The second event of the project SMUG EU: “Hear the wisdom“ was held on the 28 February and 1 March in Torres Novas, Portugal. A majority of citizens gathered, from the local and international level.
The conference began with an opening session and greetings from the hosts. The project and its aims were presented, together with interesting figures from the research that was conducted at the beginning of the project.
Then a presentation and debate was held with the special guest of the day: Margarida Marques, Member of the Portuguese Parliament. With her help, we got an insight into the main factors that cause euroscepticism. The most interesting factors that were outlined are:
- Influence by the local government and media (local politics)
- Migration crisis and fear for national safety
- Economic crisis
- Populist movement (with intention to spread negative word about the EU)
Upon these factors, a negative connotation arises about the EU thus leading to mistrust. To go a bit further, 3 debates were organized afterwards to let people speak their mind about the EU. In 3 rooms people debated on the following issues:
- EU funding opportunities are sufficient and adequately distributed – TRUE or FALSE?
- The EU allows us sufficient political independence – TRUE or FALSE?
- How can we change the negative perception on the EU
- SOLUTION 1: better informing of citizens on the local level
- SOLUTION 2: better informing through the media on the EU level
A very engaging and, in some rooms, heated discussion took place on the stated themes.
On the EU funding opportunities, the group agreed that the funds were sufficient, but not adequately distributed.
On the topic of political independence, two sides collided. There were arguments for Yes and No. On the third theme, many ideas were given for the better informing of citizens. The most interesting were information centers, better cooperation with the media and cultural weeks dedicated to EU identity.
With the closing of this section, a visit was organized to 3 sites: companies Digidelta and Esteiros who showed us how to be successful and use opportunities that are given by the EU. The third is Start Up Torres Novas – a municipal project where new businesses and ideas can be incubated. It received also funding from the EU. This shows us how opportunities are there, we just have to use them.
On the second day, a visit to the museum was organized and a big round table with participants to give their last contribution to the project. On the topic of euroscepticism, problems were outlined like corruption, lack of solidarity in times of crisis, inadequate use of opportunities, manipulation of people, etc. People also gave ideas on the improvement. The mostly assessed idea was that there should be a special program towards educating people of their national identity and solidarity within the EU frame. This should be focused on the young, but also adult (‘teach the teachers’).
With a press conference, the event was successful closed. Later on partners had a briefing about next steps of the cooperation – networking and dissemination.