in EU a citizen becomes more critical on national affairs and a state should try to provide them  comfortable and sufficient conditions in a home country to give them a reason to stay or to return to live in Slovakia.

Miroslav Kocúr, director of a civic association Via iuris talked about a legal point of view. Right of Europeans should be also respected on national level. This association is focused on a protection of rights and legal interests of citizens by providing advices or legal assistance.  They were active in cases: a preparation of building a landfill near Pezinok, question of mining of gold in  Podpoľana, in project changes in Mochovce ets. According to him,  69% of Slovak do not believe in Slovak justice system.That´s why they help citizens, also by awarding a prize White Crow with alliance Fair Play.  At the end he said that we shall consider Bruxelles not only as a big brother, but also as an older and more experienced brother from which we may learn a lot also at the national level.

The second panel was focused on 50th anniversary of Elysée Treaty between France and Germany. This panel was moderated by  Pavol Magyar from the Representation of European Commission in Slovakia. Members of the panel were the first counselor of French ambassy , Hélène Roos,  and representing counselor of Embassy of Germany Reinhard Wiemer and Vladimír Bilčík, leading researcher of Slovak Foreign Policy Association.

Representing counselor of Embassy of Germany, Mr Wiemer focused on a symbolical meaning for German citizens of Treaty of Elysée signed in 1963. This symbolical meaning was important because after the second world war and after 150 year of wars between Germany and France, this country was considered as a partner for the first time.

The first counselor of French ambassy , Hélène Roos mentioned that De Gaulle was inspired by Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman when signing the treaty. She also said that it was more a question of cooperation than an emotional attachment. The main areas in which these countries cooperate are  youth and economics.

Vladimír Bilčík started his speech by mentioning a historical background of the treaty. After a failure of European Defence Community in 1954 and of European Political Community the new treaty was considered as a new beginning for the European integration. It was an intergovernmental treaty that  De Gaulle prefered to sign.

from left: Miroslav Kocúr, Director of Via Iuris; Anna Záborská, a MEP; Katarína Neveďalová, a MEP; Dionýz Hochel, Information Office of EP

After the signing of the treaty in 1963, every 10 years there was a new European project proposed of the European integration thanks to this French-German cooperation. Firstly it was a European monetary system, which unfortunately failed. Then it was a preparation of the free market, after the adoption of the Maastricht treaty and a preparation period for a Constitutional Treaty for the EU. Then the Europe stopped till adoption of the Lisbon treaty. His opinion is that Europe stopped again these days. That it´s priority is not to continue forward but to make better systems, structures and quality  that already exist.

Closing of the conference was made by Juraj Alner, long-time secretary of the Pan European Union in Slovakia and a great European. In general, guests and speakers evaluated this conference very positively. Conference brought a new point of view on European citizenship focusing on European rights and their execution also at national level and on the participation, not only of young people, in activities of the EU.Mention was also the fact, that people are sometimes not interested in more information, they receive easily produced news from media. There is no lack of democratic deficit in the EU, but there is a crisis of  being informed  between citizens that is often also their own fault.

Treaty of Elyzée is the spin bone of friendly French-German cooperation that is not always easy and sometimes is full of conflicting opinions, mainly on economic questions. But it is still an engine of european integration. As many of present speakers confirmed, if these two countries would not agree on a progress of the European integration, the creation of the EU would be more complicated, even impossible.

Žofia Jakubová

copyright: Information Office of the European Parliament in Slovakia
copyright: Pan European Union in Slovakia