A lot of citizens have a distorted perception of European Union. A lot of them think that the EU is a distant thing, a burocratic thing. They think that the EU is not capable to answer of the real and daily necessity. This is a very inaccurate perception, and wich depend from the uncapacity of the EU to relate with the citizens, and from the inability of the same citizens to properly inform correctly about the EU. All this has led, in recent years, to the emergence of the Euroscepticism phenomenon. Euroscepticism which has subsequently been diversified according to two distinct modes: on one side, there are “Eurocritics”, who criticize the current European integration modalities; on the other side, there are the “Europhobics”, who hate and despise the European union “as such” and the concept of integration itself.
At this stage, it’s essential, in our view, the work that can be done by the European cities and by the Twin town committees themselves. Twinning between European cities have played and continue to play a positive and prominent role for the European Union. Following Jean Bareth's intuition, they have put in place friendship, cooperation and mutual awareness among Europe's peoples. They have allowed us to carry on the dream of a peaceful and civic coexistence among peoples, albeit in the diversity of races, cultures and religions. A diversity is not a renunciation of one's identity, but a moment of stimulus to be understood and appreciated. A diversity that’s the core of the integration among the European peoples.
The job that we propose to carry out it’s therefore an information job - starting from the Treaties of the European Union and from the White Paper on the Future of Europe - of sharing ideas and projects, of collecting opinions and criticisms, of involving citizens from below. A job that it’s based on the concrete results achieved by the European Union since its inception, and on lessons learnt from history. A job that allows us to confront constructively with Eurosceptics, and especially with “Eurocritics”. A job that allows us to listening what kind of Europe wants European citizens and to be able «to outline their long term vision for the future of European integration». A job that leads to greater awareness among EU citizens and above all to the formation of a common European conscience among the peoples of the EU. Thus allowing «to foster a sense of belonging in Europe, to reinforce EU's social, economic and political cohesion».
Sixty years have passed since the Treaty of Rome. Many steps forward have been made, sometimes with a few steps backwards. Numerous other treaties - that means «binding agreement between EU member countries» defining «EU objectives, rules for EU institutions, how decisions are made and the relationship between the EU and its member countries» - have been signed. Currently, four treaties is in force: The Treaty on European Union; the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union; the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community; the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
Every citizens should to know this treaties. Instead, the debate that takes place rarely considers their contents. It’s a vulnus that needs to be covered to begin a journey towards a common European conscience, enabling it to think from the bottom of a change in those aspects that don’t work in the EU. To inform the public, to inform all the citizens, about the content of these four treaties, it’s also the task of twin cities, of the Twin town committees - as well as of all those realities, associations and institutions that are constantly in dialogue with the European union and already share a European vision.
If sixty years have passed since the Treaty of Rome, even more years have passed since the Schuman declaration. Robert Schuman said: «The contribution which an organised and living Europe can bring to civilisation is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations. […] Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity”. This route has not yet been fully completed: the member States don’t want to surrender sovereignty to Europe and slow down the path of building a Europe of peoples, a political Europe. We are anchored to what was the starting point for integration: the pooling of coal and steel production, which would provide the common foundations for economic development. But it should only be the “a first step in the federation of Europe».
As Jeans Monnet said: «Schuman wrote that the aim of his proposal was not economic but highly political». And also Monnet said: «The Schuman proposals are revolutionary or they are nothing. Co-operation between nations, while essential, cannot alone meet our problem. What must be sought is a fusion of the interests of the European peoples and not merely another effort to maintain an equilibrium of those interests through additional machinery for negotiation. The Schuman proposals provide a basis for the building of a new Europe through the concrete achievement of a supranational regime within a limited but controlling area of economic effort. The indispensable first principle of these proposals is the abnegation of sovereignty in a limited but decisive field […] in my view, any plan which does not involve this indispensable first principle can make no useful contribution to the solution of the grave problems that face us».
Following this word, Jean Monnet founded the Action Committee for the United States of Europe. «This committee was set up to revive the spirit of European integration and became one of the main driving forces behind many of the developments in European integration such as the creation of the Common Market, the European Monetary System, the summits in the European Council and election to the European Parliament by universal suffrage». From here, from Schuman and Monnet, from the Treaties of Rome, from the “Fathers of the European Union” need to start today, «to reconnect the European project with its founding values».
It’s a long way for a federal Europe. Most of the work depends on the citizens - who should be more involved so that they become the first players in European integration - and on the Twin town committees. They must continue to be the driving force which pushes the EU member States to give more and more parts of their sovereignty, to continue in the process of integration. Furthermore, it needs to break down the barriers between States and those between citizens. Today the economic crisis is leading to a rise of individualism, to the recrudescence of nationalisms, which undermines the foundations of social and civic coexistence, to the emergence of Euroscepticism. Therefore becomes essential to pursue European visions and ideals, they can be an inspiration for the younger generation, which is a step to improve European cohesion, to a common European consciousness.
To date, the EU's future is not written. We can - we must - be all of us, citizens and institutions together, to write it. As in the past, treaties can be modified, in particular, «to make the EU more efficient and transparent […] and to introduce new areas of cooperation». We already know a number of EU improvement proposals, some of which are contained in the White Paper on the Future of Europe presented by the European Commission. Wich our work, we want to bring to the attention of Brussels and of the member States a further proposal, starting from the bottom. A proposal that directly involves the European citizens in its definition phase.
Through our path, we intend to propose - as suggested by the 2018-2020 guidelines issued by the European Commission - «a new narrative for Europe, citizen-oriented, forward-looking and constructive, that would be more engaging for the younger generation in particular». A key step to building a common European consciousness is to increase the democratic participation of citizens in the life of the European Union. It’s to help the delegated democracy to overcome a almost stalemate situation: often the member States, the governments and the national parliaments are blinded in their positions of individual interest. Involving citizens through a participatory democracy is a way to overcome this: often the citizens are much more European than their institutional representatives. They must therefore be the first, the constructive and the positive players of European integration.
The citizens of the twin town cities involved in the project will therefore be an active part of each phase of the project itself. They will not only have the task of expressing their views. They first will be asked to propose alternative solutions for European integration in the long term vision, starting from the five scenarios proposed by the White Paper on the Future of Europe. Of course, our project «should not be limited to those already supporting the idea of the European Union». The “Eurosceptics” will also be involved in our project. The comparison with the latter will be of particular importance, in order to try to understand their point of view and to respond constructively to their concerns. In order to make them understand how much their «hostility towards the European Union» is unmotivated. In order to make them understand how much their position is devoid of reasons of being, on the basis of «the concrete achievements of the European Union». In order to make them as their position is counterproductive, given «the cost of not being part of the European Union» - that first citizens would have to pay. In order to male them as it is at the same time a stimulus «to identify ways of further enhancing the European dimension and the democratic legitimacy of the EU decision-making process».
This involvement of citizens from below would lead to greater participation in the European elections, that in the last rounds have suffered a tough delegitimizing attack by the abstentionism. The first European elections of 1979 had seen a popular participation of 61.99%; the latest in 2014 had seen only a 42.61%. And a poor electoral participation is a dangerous vulnus for a democracy.
 Jean Monnet Memoirs