ECI: Let Me Vote

Let Me Vote is a European Citizens Initiative that aims to solve one of the Democratic Deficiencies in the European Union. This ECI calls for the right to vote of EU Citizens to be expanded from just the right the vote in Local and European Elections to National Elections in the Member State in which they reside.

The ECI was launched by Europeens Sans Frontieres. (Website in French)

This is the one issue that the European Union has not managed to sort out since the introduction of European Citizenship. Its stated objective and goal is:

To strengthen the rights listed in article 20§2 TFEU by granting EU citizens residing in another Member State the right to vote in all political elections in their country of residence, on the same conditions as the nationals of that State.

The goal of the initiative is to develop the political dimension of the European project by reinforcing citizens’ awareness that they share a common destiny. It would have the following effects: – To enhance the concept of European Citizenship; – To facilitate freedom of movement within the EU; In addition, it could contribute to remedying the loss of voting rights presently experienced by a significant number of EU citizens who are long-term residents of other Member States.

This is a great ECI and certainly is highlighting a massive issue within the EU. It certainly highlights the anomaly within the EU where Irish Citizens resident in the United Kingdom have the right to vote in Local, National and European Elections and the right that UK Citizens have in Ireland to vote in Local, National and European Elections. Surely this should be the norm between EU member states and not the exception.

Your voting rights should be allowed to move with you through the European Union just like the rest of your rights. This is especially true for countries such as Ireland where citizens abroad are not allowed to vote. Hopefully this ECI will change this and may encourage states that currently do not allow diaspora voting to look again at the issue.

I for one whole heatedly support the Let Me Vote ECI and urge you to read it and sign it here!

For more details see the following links:

I do plan a number of posts on ECI’s I find and I certainly wont agree with them all!

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Sign up for MEU 2011

Le parlement européen, à Strasbourg.
Image via Wikipedia

Are you interested in the European Union? Aged between 18-26? Want to go to Strasbourg to see how the European Union really works?

Well heres your chance! Between the 19th to 26th March 2011 a Model European Union will take place in Strasbourg.

It will debate two topics

  1. a Directive on the application of patient’s rights in cross-border healthcare and
  2. a Directive on working conditions of temporary workers.

You can apply to be a MEP, a Minister in the Council, a Lobbyist, Journalist or Interpreter.

You have until 3rd January 2011, 12 p.m. CET to apply!

Check out MEU2011.org for more information!

Also read The European Citizen’s account of MEU2010

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Introduction to the EU

The College of Commerce Cork is introducing a new night course on the EU. I recieved the following via email

Introduction to the European Union

This course is designed to provide an understanding of the range of issues concerning the functioning of the European Union and to raise the awareness about Ireland and its role within the EU. It aims to help learners develop an awareness of their opportunities, rights and responsibilities as European citizens and to enable them to actively engage with the European dimension in their lives.

The course is divided into the following units:

Unit 1: History of the European Integration

Unit 2: EU Institutions (How does EU work?)

Unit 3: EU Policies (What does EU do?)

Unit 4: Europe and its Citizens

Night: Wednesday

Time: 7.00 – 9.00 pm

Duration: 10 weeks

Course Fee: €110

Commencement Date: Wednesday 30th September 2009

If you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact the College on 021- 4222100 or Natasa Callinan at ncallinan[at]ccoc[dot]ie

This could be interesting if you want to learn more about the EU.

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My Speech

EU Flag + Gay UK
Image by stephen.spillane via Flickr

As you are probably aware, I gave a speech at the Alliance Francaise/UCC European Symposium on “European CItizenship”. My speech was on National Identities withing European Identity and Culture. I got great feedback on the speech so I decided to share it with you.

Presidents, Excellencies, Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

What am I? Irish or European? When I go abroad, I rarely get told I am Irish, well that is until I open my mouth, but even at that they can get confused to where I am from within Ireland. So for me this idea of being European is a natural definition of my identity.

But am I alone in this feeling? Is it only because I don’t have an Irish accent and my sallow skin, that I think this or is it there something else, something deeper?

Recently a number of us in the European Bloggersphere managed to have a bit of an identity crisis, so I am not alone in this feeling. Younger generations, I think are feeling more European. But is it because we are growing up in a Europe that is a lot closer to us and the fact we learn more about Europe in School. Or is it as some would say it is thanks to ease of international travel with Ryanair and other low-cost airlines and the fact that the internet can bring places closer to us. We can chat to people in other countries easily online with new technologies. But is it just traveling and technology that is bringing us closer or is there something more, something more basic, something deeper that unites us.

Some argue, though that being European is “aspirational”. Conor Slowey sums this up quite well on his blog “The European Citizen” when he said “When I think of Europe, I think of its diversity and its languages and its traditions, and I want to travel, explore and experience all of the little differences, while I still feel at home. To me it’s not rootless cosmopolitanism, but a deep appreciation for many roots and a desire to feel a part of the different places and people that I meet.”

Coming back to identity, national identies though are social constructs, they are formed by what we see around us, by our expeirences and by what matters to us. My church recently sent around a questionaire on identity, it seems to be all the rage lately, and it gave the following options for describing an identity:

  • Class
  • Religous Denomination
  • Nationality
  • Political Beliefs
  • Race
  • Gender

Of those only two would mean something to me as part of my identity, the others would not mean much to me. A big issue of course with identity, is some parts of it you have very little choice over, for example if we take the list the church gave only of two of those can be changed some what easily, Religous Denomination and Political Beliefs. The rest is decided at birth. Granted class can change over time depending on circumstances but you can’t decide in the moring you will become Upper Class, while you can wake up in the morning and decide to vote for a different party in future.

There is an interesting excercise around identity in non-formal education. Basically you draw a flower and on each of the petals write one thing that describes your identity. I did this on a Anna Lindh Training Programme and it was very interesting and you would surprise yourself with what you would come up with. I know the first thing I wrote down was European, the second was Irish.

That is not new for me though. I can remember having conversations in secondary school about this with friends, and I am sure I was definately then in the minority that thought myself European first and Irish second. I still think that way today, as that excercise showed.

I don’t think national identity and European identity are mutually exclusive, being European to me means that I am broad minded, that I speak more then one language, that I have expeirenced life in another country, I start counting with my thumb, that I have expeirenced Europe. That is a very personal definition, because I have friends that haven’t lived outside of Ireland and feel as European as I do. European Identity is a very personal thing, just as with Irish Identity people put different emphasis on different things. To some being Irish is all about the language, to others its the traditions, to others its the sport. There is no single Irish Identity, while all these do come together to form the Irish Culture.

Identity is a personal thing, no one can impose one on you, unless you let them. In one sense sterotyping is trying to force an identity on someone. For example when I say I am Irish, people think “party” and “drinking”, but there is more to me then just partying and drinking. So I always try to define myself by actions, that is how we take control over our identity.

So Irish Identity feeds into European Identity. By saying I am European is not saying I am less Irish, but there is this European aspect to me, which influences how I react, what I say and what I do. It influences how I approach problems, how I deal with friends and how I behave. It isn’t this thing that suddenly appeared thanks to the Maastricht Treaty which gave us rights as European Citizens.

These rights that were given to us under the Treaties and which have expanded under subsequent treaties. These have not changed how European I feel, but I think they have helped in increasing the feeling for others.

Identity is something that is fluid, that it changes over time, that it can expand with new experiences, and that who you are can change. Being European is something, not to aspire to, but to be in your own way. Again we have no choice in our identity, but we do have control over what makes up the important parts of our identity, to me that is what I have learned, my experiences, my loves, my dislikes, and my friendships. In a year in which we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the dismantling of the Berlin Wall I leave you with the words of a German Blogger, Julien Frisch,

“Today, I live in a Union that opens its borders internally but is closed down to the world outside its own borders. 20 years after the Wall – the material representation of the division of Europe – was torn down, Europe is still divided. There are those who are in . And those who are not.

As a former East German, I will continue to fight against these borders, because I want to share what I received, not least because I have plenty to share. I want everyone in. And I am ready to invest myself as much as I can to reach this goal.

48 years ago, the Wall was constructed. 20 years ago, its material representation removed. It is time to remove its immaterial leftovers!!”

A few people did help with the speech and I would like to thank Joe Litobarski for pointing me in the direction of a few articles on this area, my good friend Sean for reading over the speech and pointing out all my mistakes, and of course to Hélene and Cécile in Alliance Franciase du Cork for asking me to speak and for all their help!

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Symposium on European Citizenship

As the Euroblggersphere is suffering an identity crisis at the moment it is a conincidence that Alliance Francaise Cork and UCC are organising a European Symposium on European Citizenship on Tuesday, September 1st in UCC.

It looks like it will be an interesting day. The topics covered will be “Women and Europe”, “Justice: rights and responsibilities of the European citizens”, “National Identities within European Culture and Identity” and “Green Citizenship”.

The speakers include:

  • Nicole FONTAINE, Former French President of the European Parliament
  • Treasa NI MHURCHU, Deputy Chairperson of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Vice-President of European Women’s Group
  • Pascale JOANNIN, Director of the Foundation Robert Schuman
  • Micheál MARTIN, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • Alan DUKES, President of the Alliance Française Dublin
  • Jean-Dominique GIULIANI, President of the Foundation Robert Schuman
  • Loïc TRIBOT LA SPIERE, Jurist and General Delegate of CEPS
  • Jérôme CLOAREC, President of Atelier Europe
  • Dermot KEOGH, Professor of European Integration Studies
  • Dominique REYNIE, Director of the Foundation for Political Innovation
  • Cécile LE CLERCQ, European Commission, Citizenship Policy Unit; Europe for citizens
  • Maurice RIEUTORD s.j., General Delegate of the Institut Robert Schuman pour l’Europe
  • Stephen SPILLANE, Euroblogger, “thinkaboutit.eu” Project – European Journalism Centre
  • Déirdre de BURCA, Senator Green Party
  • Michael EWING, Social Partnership Coordinator, Environmental Pillar
  • Dr. Peter BRENNAN, Managing Director of Economics, Policy and Strategy Consulting

Throughout the day there will also be a exhibition from goodplanet.org. At the end of the day there will be a showing of Yann ARTHUS-BERTRAND’s film “Home”.

Yes, you did see my name mentioned in the list of speakers. I will be speaking on the panel on “National Identities within European Culture and Identity” which should prove interesting and it will be my first time speaking on a panel!

The full programme is  availible here in PDF. If you wish to attend here is the Invitation and reply card (both PDF)!

To find out more check out the website, facebook and twitter!

12 days to write a speech the pressure is on!! Do come along and support me though, I am speeking at some point between 2:30pm and 4:30pm in UCC’s Aula Maxima

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9 Days Left to Register to Vote

voting day in a small town
Image by Muffet via Flickr

Thanks to Generation Yes on twitter for the reminder that there is only 9 working days remaining to get registered to Vote for the June 5th elections, Local, European and Byelection. Check if you are registered on ChecktheRegister.ie.

Remeber EU Citizens are entitled to vote in the Local and European Elections. Non-EU residents may be eligible to vote in Local Elections depending in their situation.

If you are not registered to vote and have never voted before fill out the RFA2 form (PDF). If you have changed address and have voted before then fill out the RFA3 form.

Do use your vote on June 5th and make a difference to how your locality and your Europe is shaped!

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