We should see Europe as something precious

EU citizens' dialogue We should see Europe as something precious

In Jena, Chancellor Angela Merkel has discussed the future of Europe with citizens. The debate focused on environmental protection, security, migration and Europe as a community of shared values. We must preserve Europe, the project for peace, said the Chancellor.

Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the citizens' dialogue in Jena.

In debates about Europe we should focus on our shared values, stressed Angela Merkel

Photo: Bundesregierung/Steins

In the Imaginata cultural centre, housed in a former transformer station, almost 60 interested participants had 90 minutes to put their questions on Europe to the Chancellor, and to report on their own experience and opinions.

The extremely frank and lively discussion repeatedly pointed to specific political problems, while also stressing the value of Europe as a major project for peace.

How does Europe deal with refugees?

Many questions related to how to cope with the refugee crisis. Angela Merkel underlined her wish "that the people who come to us, do so legally". Self-critically she noted that it was not until after the events of 2015 that Germany massively increased its development cooperation again. She again defended the EU-Turkey Agreement, which she described as "give and take". After all, it is in the interests of both sides that Turkey receives support to help it care for refugees in areas close to their homes.

In order to further improve the integration of refugees, Germany is in discussion with France and the Netherlands, in order to share examples of best practice. It is important to focus more on what does work rather than always concentrating on the failures, the Chancellor and participants agreed.

A call for more European cooperation

Europe can be strengthened by tackling more major joint projects, said the Chancellor. She mentioned, in particular, the revival of European microchip manufacture, the production of batteries for electric vehicles and enhanced cooperation on the development of European weapons systems.

Europe has brought us peace

Many participants underlined the importance of the EU in fostering peaceful coexistence among the people of Europe. Angela Merkel picked up on this idea and warned that all stakeholders must be careful not to take peace for granted. She gave the example of Franco-German cooperation, which she said every generation must work to retain.

Without a will to compromise, she said, we will not be able to take Europe forward. In the debates on Europe, we must focus on our shared values, and this means quite particularly an in-depth discussion of the importance of democracy.

Active citizens

Participants, who had been selected by two local newspapers, had an opportunity to voice their own opinions in Europe at a facilitated workshop, before the discussion with the Chancellor. Several of the issues raised there were then discussed in more depth with the Chancellor.

Why do we need a citizens’ dialogue?

The citizens’ dialogue on the future of Europe is part of a Europe-wide political debate embracing all member states of the European Union, with the exception of the United Kingdom. The Chancellor and Cabinet ministers are actively involved in a number of dialogue events being held across Germany. These dialogues are supplemented by additional events held by civil society partners.

Were the topics preselected?

Participants were free to put any questions they wanted, but to better structure the discussion in Jena the following key questions were pivotal:

  • How do citizens see Europe in their everyday life?

  • What role does Europe play for Germany as a whole?

  • What should Europe look like in future

Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the EU citizens’ dialogues on 7 May 2018, when she discussed the challenges facing Europe with pupils at Berlin’s Jane Addams School within the framework of the EU Project Day.

What will happen with the results?

The results to emerge from the dialogue between the German government and civil society partners will be compiled and scientifically evaluated by an independent service provider. The German government will draw conclusions from the outcome regarding the future design of the EU and integrate these into its European policy. Initially the outcome in each country will stand alone. The results from all member states will then be compiled and presented to the leaders of member states at the European Council meeting in December.

The European Commission is running an online consultation to complement the citizens’ dialogue on the future of Europe in member states.