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EDP MEPs tell us why they chose to fight for Europe

"Languages, cultures, regional differences and local initiatives must be cherished because they are Europe’s strongest asset."

EDP ‘Europe Days’ in France showcases European policy challenges

Militants participants à un atelier d'échanges avec les députés européens du PDE

The European Democratic Party returned to Guidel, France, on 23-25 September for its annual ‘Europe Days’. The three-day EU policy-focused event in the Breton oceanside town included 10 high-impact workshops and two plenary sessions. The EDP-hosted Europe Days ran alongside ”l’Université de rentrée”, an annual event convened by Mouvement Démocrate – the EDP member party in France.

Policymakers, experts drill down on Europe’s approach to war in Ukraine, China relations at plenary sessions

The event featured two plenaries sessions that brought together some 500 attendees of both the MoDem ‘rentrée politique’ and EDP Europe Days. The first plenary explored EU policy responses to address an unstable, multipolar world. The first plenary offered a “masterclass” in geopolitics to better understand the new world order and its grey areas. A session panel moderated by European parliamentarian Laurence Farreng (EDP and MoDem, France) featured Jean-Louis Bourlanges, president of the foreign affairs committee in the French National Assembly; Jean-Yves Le Drian, former French minister of foreign affairs; analyst and strategic communicator Oxana Melnychuk ; and European parliamentarian Marie-Pierre Vedrenne (EDP and Modem, France).

Melnychuk , a Ukrainian, started the session by expressing her country’s longing for a free, fair, and democratic future: "For us, the words 'liberty, equality, ‘fraternity' speaks to us too." On the war in her homeland, she opined: "Putin lost the war from the very first days, as soon as European solidarity with Ukraine appeared."

Jean-Yves Le Drian warned: “This crisis in Ukraine will be long. And I want to say it here: it is the Ukrainians who will have to set the conditions for the negotiation. Vladimir Putin has multiplied and accumulated underestimates on Ukraine, such as on the strength of the Ukrainian nation, the responsiveness of Europe, the consequences on NATO, and finally the state of its army."

Le Drian added: "We share together that the future of Europe remains open, in particular on defence in Europe. We have progressed in an unimaginable way, and it is a hope in this highly disorderly, complex and conflicting universe." Melnychuk responded: “The issue of security and defence in Europe can no longer be done without the Ukrainians. Because unfortunately, Ukraine now experiences war.”

Bourlanges gave a historical look at the foundations of the European project and border disputes, saying: "The European Union was originally built for peace, not for war. It was built to smooth borders, not to defend them."

MEP Vedrenne shifted subjects during the debate to China, where negotiations with China and the European Union have moved in Europe’s direction, saying: “What can move China is access to our internal market.” She added: “When Lithuania tried to resist China, China used economic pressure. That’s why we are working on anti-coercion measures.” Vedrenne also spoke about the role of the democratically elected European Parliament in policy debate on foreign policy: “It is our role as European parliamentarians to give substance to strategic autonomy so that the European Union decides when, how and with whom it wants to exchange.

 

Second plenary: Democracy must withstand the extremes

The second plenary followed, with opening remarks by Stéphane Séjourné, president of the Renew Europe group in the European Parliament. He also serves as general secretary of Renaissance – a French pro-European, centrist political party. He contrasted his parties’ call to rally 'Together' with the move to extremes as seen in recent elections in Italy. He noted: “The rally ‘Together’ is not an empty word. I say it all the more so since the opponents of our rallies will probably still be the extremes as we see in Europe."

Séjourné was preceded by a brief intervention by EDP President François Bayrou, who also serves as Mouvement Démocrate party leader. He provided his analysis of the first panel, saying: "We have always considered that the watchword within the majority was alliance. Alliance requires reciprocal esteem, solidarity and freedom of expression."

Edouard Philippe, Mayor of Havre, in Normandy, and former Prime minister of France as well as president of Horizons, the 3rd party of the presidential majority in France, spoke after Séjourné’s address. Philippe stressed the change in global perceptions about Western democracy, saying: “Many people have the impression that Western democracy is no longer the model adapted to our society and that it would not provide the necessary answers. This idea is extremely dangerous and powerful.”

Europe and the verge of a nervous breakdown

More than 300 people attended the 10 EDP workshops, bringing together experts, policymakers and activists to tackle policy issues affecting Europe. Workshop participants delved into policy challenges to tackle an unstable world now moving to a multipolar one. The Friday night kick-off fell under the theme: “Europe on the verge of a nervous breakdown.” European Affairs experts Edouard Gaudot and Alexandra Leuliette served as panellists, exchanging on ideas about the future model for the economy while breaking down ideas such as 'sobriety', linear economy vs. circular, and EU decision-making.

Gaudot noted: “Europe is a collection of actors; Brussels is not unique. The decision results from a process with multiple actors involved.” On international markets he noted: “The norms of the European common market have been turned upside down by outsourcing abroad.”

The panel also tackled youth and societal topics, where Leuliette noted: “Young people are increasingly involved in transnational politics. Whether it's the marches for the climate or LGBT rights for example. She also argued for the need for electoral reform in Europe, saying, “More than ever we have to fight for transnational lists.”

Peace management: Taking a European approach to conflicts

EDP Vice-Secretary General Frédéric Petit joined Sorbonne University professor Laurent Warlouzet for a talk on how best to manage peace in Europe.

Petit, a French national assemblyman representing French people situated in Germany, Central Europe, and the Balkans, speaking on the war in Ukraine, explained: “The war brought Ukrainians together around their nation, but also around their democratic institutions. The Ukrainian Parliament is working harder than ever. "

"The conflict must be managed. Europe applies a humanist management of conflicts, to face global challenges. And it is this model which is under attack in Ukraine."

Warlouzet focused on military policy in Europe, describing the current state of military cooperation: "There is a gap between institutional Europe and the desire for power. The new strategic compass allows us to move forward, but we are still far away.”

2022: The European Year of Youth

A panel on the European Year of Youth 2022 explored how policy must be done with young people in mind. The European Year of Youth provides a springboard for broader discussion on the needs of young people, especially in these uncertain times.

Led by Laurence Farreng, European Parliamentarian from France, alongside Ugo Rostaing, Secretary General of the Young Democrats for Europe, the one-hour panel showcased the YDE’s role.

Rostaing said: "Making proposals on behalf of European youth is part of our mission at the Young Democrats.”

Farreng added: “We are pushing to extend the European Year of Youth to 2023. Youth must continue to be at the heart of our policies.”

Grey borders in Europe

In the fourth panel, Petit joined Pierre-André Hervé, president of the Cercle Agénor, to tackle ‘grey zones’ in Europe. Found in Baltic countries like Estonia applied to areas that boarder Russia, he observed: “There is a model that wants clear borders – that of cooperative countries – and another model that calls for grey borders. Russian imperialism, for example…Imperialism needs grey zones. The inviolability of borders is crucial and must be defended, in Ukraine and elsewhere.”

He added that the border is not a wall, nor a line. “A border defines responsibility as a citizen… We have to get away from a narrow vision of the border. It does not define a language, a culture, nor population -- a simplistic vision often used by sovereigntists."

Cercle Agénor president explored the EU model is based on international reconciliation, calling it a “unique model” which started with the reconciliation between France and Germany.

Ukraine War and the energy crisis

A midday panel addressed the war in Ukraine, with MEP Christophe Grudler joining Sylvain Waserman, former Vice-president of the French Assemblée nationale. The session looked at com the European Union can organise itself to respond to the energy crisis.

Grudler, who serves on the ITRE committee covering industry, research, and energy, noted that the emerging energy crisis actually started before the war in Ukraine. He added that the energy crisis was “greatly accelerated with the war, and this showed the limits of our energy import model." He also called for more energy production with the European Union, so it can have its “energy destiny” in hand.

Waserman explored the energy markets stating: “When these markets behave in a completely crazy way – as they are now – it's normal that the State would act. And in this instance the EU helps member states take back their hand."

Trade policy

A panel on trade policy followed that covered European Union efforts with trade partners around the world. The session focusing on a host of related issues, including around digital policy to manage large U.S. tech giants as well as tax avoidance schemes in tax haven countries both within and outside the European Union. Participants posed questions to MEP Vedrenne, a Breton and a co-president for Europe Ensemble delegation at the European Parliament. She was joined by Charles de Marcilly, a political administrator at the Council of the European Union’s General Secretariat, who also responded to questions from the fully enthralled listeners.

Big social issues stemming by the international climate challenge

Yannick Mireur, founder of the Nexus Forum, shared a panel with MEP Sylvie Brunet, a vice president of the Renew Group in the European Parliament.

Brunet shared with a full room of engaged MoDem party members the message that the European Union wants to help workers in the transitions on both ecological and digital fronts. For example, on transport the disruption brought about by battery electric cars brings new challenges for the car industry workforce. She said: "Making an electric car does not require the same skills as an internal combustion engine-built (ICE) car." Relatedly, she shared that the EU parliament recently voted in favour of legislative efforts around the Social Climate Fund. She said: "This will really help EU workers when transitions of their sectors happen. She later concluded on a reassuring note: “Faced with climate change, the European Union has its part to play in supporting its citizens and leaving no one behind.”

 

EDP parliamentarians elected from France convened in the mid-afternoon a special workshop to respond to questions around Europe Days. Mesdames Brunet, Farreng, and Vedrenne, along with Max Orville, Grudler and EDP Secretary General Sandro Gozi held an hour-long look with event participants about the work each parliamentarian focuses on. Madame Farreng talked about the Conference on the Future of the European Union, saying “The Conference last year focused on the Future of Europe, 800 citizens drawn by lot, coming from all over the EU. This conference could lead to a revision of the European treaties. We have asked for it.”

MEP Vedrenne explained her work on the International Trade Committee saying: “I push to include European strategic autonomy in our work. And there too, we succeeded during the French presidency of the European Union! For example, on the reciprocity of public procurement.”

In his remarks, Grudler focused on areas like space policy: “Strengthening EU autonomy in space is one of my priorities. The new ‘connectivity’ satellites efforts, on which I am rapporteur, will contribute directly to this!”

MEP Max Orville, vice chair of the delegations to the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (DACP), noted on policies affecting to members of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) : “We cannot apply the same rules on the continent to countries overseas – thousands of kilometres away. This is also why I got involved: to take into account at EU level the special aspects of these countries.”

Sandro Gozi closed out the event looking at the big picture, concluding: "Democracy is in crisis all over Europe. That's because democracy requires time for debate when we need faster decisions in an instantaneous world. He emphasised: “More than ever, we want to strengthen European democracy, and the role of European parties. With real transnational political movements. “

African relations with the EU: Questions and answers.

A penultimate panel gathered with MEP Orville and Albert Nsengiyumva, Executive Secretary, Association for the Development of Education in Africa. Under the theme "Building loyal and solid relations between the Union and Africa", Orville asked pressing questions for policymakers: " Europe is questioning its relationship with Africa. What relationship does Africa want with Europe? What cooperation can we do together? There is a need for clarification.” Nsengiyumva concluded: “Africa must reinvent itself, and Europe can help it develop on its own.”

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‘Parlement’ TV show screened

The final panel at Europe Days featured a screening of the first episode of television series ‘Parlement’. Produced by France Television and available on streaming, it tells the story of Samy, a young parliamentary assistant in the European Parliament. Freshly hired, he knows little about European institutions, but hopes to get away with faking it with charm. MEP Laurence Farreng convened the screening of the sharp-witted and dry-humoured comedy.

Farreng introduced the showing, explaining that this kind of production provides a high-impact way to bring the EU institutions to people in Europe. Written in a TV comedy show format, the show brings viewers into the EU policy world and explains much about how the European Parliament and other EU institutions work

EDP outreach in September

The event in France was the second outreach event during September convened by the European Democratic Party. Earlier in the month, EDP hosted in Frankfurt Germany its "Zukunftsmacher Europa". Some 100 invitees from the Freie Wähler Bundesvereinigung, an EDP member party, took part on 8 and 9 September to exchange ideas on topics such as climate protection, digitisation and inflation. People aged 16 to 81 – from all German regions – included young people, students, working-age adults, and pensioners. For EDP, it was a chance to listen to what citizens want from government both now and in the future. Events in both France and Germany provide examples of EDP's people-focused outreach and policy formation. 

Journée de l'Europe - Guidel (FR) - 23-25 September 2022