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2020: a Year of Unprecedented Challenges and of Promising Beginnings for ECAS and for the Citizens of Europe!

22 December 2020


COVID-19 has shaken and challenged the way we live and work and has exposed the vulnerability of our European citizens’ rights but has also fostered the understanding of the need to innovate and be bold in policy making if we want to preserve our democracies and European values.

An ultimate promoter and supporter of the freedom of movement in the EU, ECAS’ heart bled when witnessing this fundamental right of the European citizenship falling apart as the first victim of the pandemic, with Member States shutting unilaterally their borders and imposing restrictions in an uncoordinated manner. We, at ECAS, knew what we needed to do – acquire in a fast, adequate and up to date manner the necessary knowledge in order to provide advice to citizens in trouble. And indeed, in 2020, ECAS’ network of legal experts advised about 25 000 citizens throughout the EU on their rights, providing COVID-19 related information as well. Your Europe Advice service[1] will be the only EU service to operate during the holidays, ready to advice citizens, including the EU citizens in the UK and the UK ones in the EU, based on the outcome of the negotiations.

On a positive note, ECAS’ consistent, evidence-based advocacy for a new Communication from the Commission to the Member States on the Citizenship Directive has resulted in a Commission’s commitment to review the 2009 guidelines in order to improve legal certainty for EU citizens exercising their free movement rights, and to ensure a more effective and uniform application of the free movement legislation across the EU. We WELCOME this development and see it as a big success of our efforts!

Another notable ECAS achievement in 2020 is related to the management of the European Citizens’ Initiative Forum. ECAS provided tailored advice to more than 40 current and potential organisers, helping them to register and carry out their initiatives. ECAS ensured a four-time increase of the unique visits to the Forum and fostered its multilingual character. 75% of citizens now access the Forum’s content in languages other than English, thus supporting this unique transnational instrument of participatory democracy in the EU.

On the policy front, ECAS’ advocacy efforts for innovative use of information and communications technology (ICT) to ensure more collaborative engagement of policy-makers with citizens and transform the relations between them into more of a partnership is finally bearing fruit. The European Democracy Action Plan, the follow up Declaration in the framework of the German Presidency and the newly released Citizenship Report are all calling to put co-creation and collaboration with citizens into practice and encourage the use of digital tools to foster participation of citizens in political-decision-making.

In 2021 – 2023, ECAS will implement, in partnership with its members and technological partners, the first EU level crowdsourcing pilot for co-producing with citizens solutions on the subject of air quality, hoping to prove the added value of this collaborative method and pave the way for its structured and consistent use as part of the EU decision-making process.

Moreover, on the occasion of its 30th anniversary of empowering citizens to exercise their rights in 2021, ECAS will carry out with members and partners monthly events in its EU Rights and European Democracy focus areas, will release a documentary of its main achievements in the last three decades and will publish a forward-looking book on European Citizenship!

None of the above would have been possible without the dedication and highly professional work of the ECAS team, ECAS’ members and partners and the support of the ECAS Board of Directors and funders, whom I warmly THANK!

Stay tune for the first of our events in 2021 – the State of the Union Citizens’ Rights conference in January – but before everything else – be SAFE, HEALTHY and HAPPY!

Best wishes,

Assya Kavrakova

Learn more and register for the State of the Union Citizens’ Rights Conference here.

Take a look and ‘save the date’ for other upcoming ECAS events here

[1] Your Europe Advice is an EU advice service for the public, provided by the legal experts from the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) operating under contract with the European Commission. It consists of a team of 60 independent lawyers who cover all EU official languages and are familiar with EU law and national laws in all EU countries. YEA provides free and personalised advice within a week, clarifies the European law that applies to specific cases and explains to citizens how they can exercise their EU rights.