Wednesday 23 May 2018

Ahead of next year’s European elections, a Brussels think-tank launches its blueprint for the Union. The objective: gather support in the coming 9 months to draft a European program for all Europeans

Brussels, 25 May 2018. Today, exactly one year before the 2019 European elections, the Friday Group, a Brussels based think-tank, launches its campaign to draft a common programme for all Europeans. To achieve this, it has drawn up a blueprint with 12 specific proposals concerning European democracy, asylum & migration, social policy and the Union’s digital and industrial policies. Over the coming 9 months, the initiators will enter into dialogue with various civil society organisations in the EU to gather support for a common European.

We, Europeans — A European agenda for us all Download report

“Because there will be no transnational lists the need for a European platform to encourage us to enter into cross-border discussions has never been higher.”

Brieuc Van Damme, initiator: “In fact, we hoped that the idea put forward by the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, to use some of the Brexit seats in the European Parliament for European lists would have been successful. Unfortunately, the Parliament voted against this proposal in February. However, that does not mean that we, Europeans, should not reflect on the direction we want to take with our Union. On the contrary, because there will be no transnational lists the need for a European platform to encourage us to enter into cross-border discussions has never been higher. That is why we have drafted a European blueprint with subjects that are high on the agenda of the EU and its Member States, but are almost only discussed nationally.”

“We’ve discussed our recommendations with Emmanuel Macron's En Marche! movement and some of his top advisors. These discussions made us realise the importance and potential of this project.”

“It’s not a healthy situation that the debate around European integration and the very existence of the Union is rarely taken seriously by the ruling intellectual and political elites in some parts of the continent. This elitist consensus on the almost scientific self-evidence of the European project turns against the establishment. Believers in the European project become lazy and complacent and no longer manage to convince the sceptics. The United Kingdom knows all about it. The organisation of these kinds of existential debates on the survival of the euro or the Union by individual member states is a violation of democratic values and leads to sterile conflict instead of dialogue. The recent Catalan crisis, for example, is the result of a logic of confrontation between two democracies that hardly ever entered into dialogue on a subject that has repercussions far beyond national or regional borders. The same applies at a European level. Politicians should be able to address all Europeans,” commented Laurent Hanseeuw, another trailblazer of the project.

In recent months, the Friday Group has been collaborating with various experts on 4 key topics: the European democracy and its institutions, asylum and migration, European social policy and the Union’s digital and industrial policies. For each of these topics, the Group has developed 3 specific proposals (often comprising several action points). Over the coming 9 months, the think-tank will use these to consult numerous civil society organisations throughout Europe. The objective is to discuss its blueprint for Europe all across the continent and to find out how the resolutions can be adapted in order to strengthen this support base and arrive at a shared European programme for all Europeans.

“We’ve presented and debated most of our recommendations with Emmanuel Macron's En Marche! movement and some of his top advisors. These discussions made us realise the importance and potential of this project. Over the coming months, we intend to meet up with a large number of political parties, movements, civil society organisations, think-tanks, etc. in as many EU member states as possible, to try to convince them to join our initiative. The blueprint has to be seen as a lively document, a starting point for debate. If we manage to gain sufficient traction, we will launch a programme for all Europeans 3 months before the elections. This will coincide with the time Brexit takes effect and will be a painful reminder of how important it is for us, Europeans, to be able to enter into dialogue together,” says Brieuc Van Damme.

“We hope that our 12 proposals for ‘more Europe’ will generate a virtuous European circle”

“The Union has been in crisis for a decade now. Its institutions are perceived as lacking in democracy, and consequently legitimacy, which has encouraged populism. On the other hand, we believe that our proposals will increase participation by European citizens in the European project. This should pave the way for inclusive citizenship based on an open, humanistic and joint asylum and migration policy. This inclusive citizenship will translate into solidarity if we also take additional European steps in the area of social policy. This unified playing field will in turn strengthen the resilience of the European economy, which will benefit participation in, and the legitimacy of, the European democratic machine. In a nutshell, we hope that our 12 proposals for ‘more Europe’ will generate a virtuous European circle,” according to Brieuc Van Damme.

Laurent Hanseeuw adds: “If, on the contrary, we opt for ‘less Europe’, populism will whip up a protectionist wave, similar to what we have seen in the US, that will reinforce the inequalities within the Union, creating a fertile breeding ground for exclusive nationalism as is the case in the UK, Hungary and Poland. This nationalism, in turn, fuels populism. In our opinion, ‘less Europe' creates a vicious circle that will affect us all.”

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