Paris, 2030

Paris Sundowner, Spotlight Europe
Will Paris be the same in the future? (Flickr:Moyan Brann/licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0)

I hitch my bag higher up my shoulder and start down the stairs. The 13 flights would have been too much for my mother when she was 81, but for me it’s no problem.

It’s all this new technology keeping me in shape. I wear sensors all over my body so the doctors can monitor me. Sometimes I’ll get a text from my GP advising me to take painkillers, because he’s seen from the sensors that my back’s going to be hurting tomorrow when I wake up. It really is amazing.

When I reach the bottom of the stairs and pull the lever to open the doors of the high rise flat I live in, the heat hits me instantly. I’m all for warm weather, but a 40 degree Parisian summer is nothing to smile about, though it is something we’re used to after about 20 years of global warming. I pull on my jacket and set out into the sun, instantly feeling the relief as the nano-technology cools me down.

Heading to work, Spotlight Europe
Heading to work (Flickr:Stephane Mignon/licensed under CC BY 2.0)

I head down the street towards the synagogue. It’s a bit of a walk, because there aren’t a lot left. Most have been replaced by industrial buildings and high density housing. I hear a call of “Bonjour!” from behind me and turn, knowing who it is. Rachel is the only one who still talks to me in French. I’m not sure anyone other than us still knows how to speak it.

Rachel is my only Jewish friend left in France. Many of our old friends left for Israel back in the early 2000s to escape anti-Semitism. Personally, I’m willing to stay until the last synagogue has been demolished. Paris is my home.

I can still contact all my old friends through Facebook. Even they have stopped speaking French though. English is the big one to know now. “The language of business” as they say. My English is quite good. It was easy for most people to pick up as we learned a lot in school. It was more a case of remembering than learning.

As we get closer to the synagogue the population begins to increase. This is a poorer part of town than we are from, so more people here have to get up early to do the jobs no one else wants to do. Not that we’re well off. Far from it. If I was well off I certainly wouldn’t live here. I’d live in the other end of Paris, with proper housing and gardens, and with the 4 families that literally own most of the city. But that’s wealth distribution for you, I guess.

“We arrive at the synagogue, dirty and in disrepair”

We arrive at the synagogue, dirty and in disrepair, tucked in at the back of an alley and quickly say our daily prayers before leaving again. I remember when I was a lot younger having set prayer times, definitely more than once a day. Now I just pray when I can.

I say goodbye to Rachel and she heads off towards the train station. Thankfully I have a car, so I make my way to the underground car park where I left it. I used to be a teacher when I was young. I had to retrain though, there’s not as much demand for teachers as there once was, what with the ageing population. I worked in various offices for a while, then retired. After the collapse of the pension funds I went back to work. I’m the secretary of a software firm now. I have to keep myself going for about the next 30 years according to recent studies, after all.

I get into my car and set it to the destination “work” then sit back and let it drive me there. There’s no need to stop for petrol, since everything runs on electricity. It’s a shame almost, I used to enjoy driving.

“I order dinner on my mobile phone”

I arrive at work and set myself up at my desk, ready to start the day. Jianming is at the desk with me today, as every day. He greets me in Chinese and we talk for a while. Chinese is another language that’s been coming into a lot of use lately. I learned it mainly so I could speak to Jianming, but it’s actually turned out to be quite useful.

I order dinner on my mobile phone on the way home – thank god the euro is still in use, I don’t think I’d be able to get used to a new currency on top of everything else – then jump into my car, which takes me yet another new route home, since it’s programmed to avoid traffic congestion. I get back to my apartment and take the stairs back to my room. I eat my dinner and phone my sister, before going to bed.

About the author
Bronagh Scanlon, Spotlight Europe
Bronagh – author at Spotlight Europe

Bronagh (16) participated in the Dublin edition of the “My Europe” workshop. She´s a student in Mount Temple Comprehensive School.

 

Regionalisation: Chance for Europe

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Catalan people demonstrate for an independence referendum in Barcelona / September 2014 (Flickr:Joan Campderrós-i-Canas/licensed under CC BY 2.0)

The idea of Europe as a unified and prosperous continent, particularly in light of the devastating financial crisis and recent election results, cannot be considered to sustain itself anymore. Especially young adults have expressed their disappointment and disillusionment with current political processes.

The European South is hit by soaring youth unemployment; economies are at the brink of collapsing; and while the political establishment preaches the end of the crisis and the dawn of economic recovery, people are steadily losing their trust in European institutions and the Euro as our common currency. It can be of no surprise that in these challenging times, people turn to what they know and understand best: their region. They can hardly be blamed.

It needs to be noted that the trend towards greater identification with regional communities is not necessarily a step away from Europe. Both the Scottish and Catalan independence movements, for example, stressed that they see themselves as part of the European Union, yet as independent countries with all the sovereign rights associated with the status.

The youth does not want borders

Young people of this day and age do not identify with overly nationalist notions anyways. A Europe made up of borders is inconceivable to them. In an increasingly globalized world, however, they have developed an acute sense for regional cultural heritage, for a feeling of belonging that exists outside of the normative political and economic structures.

We need to respect this desire for stronger regional identity and greater self-determination, especially when European integration is increasingly perceived among people as an imposition.

The drawing of new borders, however, cannot be the answer. The close cooperation of European states has benefitted all. A return to nation states will only reproduce the problems that brought them together in the first place. What Europe needs are new impulses, creative ideas, and a greater political will to finish what was started more than 60 years ago.

A new dawn for Europe?

Scotland
Is the future of Europe one of regional identity? (Flickr:Phyllis Buchanan/licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In fact, the altered conditions offer a chance to redefine Europe. The slogan of the European Union “United in Diversity” could finally become symbol for a symbiosis of greater political and economic integration and the respect for cultural diversity. At the moment it too often seems like a hollow phrase.

Now is the time for European institutions to foster what young people across Europe have been fully aware of for quite a while: Europe needs to be a place for all. Being united in diversity requires us to acknowledge that Catalonia is not Transylvania. Both, however, are part of Europe and should be respected as such.

Not just a European question?

The European Union has been a model for other regions of the world. The Union of South American Nations (USAN) is not much unlike the European Community once was, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) will be a strong economic competitor in the future. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is even a step further as it has moved from purely economic cooperation to showing signs of political integration as well. It may be a utopian perspective of the future, but one day the European Union could be only one of several regional blocs spreading the entire globe. In a century or so these blocs might even start integrating with one another. Should that day ever come, respect for regional diversity will be more important than ever.

As you can see, the issue is one that needs to be discussed. If you are interested, join us tonight (Friday, November 14) for YOUTH ON EUROPE | Regionalisation of the EU. We will broadcast the discussion of MEP Elmar Brok with students of the Youth Council for the Future live on the internet.

 About the author:

MP1Prof. Dr. Manfred Pohl is the Founder and Chairman of Frankfurter Zukunftsrat, the think tank that organises “My Europe”. more…

The Future Needs You!

Since the Maastricht Treaty, there is a European citizenship defining a series of rights. These have been completed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, which entered into force in 2009. Besides social rights and classical freedoms, citizenship most importantly includes political rights. This means rights to participate in the political process, for example by voting your Member of European Parliament, to address a petition to the Parliament or the very new possibility to sign a European Citizens Initiative. So these rights are about concrete democratic practices.

Modern democracy is founded on the force of the better argument and not of the force of violence. Therefore discussion and the exchange of arguments are crucial. Discussions precede every step of a political process: when you bring up a new idea, before you decide if and how you realise a project, before you vote a candidate for a public office and when you hold politicians accountable for their actions. If you want to convince others and win a majority, you have to put arguments on the table.

As most other things in life, democratic practices can be learned. By getting familiar with them, young people like you grow in their role as citizens. But what does it mean to you? Get used to ask questions. Learn to listen to the other. Participate in political discussions. It’s about learning by doing. And by the time you will become more self-confident. You have a voice, so use it! Become an active citizen! This is my wish in general. I encourage you also specifically to practice in the European context, because the future of Europe depends on its future citizens. The participation in the activities of “My Europe” is a first valuable step in this direction.

As European Commissioner, I initiated the Citizens’ Dialogues. We brought the debate on Europe to more than 50 cities all over Europe. We not just invited people to ask us their questions. We also listened to them. And we expect them to tell us what they want, what they wish. It was the possibility of a face-to-face communication. I learned a lot during these dialogues. Therefore this direct contact between Europeans and all political decision-makers should continue. I hope you will have the opportunity to participate in this new forum of democratic practice one day. Until then: Become an active citizen! Europe needs you!

About the author:

Speech by Viviane RedingViviane Reding is a Member of European Parliament and the European patron of the “My Europe” Initiative. From 1999 to 2014, she served in the European Commission, from 2010 on as Vice-President. more…

 

PS: Viviane Reding will gladly answer all questions you might have. However, due to time constraints, she cannot do so regularly. We will collect your questions and comments that have been submitted until and including October 20, 2014, and will pass them on to her. For all questions submitted after that, we cannot guarantee an answer.

Unfinished Struggles

I was touched when I recently read the memoires of Paul-Henri Spaak, the Belgium socialist statesman and one of the founding fathers of the European Union. How beautiful to see the passion of the man who in the middle of the fifties headed the group that worked on the Treaty of Rome (1957), the treaty establishing the European Economic Community.

The negotiations between the founding countries were not always easy. Sometimes simple issues like duties on bananas seemed insurmountable obstacles.

‘When I ran out of arguments and patience, I declared that I gave the struggling parties two hours to come to an agreement,’ Spaak writes in his memoires. ‘Otherwise I would invite the press and tell them that it was impossible to build Europe because we could not solve the issue of bananas.’

They made it. When the Treaty was signed on the 25th of March 1957, ‘the clocks of Rome sounded at full strength, to greet the birth of the New Europe,’ Spaak wrote. In his eyes it marked ‘the triumph of the spirit of cooperation and the defeat of egoistic nationalism’.

I work for the Dutch online journalism platform De Correspondent. At De Correspondent we don’t believe in absolutely independent journalism. Of course we strive to be open-minded and not driven by ideology. But we choose to show the parti pris everyone has and that journalists normally feel obliged to hide. I fully confess that I have warm feelings for Spaaks ideals, for the attempt to overcome narrow nationalism and seek common understanding and cooperation on our war-torn continent.

Just like the European Union, De Correspondent is a project of collaboration. We believe the time in which the journalist told “the truth” to the reader and simply sent his message to him, is over. We want to take the readers with us on our journalistic adventure. Under our articles readers have the possibility not to react, but to contribute, and to mention their field of expertise. Often very interesting debates take place on our site. Readers share their ideas with us and give us suggestions for research we have to do and new articles we have to write.

De Correspondent is made possible by our members. We started a year ago after setting a world record in crowd funding for journalism. We proved that it is not true that people do not want to pay for journalism on the internet. Maybe not for news, but our goal is to not to provide news. We want to delve deeper and to write background articles on the reality behind the headlines. On our site we have no advertisements, to avoid flickering banners and give a comfortable reading experience, but also to make sure that advertisers don’t have any influence on what we write.

At the moment about thirty correspondents work for us, each with their own field of expertise. I myself am ‘Correspondent Europe between power and imigination’. As I said, I have strong feelings for the European idea. But that doesn’t make me an uncritical sympathiser of the European Union as it is. On the contrary. My research as a journalist shows that there is a lot wrong with the EU. Lobbies often have too much influence on the making of European laws. Although the European parliament has become more and more powerful, many Europeans do not feel they are represented by it. And the EU wants to be a ‘strong global actor’, but often the member states act on their own in foreign policy.

The memoires that Spaak published in 1969 have the tittle ‘Combats inachevés, Unfinished struggles. The part in which he writes about the EU is titled:  ‘de l’espoir au déceptions’, from hope to deception. In the last chapter Spaak writes about the crisis of 1965, when France stayed away from European meetings, protesting against the plans for a common agricultural policy.

Fifty years later we are maybe in an even deeper crisis. How to overcome the economic malaise we’re suffering from for years already?  How to regain believe in the Europaean project in times of rising euroscepsis? How to find an answer to the chaos and the violence near our borders and really become a strong global actor?

As ‘correspondent’ I want to find out how Europe tries to find answers to these difficult questions and to renew itself. Not only the European Union, De Correspondent is also an ‘unfinished struggle.’ Indeed, in both cases we have just begun.

About the author:

Tomas VanhesteTomas Vanheste is journalist with the innovative online media platform De Correspondent in the Netherlands. more…