Pitching Europe

  • by Riccardo Venturi 

True “Euro-Enthusiasts” always think optimistically about the possible reforms that could re-shape the European Union, reversing what is probably its biggest crisis ever. There has been a lot of discussion on the various formulas capable of improving the political status of Europe and its legitimacy among the citizens, and on the related measures changing the current economic models towards greater integration and sustainability.

The 1989 Generation Initiatives places itself amongst these “visionaries”. However, we believe that, before and besides thinking about a way forward for the EU, we must clarify what Europe is and what being European means in a wider sense, in order to achieve concrete results. That is why the Initiative focuses primarily on civil society, putting Europeans, specifically the youth, at the centre of its agenda.

Following this premise, we can easily affirm that European integration cannot be considered a goal by itself, our scope cannot be simply political and must go beyond this dimension. We do not aim at involving people in a project designed to “generate” a common identity. On the contrary, the 1989 Generation Initiative believes that – as we are already de facto Europeans citizens, with all the things that this entails – we need to get practical customs clearance for this fact by developing projects accessible to everyone. The next generations in particular will not be willing to think about their lives without the conditions, the situations and the privileges that relate to the status of EU citizen. Thus, in order to re-define the European project, we must adopt a bottom-up approach based on the common ground of personal experiences, professional advantages, eased mobility and channels of interaction deriving from the EU, and expand it. In fact, this spiral of opportunities is already feasible in Europe right now, thanks to an existing reality made of common values, expectations and rules that we all share.

In the long term, this scenario could further evolve into the idea that moving, living, working and studying in different countries and languages could be “routine” for any European citizen. The cultural barriers would be necessarily strained by these habits and the emergence of a prevailing European dimension would be the natural consequence of this process, as it has already happened to millions of people. To accelerate the course of the events and achieve these outstanding objectives, the 1989 Generation Initiative bases its projects on the so-called “Erasmus spirit”, potentially broadening its outreach to the entire society. Hence, we call for two specific policy proposals following the above-explained approach in two crucial areas: education and the media.

In relation to the first one, we aim at introducing a “Pan-European Accreditation Agency of Education” capable of breaking the borders between the national education systems and the different kinds of learning, closing the formal gap between formal and non-formal education. Basically, any institution offering training activities and courses could submit its application to the Agency, that would in turn evaluate the offered courses according to the compatibility with its overall goal and quality assurance of the learning outcomes. This policy not only has the potential to increase the overall quality of the educational space by promoting integration between the different systems, but it could also create new meeting spaces for all the European citizens involved in education or in the life-long learning. Most importantly, we believe that this reform will leave an important footprint in the educational paths of the next generations that will have increased opportunities to choose their study or training destination abroad.

At the same time, as the 1989 Generation Initiative considers civil society a natural engine for projects and ideas that could favour intra-European interactions, this is especially true for the media sector, where the new forms of communication and social platforms are changing the old national and vertical system of information. The proposal of a “European Media Incubator” entails a funding scheme articulated in Key Actions that is supposed to facilitate the development of a common European public sphere in general and of pan-European media grassroots projects in particular. Projects would simply need to be in media, demonstrate a European dimension and have a potential for viability. That being so, this platform would combine in an integrated approach funding, services, mentorship, logistical support, know-how as well as training for journalists and non-professionals. This would foster greater public debate on European themes across the continent and would also start a mechanism through which multi-national media projects would be easier to set up.

To conclude, with these two proposals, we envisage concrete ways through which European youth can take ownership of the European project, combining their direct interests and expectations with an environment full of new opportunities. After all, we cannot talk about Europe without putting the main characters at the centre of its stage.

Pitching Europe

The European Union (EU) is facing a deep political crisis. With increasing pressure coming from the refugee crisis, with an in-or-out referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the EU approaching and with the risk for the Schengen area of dissolving, the EU’s political integration process is once again called into question.

As Eurobarometer data for the last decade shows, the percentage of citizens believing that the EU membership is not benefiting their country is on the increase along with the number of individuals who feel ‘mistrust’ and ‘anxiety’ towards the EU. In the eyes of European citizens, the EU is often seen as a remote institution, which lacks the political will to reform and make a difference in their daily lives. For years, European leaders have blamed ‘Brussels’ for their troubles at home and criticised its ‘behind-closed-doors’ decision-making process. Consequently, citizens’ engagement and participation in European politics has progressively been dropping as shown by the trend of voter turnout at the European Parliament elections, because they feel like their voice is not being heard.

Two issues have been identified by the 1989 Generation Initiative as significantly contributing to the EU’s lack of legitimacy. On the one hand, the lobbying industry is inadequately regulated and largely dominated by the most resourceful multinationals. They have greater access to decision-makers to promote their interests and as a result, lobbying activities are mostly confined to the same portfolios such as Energy, Digital Economy and Financial Markets. On the other hand, the Spitzenkandidaten system used in the 2014 European elections has shown signs that campaign personalisation increases voter turnout. However, several problems hampered the last elections and need to be adjusted. The process of nomination of the President of the European Commission needs more visibility, more authority and a greater European dimension to fully reach its potential.

The 1989 Generation Initiative has elaborated two policy proposals that aim to improve the transparency, accountability and representativeness of the European Union.

We call for the introduction of a mandatory register of lobbying activity applicable to all EU institutions (European Parliament, European Council and the European Commission) to increase transparency in the dealings between EU decision makers and outside interests. In the new system, all human resources and capital invested in lobbying by registrants will need to be declared as well as additional information about involvement in EU committees, forums, intergroups or similar structures. The objective is to create a ‘legislative footprint’ that include public records of all meetings and external inputs during the legislative consultation process. In practice, the ‘Transparency Register Secretariat’ will be attributed additional resources and will be in charge of managing the register, of running checks and of imposing sanctions whenever the rules are infringed.

By making the institutions more transparent and holding actors responsible for their actions and decisions, the EU will earn the support and trust of its citizens. In the words of the European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans “It is just as important to enable citizens to know who we meet and why, as it is for the Commission to maintain an open and regular dialogue with stakeholders”. Moreover, the more open the EU decision-making process is, the easier it is to ensure balanced representation and avoid undue pressure and illegitimate or privileged access to information and decision-makers. We believe this reform will encourage a larger variety of external actors to get involved.

Transparency, accountability and representativeness are fundamental to encourage European citizens to participate more actively in the political life of the EU. To this aim, we also propose the direct election of the European Commission (EC) President.  By fully incorporating the Spitzenkandidaten procedure in the European Parliament (EP) elections, the candidate of the majority parliamentary group will automatically be appointed as the president of the EC. Such a revolutionary institutional reform will enable European citizens to hold both the EP majority parliamentary group and the president of the EC accountable for their actions and to sanction or reward them every five years. The message we advocate is the importance to give European citizens a voice in deciding the direction of the EU and ensuring that this reflects the will of European citizens. As the candidates for EC president will be elected on the basis of their European parliamentary group and political standings, citizens will be better able to better understand the programmes of candidates and make an informed decision about the future of the EU, being less vulnerable to populist rhetoric.

With these two reform proposals, we envisage that the ‘access to voice’ and ‘access to information’ to all European citizens will be fundamentally boosted. This is a critical step forward to enable European citizens to engage with EU politics and fully be part of the European project.

Pitching Europe


“The future is yours. Shape it, think loud. I ask you to succeed.” This was the ambitious mission that Valéry Giscard D’Estaing, president and patron of the 1989 Generation Initiative’s Conference on the Redefinition of the European Mission, bestowed on us in his closing remarks.

With the Eurozone malaise still looming over Europe, an unstable neighbourhood both in the East and South and waves of immigration that have spurred nationalistic relapses and plunged Europe into a deep identity crisis, the future of the Union is in jeopardy. Change is necessary! Yet, the European Union often seems exhausted or too politically remote and lacks the political will to reform itself. Fresh impetus is desperately needed – a new vision capable of inspiring and uniting in a fast changing world must be found.

Our generation, the 1989 generation – often decried as disinterested, disunited and disaffected – has to face the long-term effects of these new realities. We are the generation upon which the responsibility of future European leadership rests. Without our ideas, actions and ownership, the European project will decline, then founder. Our generation, the Erasmus-, Easyjet- and Euro-generation, needs to take on the challenge and assume a leading role in re-articulating the mission of the EU.


“A strong voice for the 1989 generation”

This is why we have founded the 1989 Generation Initiative. We are a team formed of more than 50 individuals from over 20 European countries and determined to mobilize our generation to give it a face and a stronger voice. We aim to create a pan-European process with the 1989 generation at its centre to envision and build consensus for the future of a united, democratic and inclusive European Union. Through broad engagement, intergenerational dialogue and vision-building, policy ideas can be developed and projects implemented that will add new dynamism to the European project.

To start this process, we have hosted the Conference on the Redefinition of the European Mission, which was attended by 25 renowned senior officials and academics, as well as 45 delegates from the 1989 generation coming from all across Europe. In four roundtables on European economic policy, institutional affairs, foreign policy and identity, we have developed eight specific proposals for policy reform.


The development of one uniting message

The United States of Europe are no more than utopia. Yet also the current European system, though noble in its ideals, has hit a wall. Which direction do we want the European integration process to go? What is the Union’s aim for the next 25 years? It seems that heads of governments act in opposition to the fundamental European values such as solidarity, some even against freedom of expression. EU member states are torn when it comes to fundamental questions: how to overcome the structural flaws of our monetary union? When can the basis of the current European public sphere, the Schengen area, be broken? What role should Europe play in the world? Are we to fight for an ever-closer Union, and if so, under which conditions?

These questions will be answered by debating a bold and new vision published in our Manifesto mid this year, and by proposing specific reform proposals which include for instance 1) establishing a single supervisory authority for capital markets as well as a common employment insurance, and 2) develop a new Security Strategy, comprising a Cyber security union, as well as installing a ‘Regional Cooperation Framework’ instead of the current Neighbourhood Policy. In the next month, we will publish these proposals in four separate articles in greater depth on this blog.


We are very thankful for Campus Europe and the European Student Think Tank and their great idea to establish this new project: it is time to get our voice heard and reenergize the European public space. We cannot do this alone. We need all of you – pitch in for Europe!


You share our enthusiasm for the European Union? You are unhappy with the recent developments that threaten to tear the Union apart? You have your own ideas of how to overcome these problems? In short: you want to contribute to a better European Union? Then sign up for our newsletter and get in touch, follow our blog on Euractiv, engage in our crowd-sourcing campaign, participate in our webinars and discuss with us the future shape of the Union. Have your voice heard! Come on board of the 1989 Generation Initiative and be part of one of the hottest European youth movements on the block!