Following a period of reflection in order to re-evaluate and improve its training services, ECAS is excited to welcome its new Citizens’ Rights Training Coordinator, David Garcia-Falaux. With extensive knowledge and experience in the field, David will contribute to delivering ECAS’s mission of empowering citizens through different innovative methods.
Before joining our team in November 2019, David was the Managing Director of the Union of European Federalists (UEF), where he held the position of Policy and Advocacy Officer. Previously, he was the assistant of the Council of Europe Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva. David is involved as a volunteer in the work of several associations promoting democracy and civic participation in Europe.
With this interview, we hope to present you with a better idea of some of the new things coming to ECAS, told through the lens of our newest colleague!
RM: Welcome to the ECAS team, we are very excited to have you join! Can you introduce yourself and what your position as Citizens’ Rights Training Coordinator involves?
DG-F: Thank you very much, I am also very happy to join the team. I have already been here for a few weeks, so I have been getting to know more the work of the organisation. My position consists of finding the synergies between all the training initiatives that ECAS has done in the past, in order to provide better training services to civil societies, citizens and at large, anybody that works in the field of EU citizens’ rights.
RM: Can you elaborate a little more specifically on the training modules themselves?
DG-F: Throughout its “lifetime”, ECAS has developed and provided a lot of training services, based on nearly 30 years of experience. The beneficiaries of these training modules have been civil society organisations, citizens, civil servants and institutions. My role will consist of putting all these experiences together, in order to see how exactly we can improve these services and how we can make advances for the courses on European citizenship. This is what we are about.
In my time here, I have already been working on a training for civil servants, so that they are, for one, more knowledgeable on rights of mobile EU citizens. Very often this group of citizens face various barriers when they try to exercise their political rights, their rights to work in another country, their rights to social security, their rights to family reunification, etc. I think that this is one of the very important aspects of the training activities we do.
I will also be working on training modules for civil society organisations, as they are one of the main actors that advance EU citizenship rights. ECAS has been contributing to a lot of projects around Europe and knows a lot about best practices in this area, such as the initiative in Paris to include European citizens in the governance of the city (INCLUDE project), or in Brussels where they significantly increased the voter registration in the 2018 Belgium elections (VoteBrussels campaign). I think that ECAS can play a central role in widening the implementation of such good practices that exist around Europe.
RM: In the past, ECAS has also offered training on topics such as ‘project management’ and ‘EU funding’. Will these also be incorporated in our training in the future?
DG-F: Yes! Until now, I was speaking more about training directed towards civil society organisations. But of course, there are also times when initiatives come from the grassroots, from citizens who do not have the experience on how to transform their ideas into real actions. That is another area where ECAS can help, guiding people on how to manage a project, how to find funding, how to improve the political impact of their actions through communication, social media, advocacy.
RM: Why is it important to have such training, specifically in the field of EU rights?
DG-F: In my view, EU citizenship is the cornerstone of the development of the European Union. Through better enforcement of the rights and freedoms it secures, such as professional opportunities, better quality of life and new horizons, we can hope to have a better overall future for Europe. So, I think that spreading knowledge about what the rights of European citizens are and reinforcing the organisations that can actually make these rights respected and fully exercised throughout the Union is an essential role that ECAS has to play.
RM: What would you like to see happening in this area? And in your opinion, what is the current state of EU rights?
DG-F: I think that the younger generation is well aware of what their EU citizen rights are. By moving and travelling more and more, through programs such as Erasmus, for example, they have opened their eyes to what opportunities the EU offers. However, when their EU rights are not respected, whether it is that their University degrees are not recognised in another country or when they are not allowed to benefit from scholarships or social benefits, they are not sure of what actions they can take.
There is still a long way to go, also in terms of the political participation of EU mobile citizens. Europe will be more unified when people feel at home in any European country, when they feel that they can be involved in the life of their cities, in the life of their hosting countries. I think that there is a lot of work to do both from the side of citizens, and the side of authorities, to ensure that everyone can fully enjoy all the benefits of the EU. We have to all work together. So stay tuned for our new training programme in 2020, which has exactly this goal in mind!
RM: And one last, non work-related, question. What is something that either surprises people about you or a hobby you have?
DG-F: I love cooking! If I was not working on European affairs, I would have opened a restaurant and I would have been very happy with that 😊. I am Spanish, and have travelled and lived in many other countries, which gives me this European taste!
Interview taken by Raia Mihaylova, ECAS Communication and Outreach Coordinator