Wien, 5. November 2009 Press release

Spindelegger: "The European Umbrella as an example of a successful dialogue with citizens on Europe"

Vienna, 5 November 2009 - "With the EU award for the "European Umbrella", this great project has received the international recognition it deserves. I congratulate those who initiated this campaign," stated Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger at yesterday’s awards ceremony organised by the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels where the EU information initiative by the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber was awarded third place. It is the first award of this kind for an Austrian civil society project.

"The `European Umbrella´ is exemplary: events throughout Austria, ranging from firemen’s carnival to village fair, are offered the opportunity to provide information and further dialogue on Europe with competent partners, including representatives from the Foreign Ministry. This is the right course. We will continue to support this campaign to the best of our ability," the Foreign Minister went on.

"The important thing is to seek direct contact with citizens at the regional and local levels, to explain Europe and deal with concrete questions and worries in relation to the EU," emphasised the Foreign Minister, taking the occasion to remind the audience of his proposal to appoint special municipal councillors at the local community level who would be in charge of issues concerning Europe. "Similarly to local community representatives who are in charge of issues relating to young people, construction or the environment, these ‘EU envoys’ could act as key contact points for European topics within the local community and make an essential contribution towards ensuring that decisions by the EU are explained more clearly at the local level, and that they are better understood and supported," stated Spindelegger.

"The practical dialogue with citizens on Europe is a major concern of mine. It must be held at all levels - the `European Umbrella´ shows how to bring the dialogue on Europe to local communities and regions. I hope that its success will encourage others to follow this example," concluded the Foreign Minister.

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