There is only one thing worse than being on Breitbart, and that is not being on Breitbart

, by Sebastiano Putoto

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English]

There is only one thing worse than being on Breitbart, and that is not being on Breitbart
Commissioners Georgieva and Thyssen launching the European Solidarity Corps, an initiative which received an ambivalent reaction from JEF-Europe © European Union , 2016 / Source: EC - Audiovisual Service / Photo: François Walschaerts

Last week, the European Commission launched the “European Solidarity Corps” initiative, to which the Young European Federalists [JEF] reacted with a press release. That press release was, in turn, picked up by the London edition of Breitbart, which covered the Corps in this article. If you read these two sentences attentively and know what Breitbart is, you should now feel a mix of incredulity and bewilderment. Not to worry, you should be fine by the end of this article.

Breitbart is an American news website aligned with the so-called American alt-right. Its former executive chairman, Steven K. Bannon, is now set to become the Chief Strategist at the White House for US President-elect Donald J. Trump. The New York Times described Breitbart News as an organisation “with ideologically driven journalists”, that is a source of controversy “over material that has been called misogynist, xenophobic and racist”. Breitbart’s owners and Bannon himself have always denied these allegations. In its London regional edition, Breitbart has turned to support Eurosceptics and populists. Nigel Farage is a regular contributor.

One could wonder, then, how and why exactly JEF’s press release ended up being quoted in their article about the Solidarity Corps. To clarify, JEF’s position – as expressed in the press release – is not against the principle and the intended purpose of the Corps, namely to create a shared sense of belonging and solidarity among the European youth. Rather, it is cautionary to how the initiative will be funded (more money taken away from Erasmus+, really?), and in general implemented: the award for most recurring question about the Corps on social media went to “so how is it different from the European Voluntary Service?”.

Truth is, it doesn’t really matter how and why Breitbart decided to quote us. That our press release is quoted in any news outlet brings visibility to JEF as an organisation and to European political unity as a cause. Being quoted on Breitbart as “ardent federalists” spreads our message to a tough crowd, but one we wouldn’t reach otherwise. There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. It wasn’t so different when Renzi, Merkel and Hollande met in Ventotene “to kick-start Europe after Brexit”: in perpetuating an intergovernmental structure that is all but inclusive and federal, they were also somehow betraying the spirit of the Manifesto thence written. Yet, by meeting there they brought so much visibility to the island where it all started that every news outlet in Europe and abroad researched the life and works of Altiero Spinelli and quoted him, probably for the first time ever. That wide and completely for free outreach was already in itself a victory.

Communication strategies aside, there is also a point of substance to address. For those who might have missed the memo, the Young European Federalists do not exist to blindly support the EU, nor the European Commission or any other EU institution. Undeniably, the EU has achieved many an impressive results in the past sixty years: the absence of wars between its Member States; the social and economic progress of its societies, which is particularly evident when one looks at Central and Eastern European Member States; a thriving and innovative Internal Market, whose integration has sparked a series of imitations across the world.

Yet, it has also missed quite a few “opportunities”: addressing the increasing economic and social inequalities within Europe; achieving a common response to the humanitarian crisis that has become Syria’s “new normal”; responding effectively to the political instability in the Southern and Eastern Neighbourhood. The list could go on for days. As it stands, the EU is still far from what we call for in our Political Platform. Its egoistic and nationalistic divisions have prevented it from becoming a true global power.

Thus, if the Nation-State is not the appropriate institutional structure within which we can manage globalisation and find solutions to the challenges of an interconnected world (it isn’t, stop kidding yourselves), then the intergovernmental limbo in which we live in today - exemplified by endless European Council meetings - is the Moloch we must overthrow. This is why the Federalist movement exists in the first place. This is why it is bound to dissolve itself and cease to exist once Europe will be united as a Federation. Incidentally, this is why it is so important for all those who believe in the European ideal to be in Rome on March 25th, 2017: 60 years on, we are still muddling through and it’s not enough anymore!

That Breitbart London would jump on the opportunity for EU-bashing through our words is, quite frankly, their problem. The comments by readers left below the article are at times appalling, but this only proves we need to get out of our federalist bubble and reach out to all segments of society. If no one dares to present the facts and criticise the current system for fear of feeding Eurosceptic rhetoric, then the battle is over before it starts. Call us populists because we dare express criticism (yes, it has happened), but never forget that we propose a constructive solution that is rooted in solidarity, the rule of law, democracy and peace. “The federalist battle is the battle of [our] life”.

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