treffpunkteuropa.de: EuropeCanDoBetter is an ambitious project. Can it help Europe overcome the crisis?
Ariane Jordan: Firstly, we would like as many young people as possible to contribute their opinion on Europe and enjoy dealing with the topic in general. The focus lies on constructive suggestions for solutions to European challenges: Only with visions for our common future in Europe can the right course be set. In light of this, it is our aim to translate the results of “EuropeCanDoBetter” into input for the discourse on the future of Europe. Every long journey is made of small steps. We would be happy to walk part of the way together by collecting the opinions of particularly dedicated young adults and thus providing orientation and inspiration for policy makers.
How do you plan to achieve that?
The Polish Embassy, the Federal Foreign Office and several media outlets have already shown interest in our project. Initially, the results will obviously be made available to our partners, supporters and organisations that took part in the project. They will then be publically presented in a press conference to be held at a later stage.
To describe the project in somewhat more vivid terms, one could say that it aims to save the collective European sense of community. How did you come up with the idea?
It all started during a seminar at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, when students discussed several questions: what will the consequences for the future of Europe be if we run the risk that each country only defends its own interests? And is the European sense of community really in as bad a shape as everyone says? This discussion led us to establish a project focusing on precisely these questions. Furthermore, there was a population group whose opinion we felt was underrepresented, namely that of young people. We keep talking about the “future generations”, yet we fail to fully involve them in the discourse.
You are surveying young people from four different countries. Is that enough?
Of course, we would have liked to include more countries in our project. On the other hand, we had to keep in mind our available resources. In light of the latter, a comparison of four countries is already a fairly ambitious undertaking.
So you just randomly picked German, the UK, Spain and Poland.
We did not chose those four countries haphazardly. Instead, we based our selection on the “most different cases” principle, that is, we looked at those countries that differ from each other with respect to their attitudes towards Europe. So we have pro-European Poland, the more sceptical United Kingdom and crisis-ridden Spain. Germany was, in a way, an obvious choice.
Who funds the project?
EuropeCanDoBetter is a project of the Change Centre Foundation, an independent, non-profit scientific foundation focusing on projects that deal with change in the economy and in society. EuropeCanDoBetter is financed partly by the foundation and partly by our Düsseldorf-based patron, Udo van Meeteren. We are also supported by the non-profit Hertie Foundation.
EuropeCanDoBetter is a cooperation partner of the Young European Federalists. This is certainly a good way to publicise your project. So far, however, your Facebook page only has about 200 “Likes” – hardly a sign of high awareness. Do young people even know about your project?
Everyone we’ve spoken with up until now has welcomed the project. This is also made evident by the wide support we’ve received by more than 80 organisations, which have helped us advertise the project among their respective members. Nevertheless, we should not delude ourselves: these days, there is no lack of competition among projects that deal with Europe. Only a few, however, are as solution-oriented as ours. Rather than just asking for opinions, we aim to hear what solutions young people suggest for the future of Europe.
It is up to those surveyed to define the cause of this sense of crisis. Indeed, that is exactly what is special about our project: we do not pre-define a certain aspect of the crisis as relevant. Instead, we ask participants about the topics and policy areas that are most relevant to them. In the process, we also want to highlight the different fears that people in Poland, Spain or the UK might have.
Have first results already been produced?
Yes, initial results will be available soon. We will begin with the second wave of surveys within the next three to four weeks: by then, we will have evaluated our respondent’s opinions on the biggest challenges for Europe. So far, we’ve received just short of 1,500 answers to that question alone.
So the questions will be modified?
Much like the first wave, the second wave will also include a few fundamental questions about Europe. We are mainly interested in reactions to the consequences of the financial crisis and the foreign policy course of the EU. After all, hardly any other topic drives the debate as much as Greece and the Ukrainian conflict. The focus of our survey, however, clearly lies on developing possible solutions for the problems that the young generation itself listed in the first round of surveys.
Thank you very much for the interview.
Interview was carried out by Christian Simon. Translated into English by Federico Permutti.
If you’re interested in taking part in the survey yourself, you’ll find the questionnaire of the first round of surveys here.