Interview with Camilla Walstad

Candidate for the JEF Executive Board

, by Radu Dumitrescu

Interview with Camilla Walstad

At the Congress taking place in Malta from 10 to 12 November, JEF-Europe will elect its new Executive Board. The New Federalist interviewed all candidates to ask them what they think of the future of Europe and JEF. Do remember that all candidates have also introduced themselves and detailed their motivations on the Meet The Candidates page on the JEF Congress website. Enjoy!

1. The European Union has often been criticized as being distant and bureaucratic. What room is there for young people in the European project?

I believe there is much room for young people in the EU. The possibility is there, but only a few have the recourses and the knowledge to take advantage from it, to take part and to influence. This is often the case for young people already concerned about the EU – such as JEF members and people organized in other yoorganizationsions. The rest, a large majority, are not aware of these possibilities. A huge obstacle for us is to reach out to the majority of young people and encourage them to take part in shaping their own future.

2. What are the areas in which the Union needs to extend its cooperation immediately and what are the areas in which it needs to do so over the longer term?

SHORT TERM: climate and social policy.

Climate policy because the time is running. If we do not act now, climate change will have consequences which we can hardly imagine. The EU’s effort should include ensuring a high carbon price and investing in renewable energy.

Social policy because the whole of EU’s legitimacy depends on citizens having a job, a certain quality of life, access to education etc. If Europe fails to ensure a certain standard for the everyday life of its citizens, the whole project has failed.

LONG TERM: common defense and foreign policy.

A common effort is needed, but it needs democratic legitimacy. I do not think citizens are ready to accept this move yet. Security is important in everyone’s life, but the EU needs to focus on fixing economic and social security first, and perhaps then people will accept moving on to building a common defense and foreign policy.

3. What is the most radically federalist position you take, in comparison with most pro-Europeans?

I would rather describe myself as pragmatic than radical. Perhaps my positions on climate policy can be described as radical by some, or maybe my take on subsidiarity compared to pro-Europeans or most federalists.

According to the principle of subsidiarity, decisions should be taken at the most appropriate level. Pro-Europeans and federalist tend to see that as solely a shift of power from the national to the supranational level, enhancing EU competence. A big flaw in the federalist debate is that we never discuss which competences should remain or be transferred back to the local level. I think that’s the reason why people think federalism equals a European super-state.

4. Should JEF become more politically involved, actively pushing for a federalist agenda during the next European elections in 2019, or should it move toward a more social role in establishing networks of likeminded Europeans across the Member States?

We can do both, and we have to do both. The EP elections is an important window of opportunity to promote our agenda. However, I would personally prefer to work with the latter alternative.

The reason is that I do not have voting rights in the EP elections, and thus I am simply not as personally involved as others. It would be more natural for me to strengthen the network of likeminded Europeans across Europe. However, it is extremely important to me that we do not limit ourselves to build network “across the Member States”. Europe is bigger than the 28, and we need to build bridges, not walls, all over the continent.

5. What answer can the EU, and by extension JEF, give to the many movements for independence that we can see springing up, the most obvious example being Catalonia? Most of these movements definitely want to continue being part of the EU.

This is a difficult question. The fight for independence is not only an economic question, but relates to issues such as democracy and representation. When people are not feeling represented, it can result I revolt. In the ideal world according to me, local authorities would have more power than today - at least in centralized states - and perhaps more people would feel represented.

However, I would not feel comfortable taking a stand in such a conflict because JEF shall be open to people with opposing views. Under an umbrella such as JEF we have to pick our battles, and in my point of view, this is not our battle.

6. It can be said that young people have the most to gain or lose during every election, as their lives will be impacted for the longest period of time by any choice. How will Europe and JEF look in two years?

My hope for both the EU and JEF is to be more inclusive. We must acknowledge that there are opposing views across countries, across political parties, between north and south, east and west. JEF needs to look beyond that. To be united in diversity, to be a generation ahead, we need to be tolerant on views which are opposite than our own, we should build on understanding each other, rather than pushing our personal agendas. We shall listen, discuss, propose new ideas, think them once and twice. We should promote togetherness before self-interest.

As I stated in my candidacy, I believe we can be more inclusive by improving what we are already good at, namely being a laboratory for good ideas and innovative policies, as well as spreading the amazing JEF spirit to include even more people.

I think this is a manageable goal in JEF over a two-year mandate. In the EU, however, I’m more concerned. In two years’ time, I think the European economy will grow and the most pressing issues are solved. But making decisions at the European level, where Nation States, political parties, NGOs, employers’ and employees’ organisations are to be heard, takes time. To be pragmatic, I think the EU has solved some problems in two years, but not all of them. The most sensitive political issues will not yet be addressed in such a short time span.

You can find out more about Camilla Walstad here.

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