14. November 2012

On Tuesday 13 November a group of young Europeans spent the day discussing the future of Europe in various forms.  ‘Imagining Europe in 2037 – scenarios for the future’ started with a workshop featuring FutureLab together with young experts from various fields of cultural life invited by the host organization.

The day culminated in a Europe@debate, a public debate between the workshop participants and Hugues de Jouvenel, director of the think tank Futuribles, one of the most prominent think tanks dealing with future perspectives in France. The event was hosted by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Paris.

Currently the image of Europe is painted by nation debt crisis and unemployment, retirement pension and demographic development. The groundbreaking visions from the beginning of Europe’s union have been replaced by pessimism. The consequences are increasing nationalism and individualism. The assembly of young professionals in politics, economy and culture already actively working to promote the idea of Europe joined forces to develop their image of Europe in 2037 both visually and conceptually. Presentation of these three alternative scenarios for what Europeans might be facing in 2037 kicked off the evening Europe@debate:

  • Democratic glocalism, by Leticia Diez Sanchez, pictures a world where the increasing importance of the local and the global shade the national level and the state is gradually overpassed in more and more aspects of political life. This entails Europe based on democracy that does not fit our current notions; with much more decisions taken at the local level where citizen involvement is higher due to small-scale participatory channels and thanks to technological innovation. More involvement in public life, both civic and political, in turn also signifies fuller ownership of the European project by the citizens. Also, the EU flourishes, revised to accommodate new and often experimental forms of democratic participation.
  • Global fragmentation and decline scenario, by Noora Löfström, follows the possibility of escalation of regional divides between North and South about austerity and East and West about labour mobility. It envisages a continent of semi-closed homogeneous states, with stronger borders, striving to face the attempts of globalization by themselves. With ageing population as the youth flees for career to other continents due to increased barriers to internal migration. Returning to the nation state, the name ‘Europe’ returns to only depict a geographical continent as most of the other meanings of the world becoming archaic terms that no longer depict the status quo.
  • Post-Western world, by Daniele Mallamaci, describes the way Europe reinvents itself under the conditions of Asian or BRICs century, in a multi-polar world that is not centred around Western actors anymore. Accepting the fact of being a subaltern power, the inward looking EU focused on traditional European issues is no longer viable. How would the flows and cultural exchange influence lifestyle in a non-Western world?

Each of these scenarios prepared the ground for discussing several of the most salient issues within the present debates from a perspective of long-term vision or project to be pursued. The following discussion thus distinguished itself from the many other current debates by focusing on a wider horizon of reinventing the European project rather than a basic survival of the existing aspects of European integration.

“I hope you care about the future. Because you will spend the rest of your life in it”, Hugues de Jouvenel opened the debate after listening to three scenarios presented by the participants. He agreed with the workshop participants that the future largely depends on human decisions which we all are responsible to take. “The old world is dying; a new world has to be created. Europe can play a role in this”, he stressed.

The EU would be best positioned to mediate such role. However, more than muddling through the internal problems would have to happen. “We have to build a federal Europe with fewer countries. For one simple reason: today we have no Europe at all”, he pointed out in response to the various scenarios introduced by the participants.

“Lack of political leadership in Europe is also the result of a lack of citizen leadership”, De Jouvenel concluded calling upon more proactive approach of the young intellectuals in generating a vision and “back-casting” what does it entail for nowadays in terms of objectives and strategy.

The following young Europeans took part in the workshop: Ana Barcelos Pereira (Portugal), Clémence Bossard (France), Leticia Díez Sánchez (Spain), Patrícia Fernandes and João  Grama (Portugal), Olivier de France and Yann Gibert (France), Stephan Kool (Netherlands/Germany), Mihails Kozlovs (Latvia), Noora Lampinen (Finland), Teresa Leitão (Portugal/UK), Daniele Mallamaci (Italy), Zuzana Novakova (Slovakia), Jovana Rakic (Serbia), Nadya Sporysheva (Russia) and Ulyana Vynyarchuk (Ukraine). The day was moderated by Sérgio Mah, curator of the European Photo Exhibition Award.