Antonio Argenziano: “JEF will lead the resurgence of a participatory pro-federalist moment in Europe”

, by Elsie Haldane, Jacopo Barbati

Antonio Argenziano: “JEF will lead the resurgence of a participatory pro-federalist moment in Europe”
Antonio Argenziano speaking at the XXVI Congress of JEF-Europe in Liège. Credits: Sean Ellul for JEF-Europe.

As Leonie Martin left the Presidency of JEF-Europe during the XXVI JEF-Europe’s Congress, Antonio Argenziano was elected to take this responsibility. The Editors in Chief of TNF, Elsie Haldane and Jacopo Barbati, interviewed him.

TNF: Hi Antonio, and congratulations for the election! What are, in your opinion, JEF’s priorities for the next two years?

AA: The next two years will be very challenging, because we are facing an important period for European history and for the European integration process. We are going to witness what will happen at the conference for the future of Europe - JEF has to be there, challenging institutions and member states to reform the European Union. The year of European Youth will happen, and JEF has to be there as a voice of the European Youth, one of the voices of the new generation. Given that we say that JEF is ‘Simply a generation ahead!’, we have to speak out loud for the next generation. Also, internally, it will be very important to relaunch inclusion, to relaunch the JEF spirit, the main characteristic of the JEF-ers. Also, I very much hope we can overcome this pandemic, and start to meet again and to build up a community, built on the differences we have - because diversity in JEF is a strength, not a weakness.

TNF: What do you think you can bring to JEF?

AA: A lot of passion and enthusiasm, for sure. When asked if I was available to run for President, that’s what I came out with! I have to follow the passion I have for politics and Europe, and also to keep being at the service of this organisation. I have been part of JEF for almost 10 years now, in JEF Italy’s national board for 6 and a half years, and all of this time I meant for my engagement with JEF to be a service to the community, a service to the organisation and to other JEF-ers. This is what I will bring to JEF: trying to build connections, listen to each other, and to inspire other JEF-ers to embrace the federalist battle, and to keep asking for a better Europe, a federal Europe. Not asking - fighting for, and working for!

TNF: Can you tell us a bit more about the role you see for JEF inside the European landscape for the next few years, even beyond your mandate?

AA: The goal has to be to start a new constitutional process in Europe, to start a true process of reform and European integration. We are in a very peculiar situation because we are still in a pandemic period, and we have experienced how Europe was able to react to this crisis. Mainly what the European Central Bank did, programmes proposed by the European Commision, and with next generation EU programmes. The EU needs the capability to have its own resources and invest in the future of its citizens. This is very important, which is why we call for a fiscal union. It is important to look within the EU, but also outside at what is happening in the world. Politics is global, and we as federalists have been saying that for decades.

When it comes to foreign affairs, we need to campaign for a Europe that represents a model for the world and has a role in this crisis that we are facing. It also has to be stronger to defend the values and principles that Europe stands for. It is not acceptable for the EU to accept what is happening at the border, between Poland and Belarus. It is not acceptable to see democracy and rule of law disrespected, as we see in Hungary or in Poland. So, it is also important for us all as JEF-ers to speak out loud, and to ask for a defense of democracy, civil rights, human rights, and rule of law. This is what makes Europe, Europe - it is not just geographical.

TNF: You’ve spoken a lot about plans and enthusiasm - what are you most excited about going forward in this role?

AA: Trying to bring JEF together, through big events and campaigns. We did it in 2017 with the March for Europe, we did it in 2019 with the “I choose Europe” campaign for the European Elections. After the pandemic, we need this big pro-European federalist moment, and I think JEF has to have a leading role in that. That’s why I am enthusiastic about working with all the other JEF-ers trying to achieve this goal to organise something that we will remember.

Also, being in a position to listen and talk with many different perspectives, a lot of different ways of seeing Europe, from both within and outside the EU. We cannot forget about the young people that are outside the EU. We need to work to let them in as soon as possible. To achieve that, we need to reform Europe, because we cannot ask other countries to enter Europe where a lot of fundamental principles are not as clear as they were a few years ago.

I am enthusiastic to be in the position where I can try to gather all the amazing amount of energy we have all over the continent, and try to transform it into action, into something that can actually make an impact. In the past, the JEF-ers were the ones who were destroying barriers at the borders between European states, the ones to produce the first Euro, the first in the streets calling for an elected European parliament. They campaigned for European constitutions and they campaigned for the Euro. We say we are ‘simply a generation ahead!’, what I would like to see is what our generation will be remembered for, and what our main role in this long legacy of JEF, federalism, and the history of Europe will be.

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