A political landscape of fear and uncertainty
The years 2015-16 will be remembered as a transformative period in European political history. The Greek financial crisis, which nearly led to Grexit, the Syrian refugee crisis that shook the Schengen agreement, the Brexit referendum and, also, the Trump election in the U.S., are only some events that reverberated destructively across the European continent.
Since then, the EU’s “social contract”, has been challenged and is at the verge of collapse. Populist, illiberal and even authoritarian forces came to power or very close to it, in a number of EU Members States. The political debate has shifted to extremes, with traditional social-democratic parties almost evaporating in many EU countries. Populism – in both left and right wings- is gaining ground, leading to the rise of xenophobia, racism, homophobia and even fascism. Something deeper is moving in the wrong direction.
European humanistic values, such as solidarity, tolerance, freedom of the press or rule of law are in retreat. Democratic convictions and assurances that the majority of Europeans have long taken for granted, are openly challenged. There is an ongoing trend of distrust towards institutions, suspicion against liberal values, loss of identity, and uncertainty about the future. Many attribute these phenomena to the fear of globalisation, economic stagnation and rising social inequalities. One could add to all those elements the existential fear of climate change and unemployment due to new technologies. It is clearly a time to act.
In response to this complex and dynamic situation, a new initiative has emerged: Alliance 4 Europe. Considering the critical nature of the 2019 European Parliament Election, the immediate goal of Alliance 4 Europe is to mobilise three million Europeans, who would otherwise not vote this May. This goal was defined by the fact almost 60% of the EU population did not participate in the elections held in 2014, leaving decision making in the hands of the few. Alliance4Europe is working to ensure a turnout of at least 50% of voters this year to ensure the radical and extreme votes are diluted.
A new narrative: Friendship
In October 2018, 26 visionaries established Alliance 4 Europe (A4E), as a non-profit organisation (gGmbH), aiming to connect pro-European initiatives and encourage citizen participation. With the clear vision of building a Europe for and by its citizens, A4E represents an agile network of civil society groups and citizens that care to safeguard the European Union and its values. While A4E is still a young organisation, it already has strong roots in Brussels, Budapest, Warsaw, Rome, London and beyond, thanks to the international reach of its founders and their involvement in diverse pro-EU initiatives.
To mobilize a critical mass of non-voters to participate in the EU election 2019, A4E coordinates the work of affiliate organizations and helps spread Europe-wide campaigns via its extensive combined online reach. Following this election, the organisation will focus on facilitating co-operation and the exchange of best practices between pro-European movements. A4E is an independent organization with no party affiliation; thus it is open to connect and collaborate with all civil society groups that align with its mission.
Since its inception, A4E introduced a new narrative built on friendship. The Vote4Friendship campaign targets a part of the identified non-voters group in 2014, who represent three million Europeans. The campaign is designed to easily integrate with initiatives led by other organization, to be adapted in other languages, and to be interpreted by youth via social media. In fact, #vote4friendship will be promoted by prominent personalities who enjoy media attention and agreed to share the A4E message. In this way, more people will be informed and prompted to vote. In addition to other campaign tools, a “Vote for Friendship” wristband, will serve as a recognisable sign of community among the different pro-European organisations and all those who share the EU values. The official launch is expected in April and will continue until the upcoming EU Election.
To complement the campaign activities, events were organised with Members of the European Parliament and experts in Brussels. The addressed themes, such as Euroscepticism or the future of employment, were attended by several hundreds of interested citizens and prompted constructive dialogue.
People and civil society are natural allies of A4E and its team will continue supporting them raise their voice. Acknowledging a significant part of the EU population does not believe in the power of their voting rights, A4E will continue striving to inform and mobilise them simply by speaking their language. After all, friendship, solidarity and community are at the heart of the European idea.
Local, European, Global.
A network that safeguards European values is desperately needed. Many small local organisations that fight battles at regional or national level, such as human rights groups, democracy campaigners or environmental associations, would have greater impact if they were connected to one another. Identifying collaboration areas, common interesting and opportunities to launch complementing campaigns, would strengthen their voice. Nevertheless, many of these initiatives will still need training, resources, analytical data, campaigning tools and a sense of belonging. A4E aims to foster all those needs by consistently forming new collaborations with local initiatives, providing capacity building tools, and coordinating activities to instill a responsible voting behaviour in EU citizens.
Evidently, the success of A4E relies on a multitude of regional teams, local movements and organisations that develop their own messages, events and campaigns to respond to country-specific needs and priorities. The A4E mission is to form a pan-European network and support and cooperate with all organisations that work for a progressive and truly European spirit. From the Atlantic to the Carpathians and from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, a prosperous, democratic, integrated and value-based Europe could function as a model for the entire planet. A global Europe.
Our work and legacy will largely depend on how this vision is going to be developed and embraced by Europeans in this election and beyond. Let´s build a Europe for and by its citizens.
Alliance 4 Europe: Peter Willisch, Panagiota Kaltsa, Yannis Karamitsios (Munich, Greece, Brussels)
Visit the A4E website: https://www.alliance4europe.eu/ and follow their social media @Alliance4EU