You will participate at the “on democracy in Europe” event organised by the Paperjam + Delano Club next week. What topics would you like to address there?
I would like to address the lack of representation. There is not enough representation, not enough people from minority groups. I strongly believe that in order to have policies that reflect people’s needs, the decision makers need to reflect the diversity of our societies, which is not the case right now. And I would like to talk about the fact that we need new people, young people that would consider politics as their tool for change. We don’t support young leaders that have democratic values today. We see a lot of young people on the streets, which means that they care about our future and current developments. But they don’t go into politics because they fear, for many legitimate reasons. What we need to do to have these changemakers go into politics is actually give them the tools and the resources to run for office one day.
We need to make our democracies effective and understandable for everyone.
How would you do that?
It’s assumed that the moment you get elected, you know how policymaking works, or how to speak in public, or to deal with hate online. But you don’t. I was running for office. I could really see that. There is a huge lack of training people to go into public spaces, or to go into politics. Also, there’s no adequate support to build on resilience for current leaders, especially online. People are pushed out of these spaces, or they are being silenced online. This is anti-democratic. I know too many people, young women in particular, that have entered this space and that left the areas again--in Luxembourg and all around Europe. And it is a real threat to our democracy. There is no future with that if we are not supporting current leaders. Give them adequate support, which also means having access to mindfulness and mental health support and a community.
Democracy also means support by citizens. The elections in 2019 had the highest turnout in 20 years, which means that support and acceptance of the European Union still seem to rise. But on the other hand, we have Brexit and the rise of populism in more and more member states--like recently in Italy. Why? How do you explain that?
I mean, yes. If you look at the election, we had more people that voted, but it’s still not enough for the means that we’ve put into campaigning. I feel like that the problem with European elections is that you don’t have European lists. There is always a national touch.
They are more defending national interests than European ones. And I also have the feeling that every time something is not going well on a national level, we tend to blame it on Europe. This happens too often and for the UK. In the UK, you had citizens that were so disconnected, or they didn’t really see the impact that Europe and the European institutions had on their everyday life. They were feeling so disconnected that they pushed Europe out.
Is it maybe a simplification of politics because people need more information to really understand politics?
We need more involvement of citizens into decision-making processes. It is a simplification, it is even a fear. I don’t blame a person that believes in what we call populist ideas if they feel home with these ideas. So, if this is what gives them safety, I cannot blame that. But we need to make our democracies effective and understandable for everyone. European institutions need to be accessible. And if someone believes in more populist ideas it is because they have legitimate fears, and we can understand where they’re coming from, but it’s on decision makers to take these anxieties away. We need decision makers that take ownership of their mistakes, instead of always having leadership that we need to hold accountable. With good innovative ideas, we can find solutions. For me, one main reason why there is a rise of populism in Europe and the world is that we don’t involve citizens into decision-making processes. I’ve been advocating for that since I was 16/17, that you should not take democracy for granted.
We need to take responsibilities on a more local level. Democracy starts on a local level.
How can you increase involvement?
We need to take responsibilities on a more local level. Democracy starts on a local level. Involve people in deciding where and what the budget is, for example. There are also assemblies of European citizens that are being worked on. In these assemblies, we involve people from different European countries, bring them together and try to find ideas and shape a common agenda. We need to have very good involvement of citizens on the local level. We also need to find innovative ways on how we reach citizens in general. One idea could be via online forums.
What role should Luxembourg play to ensure democracy in Europe, in your opinion?
There is a lot to say. I mean, it could be worse. So just in short, on the national level, Luxembourg needs to act. Political parties need to take responsibilities to have candidates that reflect our diversity. And in Luxembourg, it is very important because nearly half of the population is non-Luxembourgish. So having lists that also represent the other half is crucial--otherwise it’s no democratic country.
We haven’t talked about the Ukrainian crisis yet. But is this crisis maybe destabilising populism in Europe and reinforcing the European idea of “being stronger together”?
We have seen how fast and how effective we managed to react and interact between members. We really acted as a union. And I do believe that this was a sign--that the European Union makes a lot of sense, that there’s a lot of hope in believing that we can achieve more and better together. There was a huge wave of solidarity. And I feel like young people, younger generations, who have literally been facing crisis after crisis, from the pandemic to the climate crisis, to Ukraine and the energy crisis, stood together. And if you have young people that want to impact societies, this means that they want to be part of what tomorrow could look like.
The event “on democracy in Europe” by Paperjam + Delano Business Club will take place on Tuesday 8 November 2022 at ING, 26 Pl. de la Gare 1616 Luxembourg. The event will start at 6,30pm.