Documents considered by the Committee on 20 January 2016 - European Scrutiny Contents


3 Europe for Citizens Programme 2007-2013

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared from scrutiny; further information awaited
Document detailsCommission Report on the implementation, results and overall assessment of the Europe for Citizens programme 2007-2013
Legal base
DepartmentCulture, Media and Sport
Document Numbers(37412), 14823/15 + ADDs 1-2, COM(15) 652

Summary and Committee's conclusions

3.1 The report assesses implementation of the Europe for Citizens Programme (EFCP) 2007-13, which was established in order to bring citizens closer to the EU and to enable citizens to participate fully in the development of the Union, while emphasising the essential values that are shared by EU citizens.

3.2 The Commission concludes that the long term impact of the EFCP is difficult to assess, but that the programme reached large numbers of citizens (seven million direct participants) who otherwise would not have been engaged with the EU. The Commission notes that the higher quality and larger projects over the final three years of the programme were evidence of its "augmented" impact.

3.3 The Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy (Mr Edward Vaizey) does not believe that the report effectively assesses the programme's value for money and added value and the degree to which it ensured maximum EU public accountability.

3.4 When the previous Committee considered the proposed successor Programme (2014-20), the Committee questioned the justification for EU expenditure in this area.[18]

3.5 This report is not in itself of great consequence as it relates to the completed 2007-13 programme. Nevertheless, that programme was succeeded by the 2014-20 programme, about which our predecessors expressed some reservations. We note the Minister's concern about the lack of effective assessment of the 2007-13 programme's value for money. We would welcome an assurance that he will be working to ensure that assessment of the current programme is more robust. The interim evaluation in 2017 will be particularly essential with a view to giving consideration to funding plans for the period after 2020.

3.6 We retain the report under scrutiny.

Full details of the documents: Commission Report on the implementation, results and overall assessment of the Europe for Citizens programme 2007-2013: (37412), 14823/15 + ADDs 1-2, COM(15) 652.

Background

3.7 The Europe for Citizens Programme (EFCP) was established in December 2006 for a period of seven years (2007-13). It was designed, explains the Commission, "to support a wide range of activities and organisations promoting active citizenship through the involvement of individual citizens, local authorities and civil society organisations in the process of European integration".

3.8 The EFCP's stated specific objectives were:

·  "bringing together people from local communities across Europe to share and exchange experiences, opinions and values, to learn from history and to build for the future;

·  fostering action, debate and reflection related to European citizenship and democracy, shared values, common history and culture through cooperation within civil society organisations at European level;

·  bringing Europe closer to its citizens by promoting Europe's values and achievements, while preserving the memory of its past; and

·  encouraging interaction between citizens and civil society organisations from all participating countries, contributing to intercultural dialogue and bringing to the fore both Europe's diversity and unity, with particular attention to activities aimed at developing closer ties between citizens from Member States of the European Union as constituted on 30 April 2004 and those from Member States which have acceded since that day."

3.9 The actions under the programme were:

·  "Active citizens for Europe" (largely town twinning);

·  "Active civil society in Europe" (support to think tanks and civil society with a view to strengthening their ability to operate at European level);

·  "Together for Europe" (making European citizens aware of European history and of the achievements and values of the European Union through high-profile events, studies and a network of contact points); and

·  "Active European Remembrance" (Holocaust memorials and commemorating the victims of Stalin's deportations).

The Commission's report

3.10 The report fulfils an obligation on the Commission to provide an overall assessment of the EFCP 2007-13. The financial envelope for the implementation of the EFCP over seven years was €215 million (£158 million). The European Commission notes that the budget "was largely criticised for being too modest when compared to the ambitious objectives and high expectations on programme outcomes". Among the four actions, the largest proportion of the budget (at least 45%) was devoted to town twinning.

3.11 The documents show that, in 2007, just under 5% of the projects submitted came from the UK and in 2013 around 2%. Between them, Germany, France, Hungary, Italy and Poland submitted 70% of the projects in 2007, decreasing to 54% by 2013. Luxembourg, Denmark and Portugal had minimal participation in the programme. The Commission attributed this to the absence of dedicated Europe for Citizens Contact Points in those countries.

3.12 The programme reached seven million direct participants and almost 25,000 towns and cities in Europe and it created 350 networks of towns and cities around common issues. 4,250 civil society organisations were mobilised to meet citizens' concerns. More than 500 organisations were involved in remembrance activities.

3.13 The Commission concludes:

    "The Europe for Citizens Programme 2007-2013 triggered a lot of interest amongst citizens, as the steady growth in number of applications clearly shows. Citizens are eager to take part in discussions and to have their say in EU policies that affect their daily lives. Considering European citizenship as an important element in strengthening and safeguarding the process of European integration, the European Commission used EFCP to give citizens this opportunity and more generally to encourage their engagement in the European project. This approach was based on the idea that participation helps strengthening awareness on EU issues, developing mutual understanding and identification with Europe, and therefore contributes to consolidating the long-term process of European integration.

    "Even if the long-term impact of the EFCP is difficult to assess, the programme effectively fostered civic participation and democratic engagement and reached large numbers of citizens who otherwise would not have been engaged with the European project. As the only EU programme that targets citizens directly the EFCP provided a unique forum to involve ordinary citizens in the EU through a bottom-up approach. Over the final three years of the programme, the fact that the projects were of higher quality and larger in scale, with closer links to the main themes associated with citizenship and civic participation and that many first time participants were involved considerably augmented its impact. In future, and taking into account the budgetary requirements, the programme will continue to be developed with a view to maximise its impact and deploy its funding strategically focussing on activities targeting citizens directly.

    "The interim evaluation of the successor programme Europe for Citizens 2014-2020 due in December 2017 will be used to verify in how far the evaluation recommendations of the ex-post evaluation have been followed."

The Minister's Explanatory Memorandum of 15 January 2016

3.14 The Minister observes that no new policy implications arise from this report, but that the report raises "issues around perceptions of the benefits of the EFCP that are at no point challenged". He adds: "The report does not effectively assess the programme for performance, which is to ensure maximum value for money and added value, and to ensure maximum EU public accountability".

Previous Committee Reports

None.


18   Twenty-fifth Report HC 83-xxii (2013-14), chapter 1 (27 November 2013). Back


 
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Prepared 29 January 2016