Interview with Xesc Mainzer, JEF Europe’s current Vice President

, by Veronica Micallef

Interview with Xesc Mainzer, JEF Europe's current Vice President

Today I have the pleasure of sharing a bit of insight on one of JEF Europe’s well loved Vice Presidents - Xesc Mainzer. Originally hailing from Mallorca, Spain, Xesc is now based in Brussels as he currently works at the European Committee of Regions alongside his role at JEF Europe.

How did you first hear about JEF?

Going back to 2008, Xesc first came across JEF at the age of 15: “I had gotten interested in topics such as European integration and federalism also popped up - that's when I found out about JEF and JEF Europe.” At that point in time JEF was not particularly active online, which led Xesc to rediscover it again years later in 2012 during a workshop in the south of Spain. “Actually I sent an email to JEF Europe… There was no section in my region. So I decided to create it myself. I found 2 friends and after a few years, we had statutes, a group of around 5 - 6 people and registered the organisation. That's how I created the section in the Balearic islands”

What do you personally consider is the most pressing issue facing the EU today?

“The main problem with the European Union at this point is that it doesn’t manage to fully deliver, or at least to show people that it delivers for them. I think that’s what fuels discontent, misunderstanding about the European Union, and a lack of engagement with European projects overall since people don’t really see the utility behind it because the EU doesn’t manage to communicate or deliver. In the end, that’s why we are federalists - because we want the EU to be able to deliver.”

How do you think JEF Europe works towards addressing these aforementioned issues?

“To tackle that, we advocate for treaty reform. That is one of the pillars of our actions at the moment, as we are trying to follow up on things like the Conference on the Future of Europe, which is also the basis of other campaigns.” Xesc believes that we need to advance towards a federal union and give more tools to the EU without forgetting about the need for democratic accountability and a more participatory system.

Do you envision a particular future for Europe?

“I don’t know how long it will take, but the one thing that I know will happen is the federal union of course. I believe in it”, Xesc goes on to affirm that “it may take longer, we might not be able to see it in our lifetimes, but it will eventually happen”. He explained that he would personally like to see the European Union advance along with its integration process, “because of course federalism is not just about centralising structures onto a European level, but also we see an evolution of the distribution of powers towards the regional and the local levels, that we see our regions and our municipalities more empowered with greater tools to be able to act on the day to day lives of people, to really have the recognition and the place they deserve in our systems.”

Growing up, were there any particular experiences or influences that sparked your interest in politics?

Xesc described how he started his journey in activism through very localised participation, as he was student delegate and in his school council. “I would say that I always felt like I had something to say – I wanted my voice to be heard and my opinion to be taken into account.” Xesc found party politics to be a difficult field for a citizen to make their voice heard, but a civil society organisation like JEF, that has an open approach to welcoming everyone sharing the same values and core ideas, is an effective platform to participate in politics and society.

How do you perceive the relationship between your Spanish identity and your identity as a European citizen?

He expressed a complex and layered sense of identity, which transcends mere national affiliation. Being a Spaniard, Xesc states: “I feel really strongly, identity wise, as a person from my region, from my island, Mallorca, but also as a Catalan speaker.” The mixed heritage, including a German ancestor, adds another dimension to his identity that had led him to moments of questioning and self-discovery. Xesc expressed: “identities are multilayered, like an onion, with layers that can be peeled and go on top of each other…” his resonance in a European identity, which harmonises the various cultural, emotional and political layers that all intermingle. Participating in the JEF Europe network reinforces this sense of European identity, connecting Xesc with others who share similar concerns and perspectives from all over the EU, affirming the reality and importance of a European identity.

Can you share a memorable, cross cultural experience?

Xesc states that: “Thanks to JEF, it was the first time that I met a person from Belarus, referring to their country as an authoritarian regime rather than a dictatorship… This was back in 2013 when the regime was softer. I remember how that person spoke about the country, the lack of freedoms, how really, their way of being a citizen was so different because they could not exercise what I took for granted as a European and that really was shocking. It also helped me see that we should be very grateful, those of us who live in a free society and a democratic system, for what we have and how we should fight to avoid losing it and to speak out for those who cannot exercise their freedoms in their own countries.”

What is one of your favourite memories or experiences during your time in JEF?

Xesc doesn’t like choosing one, so he mentioned 2 memories. Firstly, he recollects “My first JEF Europe event, during the Congress in Malta in 2017. It was my first time going to a JEF event outside of Spain where I met JEFfers from so many national sections. I really got to appreciate how diverse we are as a network. At that point, the experience I had was at the national and regional level and even though those contexts were comfortable there was something missing: meeting other JEFfers from Germany, Malta, Denmark…” This encounter presented the diversity and strength of the JEF network whose members have “...lots of great abilities in many different areas, amazing skills, and getting to see that was an important eye-opening experience for me”. The second memory may be more “stereoptical” in Xesc’s words: the Ventotene seminar. Xesc was brutally honest by saying that there was generally always lots of chat about Ventotene, with everyone talking about it so much and posting photos online to the point of becoming tired of it. It didn't seem like a place for exchange from the distance with Xesc never expecting to visit there himself… until he did in 2022. “I went there and I saw how wrong I was, and not only that, but I had an emotionally hard time the last days of the seminar, maybe the lack of sleep, but I think there is something about that island, the isolation from the mainland…” As both Xesc and I are islanders, we sympathise what it feels like to be from islands, but he reminisces that there, people “end up coexisting so closely with such a small group of people for such a concentrated period of time so intensely for the week of the seminar.” Xesc had an interesting emotional impact from this experience, learning about the stories of those who were imprisoned there during the war, those thinkers who sparked the federalist movement alight.

What are you most looking forward to in this year of the JEF Europe mandate?

“I would say there are 2 things to look forward to: on the one hand there is the work around the history of JEF. After celebrating 50 years anniversary of JEF Europe in 2022, we are going to continue working on the history of the association and step up the game in this aspect with multiple projects - I will try not to spoil them - but we shall launch new projects on the history of the association, hosting alumni meetings, and we will try to engage with them again not only to reactivate the alumni network of JEF but also to recover the knowledge of all the generations of JEFfers.” Another aspect is: “Schengen - we really want to reactive the campaign Don’t Touch My Schengen that we started in 2015-2016 and actually the Schengen is one of the priorities of the mandate and we are going to revise that campaign, reframe it since the problems back then are not the same…”

If you could have dinner with any historical figure, past or present; who would it be and why?

Xesc took a long, hard think about this question, and his choice of dinner partner is Aristide Briand, the foreign affairs minister of France in the late 1920s. Xesc explained how “he went to the League of Nations in 1929 and proposed what he called the European Federation. He didn't propose a federal system exactly but rather closer to what the European Union was at the very beginning. But I would like to have dinner with him and ask what he saw as the future of Europe. Even though it was an idea of integration that for our current standards is a bit basic, I think that maybe he had more ambitious plans over time, so it would be nice to see his perspective as a person from the second half of the 19th Century, that had been marked by the wars like the Franco-Prussian War and the First World War, who was trying to build peace and reconciliation between France and Germany and how he saw the future of Europe, and how we could basically make of that very unstable continent of the 1920s into a political unity.”

Do you have any advice for young activists or aspiring JEFfers?

Xesc has a lot of advice, with difficulty choosing. However, he states that: “They should not be afraid of doing anything or proposing something. Of course I would advise older JEFfers to be open minded and not judge ideas, but new members should really be fearless when proposing something, have initiatives, have ideas, go to the local sections and propose some idea - maybe people won't understand or its something they don't envision JEF doing but others might! This won’t only help JEF grow to have different approaches but also it will help members to be courageous to tackle newer things in life.” Xesc and I then concluded by talking about how seeing younger generations joining JEF gives a breath of new energy to the organisation which is what we love to see.

Thank you Xesc for taking the time to share about yourself with our readers!

Your comments

Warning, your message will only be displayed after it has been checked and approved.

Who are you?

To show your avatar with your message, register it first on (free et painless) and don’t forget to indicate your Email addresse here.

Enter your comment here

This form accepts SPIP shortcuts {{bold}} {italic} -*list [text->url] <quote> <code> and HTML code <q> <del> <ins>. To create paragraphs, just leave empty lines.

Follow the comments: RSS 2.0 | Atom