EuVisions: It looks like the battle for the next European elections will be told as a fight between pro-European fronts and anti-European alliances. How do you plan to structure your campaign? Would it be possible to imagine cooperation between your organisations/parties/movements?
Ivan Butina: VOLT puts to the fore the concept of “community organising”. The idea took off in the USA, but actually, Europeans have been doing it forever in politics. I think there is not much time left right now to structure resilient campaigns on our own. I am afraid that all of us are going to do just fancy advertisement talks in Brussels, in national capitals at best. It goes without saying that this is the wrong approach. We should campaign in the geographical and social peripheries of our Continent. In Austria, where — think about it — even a neo-fascist movement like Casa Pound is making its moves. Or in Eastern Germany, where the AFD is taking the lead. That’s what we would be doing. This is the frontline of Europe, whether you are centre-left, or centre-right: we need some sort of trans-party alliances. 65 per cent of our members has never been politically affiliated before joining VOLT. We have a triangle membership: liberal (Alde), social democrats (S&D) and Greens, all fused into a progressive platform. So we would work together with all these political forces somehow. If the objective was the election of 2025, VOLT could go for it on its own, but looking at the elections of 2019 we need to unify our resources.
Loes Rutten: We are preparing our WhyVote campaign, encouraging young people to take active part in the next European elections. Through our own network, we try to reach as many people outside of it as well. However, our vision goes beyond 2019, concerning agenda setting and policy making. Talking about potential synergies, we could follow the path suggested by VOLT, but I think that if everyone focuses on his audience-segment, we can do a good job.
Jacopo Barbati: JEF is not a party, but a movement which is trans-party by its own definition. We have a vast network of groups across Europe. As such we do not have our own candidates running for the elections. However, we will interact with candidates of other parties, challenging their vision for Europe.
Thiébaut: We do not choose our counterparts, neither within companies nor at the political level. This is, of course, channelling for us. But we are not meant to influence the political outcome of an election, but deal with the consequences of it, regarding workplace dynamics. Trade unions will be there any way to take the side of workers. The real question for us, at any moment in time — be it in front of a populist government, or not — is understanding if civil society coalitions are sustainable and robust enough to play their part in the political game.
Philipp Tzaferis: Starting from the very definition of populism given in the questions, namely to be opposed to the EU integration process, we can’t but understand why populist have success. What are their receipts? In this sense, I am not sure that they have success because they are anti-European. What matters is the political message the bring and lands at the local level. People see the European Union as being a model that forces social policies and economic policies away from real needs. That’s why our answers can only be political. And so I come as well to the question of trans-party alliances, or: could we work together on this? Given the composition of VOLT, for instance, I could hardly imagine a shared political battle.
“We are living in complex times, and populists simplify every bit of politics. On top of that, we are experiencing a technological revolution, where communication flows are based on concise messages. The simpler the answer to a political issue, the catchier it is. The downside of this is that we escape reality”, Jacopo Barbati, Vice president of JEF Europe
Ivan Butina: But what if the main issue is “nationalism against Europeanism”?
Philipp Tzaferis: Even in the case this was the critical questions of the debate, I think that we would need to go deeper into political decisions and policies to make ourselves understood to citizens. To campaign pro- or anti-Europe would bring nothing to the democratic debate, to the people, last but not least to voting decisions.
Thiébaut Weber: Yet, I think there are spaces for ad-hoc coalitions on specific issues. I believe that citizens will call for a unification of parties on particular topics. I am not talking GroKo here, because we know how harmful it can be to a democratic system. But again, on some points, people are expecting you to look for compromises.
Philipp Tzaferis: I can agree on this, but we should not turn the next European elections into a pro- or anti-Europe consultation.
Ivan: Instead, I think that we can all find what brings us together as Europeans and thus defeat nationalist forces.
Jacopo Barbati: I believe that this line of conflict will become ever more relevant. Which does not imply, however, that we should hesitate from digging deeper into what it means to be pro-European.