Only six months until the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions! A very young par­ty called Volt wants to enter this elec­tion with a pan-Euro­pean list, and among their mem­bers there are also sev­er­al AEGEEans. One of them is AEGEE-Aachen mem­ber Ben­ni Bat­tke. Anoth­er new asso­ci­a­tion was co-found­ed by AEGEE-Aachen mem­ber Katha Hertz. Ben­ni had a look at both young move­ments and wrote the fol­low­ing arti­cle.

Volt meet­ing in Berlin- On the right: Ben­ni Bat­tke

Life after AEGEE: still being AEGEEan, I joined first the move­ment “Pulse of Europe” after it popped up in Aachen. For almost two years I was active, we orga­nized ral­lies with open micro­phone, a march and dif­fer­ent oth­er events to pro­mote a pos­i­tive and bet­ter Europe.

After vis­it­ing the Gen­er­al Meet­ing in Lux­em­burg in 2017, I could not see any sig­nif­i­cant organ­i­sa­tion­al steps in Pulse of Europe. No open asso­ci­a­tion was formed, no clear com­pe­ten­cies or demo­c­ra­t­ic process­es were installed. Also, finan­cial trans­paren­cy was an issue. Since Pulse of Europe did not want to become a par­ty or even par­ti­san and hes­i­tat­ed to join forces with oth­er groups, I became inac­tive soon after.

In May this year a friend from Pulse of Europe told me he became active in this new Euro­pean par­ty named Volt. After a while I went to a meet­ing in Aachen and since then I am more or less active there. At least it is polit­i­cal, has rad­i­cal Euro­pean ideas and moti­vat­ed mem­bers, I thought to myself.

Volt meet­ing in Berlin

A closer look at Volt

Volt Europa is a 1.5-year old pan-Euro­pean par­ty. By now it has been reg­is­tered in 13 coun­tries, it has a lit­tle office in Brus­sels and maybe 2000 activists around Europe. It is com­pa­ra­ble to Newro­peans with a broad­er base, wider approach and more momen­tum after Brex­it. Inter­est­ing: as plat­form for their inter­nal work they are using Face­book Work­place, prob­a­bly as first par­ty ever.

Philipp Blum at the Volt meet­ing in Berlin, rep­re­sent­ing Y Vote

After being at their first gen­er­al meet­ing in Ams­ter­dam, where their short cam­paign pro­gram, the Ams­ter­dam dec­la­ra­tion, was vot­ed upon, I attend­ed the Gen­er­al Assem­bly of Volt Ger­many in Berlin one week ago. Here also AEGEE was on stage: Philipp Blum pre­sent­ed the project Y Vote and their new­ly devel­oped app „How to vote“, mak­ing it eas­i­er for EU expats to vote from anoth­er coun­try.

Back to Volt. The offi­cial state­ment says: „We are nor right nor left“. How­ev­er, look­ing at the pro­gramme it sure­ly seems pro­gres­sive and a bit lefty-green-lib­er­al. In Berlin I could hear some real­ly good speech­es of can­di­dates for the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, high­light­ing the migrant cri­sis, cli­mate change, envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion — and that a par­ty has to serve the cit­i­zens and not the oth­er way around. Social equal­i­ty is a big issue and human­ism, as I would call it; mean­ing that: rea­son is val­ued high­er than ide­ol­o­gy and peo­ple high­er than spe­cial inter­ests.

Other AEGEE members in Volt

Volt has some com­pa­ra­bly rad­i­cal ideas like a Euro­pean Pres­i­dent, get­ting rid of the Coun­cil and Com­mis­sion and get­ting a real Euro­pean gov­ern­ment, where deci­sion mak­ing is trans­par­ent and account­able. I met a tru­ly moti­vat­ed bunch of peo­ple even includ­ing some for­mer and active AEGEEans.

Michael Reuther

One of them is Michael Reuther, Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Hei­del­berg in 1991, and now Volt mem­ber. „Last Octo­ber I had the chance to par­tic­i­pate in the gen­er­al assem­bly of Volt in Ams­ter­dam. It seemed like a time trav­el to me. The spir­it, dynam­ics and enthu­si­asm felt like remem­ber it from the AEGEE con­gress­es in the 1990s”, told me Michael. “At the same time I expe­ri­enced how Volt rev­o­lu­tion­izes the way pol­i­tics can be done in the 21st cen­tu­ry: pro­gres­sive, pan-Euro­pean, and empow­er­ing cit­i­zens to shape their Europe. Volt does not stick to ide­olo­gies or dog­mas, is looks for best prac­tices, and is open for good ideas to reform the EU and make it a bet­ter place.”

I like it, too. I am all in with EU reform. Some­times the ideas are too lib­er­al for me or don’t inter­est me, like dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion. But for now I think these will be hypo­thet­i­cals for 10 years to come, any­way. Let’s grow and devel­op Volt so it can reach a crit­i­cal mass. So far it hasn’t even reached the orga­ni­za­tion­al state of AEGEE. So, let’s get pro­fes­sion­al, with votes, finan­cial trans­paren­cy and a clear struc­ture. There is tons of work right there. I would like them to learn from AEGEE expe­ri­ence.

There is more than Volt: a closer look at YES

At the same time some AEGEE friends of mine told me about their plans to found a new Euro­pean par­ty called YES – short for “Young Euro­pean Spir­it”. Just found­ed on 24th of Octo­ber 2018, YES is prob­a­bly the newest Euro­pean par­ty. So far it is only active in Aachen, Düs­sel­dorf and Cologne with around 40 mem­bers – and again, some AEGEEans are among them.

Katha Hartz

One of them is AEGEE-Aachen mem­ber Katha Hartz: „Since I became a mem­ber of AEGEE three years ago, I have trav­eled exten­sive­ly in Europe and attend­ed many AEGEE events”, Katha told me. “Of course, I already knew before I met AEGEE that I am high­ly priv­i­leged as an EU cit­i­zen but in the end it was my trav­els, the many con­tacts to oth­er Euro­peans just as the liv­ing democ­ra­cy of our orga­ni­za­tion that made me real­ize how much the EU influ­ences my life in prac­ti­cal terms.”

I asked Katha about her moti­va­tion to become polit­i­cal­ly active in YES and she told me the fol­low­ing: “With dis­ap­point­ment and anger I observed the devel­op­ments of the nation­al­ist move­ments in Europe becom­ing larg­er and more pow­er­ful over the last few years. The EU, which ensures our wealth and peace, is under steady attack with fake news and pop­ulist slo­gans. Although it has nev­er been my goal to enter pol­i­tics I think it’s time to stand up for the most impor­tant project in Euro­pean his­to­ry.”

Katha Hartz con­tin­ues: “I will no longer watch how nation­al­ists build more and more walls but active­ly and polit­i­cal­ly engage with my vision for a unit­ed, strong and self-con­fi­dent Europe. And so do many oth­er AEGEEans. With our new­ly found­ed par­ty we want to shape the future of the Euro­pean Union and active­ly defend the val­ues that the EU stands for“.

For exam­ple, YES wants to shift cer­tain polit­i­cal domains to Brus­sels, where a Euro­pean com­pe­tence makes most sense, such as: dig­i­ti­za­tion, edu­ca­tion, ener­gy, migra­tion and devel­op­ment, as well as to remove obsta­cles to found­ing pan-Euro­pean par­ties. More­over YES sup­ports a two-cham­ber sys­tem with par­lia­ment and a kind of sen­ate.

Bal­lot time at Volt in Berlin

Unknown future, lots of idealism

There is still along way ahead being 1.5 years younger as even Volt. And hon­est­ly, who has heard about Yes so far? Also unfor­tu­nate­ly YES is so far most­ly Ger­man. Nev­er­the­less, let’s see where they will stand in 18 months from now.

Michael Reuther at the Volt meet­ing in Berlin

Legal, struc­tur­al and finan­cial issues remain the biggest chal­lenges until groups like YES and Volt devel­op into ful­ly func­tion­ing polit­i­cal par­ties. It will be inter­est­ing to see, if oth­er par­ties appear. Which ones will man­age the struc­tur­al strug­gle and which ones will maybe merge to ampli­fy their impact?

We can see that AEGEE came a long way and man­aged many of these strug­gles suc­cess­ful­ly. Being an NGO with sup­port from EU and uni­ver­si­ties is a quite com­fort­able posi­tion, where­as the harsh real­i­ty of polit­i­cal par­ties with­out huge donors and insti­tu­tion­al sup­port is a whole dif­fer­ent lev­el.

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