Coming back from a year of traveling and sorting out all my thoughts was and is rather hard. How to put everything I have learned and seen in a few words? I have so many different texts and ideas but the difficulty is to bring them all together and make them readable.So, while I was still struggeling my dear aunt posted a competition on my facebook wall. A German foundation was asking for the youth’s vision of Europe in 2030. One should imagine to be the president of the European Commission in 2030 and give a new years speech to the people of Europe. The winner would get a trip to Rome and an interview with the president of the European Parliament Martin Schulz.
I realized that this could be the summary I was looking for. But the deadline was in just two days!! Finally, after quite a long time without too many words written, I had a challenge and I managed to hand in my speech just a few minutes before midnight at the closing date.
Surprisingly enough, I really won the competition! On February 27 I’ll go to Rome for a few days, enjoy the city and of course have an interview with Martin Schulz. I’m beyond happy about this oppertunity. More or less exactly one year ago I was in Brussels doing interviews with politicians. Now I can not just confront myself and a politician with my results but it also feels like an oppertunity to see how much I grew. I’m looking foreward to see if I feel different in the interview today than I felt one year ago.
But enough of this. Now I want to share my speech with you. I’m most happy about any comments, thoughts or critics on it. Also you are welcome to post any suggestions for questions to Martin Schulz.
Thank you for being with me all this time!
Dear citizens of the European Union Of The People,
I’m honored to be chosen to speak to you today. It’s a very special day for me. The beginning of a very special year. This year we celebrate the 10th anniversary of our crisis-conference in 2020.
The conference has been a live changing point for me and I’m certain it has been so for you, too. I remember this day, the first day of a new year, ten years ago vividly. It has been snowy and cold. Have you ever been walking the streets of a big city in the morning of a first January? Just as in every year relics of dirt and fireworks covered the streets of my city, Berlin. But in 2020 the morning-after dirt wasn’t the left over from a big party. Indeed, very few partied on New Year’s Eve 2019 in Europe. Most people protested. Just as they had been protesting and rioting for weeks and month back then.
By New Year 2019 we weren’t able anymore to count how many people died in the riots all over Europe which had been going on for years already – people who had been killed by the force that ought to protect us. As most of us Europeans I was scared, anxious for the future and almost hopeless for the European Union to survive. If I would have had one wish for the year 2020 back then it would have been: Please, just let me have a few days of normality in 2020. Who would have thought that I would not just get normality but something so much better? It’s just ten years from this day and I’m not scared anymore at all.
I believe in our future and I’m proud to be a part of our change, our achievements. I’m happy, optimistic and last night I saw people partying all over Europe. So what has changed in the last ten years?
In my speech I want to take you on a journey. A journey starting long time ago in a very different world than the one we live in today. A journey which has been hard sometimes and enjoyable on other days. A journey our continent has taken: The journey of the idea of a united Europe.
There had been very early ideas of a united Europe. Thoughts of philosophers and other great thinker in the 19th and early 20th century, but I think one can say that the idea became urgent and possible after Europe and the world were devastated by the two world wars 1918 and 1945. While the idea of national states had been a revolutionary one in the 18th century, people agreed now that national states cost too many lives and are just too dangerous. The overcoming of the national states was celebrated as an idea to avoid wars between European countries (and, generally spoken, so far it worked. I keep my fingers crossed). The construct today known as the “EU” began to take shape. But just as every first try it had flaws from the beginning on. We have to keep in mind that nothing like the EU had existed ever before and it had to be invented from zero.
In short, they created three main institutions, the EU-Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. From these institutions, the European Parliament was the only one directly voted for by the Europeans. However, the EU-Commission and the Council of the European Union had far more power than the European Parliament. With no right to initiate legislation, the European Parliament was basically a paper tiger. Also, since most of the institutions were located in Brussels far away from most European people, a majority of them did not identify with the EU. The situation became worse and worse. Voter participation, in the national elections as well as in the elections for the European Parliament, was devastating low. There was even a special term for the atmosphere in Europe: disenchantment with politics.
If one traveled around Europe in the 2010s years and asked the people whether they feel European, most of them would explain that the EU has very little to do with them. Most people felt powerless.
The situation was like a boiling pot and slowly it started to over boil. Protest started to happen and became more and more. In the beginning they seemed like unconnected events. Riots in Turkey, riots in Greece, riots in Spain, in Bosnia, Ukraine, France – all for slightly different reasons, but all so similar. Some people had big hopes for the protests. They thought uprisings might be a wakeup- call to change the politics and transport new ideas. Only there were no new ideas. Or they were hidden well. The ever-same pictures of the ever-same riots repeating year after year made us become apathetically. In the beginning, the EU would judge the nations around its border for their violence on the protesters, but soon enough we started to use armed forces against our own people, too. People died. Losses which still hurt me today. I want to think about these people today, too. I want us to remember them. It’s terrible that the idea of a united Europe, an idea made to give peace to a continent, did not only kill thousands of people who were trying to be part of it on its borders, but also ended in killing people inside of these borders. Those were the darkest moments of the European idea.
People’s trust in the EU or national governments was almost completely gone. In 2019, I, was paralyzed, and so were many of my friends and family. There was nowhere to go. I remember being so very scared that something could happen to my loved ones out on the streets. At this point, nobody really knew anymore what they were fighting for. “A better society”, “A world I want to live in”, “Fairness”, “Democracy” – those were the phrases protesters would use, but they had become empty phrases. I’m sure all of you remember these terrible days.
And then there was this revolutionary, desperate idea. It seemed to appear out of nowhere. A last try. The EU announced a conference, a crisis-conference. It was open to everybody and it was accessible everywhere. Huge efforts were made to make it the first law-giving, basic-democratic, digital and non-digital conference everybody could participate in.
All over Europe live stopped for that conference. For four weeks, Europe did nothing else than collecting ideas. TV talk shows opened their stages to everyone with an idea, the internet was involved and people could come to Brussels or any other government building and discuss.
It was a huge risk. From one day to another, the EU government had radically transferred all power to the people. Literally. People could have chosen anything. They could have chosen a dictatorship. Many self-nominated leaders were eager to rule the different parts of Europe those days.
Do you remember the moment the first results were announced? I do. I will forever. I think I never had as much goose-bumps as in this moment.
We – the people – decided to keep on going with a united Europe. We – the people – decided to not throw everything away that generations of people had worked so hard for. In the end, we – the people – remembered that one of the best qualities of the EU was that it was not a national state. The EU was not a fixed country. It was nothing that was thought through to the very end. The EU was still young. The EU was dynamic and ought to change all the time. During the conference, when they were taken seriously and were able to bring their voices in, people could appreciate this vibrant status of the construct EU. And we decided that this is what we want to keep.
But we – the people – also decided that we did not want the kind of EU we have had at this moment any longer. We did not want this kind of EU which turned out to be of no help whatsoever in our crisis situation. We decided: Our Europe should be a Europe of the People. We wanted to help ourselves. No more politicians to blame, no more disenchantment with politics. Simple as that: Europe Union of the People.
The EUP was born.
What does our new Europe contain?
Well, first of all there was the constitution. On the crisis conference 2020 we decided that we wanted to have a constitution. And we decided it should be made by the people. Everyone was able to apply to the constitution committee. Within six month thousands of people put themselves out there and out of them we voted for a committee to write our new constitution. I was honored to be in charge for the public relationship of the committee. It has been the most amazing thing in my live to see that committee working. Former politicians, ordinary people, philosophers, business men, starlets, even pupils discussed and finally agreed to a constitution.
I remember how nervous I was when the Europeans finally decided whether they want this proposal as their constitution or not. I think I did not eat anything for days and slept with the head on my laptop. But in the end an enormous majority agreed on our constitution! What a relief! What a feast! I was so, so proud.
Since most people didn’t relate to the EU far away in Brussels, we decided our EUP had to be based on the idea of subsidiarity. That basically just means that always the smallest instance possible is responsible. We somehow copied the idea of Germany’s federal system. Now we have cities and villages as well as regions who govern themselves. Our constitution gives a frame of human right, social rights and common sense, but everything in this frame can be filled by every city and every village themselves.
However, the core of this constitution is the liquid democracy 2.0. The liquid democracy 2.0 is by far the most revolutionary and live changing thing in it. It affects all of our daily lives. It is how we govern ourselves. It follows an concept as easy as this: You don’t have to have an opinion on everything.
We say the world is too complex to be handled by “all-knowing” ministers. We saw how politicians could not solve our problems at all. Our problems are too complex to be solved by one president and his team. And also we can’t oversee the world in its fascinating complexity. We always only know a little piece of it, but maybe we are an expert in exactly this piece?
I always use the following example when people not familiar with our democracy ask me how it works. Let’s say there is a woman called Eve living in a small city, somewhere in Europe. She cares about how the city’s money is spent. She believes spending money on infrastructure is the best thing her city can do. She worked in logistics for years and knows a lot about an efficient infrastructure system. Together with everybody who is into infrastructure, too, she writes a proposal about where and how much money has to be spend. When the group is satisfied with their proposal it is published in the internet, the newspapers and open for public in the city’s council hall, library etc. If nobody objects the proposal within one month, the money is spent like the infrastructure group wanted to. But everybody who doesn’t like the proposal can write an objection with a different idea how to spend the money. So if there is any objection about a proposal, everybody who is involved sits together and discusses a compromise. Once the compromise is found it is published, too. If nobody has any different idea, again, it is automatically legit.
The example can be transferred to every other aspect of our lives. Environmental laws, refugee politics, taxes, animal rights or bank restrictions. Whoever cares, cares and the rest can save their energy for something they are experts in.
Just what can’t be solved has to be carried to the next level. If Eve cares not only about infrastructure in her city, but also about a decent train connection and roads between Berlin and Paris, she can be part of the European Interest Group “Infrastructure”. If there are too many people who want to be part of the same group elections may decide about participation.
An administration period lasts four years. After this time new elections in popular Interest Groups have to happen and there has to be a new chance to decide about what is the money spent for. To keep the system most efficient nothing changes unless somebody cares about it and writes an objection.
Well, but of course all of you know what I’m talking about. It’s the system we live in daily and it proved to serve our needs very well.
But, yes. We aren’t perfect. We aren’t perfect, we had problems in the last ten years and I’m proud we had them. We aren’t rusty and immobile, we are able to change and we always will change.
We figured it is hard to find compromises sometimes. Sometimes, two experts just don’t see each other’s point. We found a solution. Nowadays, we have trained mentors, a completely profession, who are qualified to moderate in conflicts like this. And we have referendums if the Interest Groups can’t agree at all. But that is the case in less than 5% of all conflicts. Which is good, because a referendum basically violates our idea that you don’t have to have an opinion on everything.
All in all I can say I’m looking forward where our journey will take us to. Today, on the first day of another indefinite year with unknown challenges, I can say that I’m optimistic. If I look back I can see from where we came and I’m proud to be a part of what Europe has become. We didn’t had any riots during the last ten years. Surveys show that Europeans are positive about their future. And most of all: While in 2020 very little people identified with the European project, today almost all of us proudly say: I’m European.
Europe again became a continent where brave changes take place. Every day we take another step towards the world we want to live in. We – the people.