Since 1983, the European Union institutions (and sometimes the Council of Europe) have taken to designating individual calendar years as ‘European Years’. The purpose is to draw public attention to certain new or less appreciated policy goals and to bring together various actors in the fields in question.
Some of the more notable European Years to date have been:
1983 – European Year of Small and Medium Enterprises
1985 – European Year of Music
1988 – European Year of Cinema and Television
1990 – European Year of Tourism
1996 – European Year of Lifelong Learning
1997 – European Year against Racism and Xenophobia
2001 – European Year of Languages
2003 – European Year of People with Disabilities
2004 – European Year of Education through Sport
2008 – European Year of Intercultural Dialogue
2012 – European Year of Active Ageing.
2013 has been designated the European Year of Citizens.
The European Commission usually takes the initiative in proposing the designation of European Years, sometimes in response to resolutions passed by the European Parliament. There is no standard procedure for EU decision-making in this area. In some cases, the Commission will make a formal legislative proposal, especially where it seeks funding from the EU Budget for the European Year in question and needs a legal base to underpin this. On other occasions, the Commission will seek approval from the Council of Ministers and Parliament – either by means of a joint declaration or agreement by COREPER and the Conference of Presidents respectively – and use existing budget lines to fund the Year’s activities.
The European Year of Citizenship through Education in 2005 was designated and run by the Council of Europe. The European Year of Languages in 2001 was a joint exercise between the EU and the Council of Europe. Two European Years have been devoted to the same subject – road safety – in 1986 and 1995. In recent years, there has been a shift towards cultural, social and educational themes. Since 1983, only 1991, 2000 and 2002 have not been designated as European Years.
Copyright: Anthony Teasdale, 2012
Citation: The Penguin Companion to European Union (2012), additional website entry