The reflection process launched by EU leaders in the aftermath of the UK’s decision to leave the EU focused increased attention on the future direction of the European Union. Feeding into this process, the European Commission’s White Paper on the Future of Europe published last March and the Leaders' Agenda adopted by the European Council last October have prompted a debate across Member States on the future of Europe.
The Government is committed to contributing to the debate and ensuring greater engagement with the public around the future of Europe. To this end, the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, and I, along with the Minister of State for European Affairs, Helen McEntee TD, launched a Citizens’ dialogue on the Future of Europe on 15 November last.
It is essential that the EU addresses the key concerns of its citizens and the aim of the Government’s Future of Europe initiative is to promote a meaningful debate on the future direction of the EU and at the same time to promote better awareness of the EU, its role, values and achievements.
Minister of State McEntee is leading this process and has participated in a number of engagements already and recently announced a schedule for the Future of Europe Citizens' Dialogues. The purpose of these dialogues is to engage with citizens to hear their views, opinions and insights about the European Union so that we can help to shape a better Europe for all. This will be primarily a listening exercise, focussed on the needs and concerns of our citizens. We do not want to be prescriptive and we want to draw on these sessions to help formulate our contribution to the broader European debate. I would encourage everyone to get involved.
Dialogue events will be held in Galway on 8 February, Cork on 22 February, Donegal on 8 March and Meath on 19th April. They will conclude on 9 May next (Europe Day) with an event in Dublin. The cost of each meeting is estimated at approx. €10,000. This was not the subject of a tender process as European Movement Ireland, which is our partner in organising the Dialogues, is in receipt of ongoing funding from the Department.
The grant of €250,000 annually for three years to EMI from my Department is to carry out work on the basis of a proposal it submitted, which includes an extensive programme of work on communications and outreach activities including these Citizens Dialogues.