We participated in a “high-level” event of the Europe for Citizens Programme, organized in Brussels, 2-3 April 2019. The event was dedicated to all European citizens by the Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, describing the occasion as being “about our European dream and our shared journey, along the roads of the past, which serve as a source of inspiration for our common future.” According to Commissioner Avramopoulos, the key question is how to strengthen European values, achievements and identity whilst maintaining pride in one’s own heritage.

The event was focused on many topics, relevant for our project “Vote 4 Your Europe”, namely:

  • Panel discussion: 2019 – a crucial year for European citizens: looking back on Europe’s history in order to look forward. The discussion underlined:
    • The role of schools in teaching history, how democracy works, how to balance powers, to counter disinformation;
    • The need to complete the European Union project, which requires solidarity between Member States, a common foreign policy and defence systems to preserve peace, better ways of reaching out to citizens;
    • The need to defend European values, to support civil society organisations while ensuring that they comply with law and rules.
  • Civic participation – panel discussion: the power of words – the role of civil society in building citizens’ media literacy, countering disinformation and carrying the voice of European citizens. Here are some insights from the discussion:
    • 5% of online users create 50% of hate speech. This needs to be looked at in this perspective.
    • It is very difficult to tackle emotional argument with facts.
    • To tackle disinformation, different formats for different audiences should be used. Linking fact with emotion makes it much more appealing to consumers.
    • Online platforms do not see themselves as media. We are far too gentle on them. It is time that platforms admit they are media and take responsibility.
    • Our ability to recognise truth from lie was there, but we lost it.
    • Maybe the underlying question should be: Why are people so angry and anxious? Why do they want to consume fake news even though they know it is fake? Parallel to consuming drugs. When we feel bad, we need to find an enemy. More research is needed on these questions.
    • Consumers are addicted to “free” information. Making consumers pay for “good quality” (fact checked) information can be a way to keep “low quality” information (fake news) for poor people.
    • Importance of reviving local media and local connections was emphasised. Showing that media is there for people and that ordinary people are included in the debate. Giving more space in media for civic society issues.
    • Why are the media so keen on covering negative messages?
    • Media are going through a change of business model: advertising is not so lucrative anymore. It is time to think about alternative models, like subscription or donations, which could be better models for fact-checked information.

Finally, the discussion was closed, emphasising that the democracies today are more mature than ever and with the help of new technologies, it is easier for people to be informed and to take part in public deliberations. However, there is a need for responsible citizenship where rights and obligations are given equal importance.

More details on the event here: https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/news/20190311_upcoming-event-europe-for-citizens-history-defines-our-future_en

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This publication reflects only the author’s view. The EACEA and the Commission are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

©2020 “Vote 4 Your Europe” project

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