“The past decade has shown us the need for a stronger unity and for a federal Europe”, says Leonie Martin, Vice-President of JEF Nederland. “This is why our two organisations set up actions to take back the debate on the future of Europe. In 2005, many of our members were high schoolers or perhaps even younger; thus, we could not vote and express our choice. Now, it is therefore important for the youth to get back in the discussion and to give its opinion”, she adds.
Ten years ago, in contrast to Luxembourg and Spain, who voted in favour during a referendum on the EU Constitutional Treaty, France and the Netherlands were the two countries to vote “no”, thus stopping the process of adoption of the treaty. Seven other countries did not proceed to vote afterwards. In both cases, surveys showed that the results were more related to national politics than to the real question asked to the citizens regarding the constitutional treaty. Public discussion did not deal with the content of the treaty, which is why “lack of information” is the number one reason why people voted “no”, according to a Eurobarometer survey. “For us, this means that we need to have a more informed public discussion on the EU and media to explain what is going on European level. We want to inform and engage the people to make European policies more understandable”, explains Chloé Fabre, President of JEF France. “We need politicians to accept Europe as another layer of governance: the referenda were a good example of politicians shifting blame to the EU and claiming success on national level, feeding into uninformed, populist and extremist positions.”
In the Netherlands, more than half of the youngsters from 18 to 24 years did not vote, whereas, of those who did vote, 74% voted against the constitutional treaty. For a youth organisation which aims to spread and explain the European project among the people, a generation that does not see a future in European integration is a wake-up call.
Furthermore, both organisations stress that a democratic Europe needs to be built with the consent of its people. They are convinced that only a federal Europe can provide a democratic structure, close to the citizens, which will serve their interest on the most relevant level. Therefore, they call on politicians and European officials to improve democratic tools to collect the citizens’ opinions on European topics. Contributions to the action will be shared on social media using the hashtag #10yearslater.
JEF France and JEF Nederland are branches of the European-wide youth NGO “Young European Federalists” which is active in more than 30 countries. The political organisation stays above any party lines and its members strive for a federal Europe - not as a super-state but a Europe based on the principles of subsidiarity, democracy and respect for human rights.
For more information, please get in touch with:
Ophélie Omnes, International Officer JEF France, relations-europeennes at jeunes-europeens.org, +33 6 08 35 57 65
Leonie Martin, Vice-President JEF Nederland, vicepresident.jefnl at gmail.com, +31 623 988 211