YDE and LYMEC welcome an open future of wealth, sustainability and innovation entrepreneurship

We, the young liberals and democrats, have insofar enjoyed a European continent open to travel, trade, studying, working and living wherever opportunities are best. Binding our economies and societies together has guaranteed peace, secured the European leadership in the world and furthered the rights of the individual. Young people need to be the guarantors of the values of human rights, democracy and transparency that set the foundation for European cooperation. At the face of disagreement on small scale, the EU debate has to roll back to its core values and the four freedoms.

Digital change, entrepreneurship and fair labour market

We young liberals and democrats think the EU needs to take a courageous position on how to reform the labour market, where entrepreneurship is encouraged and technological advances are considered an opportunity. We think that the EU should make sure there is no room for exploitation on the labour market. We think the EU should also make sure there is no breach of legal contracts within the labour market. The digital transformation of the economy is the heritage of our generation, it is the outcome of technological breakthroughs that open new opportunities, and it is up to us to seize them to the fullest. There is no changing the path of development of the market, rather we young liberals and democrats need to accommodate and create flexibility at the face of change, including improvement of conditions for start ups and easing the transition from obsolete jobs to new ones.

Press freedom and ethics

According to us young liberals and democrats, now is the time to tackle fake news and cyber propaganda, coming from all directions, with the goal to increase transparency and citizens’ decision-making powers. In this regard, we young liberals and democrats actively promote and defend press freedom, and press for institutions that assess that every freedom is accompanied by requirements regarding ethics. The young generation sees the need for ensuring education in independence of information and the universal respect of ethics, and the role of Social Media in spreading false information should not be underestimated as well.

Populism, rhetoric, getting the message out to citizens and youth in leadership

We, the young generation will advocate for a new fact-oriented rhetoric in the fight against populism, with a focus on the democratic credentials and the aim to reach the general citizen. We call on the EU institutions to outline a roadmap to encourage and assist member states in setting up programmes to improve critical thinking skills in an online context in order to counter disingenuous content. The EU, as a democratic union, is a value in its own and a method for regional decision-making. Upholding credibility of the institutions is therefore of utmost importance.  Young people are not only the future EU leaders but are also the leaders of today, so the EU should invest more in strengthening structured dialogue on all levels of government: local, national and international.

Cyber threats, terrorism and defence

These information challenges, along with terrorism, stress the need for increased security cooperation and cyber security at home. Long-standing partners are changing their position towards the EU and these changed circumstances create the basis for deepened defence cooperation, starting with military procurement and enhanced intelligence sharing and increased military cooperation with the EU neighbourhood policy countries. For that reason and in order to strengthen the defence cooperation it would be convenient to have a common asylum system, as well as a proper European border control agency. We the young liberals and democrats believe in safeguarding the privacy and integrity of European citizens and standing up against any attacks on internet freedom and civil liberties.

Trade, sustainability and global opportunities

We young liberals and democrats believe in fair trade and in a priority for green and sustainable choices as well as a long-term view on equal opportunities to entrepreneurship and trade globally. When populists promote protectionism, we the young liberals and democrats want to see an open trading Europe. We call on the EU to continue to negotiate new bilateral and multilateral trade agreements to stimulate economic cooperation. We believe the EU must be at the forefront of green growth in all sectors and adopt regulations that regard the long-term consequences of our choices including a specific, comprehensive plan for decarbonising the European energy mix. We young liberals and democrats demand openness of negotiations of trade agreements and ask decisionmakers to communicate better as citizens have shown a lack of trust in the agreement processes. Free and fair rules-based trade agreements, guided by the basic rules in the EU treaties should always be the basis for agreements. Human rights, labour and environmental standards need to be guaranteed in the trade agreements also in the future. Trade agreements guarantee the market competition and reduce protectionism, while at the same time also cementing universal values and peace.

CETA, lessons to be drawn from a failure

CETA, the free-trade agreement between the European Union and Canada, has finally been signed on the 30th of October after several days of uncertainty due to the opposition of the Parliament of Wallonia. The Young Democrats for Europe welcome this conclusion but regret this episode that leaves the EU further weakened. Three lessons can be taken from it.

The need for democracy, openness and transparency should never be underestimated but rather answered. Donald Tusk himself admitted that the debate triggered by Wallonia had been “profitable” in disclosing “credible information” to the citizens. Indeed, the EC must shoulder its responsibility as “government of the EU” and explain its projects directly to the European citizens in the media, as every government would do when drafting national laws. Such a dramatic situation could have been avoided had the European Commission engaged in a dialogue with Wallonia earlier. This should be borne in mind for future negotiations.

However, this need for more open procedures should be primarily answered at the European level, by associating the European Parliament more closely to negotiations, and the public opinion as soon as possible. Each of the treaties signed by the European Union cannot have to be ratified by nearly 40 national or regional Parliaments, with one refusal risking to jeopardize the whole process. This goes with the credibility of the Union as a global actor. Stronger competencies must be given to the EU and to the European Parliament in trade policy.

The rejection of free-trade agreements does not only come from their lack of transparency, but also from a doubt in the benefits of free-trade itself. We believe that free-trade brings wealth and opportunities to populations but despite its benefits, free-trade also has its losers. A European trade defence instruments should be put in place. If Europe and its Member States do not build a more sustainable framework for free-trade, there will be a risk for the populist message to take over. Free trade cannot be the only political horizon given to European citizens.

Picture: European Parliament AudioVisual Department 

Back to our June’s event on European Borders in Paris

The Young Democrats for Europe organised a seminar in Paris on “European borders” on the 12th, 13th and 14th of June. This event mobilised members of the UDI Jeunes and Jeunes Démocrates to work on three different issues: European and international cooperation, cultural identity and education, as well as defence and security.

Young Democrats for Europe Board members welcomed the participants Friday evening at the UDI office. Antoine Carette, President of Jeunes Démocrates, in his remarks explained the importance of Europe for our future, the necessity of joint work between the MoDem and the UDI, and the Alliance of Democrats and the Liberals in the European Parliament where our MEPs sit. He described the debate that occurred at the EDP Council early June on migration.

Pierre Bornand, Vice-President of the YDE presented the organisation, explaining the structure and the different events, and recalled that the YDE welcome new motivated members to work on communication and other projects. . Sarah Robin, Deputy Secretary General of YDE, described the program of the seminar and how the participants should proceed to share their ideas and end up with contributions for each of the three commissions.

Saturday morning, all participants gathered in EstEnsemble agglomeration (local administration in charge of some public services) offices. The Mayor of Bobigny, Stéphane de Paoli, welcomed the audience in the room of the community council. After explaining that the European multiculturalism was in our veins, he reminded us that himself, born in a family of Italian immigrants, was a child of Europe. Then, participants split into three groups and join their respective committees to begin their work.

Olivier Cadic, French Senator representing French citizens living abroad, started with the first hearing. For him, there is a considerable lack of Europe in the development of companies & SMEs. Despite the existence of a European business model, it is not enough put forward by the Member States. He also addressed the question of the job of the future: the slogan should be “No people, no paper”. He already practiced this method in his company already, allowing it to benefit from flexible hours and make calls for specific skills at the right time.

Audition d’Olivier Cadic lors du séminaire… par JDE-YDE

The second person to be heard was Sophie Auconie, Governor at the World Water Council and French MEP from 2009 to 2014. For her, the existence of a European sense of belonging and a European culture depends mainly on the teaching of history and knowledge of European countries. She suggested that the history of the 28 EU countries should be reinforced at school. Moreover, she noted that the EU does not send the right signals to the youth by naming a Hungarian commissioner for education and citizenship, country where we can see an authoritarian drift during the past months.

Audition de Sophie Auconie lors du séminaire… par JDE-YDE

After a convivial lunch with Sophie Auconie, it was the turn to our last guest, General Perruche, to speak.

General Perruche was the Director-General European Union Military Staff from 2004 to 2007. Since 2012, he is the President of Eurodident -France, an association gathering 14 countries and specialised on European defence issues.

According to General Perruche, Europe’s fundamental problem is that the European nations transfer the skills they lose or have already lost. It should also be remembered that the last French White Book on defence was issued in 2013. It has a chapter on what Europe can do for France, but not on what France can do for Europe. This represents well the current situation of European cooperation and problems of national selfishness.

Audition du Général Jean-Paul Perruche lors du… par JDE-YDE

The three committees continued their work during the late afternoon. In the evening, participants gathered around a dinner offered by the EDP.

On Sunday morning, at the MoDem offices, the rapporteurs of the three committees presented the first written proposals of their commission. They also answered many questions from members of other committees.

The weekend ended with a brunch offered by the PDE. Participants were able to complete their exchanges in a friendly atmosphere and share their contacts in order to finalize the work of the commissions, which will be sent to MEPs during fall to contribute to the current debate within the EDP and ALDE group.

Google and Gazprom cases: important steps for Europe

These have been busy weeks for the Directorate General for Competition, the almighty European market regulator. Spurred by its iron fisted Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, on the 15th and 22nd of April, the European Commission decided to take action against Google and Gazprom, over allegations of having abused their dominant position on the market. These decisions are without prejudice of the outcome of the investigation, but the two firms may face fines up to 10 % of their turnover, amounting to billions of euros.

DG COMP: the world’s most powerful competition authority

Competition policy is one of the few competences exclusively exercised by the Commission – the Member States keeping their own competition authorities for issues relevant to their own national market – making the DG COMP the world’s most powerful competition authority. European competition law does not condemn the dominant position one can acquire through fair competition, innovation and the better quality of your products. It aims at protecting the consumer by keeping big firms from using their power to strengthen their position and eliminate competition, in order to favour their products or services and charge higher prices on the market.

After having conducted a 5-year investigation, the Commission believes Google has exploited its dominance in the online search engine market- it currently holds 90 % of this market in Europe – to prioritise its own comparison shopping product over the ones of its competitors. Basically, a consumer searching for a comparison between products on Google would be more likely to be redirected to Google’s own comparison system than to the ones of its competitors, regardless of how appropriate Google’s service is to the request of the user. Google would be using its strength on the search engine market to gain power on other markets, stifling competition and ultimately harming consumers. Having been a key actor for innovation in the last decades, Google is now suspected to unlawfully protect itself from potential competitors.

In the Gazprom case, the potentially illegal behaviour is more obvious. The Commission is investigating anti-competitive practices in Central and Eastern Europe. Given that Gazprom is a vital supplier of gas for many EU Member States, it enjoys a huge bargaining power that he may have used to limit cross-border competition and impose higher prices to consumers.

The United States and Russia quickly denounced the Commission decisions as politically motivated. Commentators have also pointed that the Commission might have acted to cover its own weaknesses on the digital and the energy market, two markets that happen to be the priorities of the Juncker mandate. There is some truth lying in these criticisms. As long as a foreign actor is capable of offering better or cheaper products to European consumers, it should be welcomed. Google, a company that has been fostering innovation in many markets ought not to be punished for its success. Competition regulation should remain primarily a legal tool and should not be twisted to serve any protectionist agenda.

Nonetheless, together with the law goes the way to enforce it. The Commission has a political role in setting up priorities and approaches in the way it implements its rules. To that extent, the Commission steadiness is important, for it has often been argued that Europe was unable to protect itself. The Union should use this opportunity to show that it is working for the sake of its citizens and is ready to use its strength to protect them. As the world’s strongest consumer market, the EU has the capacity to face the world’s biggest companies, a capacity that none of its member states enjoys alone.

It goes with the essence of the European project and its credibility

The final outcome of the investigations is not known yet and the Commission will have the possibility to settle an agreement with the parties. But the European Union has just shown that it was ready to act according to its rules when the interest of its citizens was threatened, no matter how big the adversary was. It is consistent with the vision the European Democrats have always defended, of a strong and protective Europe in globalization. It is crucial, because it goes with the essence of the European project and its credibility.

These developments are a vital reminder of how Europe can stand in a globalized world. United, it has the capacity to make its voice heard, divided it is bound to be an addition of small entities, struggling in front of tomorrow’s giants.

 Vincent Delhomme (@VincentDelhomme)

(Photo: European Commission)

Young Democrats for Europe (YDE)
Jeunes Democrates Europeens (JDE)
YDE is the youth wing of the European Party.We embrace the key role of democratic principles, underlined in the Lisbon Treaty and shrined in our political belief: democracy, freedom, equality, participation, sustainability and solidarity.

Contact us