At nearly 30 years old, European citizenship is still being sought. The political union that was to come into being with the European Union is constantly being called into question by the difficulties of coordination between member states. The financial crisis, the reception of migrants or the management of the COVID-19 epidemic have shown that behind the concept of union lie many realities.
This is why we Young Democrats for Europe are working to make European citizenship a reality for the 450 million European citizens.
The Maastricht Treaty provides that “Every national of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union”, which we interpret it in a broad sense: as the quality of a citizen, belonging to a community greater than the sum of the States that constitute it and representing a set of values and rights that provide access to participation in a transnational public space.
More than a definition, we believe that European citizenship must now become a reality.
● Making effective the rights granted to European citizens
We, Young Democrats for Europe, welcome all the rights acquired by European citizens since 1992. However, although they are numerous, we regret the fact that European citizens have very little knowledge of them.
As a political party, we believe that it is essential that the right to vote in European and municipal elections, the right of petition and the right to launch an European Citizens’ Initiative become more widely exercised.
This is why we will strengthen our communication and training actions on these rights. With the aim to ensure that the modalities for exercising these rights are clearly accessible and that citizens can effectively make use of them.
More than pedagogy, we will work, in collaboration with the other European political parties, to implement tools that citizens can use to raise awareness about these rights, which are essential to European democratic life.
Finally, we do not forget all the other rights given by European citizenship. Freedom of movement, consular protection or access to European documents and to the European Ombudsman are real advances for all citizens of the Union.
We therefore keep in mind that it is all these rights that must be known by European citizens in order to make them effective. To deprive oneself of them is to renounce to one of the foundations of the European Union, and therefore the exercise of one’s full and complete freedom within a State governed by the rule of law.
● Giving primacy to the values of the EU over its policies
The values of the European Union are multiple and subject to many political interpretations. This is why we will rely on those which are at the heart of the ideological corpus of our member parties as enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), i.e. “human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities”.
Because we are democrats, we cannot tolerate any violation of the rule of law. Freedom of opinion, freedom of the press, independence of the judiciary or government control are the foundations of our society. Aware that promoting them around the world is essential, we must first ensure that these principles are guaranteed within the 27 member states. This is no longer the case.
This is why we, the Young Democrats for Europe, are in favour of making European funds conditional on respect for the rule of law. Indeed, legal measures as vigorous as those provided for in Article 7 of the TEU cannot remain without effect. Although it is true that the financial argument does not solve everything in itself, it will act as a new tool to ensure respect for democracy in Europe.
● Ensuring the legitimacy of the EU through the participation of citizens in its functioning
The 2019 European elections saw an increase in citizen participation, especially among young people, for the first time since they were held. This is a first victory and we celebrate it. However, we must continue to invigorate European democracy with all the means at our disposal.
To do this, we will set up exchange times for young people with the ten MEPs who represent us in the European Parliament. They are our strength and our legitimacy; we will be able to rely on their skills to strengthen a European democratic system that is often far from its citizens.
In addition to relying on our elected representatives, we will provide position papers for each current European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) in order to make them more accessible and to democratize their functioning. Debating them means making them exist. And on the basis of the many petitions posted online, we want European youth to take ownership of the ECI, which allows us to mobilize all European citizens.
Finally, and because a democracy cannot be envisaged without the confrontation and debate of ideas, we want the next Conference on the Future of Europe to be open to as many people as possible. The agoras envisaged will have to cover all the subjects for which the European Union is competent, including those for which it shares competence with the States. These agoras will have to be physically distributed in each Member State in order to reach all citizens and not just an already informed public.
As a youth organisation and because we are the future actors of Europe, we also insist on the need to dedicate an agora to youth. This would be held both online and it would travel throughout the Member States to diversify the audiences that can be reached.