Op-ed by EU Ambassador Pedro Serrano: Celebrating contributions of EU citizens in the UK

By Pedro Serrano*

As we conclude the second EU Citizens Gathering and the two-day meeting of the EU-UK European Parliamentary Partnership Assembly in London, UK-EU relations are in their best state in over seven years. This year has been one of intense cooperation between the EU and the UK, especially over the Windsor Framework. But, while the media focuses on politics and diplomacy, I want to pay tribute to the EU citizens who live in the UK and contribute so much to this great nation.

There are over 5 million EU citizens who have made the UK their home, as well as over 1 million UK citizens living in the EU. The connective tissue between us is deep, and I am proud to celebrate the invaluable contributions of EU citizens to British society and economy – they are present in every sector, from academia to healthcare, business to the arts.

EU citizens are people’s colleagues, neighbours and friends – at the heart of communities up and down the country. Behind them are countless organisations, groups and networks that I have the privilege of meeting week in week out. This engagement goes beyond policy discussions; it is about the aspirations and challenges faced by our citizens.

On Wednesday 6 December, the EU Delegation to the UK hosted the second EU Citizens’ Gathering to celebrate the engagement with our citizens, bringing together civil society organizations, EU embassies, EU and UK politicians and UK civil service.

Around 200 people attended from across the UK to explore, celebrate and better understand the engagement of EU citizens in British society, as well as the challenges they face and how to overcome them.

The annual EU-UK Civil Society Forum, created under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, is vital in acting on those aspirations and challenges. It convenes at least once a year and the participation is opened to Civil Society Organisations such as employers organisations, workers representatives, NGOs and academics.

We are increasingly focused on the experience of young people. That is why for the first time, the EU Delegation in the UK, in the framework of the Youth Action Plan on EU External Action, and in partnership with the European Institute of University College London, organised a Youth Gathering bringing together over 100 young persons from all corners of the UK with the goal to identify key challenges faced by youth and to collect their views on the future of the EU-UK relationship. 

The gathering, held on 25 October at UCL, was built on months-long engagement with youth organisations across the UK offering the opportunity for direct engagement between EU officials and youth leaders. A delegation of the European Economic and Social Committee also took part in the gathering.

All of these events are so much stronger because of the support and engagement of the UK government.

As we look ahead, we want to continue to build bridges of understanding and cooperation and strengthen the networks of EU citizens in the UK. The importance of EU citizens in the UK cannot be overstated. Their continued contributions will undoubtedly shape the next chapter of this country and of the European Union.

I extend warm wishes to each and every one of you who call the United Kingdom home. The turn of the calendar year marks not just the passing of time but also the promise of new beginnings.

*Pedro Serrano is the Ambassador of the European Union to the United Kingdom

Photos by Leo Cinicolo © EU delegation to the UK

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