Interview with Emma Farrugia

Candidate for the JEF Executive Board

, by Radu Dumitrescu

Interview with Emma Farrugia

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?

While admittedly, the European Union can be regarded as distant and bureaucratic and far from a perfect system, we must not forget that it was and still is an evolving operation. In fact, its flexible institutions are continuously capable of reconditioning themselves to adapt to the European Union’s needs. Therefore, in my opinion, the European Union is the subject of this (very valid) criticism largely due to the development stage it is currently in. This especially when considering that the last treaty signed - that is, the Treaty of Lisbon, has been in force for eight years and thus, the European Union is in desperate need to sign a new treaty with the aim of further democratization.

A short while ago, the legislative system was distressing, exceedingly undemocratic and afforded no voice to European citizens however, as the years progressed this legislative organ has evolved into a working procedure, which gives significant weight (albeit not enough) to the elected, democratic European Parliament. This institutional and substantive feat was largely due to the product of the persevering work of federalist visionaries; many of them being young people. We, like them, have the ability to keep building upon the foundations of our predecessors by echoing our common vision, in order to keep making the European Union an even more transparent, peaceful, inclusive and a democratic home for us all.

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?

Recently, the European Union has seen a rise of European rights and human rights (and by association, rule of law) infringements in various Member States. This can be seen through the fragility of Schengen in 2016, the lack of common refugee laws and policies and the systematic challenging of rule of law norms by national governments – with the latest point being of personal importance to me as a Maltese keeping in mind the recent barbaric murder of the Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. The Union should step up immediately and address this deficit to show solidarity with European citizens and ensure that both the European and Human rights of citizens are strengthened and safeguarded. On the fronts that are already in motion, I think that the European Union should work on strengthening the Eurozone in order to facilitate a more stable Euro.

As a more long-term goal, I think that it is high-time that the Union extends its competence and cooperation upon matters concerning civil liberties. I believe that minimum conditions should be set out by the Union in order to have a basic standard of civil liberties present and protected in each and every Member State – this definitely includes a more feminist agenda on the civil rights movement. Apart from this, I would indeed like to see a European Union with a further cooperation in sustainability.

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

Radically federalist position is rather subjective depending on who one is speaking to. However, I hope that in the future the European Union will be open and in a position to integrate all countries that are geographically on the European continent. I aim to see a European Union, which has a larger competence (especially in matters of its current supporting competence) and is a stronger political worldwide actor that speaks with a larger voice for the interests of all its Member States whilst still upholding its root aim - that of peace, security and mutual advantage amidst all her Member States.

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?

I think that these two strategies are not mutually exclusive and in fact, dare I say that neither one can succeed without the other. Indeed, I believe that JEF has enough manpower to work on both. Nonetheless, it is important that as the 2019 MEP elections are approaching, that each member knows what his/her role is, which gives structure and also a sense of purpose towards our federalist agenda. In my opinion, the EB along with the SG’s secretariat, the FC and the executive board members of the individual national JEF sections should push towards the former and become more politically involved. This would be done by actively meeting up with political figures, potential future MEPs and their representatives in order to actively, directly and decisively push a more federalist approach - convincing them of the benefits of them employing a federalist outline in their political agenda along with securing their guarantee of undertaking a more federalist campaign and MEP mandate should they be elected.

At a regional, local and individual member level, there should be more focus on the latter social strategy. Here, the bulk of the organization should be working towards educating the electorate in order to push forward a federalist vision but in some cases, even just a basic pro-European education. We have seen a lot of Euro-scepticism rising since the last MEP elections, which has been partially manifesting due to the majority of European citizens not having the proper knowledge to realise what it means to be European. Populist and Eurosceptic scaremongering have targeted these people, manipulating their thoughts and scaring them with the things that matter the most to them – their identity, their security and their income. Therefore, it is vital that this is addressed as well.

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.

I believe that the European Union, and by extension JEF, should be involved in so much as it helps independent movements reach a compromise with their parent State, rather than intervening and take sides which can create more turmoil. This would show that the European Union is taking an active role as peacemaker and would ensure that it would remain on good terms with both actors in either circumstance, and retain a united European Union. This approach would hinder the growth of nationalist sentiments and instead, allow the democratic and efficient European federalist structures to bloom.

In my opinion, it would not be legally or morally correct if the European Union directly intervened to quash the independence movement, regardless whether one agrees with the Catalonian referendum or not. Moreover, one of the European Union’s shortcomings is that it has not legislated for a situation of State secession and thus we can only refer to the ‘Prodi doctrine’ as any form of guidance which in fact states that should there be a State secession, that the newly independent State would have to re-apply to become a Member State and go through the whole accession process all over again (granted it should be much faster). Hence, after explaining this, it should be evident that the best approach for the European Union would be to actively involve itself in keeping the peace between both actors and should ensure the prevention of any Human Right infringement and hold all parties accountable to the proper adherence of the rule of law. It should be prepared to be open to all forms of negotiations with Catalonia in case of its succession and soundly convince it of the mutual benefits that would ensue if it chooses to re-join the European Union.

Finally, as a side note, it is in my opinion that the European Union seeks to close off any legal loopholes or any substantive unlegislated areas of legislation – even if they relate to unfavourable circumstances. If not, it will continue to prevent itself from having a concrete position such as like in the cases of Brexit and now in the case of Catalonia.

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?

Well, in times like these, unfortunately no one can really predict how Europe will look like it two years, but I know how JEF will look like. JEF is one of the oldest European NGOs and has seen and made it through it all – culminating in what we are today… a Union of 28 Member States with 7 institutions, with the absolute majority of treaties working towards an increasingly political and federal organ. Its young members’ spirit has been resilient in the increasingly worrisome times where nationalism and populism has been fostering at an alarming rate. Its members have remained committed through this, looking at a way up instead of dragging their feet on the ground after the failed Constitutional treaty or more recently after Brexit. JEFers know no halt. So that’s how I know for a fact that JEF will continue to attain a larger voice and a stronger following, and I hope that the European Union and its Member States are progressive enough to do the same.

You can find out more about Emma Farrugia here.

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