The European Union – living and acting together in the European space – is the only option for peace and welfare Brexit forces us to think “out of the box”
By Antonella Valmorbida, Secretary General of ALDA
ALDA – The European Association for Local Democracy, has at the centre of its mandate local governance and citizens’ participation at the local level, and it is an important partner of the Europe for Citizens’ programme. For more than 15 years, we have been implementing programmes on European Citizenship benefitting millions of EU and non-EU citizens. There were no doubts that what was coming up was not in the EU “fixed agendas”, neither “politically correct”.
The essential problem lies in the fact that the added value of the European Union project was not perceived as self-evident. We were – and we often are – confronted with the “need” to explain and “convince”. Which means we are already a step too late… The European Union – living and acting together in the European space – is the only option for peace and welfare. As simple as this. I am convinced that without Union, our continent is deemed to decline, as well as to economic and different forms of wars. The Union is not perfect and needs to be improved in many ways, but cannot be destroyed. An enormous responsibility lies on the shoulders of the EU members States, that have been identifying the European Union as their own permanent scapegoat for all the problems of their own failures. Even the results of the UK referendum are clearly an internal matter, which will affect now the world. Responsible are also the European elites, who often respond with a fixed agenda that cannot be changed, whatever happens. Years ago, while we were discussing the implementation of phases of the European Citizens Initiative, I remember well the point made by a representative of the Secretary General of the European Commission. To my observation of the immediate need to further empower the concept of European Citizenship, he responded that they would first have to deal with the regulations of the European Initiative, and only after would see what to do with my suggestion.
ALDA is not “selling” the shiny, plastic paper European project, but is focusing on the added value of it in our day-to-day life: peace, welfare, jobs, educations, health, rule of law, reduced corruption, justice, etc. We are working in eastern Poland, south of Italy, meeting people in Spain and difficult areas of France, and even in the UK. We know that we need to make sure that the EU project is understood as the answer and not as the problem, and we invite all the EU leaders not to consider their Citizens “incapable” to understand. We need to work together – institutions and citizens – to make it clear that isolation and nationalism will lead us to disaster. We need to work with citizens and especially close to Local governments that are the way between with institutions. It is basically a one to one conversation, with EU citizens. We love to do that and by doing so we discover every day that the European project is more appreciated and understood that what is seems through elections and media.
The programme Europe for Citizens is a fantastic instrument – transversal, apolitical (in the sense that it does not belong to any political party), addressing different kind of people and topics. It reaches millions of EU citizens. It could be the basis for a global approach to European citizenship and identifying very quickly the solution “out of the box” that gives a clear signal to EU citizens that the issue of the Brexit (but many more are the hot spots) is not another point in the agenda of the next meeting in Brussels…
Europe for Citizens should be right now identified as a priority of all the EU Member State and transcend even the borders and budget of the European Commission. It is as vital as economic and banking decisions. Just a thought… out of the box.
I am back from Georgia and Ukraine. Georgia held a referendum and choose the European path (against a pretty difficult Russian neighbour), while Ukraine has even died for it. What a lesson they gave to all of us! I am proud to work with truly Europeans and we may think to focus on open options about including those who want to be in, rather than only focusing on other problems. Just a thought… again out of the box…
Hugs to our British friends, just over the Channel! We feel that your place is together with us.
Antonella Valmorbida is the Secretary General of the European Association of Local Democracy.
She has a senior experience in promoting local democracy, empowerment of civil society and good governance in Europe, Eastern Europe and the Med area.
She has been the Chair of the Committee on Democracy and Civil Society of the Conference of the INGOs of the Council of Europe from 2008 to 2011 and she is the coordinator of the subgroup on local government and public administration reform of the Civil Society Forum for Eastern Partnership.
She was board Member of CIVICUS – the World Alliance for Citizens Participation. Since 2008, she is professor of the University of Padova in international decentralized cooperation.