The Minister of Justice’s speech during the opening of the closing event of the European Year of Citizens

12 December 2013, Last updated at, 17:30 EEST
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author: EU2013

Honourable Members of the European Commission,
Representatives of the European Year of Citizens Alliance,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am glad to have the honour of opening this closing conference of the European Year of Citizens. My colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, had to leave urgently to Ukraine, the citizens of which are especially in need of Europe's support today. He asked me to tell you that he would like to be here, and that this conference has to encourage us to continue being active citizens of Lithuania and Europe.

 

The European Parliament, the EU Council, and the European Commission declared 2013 the European Year of Citizens in order to promote discussions on EU citizenship, and increase the awareness and knowledge of citizens about the EU citizenship-related rights and duties.

I am glad that during our Presidency, we could contribute to the implementation of these significant goals.
For us, Lithuanians, the EU means more than just an economic union. First of all, it is a union of people cherishing freedom and democracy - because it was the EU citizenship, as defined in the Maastricht Treaty, which gave impulse to Europe’s development and expansion. This year, we are commemorating the 20th anniversary of the EU’s establishment, and next year we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the enlargement of the EU.

Honourable guests,

I am sure that you will agree that every effort at improving citizens' rights is welcomed. It is a road we chose as a family of European countries. Therefore, during its Presidency, Lithuania has been closely cooperating with the presidency Trio partners to achieve progress in assuring the well-being of the EU’s citizens and expanding their rights.
I am proud that in my country we can have such a meaningful summary of the intense debates and fruitful discussions in the period dedicated to the rights of European citizens, which started at the beginning of this year.

Ladies and gentlemen,

During the preparations for the Presidency and the Presidency itself, we have been feeling strong support from civil society and NGOs. The idea for the Presidency's logo came from representatives of the Lithuanian society via an open contest. Over 600 suggestions were received.

Society has been actively involved in the process of the Presidency. About 100 volunteers have been helping to organize events, meet guests at the airport, and ensure that everything goes smoothly at conference centres. The fact that majority of these volunteers are young people (16–35 years of age) shows that we are on the right track – youth cares about the creation of the European idea.

When planning the Presidency's events, we told representatives of civil society the following: the EU’s affairs are our common affair, and you are major participants of our Presidency.

Therefore, we encouraged the involvement of NGOs in the decision-making process, and aimed to create a favourable environment so that NGOs could voice their expectations and protect their interests. Eighty-six events of social partners and NGOs were organized in Vilnius and other Lithuanian cities. About 15,000 Europeans participated in them.

The Ministry of Justice also focused on the issues of citizens’ rights. For example, in October we organized a conference in Vilnius on combating hate crime, and discussed consumer rights protection with the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority at another event.

The Lithuanian Presidency has been very intense, and a number of important tasks have been completed. I think that together we can do even more.

Therefore, today I ask you not to stop; let us encourage all citizens of the EU not only to express their opinions, but also to contribute to finding the best solutions. Let us continue the dialogue, and involve as many people as possible. Next year, the European Parliament elections will take place. This will be a good opportunity to address key issues concerning EU citizens, and contribute to the creation of the EU's future through active participation.

Dear guests,

Our Presidency is coming to an end. We have managed to make numerous decisions that are significant to EU citizens, because we have focused on results and being honest and impartial brokers from day one. I believe that over these months we have contributed to the creation of a credible, growing, and open Europe, where the well-being and rights of citizens are ensured.

The European Year of Citizens does not end with this conference; on the contrary, I hope that it will encourage us to work hard so that every year can proudly be called a year for citizens.

I wish you fruitful discussions.

Thank you for your attention.
 

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