On 2 November 2018, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted the annual Forum of European Union (EU) Information Providers. The event brought together those in charge of disseminating EU-related information – contact persons from the government agencies and local authorities, the EU Information Points (EUIP) and Europe Direct Information Centres (EDIC), heads of EU information networks, opinion leaders, representatives from the European Clubs at schools, the media, NGOs and the private sector – for a discussion on issues of current importance to the EU.
The EU Information Providers Forum was launched by the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, who noted in her remarks that the day before had seen 25 years since the coming into effect of the Maastricht Treaty, which could also be called the EU’s birthday, while Latvia would mark the 15th anniversary of its EU membership next year. Against that backdrop, we are facing numerous challenges, said the Parliamentary Secretary and named the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU, security issues and the rise of populism across Europe.
“The best way to get prepared for new challenges is joint involvement in the creation of Europe’s future. Discussions are the best preparations,” the Parliamentary Secretary noted in her address to the information providers.
In the previous years, more emphasis has been placed on providing information about EU-related topics, and less on the need to get involved. This year’s forum is focusing much more on conversation and sharing impressions of Dialogues on the Future of Europe. Jointly with other EU Member States, Latvia is implementing a European-level project in order to engage with citizens in a dialogue about the European Union and its further development. In the project, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is cooperating with a broad range of partners. Opinions of the residents of Latvia will be collected in a report and presented to heads of state and government of EU Member States, who intend to discuss the findings at the European Council in December 2018.
Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica called on the participants to get actively involved in an opinion poll entitled “My Europe” and held online via the manaeiropa.manabalss.lv platform as part of the Dialogues on the Future of Europe. Referring to responses from people, she expressed pleasure that people in Latvia were putting forward concrete and realistic ideas. Following several discussions, said the Parliamentary Secretary, it could be concluded that “people in Latvia are more optimistic about Europe’s future than Western Europeans. Our people are interested in social justice, well-being, environmental sustainability, the impact of climate change, regional development and security. It is noteworthy that one of the most popular ideas in the survey according to the number of votes is the proposal to raise awareness among the public about political processes in order to reduce populist manipulation of people.”
In the context of the European elections next year, the MFA Parliamentary Secretary underlined “It is up to us whether the European idea, values and our ability to communicate, or financial contributions to campaigns and populist lure will win the elections.” In the light of that, she called on EU information providers to find ways to get people engaged, so that they would become active contributors to Europe’s future.
Remarks to the participants were delivered by Head of the European Parliament Information Office in Latvia, Marta Rībele, and Acting Head of the European Commission Representation in Latvia, Andris Kužnieks. President of the European Movement Latvia, Andris Gobiņš, moderated the forum.
Deputy Secretary General of the European Commission, Ilze Juhansone, presented an overview of challenges currently faced by the EU. Also contributing to discussions were Director of the PROVIDUS think-tank, Iveta Kažoka, the editor of national and business news at the Delfi portal, Filips Lastovskis, and other experts on EU matters.
During the forum, a cartoon on Europe was draw by Zemgus Zaharāns.
The Forum of EU Information Providers has been taking place since 2008, and it is organised by the European Movement Latvia jointly with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Parliament Information Office in Latvia and the European Commission Representation in Latvia. On its tenth year, the forum brought together the largest number of participants in its history.
A photo gallery: https://www.flickr.com/photos/latvianmfa/albums/72157699857110832
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