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FORUM PA 2013: Europe closer to citizens as we approach the 2014 elections

Democratic deficit and strategies to bring citizens closer to the EU, in the run-up to the European elections in 2014. Those were the features of the Europe that emerged from today’s conference on “The European Union, European Citizenship, European Democracy: the position one year before the European elections in 2014”, organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Forum PA.
Conference participants included Members of the European Parliament (MEPs); the head of the European Policy Department at the Prime Minister’s Office, Roberto Adam; and the Secretary General of the European University Institute in Florence, Pasquale Ferrara. They remarked on the need to grasp the opportunity of the 2014 elections to provide strong, decisive input to the sense of European citizenship. A sense that is currently exposed to the risks arising from the economic crisis and the various “Euro-sceptic” movements.


The conference was opened by the MFA’s Director General for European Questions, Vincenzo Grassi. He observed that the elections for the EU Parliament will be “an opportunity for a major debate on European issues” but could also be “a time of crisis, arising from low voter turn-out or the participation of forces opposed to the EU”. For this reason too, Strasburg is making an effort to “convey the European message better and allow voters to choose their representatives and the president of the Commission. After all, 75% of national legislation depends on the decisions made in Brussels”, underscored the Deputy President of the European Parliament, Roberta Angelilli.


Her words were echoed by MEP Roberto Gualtieri, who commented that “the European political parties’ decision to present a single candidate for the Commission presidency will mark a significant advance in the democratic legitimacy of the European institutions”. In her overview of the current European Parliament, Angelilli underscored that “there is one glass half full”: the EU’s commitment to the fundamental human rights. And one glass half-empty: the two major challenges of combating tax evasion, “which concerns all member states, with some exceptions”, and corruption.


 


MFA Statistical Yearbook shows rise in number of Italians living abroad


Italians are once again emigrating, with the crisis possibly a contributing factor. The number of Italian nationals living abroad increased by 5% from 2011 to 2012, to a current total of over 4,662,000. This is one of the figures drawn from the Foreign Ministry’s Statistical Yearbook and previewed today during a presentation at the Ministry’s stand at ForumPA, the Public Administration Forum.


“The Yearbook recounts the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in figures”, explained the head of the Statistics Office, Sabrina Ugolini. She underscored that the document is not intended to be “an information tool only for MFA ‘insiders’, but an information tool also addressed to the wider public”. In addition to the growing size of the Italian communities abroad, the figures regarding consular and administrative services are also of great interest.


Between 2011 and 2012, for example, the number of identity cards issued rose by 47%, a figure that suggests increased mobility within the European Union. The number of visas issued by Italy also rose in 2012, to about 1.9 million, a 9% increase that confirms the existing trend. This makes Italy the third European country, after France and Germany, in terms of number of visas issued. Most visa applications come from Russia, China, Turkey, India and Ukraine.


Another interesting statistic concerns operations coordinated the MFA Crisis Unit, which rose by 51% from 2010 to 2013. A rise that can largely be explained by the Arab Spring and the social-political tensions that ensued, and the need to boost security for embassies located in sensitive areas.


 


An increasingly digital MFA
 
“Twiplomacy” is happening now. It’s an immediate, concise, free channel of communication with universal reach. The concept was explained by Davide Bonvicini, a Foreign Ministry diplomat, during his presentation at Forum PA this morning on the MFA’s digital diplomacy.


“Diplomats are, by their very nature, multi-taskers”, observed Bonvicini. “So they need to be able to use all available channels to maximise the impact of the message they want to convey. To this end, the Farnesina is active on several fronts, with Twitter, Flickr and YouTube accounts. It’s also constantly renewing its website, with the focus increasingly on users”.


There is a full online editorial team handling every aspect of the site. From multimedia content, to news, to translations. “The goal is to provide real-time news and updates, and services that are increasingly customised and meet citizens’ and businesses’ needs evermore closely”, concluded Bonvicini. “All of this in complete synergy with our diplomatic network abroad”.

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