Nice, France, October 2021 – As part of the Conference on the Future of Europe, an initiative launched by the European Union in April 2021 to create “an open, inclusive, and transparent debate with citizens around a number of key priorities and challenges,” Efus, the City of Nice, the European Commission and the Europe Direct Nice Côte d’Azur Centre organised a citizen debate entitled Europe and cities together to protect citizens – Cooperation in times of crisis. Some 75 people attended the event held in Nice on 20 October.
A major pan-European democratic exercise
The Conference on the Future of Europe is “a major pan-European democratic exercise, with citizen-led debates enabling people from across Europe to share their ideas and help shape our common future.” The purpose of the public debate in Nice was to hear the views and recommendations of citizens on the actions led by the EU to strengthen cooperation between the local and the European levels of governance in order to better protect citizens and make cities more resilient to crises and disasters.
Several topics of discussion
The debate focused on the following topics:
- the protection of citizens while respecting freedoms,
- the security of people in public spaces,
- the protection of diversity and fundamental rights,
- cooperation between the local, regional and European levels of governance.
Cooperation is key
The panel included Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Promoting our European way of life, Willy Demeyer, Mayor of Liège (Belgium) and President of Efus, and Christian Estrosi, Mayor of Nice and Vice-President of Efus.
The panelists all agreed that close cooperation between the European and local levels of governance are key to prevent and react to crises. Mr Schinas said that “security concerns everybody, not only Brussels. Cooperation is key.”
Acting together across borders
The panelists stressed how important cross-border cooperation is to protect citizens and manage crises. “Acts of solidarity bring us closer to each other, and such solidarity goes beyond borders,” said Christian Estrosi, who called for harmonising laws on crisis management and civil protection.
Willy Demeyer stressed that his city of Liège is located in a region (close to Germany and the Netherlands) “where cross-border cooperation, led by cities and supported by the EU, is key. Europe worked very well in managing the health crisis.” Margaritis Schinas added that “Europe has strong added value in terms of cross-border cooperation.”
Further debates to come in Central and Eastern Europe
Efus is now contemplating organising further citizen debates as part of the Conference on the Future of Europe in Central and Eastern European countries.