04. June 2014

On Tuesday 3rd of June 2014 FutureLab Europe took part in an informal discussion with the president of the European Economic and Social Committee Henri Malosse to take stock of the recent European elections results.

The President called this meeting with young European opinion-leaders was to address his concern about the widespread ‘anti-voice’, and join them in a discussion on how ‘Brussels’ can change within the coming 5-year term.

‘2019 could be the last European elections’, he feared.

Hoping that the elections results will be a wake-up call for EU decision-makers, he called for a change in governance for a more ‘citizen friendly’ Europe that really connects to its people and is first and foremost based on the people’s legitimacy.

Coming from France, where Le Pen’s Front National gained a quarter of the people’s trust, this might be a legitimate concern, but how did the young people in the room react to Malosse’s claims? Can we indeed solve the ‘legitimacy gap’ by making the documents of the EU institutions more readable? Should the Commission representative spent half of their time talking to people and civil society organisations? Is it a good idea to represent the EU more in the regions and on local levels through topical ‘infocenters’? Is Brussels, above all, perceived as ‘foreign faceless and too far away’ as Jane Morrice, Vice-President of the EESC put it?

FutureLab Europe participant Stephan Kool shifted the direction of the debate from questioning how to ‘sell the EU’ by the use of better information and alternative communication channels to questioning political will. He made the point that the countries in which extremists were able to gain during the last elections had also been facing national leadership issues for a while. And with the national leadership struggle, the questions of interdependency and solidarity among European countries received a more nationalistic response.. This means that to call upon politicians to take ownership of the EU at national levels, as Barroso suggested during the State of the Union Conference (in reply to a question on the EU’s legitimacy), might be too optimistic. But Kool supported this statement, saying ‘all seven hundred-something MEPs should act as EU Commissioners to their home constituencies’. Malosse on the other hand saw more opportunities for the press and media, agreeing  along the lines of the position of Matteo Renzi, in so far that national media should broadcast more about what happens throughout Europe, in order to strengthen a common ‘European identity’.

While discussing the opportunities that lie in the EU, the room was at least clear on the priority-setting for the next political term: to make sure that young people have a real chance in the labour market throughout Europe. In this context, FutureLab Europe participant Stephan Kool called upon the President of the Economic and Social Committee to stand up for vocational Erasmus, for students of all levels of higher education, and a European-wide flat tax rate for young entrepreneurs.