< SWITCH ME >

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Photo: Outi-Maaria Palo-oja (flickr); Licence: CC BY 2.0

With major changes under way in Europe, issues such as widening economic and social disparities, growing Eurosceptic sentiments and the uncertain future of European integration are looming larger than ever. Policy-wise, an indication of the things to come is the recently published White Paper on the Future of Europe, where only two (No 1 “Carrying On” and No 5 “Doing much more together”) of the five outlined scenarios envisage piecemeal change. In terms of human capital, however, both the issues and the solutions are contained in EU staples, such as the European Voluntary Service (EVS), a youth-oriented mobility programme, reflecting the existing social gaps, but also, subject to reform, uniquely positioned to narrow them.

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Photo: zsoolt (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC 2.0
Central European University main entrance

A magical thing happened last week in Budapest – Europe became one notch more erratic and even less predictable. Viktor Orbán, the democratically elected leader of Hungary, in a befittingly authoritarian fashion, passed new legislation on Tuesday, April 4, reflecting its maker’s fondness of political control of science. The legal amendment was fast-tracked, with only a few hours given to lawmakers to seal the fate of academic freedom in the country. It was also tailor-made to fit the long-standing desire of the Central European University, one of Eastern Europe’s top-level universities, located in Budapest, to collect its things and beat it. Leaving behind such a gash in liberal values, that given time it can swallow Hungary, the European Union and, eventually, Uranus.

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Photo courtesy: Bernhard Ludewig
Musical Opening by Cielo Faccio Orkestar

These are the words of the manifesto “We Are Europe!” proposed by Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Ulrich Beck in 2012, a conceptual platform, driven by the far-reaching aspiration to create a Europe for everyone and reform the prevailing Europe of elites and technocrats. “Don’t ask what Europe can do for you but ask what you can do for Europe – by Doing Europe!” reads the manifesto. Motivated by the manifesto’s strong messages back in 2012 Allianz Kulturstiftung together with 14 partner organisations across Europe launched the European Voluntary Service for All (EVS4ALL) project – an ambitious plan striving for more inclusive and accessible European Voluntary Service (EVS), one of the European Union’s flagship instruments for boosting mobility, youth employability and social cohesion in Europe. On the 20th and 21st of March 2017, this pilot project came to a close with the conference “Volunteering for Social Change”, where the project’s outcomes, policy recommendations, and experiences were shared and further steps discussed.

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Photo: Theophilos Papadopoulos (flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Young Europeans are marching for Europe in demonstrations taking place across Europe’s capitals – but why today? Today, leaders of 27 European Union countries are meeting in Rome to celebrate 60 years since the Treaty of Rome was signed. The EU27, now officially excluding the UK, will sign a new declaration to honour the 1957 treaty, and pave the way for European Union in a post-Brexit era. On the 1st of March the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, released his White Paper on the Future of Europe – a document where he presents 5 scenarios in which Europe can face the challenges it has lying ahead. Juncker pointed out that this paper is to serve as the beginning, not end, of a debate on the future of Europe. The paper itself underlines that Europe is facing "unprecedented challenges" which "show no sign of abating". And Juncker is certainly not wrong there. With rising populism, violent extremism and a hateful, divisive, rhetoric of exclusive nationalism beginning to dominate public discourse – we need to have a serious conversation about how Europe is to overcome these challenges and return to its founding principles of peaceful cooperation, respect of human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality and solidarity among European nations and people. Having said this, what is the Treaty of Rome and what precedent does it set for Europe's celebrations today? And most importantly, what Europe does Juncker's White Paper set out, and how effectively will any of these scenarios help Europe face its perilous journey ahead?

NEXT ISSUE 01.01.2018