We want a Europe for the people, rather than for banks. A Europe that cares for social rights and needs, rather than following an ideology of market liberalisation. We ask you to join our call!
What’s the Problem?
We, young people in Europe, were the first to grow up with the European Union being a completely normal part of our lives. Most of us did not live through war and peace talks or dictatorships and the fall of the iron curtain is only a childhood memory. When war arrived at our door, in the collapse of Yugoslavia, we opposed the war and the genocides equally, and formed the youth revolts that toppled dictators afterwards.
Our parents and grandparents set out to “build a peaceful Europe for their children”. We are those children, and we decide what to do with it: we will use Europe to make our lives better, to prosper and for us not to be threatened by war any more. It is time for us to reclaim Europe.
But even though we as young people today have greater freedoms than ever before to travel, study and work anywhere in Europe; even though we cross borders and for many of us the only money we have had is Euro, we are also those who have lived in crisis mode for 5 long years without having had a say in the creation of a system that led to this crisis. On average, we face the largest youth unemployment since as far back as our parents can remember, and we are the ones who will suffer the most from the social, ecological and political decisions taken by our elders. No two young people are the same. But the crisis has brought us all together, in a mess. We all face the dismantling of a social contract and the welfare state, insecurity in the labour market and all the risk facing the working poor.
Increasingly, our generation sees the European Union as a cause of the problem, rather than its solution. How did we end up here?
- The peace project Europe was and still is good idea, but it’s not enough anymore.
- The prosperity project Europe is no more. Young people don’t believe they will live better than our parents. Unemployment is even higher for young people than overall. Social cuts and tax increases hit us harder, keeping us from an independent life and leaving us at risk of social exclusion. And part of the reason is that when the older generations created the Euro, they created an imperfect monetary union and waited for problems to pass. They pushed the problems unto later generations.
- The European Union of freedom of movement is not affordable. Erasmus is only for students, and only for those students who can muster the time and money. Travelling is expensive. When we want to use our freedom to work elsewhere, we encounter problems of language, bureaucracy, importability of social rights and services. This adds to the impression of Europe being “a project of the elites”: those who can afford to travel around.
- The promise of participation at EU level didn’t survive. The democratisation of the institutions remains incomplete. Member states and their governments dominate the play. Old men in suits decide over young people’s lives. Parliamentary simulations are just that: simulations. The constitution wasn’t one.
- The Social Union never came into existence. The neoliberal agenda of the past two decades left it a pretty phrase. We dreamt of a Europe that would benefit people, directly, socially and by offering security, but that has not happened.
We need new visions. In the current crisis, the EU appears together with the IMF to tell elected governments to fire more people, cut more social services and increase the VAT or the tax burden for people with low income instead of the rich. The EU doesn’t listen to warnings of double and triple recession if our purchasing power is reduced. It is the EU who may or may not give time and/or money. And even when national governments do the cutting and firing themselves, they still blame the EU. This is, of course, not the complete picture and only half of the truth. But it is the image that many especially young people have when thinking of “Brussels”.
At the same time, not all is bleak. Democratic and social change can happen. This has been proven in the past when people fought for social rights; for women’s rights; and even the globalisation-critical movement had some successes. Social and democracy-related movement, often carried by young people, are striving for change. In Spain, Italy or Greece young people have taken the lead towards change. They demand jobs, a perspective, a social support system that deserves the name, and real democracy. They don’t want to give their money to banks and not submit themselves to undemocratic rules set up by the IMF and the ECB. Even though the movements started up at national or regional level, their ideas and inspirations have run through Europe and from and across the world. They defy the image of young people as lazy, apolitical and not knowing what to do with their lives. They give hope that political change for the whole EU will spring from those grassroots. But whether this will actually happen or whether the movements will drown in organisational questions, repression and the individual economic problems is on us as young people to see and decide.
A European and Global Education
We believe in life long and wide education, overcoming academic, authoritarian educational systems that recreate and support the current economic system. Education is not only investment in young people today, but in the whole of humanity tomorrow. It is the base for any project for Europe and needs to be free from marketisation and segregation. Education must not be a privilege but a right for every individual, and free of charge. Educational programmes must not be based on patriarchal values but on interculturality, social and gender equality and global solidarity. Strong academic borders must be relaxed and non-formal education appreciated, including apprenticeships and self-education programs. We need a stronger focus on language education, a precondition for mutual understanding and future cooperation. European institutions must support educational institutions structured on democratic principles, inclusive towards all, and base their programmes to be beneficial to individuals, to communities and to society. We do not accept nothing less. A European education system needs to follow, support and pioneer ideas of peace, equality, mobility and unity, and we need to understand that global eduction is needed for a global life.
A Social and Economic EU That Works!
We young people heard in schools and universities about the inevitabilty of capitalism and liberalisation. Yet the policy of market liberalisation and de-regularisation has given us poverty levels of 30% in South European countries, a 50% youth unemployment and an increase of working poor people. In the Euro-zone, the lack of a shared treasury and budget, a monetary policy that only focuses on controlling inflation, and restrictions on national fiscal policies has made it impossible to implement countercyclical policies to generate green jobs and sustainable investment for our futures.
We stand against the destruction of social and labour rights. The claim that “there is no plan B” is false. Our plan B is a democratic Europe built on social and environmental justice in order to safeguard our future. We refuse to bail out banks, we want to bail out people.
We need a Euro-mechanism to regulate and place financial institutions under democratic control, to “Europeanise” them if they are bankrupt, so citizens own them. We need a Fiscal Union, with common taxes at the Euro- and EU level, to end tax evasion, we need a Financial Transaction Tax now, to give the EU enough resources to invest in green and social projects.
We need a security guarantee. Call it a guaranteed basic income or a negative income tax for low earners, but whatever we call it, our social systems needs to get rid of means testing, bureaucracy and repressive structures, and to correspond to our lives. Young people work, write fundraising applications, freelance, care for our near and dear, move to new locations or countries looking for jobs. We are flexible and restless, unlike the old men who wrote the rules for us. Without basic, guaranteed security, we, the most overworked yet underemployed generation, will not be able to demand our rights, organise according to our needs, or even live our youth.
We need to be able to imagine happiness, not money, as our goal. Since we want equity, Europe and developed countries must be first to abandon the growth motive and GDP as the measure of it. Leaving growth behind, we move towards a debt free society, where citizens and states are independent of financial markets. We propose a different economic model, where degrowth also means promoting small scale investments as opposed to corporate giants, a chance to reconnect with the environment, with each other, and think beyond materialism and consumerism. Water, soil, air, seeds, information and all common goods should be cherished and free.
Real Democracy Now!
We demand a radical democratisation of European society in order to empower people, especially young people, to participate in society. In this demand we agree with many social and democratic movements and organisations all over Europe. Without real participation of citizens in the democratic processes of the Union the EU will not fully realise its vision. That is why the European Parliament as the direct representation of the European people needs to be strengthened vis-a-vis other European institutions. A first and urgent step on this path will be to give the European Parliament the right to initiative. The European Commission needs to be democratised and made more transparent. Young people need to have a say also in the European Parliament. At the moment, there are hardly any young people there. Since ca 30% of all Europeans are under 30 years old, this number should also reached for parlimentary representation.
In order to include all people living in the Union, barriers on acquiring citizenship need to be lowered – in the end making everyone who lives in Europe a citizen. The implementation of direct democratic instruments such as the European citizen´s initiative are an important step in order to bring Europe closer to citizens. Whether a decision is taken at local, regional, national, European or even global level needs to be balanced alongside the principle of subsidiarity, taking all decisions at the lowest level possible. But democracy also includes the protection of minorities, the empowerment of women and the full access to rights for the LGTBQ population. Thus, we need strong and visible representation of minorities and not the exclusion of them, we need women´s empowerment for example through quota schemes, and we finally need a just legislation regarding family, fiscal and anti-discrimination law regarding LGTBQ.
Freedom of Movement
Our Europe is not a fortress. People who look for protection must be welcome here. The same goes for people who come here in the hope of a better life. If Europe is to be a peace project that we can be proud of, we can’t send away those who want to share the dream and contribute to it. Instead of bulding a high tech fortress with borders that reach out far into the Sahara, as is currently done, we want a culture of welcoming. Including people into society is a task for both sides, not only for the arrivers. Only a place that is open for new people is also open for new ideas and differences, and this is what young people have and want to expand.
One of the greatest achievements of the EU is the internal freedom of movement. Even though for many people, especially young people with low income, this freedom remains theoretical as travel costs money, it has nevertheless opened the doors for many to travel, learn or work abroad and develop a European citizenship. This basic freedom must not be hampered by those who would exclude certain groups (asylum seekers, Roma, new EU citizens…) or by invisible border controls that profile people according to their looks and by behaviour that is deemed to be “abnormal”.
For these changes we need several things: first and foremost we need the vision and motivation to take steps for a Europe that fits OUR needs! We need political will, pressure from the movements and initiatives, but also parliamentary majorities. Political will can be formed if pressure “from the street” is massive. But it also needs political will, and the hope for success, for people to take to the streets. Movements inform the mainstream debate, but are also informed by it. Parliamentary majorities can be reached by questioning your candidate, at whatever level, and making sure that promises are kept. Change involves all levels and everybody. Our ideas have to become hegemonial. It’s not governments, politicians, student leaders or whoever else alone. We will not wait for a hero to come; we’ll do it ourselves.
We call on you to join us and together with us build a new Europe!