Beyond the gloomy present: your Democratic impulse! – IED/YDE Winter Academy

This first IED/YDE Winter Academy Edition gathered in Brussels about 30 young centrists from all over Europe.

Speakers with various backgrounds and responsibilities participated in making this event interesting, lively and a general success. Amongst these speakers were François Pauli (deputy Secretary General of the ALDE Group), François Lafond (member of the Scientific Committee of the IED), Claude Rolin (Belgian MEP), Henri Malosse (Former EESC president), as well as young experts such as Marinella Davide, Wilhelm Bargum, Stepan Berko, Mihai Sebe, Jeremy Van Gorp, and Mathieu Baudier.

IED/YDE Winter Academy – Dec'15 – Beyond the gloomy present: y…

What do more than 30 young Centrists do just a week before Christmas? Reflect, exchange, learn and plan on a brighter future for Europeans and #Europe

Posted by Young Democrats for Europe (YDE) on Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The European Union is facing one massive challenge and all the participants agreed on it: the EU has nearly no budget and is facing great adversity and expectations both internally and externally. The EU’s Budget – 1% of the EU-28’s Gross National Income (just a little bit above Hungary’s GNI) – is far too small for 508 million Europeans. With 75% of its expenditure going to the Common Agricultural Policy and the Regional Cohesion Policy, there is very few left to tackle tremendous crises and challenges at a continent scale such as those currently faced by the EU.

We understand that we need more Europe where it is necessary to tackle those challenges. However, the current organisation of European institutions and the Eurosceptic climate in Europe is a break we, Democrats, will have to handle.

Improving our messages and how the EU is functioning are the only ways to tackle challenges such as youth unemployment, which is “a cancer for our societies”, as Claude Rolin explained. A dematerialised economy and politicians understanding what it means for someone to be unemployed for several months or years are one of the key issues Europe needs to address.

Our internal challenges should not make us forget about external challenges, those just happening at and within our borders. We need to rethink the way we approach the Eastern partnership considering the current and the potential future geopolitical situation. We need to support Democrats where they are, battling for a better, independent, society, just like in Ukraine.

No practical solution can be found without values. Solidarity was exuding from our different talks. Solidarity between citizens after the recent terrorist attacks, solidarity with smaller countries threatened by climate change, solidarity with youngsters who thrive to integrate, solidarity between Member States in tackling the refugees’ crisis.

It is crystal-clear that European Union members have not found the answer yet to handle the refugees’ crisis following a truly humanist path regarding refugees and migrants; nor in a fair way for Member States such as Greece, Italy or Spain which have been asked to handle on their own a region-wide situation, or Germany and Sweden showing solidarity for all others. Fighting opposition one by one is the best way to fail and fall one by one.

While the present does look gloomy, it is not too late to avoid more deadlocks. But solutions will not happen without everyone’s contribution and it is about time to roll up our sleeves.

Special thanks to Eimys Ortiz and Mathieu Camescasse for making it happen.

Also available in German, Basque and Spanish

Christians in Syria: A Precious Minority

Syria, an important crossroads for at least five millennia, is a country in possession of a very complex ethnic and religious character. 

Despite the widespread and well-characterized Arab-Muslim society, Syria is also very important for the history of Christianity. It’s from here that the Apostles began to evangelize Europe, firstly with Saint Paul, and some of the most important monasteries such as St. George, St. Thecla, the convent of our Lady of Saidnaya and the Church of St.Hanania in Damascus are located in Syria.

Out of 20 million inhabitants, Christians in Syria (mainly Greek Orthodox, Maronites, Syrian Orthodox, Melkites, Latin Catholics, etc…), while representing  almost 30% of the population until 1967, today make up only about 8-9% of the total number of inhabitants.

With the exception of a small minority that has still preserved the Aramaic language, the language of Christ, the Christian majority speaks Arabic and has lived in a predominantly Muslim land for nearly thirteen centuries. It has steadily promoted dialogue and has contributed to the progress of local society. Religious freedom, however, has found its place in the space provided by the Arab nationalist Party Ba’aht. The unifying strength of the system was not the Koran, but the adhesion en masse towards other slogans like their independence from and national dignity vis-à-vis the West, the struggle against Israel (especially for matters related to the Golan Heights) and the defense of the Palestinian cause.

Along with the majority of Syrians, Christians have thus suffered from the elimination of free political thought, the fight against the enemy and are continuously subjected to a barrage of propaganda. In the crisis in which Syria has plummeted, Christians find themselves in an extremely delicate position.

The Islamic fundamentalist Salafite matrix has so far been marginal. It has recently been increasing and, at the same time, the clash between the Sunni and the Alawite components is bringing more extremists to the fore.

So, while on one hand the Sunni population has not hesitated to take to the streets and trigger a revolt that has turned into a civil war, on the other hand, the other minority communities, including Christians, have found themselves faced with the dilemma of the strong opposition to Bashar Al Assad and at the same time the fear of Islamic extremism.

Christians, in order to resume dialogue and to stop the violence, have sought to pursue a policy of non-violent reforms along with other minorities (such as the Druze).

In this context, the Syrian Christians are divided into two groups, similarly to what transpired in neighboring Lebanon: the regime’s tacit supporters that want radical reform policies and the detractors, who are mostly young people demanding a regime change.

Many members of this group are active in opposition politics and are located in some regions like Bayrud and Arbi in the region of Damascus and in some areas around Hamh, Homs and Idlib.

The hope is, with continued violence and repression, the peaceful nature of the Christians will cause them to break this silence and concentrate all their efforts in opposition politics. Middle Eastern Christians, instead of giving in to resignation, could therefore play an important role by participating, with moderate Muslims, in the rebirth of their country and thus not interrupting relations of solidarity with the majority of their fellow citizens. Certainly, the outcome of this scenario will depend on many unknown internal and external factors.  


Nicola Censini LLM

Turkish-Syrian relations and the Syrian Spring: New Prospects for the Middle East

Of all Turkey’s neighboring states, Syria is considered to have the most complex and difficult relationship with it. The historical mistrust and territorial disputes, which originated in the early years of the tenth century as a result of the Arab struggle against the Ottoman Empire and continued in the French Mandate of Syria, worsened during the Cold War. In the 50s opposition was mainly ideological and it caused suspicions and hostility between the two countries that considered themselves the antithesis of a bipolar world. Turkey was the bastion of Western interests in the Near East and it maintained close relations with Israel while Syria aligned itself with Nasser and the Soviet-bloc. In the 80s and 90s the problem of exploitation of the waters of the Euphrates river caused another source of friction which, together with the various attacks and the territorial claims (such as the province of Hatay, formerly Sanjak of Alexandretta), stiffened the already difficult bilateral relationships.

An opening in relations between the two countries took place in 2004 following the outbreak of the Iraq war with the official visit in Turkey of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. During the same visit, in addition to signing a series of economic agreements on tax issues, investment and tourism, the territorial integrity and unity of Iraq was reaffirmed. After the Iraq war and the loss of Syrian control of Lebanon, the Syrian-Turkish relations increased also because Damascus was trying to overcome isolation and regional impasse. The common interests between the two countries were linked to the Iraq conflict and to the fear of the formation of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq. Furthermore, between the summer of 2007 and that of 2008, Turkish diplomacy, in addition to having made possible the implementation of important agreements in various subjects, took numerous actions to promote the signing of a real peace agreement between Syria and the State of Israel. For Israel, the core business of the peace process was based on the return of the Golan Heights to Syria, while it would have to suspend all support for Hezbollah and Hamas and to expel from Damascus the Hamas political leader, Khaled Mashaal. In addition, Syria would promise Israel an easing of diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The insertion of Turkey within the peace process, inspired by the policy inaugurated by Ahmet Davutoglu, the “zero problems with neighbors” was severely compromised, between December 2008 and January 2009, following the launch of the Military Operation Cast Lead by the Israeli government against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Those actions taken by the Israeli government and the subsequent sanctions against the occupied territories caused a strain in the diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel that not even the inauguration of Barack Obama at the White House in January 2009 was able to relieve. In Autumn of 2010, Syria asked Turkey to vigorously resume the process interrupted in summer 2008. However, the first uprising in Dara’a in February / March 2011 were now close and the harsh repression perpetrated by the regime of Bashar al-Asad in tackling street protests of the Syrian spring has rapidly deteriorated Turkish-Syrian diplomatic relations to the point that Turkey has openly criticized the actions of the Alawite regime and has disrupted diplomatic relations between Ankara and Damascus.

Between May and June 2011, the Turkish government offered the Syrian people and the opposition of the Syrian Alawite regime the possibility of providing international resonance to its dissent, hosting in Antalya the Syria for Change conference, which subsequently facilitated the establishment of the Syrian National Council, or rather the main platform of opposition to the Ba’athist regime of Bashar al-Assad. This gradual rapprochement of Turkey to the forces of opposition to the Syrian regime and the parallel disruption of diplomatic relations with Ba’athist Syria has inevitably provoked tensions between Ankara and Tehran. The response was swift. In October 2011, the former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Rahim Safani, harshly criticized the Turkish government, its projection of regional power, the weight of its relations with NATO forces and particularly the process of secularization promoted by Ankara towards Islam. The actions that Damascus decides to take towards Turkey will certainly be influenced by the position the latter will assume in relation to a hypothetical scenario of an armed intervention in Syria.

As is known, despite the recent condemnation of the massacre in the town of Hula by the UN Security Council and the incessant demands to Syrian authorities to stop the violence and to respect its commitments under the ceasefire, the use of military force in Syria does not seem to be a viable option because of the vetoes by the Russian Federation and the Republic of China. In recent weeks it seems rather more feasible that the prospect suggested by U.S. President Obama, following “the Yemeni model”, could open the way toward a “soft landing” which provides, in agreement with the Russian Federation, the exile of Bashar al-Assad, leaving a part of his government in power.

In addition to supporting the efforts of the Syrian opposition, it is evident that in this transitional scenario, Turkey could stimulate a dialogue with the various ethnic and religious groups of the country.

Among the alternatives to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, in fact, there is a direction towards an Islamic Syria, and from this point of view on several occasions, the Muslim Brotherhood said they were enthusiastic admirers of the Turkish model or a model able to overcome the secular authoritarian military creating a traditional and conservative system in terms of values, but distinctly liberal in terms of economic reforms.

A “new” Syria that is able to rise from the ashes of the regime of Bashar al-Assad will probably hasten to restore diplomatic relations with Turkey which were abruptly interrupted, could facilitate dialogue with Israel and would be forced to review their relations to the internal Iranian-led Shiite axis.



Nicola Censini LLM

Night 4 Democracy

On the behalf of recent tragic events in Syria, we decided to organize a sit-in protest in front of the Syrian embassies of European Union countries.

A marathon for the defense of democracy and freedom in Syria and the whole Middle East. The all-night-long rally starts from Rome Wednesday, November 30th 2011 at 6pm with the YDE President Marco Cappa and all the Italian political youth organizations (among them of course API Youth). Then moving to Paris with the Young Democrats of Bayrou and so on in other Member States throughout the night.

The YDE Council stated: “We can not accept that protesters adn civilians are killed while human rights are trampled on in Syria. We therefore require the creation of humanitarian corridors.”


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.

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