• May 23, 2014
  • LPC

The MovEurope bus travelled across Europe for three weeks, engaging with people of different ages and backgrounds on various issues affecting the European elections to be held this weekend, such as youth unemployment, migration, the rise of populism and extremism. As a conclusion of sorts, JEF Brussels organised in cooperation with JEF Belgium and JEF Europe a Café Europe on the future of social rights in the European Union, hosted by the Representation of the State of Hesse to the EU.

This Café Europe had a peculiar setting, as it was organised in different tables between which the different candidates – Saskia Bricmont for Ecolo, Philippe de Backer for Open VLD and Mathias Maertens for Stand Up for the United States of Europe – moved every fifteen minutes, to engage directly with the participants. I was myself invited, as Secretary General of TRAM:E, to give an introductory speech on socio-economic rights in the EU and host a table where I’d collect the participants’ impressions on the current European situation and the solutions that the different parties propose.

Like there are many Member States in the EU with many different views on how it should be run, so did our participants have many different views.

There were, nonetheless, points of agreement: while expressing concerns on just how far EU competence could be stretched, a majority of participants, mostly youth, agreed that equal socio-economic rights require minimum – albeit flexible – standards, to be set at the European level (be it a minimum wage, minimum healthcare coverage, etc.). There was much less agreement on whether the EU should take it upon itself to enforce these rights by, say, providing directly for these minimum standards through own resources and/or agencies. Cultural differences and discrepancies between Member States’ systems were mentioned as limits for a direct involvement of the EU.

All in all, this “speed-debate” format was much appreciated, even if it gave way to a classic critique heard since high school exams: «it wasn’t enough time!». The participants desired to understand more about the issues and leave having found common solutions. Now, who said the youth is not passionate about Europe and politics anymore?

Sebastiano Putoto

The author and moderator to the debate is Secretary General of TRAM:E (Theory, Reflection, Action, Movement: Europe), a youth and independent think tank dedicated to European integration, the promotion of civil rights and the participation of European youth in its democratic institutions.