“We are a bridge between our local communities and the EU”
They serve to connect territories and Europe, giving citizens the opportunity to find out about the activities of the European institutions and the opportunities that the EU offers. But also giving them the opportunity to discuss and make their voices heard by dialogue with MEPs and representatives of the institutions. We are talking about Europe Direct, the centers created by Parliament and the EU Commission throughout the Old Continent. The center of Rome has been open since 2021.
What is Europe Direct and when was it born? What do you do?
Europe Direct is an antenna of the European Commission and is part of a network of centers present in the various regions and provinces of the EU Member States. EDs play a direct link between local territories and the European Union. The Europe Direct Metropolitan City of Rome has been operational in the capital area since 1 August 2021 and through information and involvement activities, we work in synergy with local, public and private bodies to promote a better understanding of the functioning and responsibilities of the EU , and actively and continuously promote citizens’ participation, with the aim of strengthening their sense of responsibility towards the European project and raising their awareness of the advantages that the EU offers them on a daily basis. As Europe Direct we contribute to identifying the aspects of European policies that are important for local communities and to formulating messages and activities useful for satisfying the needs of the territory, also incorporating citizens’ requests which allow us to provide feedback to the EU institutions.
What do you think the citizens’ perception of your territory of the European Union is?
The European institutions are too often perceived by citizens as distant realities, incapable of understanding the difficulties and needs of the individual’s daily life. However, it is necessary to make a distinction, while the age group between 50-65 years has a negative perception of European institutions, the perception improves considerably if the reference target is the age group 18-30 years. Probably, this is due to the fact that young people aged 18-30 are part of the Erasmus+ generation, therefore born and raised in a society focused on the values on which the EU is founded, democracy, rule of law, protection of human rights , freedom of movement, development.
Why do you think it is important that the EU promoted the Conference on the Future of the European Union?
We strongly believe that the Conference was an excellent instrument of participatory democracy, which the European institutions chose to make available to citizens, with the aim of encouraging democratic participation and bridging the gap we were talking about before, to make it clear that in in reality the institutions are attentive and willing to listen and analyze citizens’ proposals. While we consider this tool very important, we believe that it is increasingly necessary to promote and implement similar tools and strengthen existing ones (see the European Citizens’ Initiatives tool), capable of bringing citizens closer and making them aware of European issues, making them feel like a true and the protagonist of the EU integration and development process.
What activities have you promoted in relation to Cofoe? What was the reaction of the citizens?
As Europe Direct Metropolitan City of Rome, we have implemented various online and offline promotion and communication activities to increase citizens’ awareness of the CoFe tool. As ED Metropolitan City of Rome we have structured a communication strategy divided according to the different targets (e.g. posts and videos for social media, podcasts, meetings and conferences, newsletters etc.). On 17 March we also organized a conference held at Spazio Europa in the premises of the European Parliament Office in Italy entitled “Artificial intelligence and smart cities-prospects compared between present and future” in which we focused on the theme of transition digital, one of the topics of the Conference. Finally, on 9 May, on the occasion of Europe Day, which this year also coincided with the closing of the CoFe, we held a conference “Young Europeans – the role of young people in the future of the Union Europe” at the CDE A. Spinelli of the La Sapienza University of Rome, instead giving greater space to students and young people to share their ideas. Participation in the events and various communication activities was quite positive, however, often among participants in the events, the percentage of those who had already presented their proposal on the Conference platform was very low.
What are the ideas and proposals that emerged from your #latuaparolaconta events? What do the citizens of your territory ask of Europe?
The most emerging proposals are linked to the greater protection and protection of personal data linked to the various artificial intelligence tools, the perception of risk and danger is very high, and the second aspect that emerged is the need to bring the European institutions even closer, perhaps further strengthening communication dedicated to citizenship.
What are the next events/activities you are organizing?
As the Europe Direct Metropolitan City of Rome centre, in addition to continuing to carry out our communication campaign presented at the beginning of the year in the ACP 2022, we are committed to organizing events and conferences, useful for strengthening the network of organizations operating in the territory of our competence and to achieve the objectives of promoting European policies and opportunities. In this perspective, on May 27th we will be present at an event, organized in collaboration with the ISS Gramsci of Valmontone, Ambassador school of the European Parliament, to tell students about the activities that the pro-European bodies present in the regional territory carry out to increase and encourage participation in the democratic life of young people. Our ED team is young and dynamic, this allows us to seize all possible opportunities to respond to our mission!