Month: October 2013

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Political Dreams for XXI Century Europe

This article has been published in the YO!Mag #2 2013

It’s widespread opinion that ideologies lost the meaning they used to have to drive change and get people elected. However, Ideologies are political dreams of utopias (or dystopias) for the present and the future of nations, communities and society in general.

We met with the Presidents of the youth wings of the Party Political Youth Organisations that are members of the European Youth Forum and we challenged them on the issue. Konstantinos, Kaisa, Jeroen, Ingrid and Pauline, are respectively leaders of the Youth of the European People’s Party, of the Young European Socialists, of the European Liberal Youth, of the Federation of Young European Greens and of the Young European Federalists.

Despite the variety of political views, their answer is straightforward: ideologies are still very much up and running. When it comes to the content of their respective ideologies, differences are more defined. “For the centre-right – Konstantinos pointes out – the individual is at the centre, together with core values such as family and the patriotic feeling”. For Kaisa “socialism it’s about giving a fair chance to all people and especially those who are less well off”. Jeroen states, “The core of liberalism didn’t really changed over the century, it is freedom together with responsibility”. Things get more intertwined with the Greens, as Ingrid explains “the green ideology incorporates many theories and influences from environmentalism to peace, to social rights movement”. Last but not least the Federalist movement roots its ideology in the political theory of institution building and governance. “It is about how we are seeing this continent to be democratically governed”, says Pauline. If there is still a defined set of ideals, principles, doctrines, myths or symbols of a political movement it is also clear to that “any ideology has to move on with the time”, using the words of Kaisa, or, as Jeroen states, “the core of the ideology can remain the same but the way it is implemented changes over the years”.

What would be, then, the political dreams for XXI Century Europe?

European Homeland

For Konstantinos the dream is a European Homeland to be built gradually but bravely and together. “Working on the issue of identity is a long-term commitment” – he tells us – “building a widespread common sense of proudness associated to be European is something not easy to be achieved but it is an essential part of imagining the future together”. The words of Konstantinos resonate with those of Luigi Sturzo, the founder of the first Christian democrat Party in Italy suppressed by the Italian Fascist regime. In the 30s Sturzo founded an international movement that supported the creation of a European common market and European integration to prevent war, amongst those who attended his group were Konrad Adenauer, Alcide de Gasperi, and Robert Schuman.

European Welfare State

Kaisa thinks, “The key question of what the socialism will be in 30 years time is what kind of economic system do we accept or approve or aim at”. The socialist alternative is very clear “We want deeper integration and we want to create a European Welfare State” – she states – “to protect the interest of the people collectively and individually there is a need for a well defined structure in Europe not only social Europe but a real welfare state. Kaisa proposes to move to a post-Keynesian thinking with true investment in areas that can create growth and jobs rather than just holding off the old institutions and old structures that have passed their time.

European Freedoms Space

Jeroen reminds, “Liberals do not have a perfect society in their heads but the fact that the individuals can take care of society”. According to his dream Europe should become a top reference throughout the world to guarantee individual freedoms. “Much more than today, people should be free to really express their full potential”, he states. Within the boundaries of not creating a heavy state apparatus, he believes that progressive legislation can be adopted to harmonize the standards of such freedoms to the highest extend instead of common minimum denominators.

Sustainable Europe

Ingrid dreams a Sustainable Europe. “It should not be just about the environment” – she says – “but also about social and economic development”. For the Greens it is important that the current policies look not only at the short-term impact but also at the future generations. This is the core of the concept of sustainable development applied to public policy. Looking at what concretely Europe should look like in 2046 Ingrid has a very ambitious plan: “it should be a 100% renewable energy Continent leaving behind the traditional concept of growth”.

European Federation

For Pauline the federal dream is not necessary the one of creating the United States of Europe, she explains “for federalists the most important is to create a new political object which will allow a greater coordination and allow to fully apply the concept of subsidiarity”. The goal is therefore to create a European Federation that would allow all citizens to participate more actively and democratically to its construction. For example, she concludes, “we strongly believe that the European Council and the current Parliament should merge on a dual Chamber Assembly with equal powers”.

 

sounds

Fragments d’un discours amoureux

 

Tout le long de la vie amoreuse, les figures surgissent dans la tête du sujet amoreux sans aucun ordre, car elles dépendent chaque fois d’un hasard (intérieur ou extérieur) / Rholand Barthes

TRACKLIST

///// House of cards (Radiohead) // Waterfall (Stone Roses) / I think I am in Love (Spiritualized) / Anne with an E (The Pain of Being Pure at heart) / All we ever wanted was everything (MGMT) / Impossible Soul (Sufjan Stevens) / Fotoromanza (Gianna Nannini) / heimdalsgate like a promethean (Of Montreal) / house of the jealous lovers (The Rapture) / Jealous boy (John Lennon) / Lovestain (Jose Gonzales) / Skinny Love (Bon Iver) / I am so tired (The Beatles) / Jodi (The Dodos) / do you remember the first time? (Pulp) /// Futile devices (Sufjan Stevens) ////

 

e-Participation: Fashion or substance?

this article was published on 24 September 2013 on EurActiv.com http://www.euractiv.com/eu-elections-2014/participation-fashion-substance-analysis-530669

Online participation is regarded as the silver bullet to catch voters’ interest at the next European election. But will online tools shift the power to the people?

do you remember war games? (this was youth e-participation in geopolitics!)
do you remember war games? (this was youth e-participation in geopolitics!)

With European elections approaching, campaigns and initiatives are blossoming. While voter turnout rates are at their lowest and “Brussels” is widely considered the scapegoat for the economic crisis, this upcoming exercise in democracy will prove to be both interesting and necessary.

Most of these initiatives are making e-participation the buzzword of the season. Everything “online-ish” is the panacea to the political disaffection of citizens, especially young ones. Nonetheless, I am not surprised to see their young targets ignore or desert a number of those online tools.

A key question to ask is what would make these initiatives successful in the end? Besides quantitative analyses (which might be good for final evaluation reports), I propose that the fundamental criteria for evaluation should be the effectiveness of those tools in shifting some real power to (young) citizens.

Let’s take a few steps back in time and space – 1999, Naples, Italy. The Kosovo War begins. Pacifist students occupy my university. I pass by its small computer room and am thrilled to find it’s been transformed into an alternative information office. Classified real-time information is dispatched with online radios, emails and discussion forums, coordinating parallel actions between Naples and Belgrade.

The most interesting part of this flashback is witnessing one of the first mass operations of online political activism, which by the end of the ’90s became available not only to hackers and computer geeks but to virtually anyone.

Historically, the most successful net users have been anti-systemic movements, comprising mainly young people who learned how to use those communication channels not yet controlled by the established power. (Remember Indymedia?) We can trace this pattern to all the main global movements that erupted since then, from Seattle to Geneva to the most recent Arab Spring and Occupy. In those cases, e-participation clearly had a direct link with offline mobilisation, street actions and calls for change: “another world is possible”.

Beginning in 2010, the panorama changed: online became the new mainstream. These days, it seems everyone running for elected office seeks at least to get some inspiration from the Obama presidential campaign team. Within the anti-systemic movements, however, the use of new technology also evolved and they continue to be the frontrunners.

Something surprising is taking place: anti-systemic movements are paralleling online as the new mainstream. With the rise of the Five Star Movement, the most recent Italian elections are a well-known example of this trend, mastering a completely new set of practices in using the internet for political mobilisation of the masses.

How have established parties and institutions reacted thus far? Quite ambivalently, and dare I say very defensively. That or they lack enough audacity to expose themselves in the brave new world.

Public institutions widely accepted the idea that having online tools is “cool” and is the silver bullet to win people back. Despite their laudable efforts, institutions have limited power to give citizens access to a strong political platform. They can foster dialogue and exchange… but little else. That is because strong intermediate bodies such as political parties (or civil society organisations, for instance) are still key, despite a discourse that tries to say exactly the opposite.

Back to the 2014 European elections. Political parties have a chance at least to get back on track and expose themselves to citizens and more importantly to young people. Abandoning their ivory towers is the only way to start regaining the public trust necessary to lead politically in Europe.

With this philosophy in mind, a consortium of civil society organisations (European Youth Forum, Idea, Votewatch) gave birth to the League of Young Voters (www.youngvoters.eu). The league aims to inform and engage young people about issues that concern them, issues that are at stake during electoral campaigns. What is special about the league is that it proposes a series of online activities that are not self-referential but seek practical impact.

Firstly, young people can magnify issues to feed parties’ programmes through a special cooperation with the four European political parties (European People’s Party, Party of European Socialists, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe and European Green Party). Secondly, a non-partisan analysis of the political manifestos of all the running parties will be provided in a fresh, easily accessible manner based on the issues they choose.

All this combined with other tools such as the recently launched www.MyVote2014.eu will facilitate understanding of the European Parliament and political differences among parties and candidates.

The goal is practical: to ensure that more young people vote in an informed manner, aware of the political differences in the programmes. At the turn of the 20th century in the United States, the League of Women Voters gave power to hundreds of thousands of women who just received their right to vote, to exercise their right autonomously and independently. Today, the League of Young Voters seeks the same – this time for youth rights.

 

 

Tackling youth unemployment together

poster_young_lgThis Article has been published on 24 October on EurActiv.com and can be read also on: http://www.euractiv.com/socialeurope/tackling-youth-unemployment-analysis-517951

“Young people in Europe are living in a context of ever greater political and social uncertainty. Europe’s weakening economy is disproportionately affecting its youth. Unemployment has reached almost epic proportions across the EU, with one in five young people in the labour market unable to find a job.

Europe’s young people should be one of its most valued assets, catalysts of positive change who can contribute to finding innovative ways to overcome Europe’s challenges. However, the dire economic circumstances they face are marginalising young Europeans and jeopardising their full integration into society. Political cynicism and apathy are on the rise, and the gap between young people and decision-makers is growing, increasing the appeal of extreme political ideologies.

It is shocking that, in the 21st century, the future is this bleak for so many young Europeans. At a time when governments are under growing financial pressure, there is a clear need for the private and non-profit sectors to step forward, providing the guidance and support necessary to tackle this issue and prevent the creation of a “lost generation”.

It is becoming increasingly clear that many young people lack the skills and opportunities to be successful in today’s highly competitive job market . It is currently estimated that four million jobs are vacant in the EU because the unemployed lack the skills required for available positions. Yet, according to Eurofund, 14 million young people are currently not in employment, education or training.

Faced with this “skills gap”, it is more crucial than ever that the EU and its member states develop employment policies specifically aimed at youth at all levels. Ensuring equal access to quality education, both formal and non-formal, and promoting a smooth transition from education to quality jobs should be as crucial an element of these policies as ensuring decent conditions for young people in the labour market, promoting the creation of new quality jobs, and supporting entrepreneurship and innovation.

Promoting youth skills and employability is evidently a priority for the EU, and European policymakers have taken concrete steps to increase assistance and opportunities for youth.

In December, the European Commission presented a Youth Employment Package aimed at combating youth unemployment. This included a proposal on Youth Guarantees, a concept that every young person should receive a quality offer of employment or training or further education within four months of leaving school or becoming unemployed.

While efforts such as these are laudable, and it is encouraging to see that Ireland has also set addressing youth joblessness as a priority of its EU presidency, the current economic climate has also curtailed the EU’s and national governments’ ability to act. Rhetoric and ambitions are not always accompanied by the matching funds and we are witnessing ever more cuts in grants and funds from public bodies to the NGO sector, which could lead to an even more difficult situation for youth organisations and young Europeans. Moreover, with the EU’s multiannual financial framework currently being negotiated, funding for Europe’s youth could be cut even more drastically.

In this climate it is increasingly clear that no single organisation or institution can go it alone. The key to tackling the problem of youth unemployment lies in developing broad and strategic partnerships with all the key actors that can contribute, whether they are traditional institutional actors or new stakeholders from the private and non-profit sectors.

For example, last week we struck a partnership with Microsoft alongside two other pan-European youth organisations—Telecentre Europe and Junior Achievement – Young Enterprise. This kind of multi-sector collaboration is one of the ways to successfully address the many facets of the youth unemployment problem. With support from industry players like Microsoft, we will be able to leverage our respective strengths and work complimentarily to break the cycle of Europe’s skills gap, foster work-readiness, and encourage European youth to become more active citizens.

By providing training in the technology and skills needed to perform the jobs of today and tomorrow, Telecentre Europe will help young people to successfully transition between education and the labour market. JA-YE will work to increase the employability and entrepreneurial potential of young Europeans, encouraging them to use their technology skills in enterprising ways and helping them to find work through quality traineeships and internships. While we will work to engage young Europeans in the online democratic debate, seeking to encourage deeper participation, especially on public policy matters of direct concern to them.

We should not underestimate the magnitude of the problem currently afflicting Europe’s youth. Young people who face chronic unemployment are likely to suffer from long-term problems in terms of their employability, financial wellbeing, social integration, and even health. And their problems will spill over to be felt by the rest of society. But with concerted action, governments, companies, and NGOs can find the right solutions to lead Europe’s “lost generation” back on the right path.”