Jess Bauldry: What prompted you to set up this Kitchen Table Conversation?
Dana Moldoveanu: We wanted to introduce new activities that add another layer to our objectives, which relates to getting our community more involved and having more influence in society (in Luxembourg or in general). Then, the idea of Lisa, our event moderator appeared. The members of our association have good relationships with other women’s associations from Luxembourg. This is how Lisa knew about Avris. She and a few other people had the idea to apply for a grant from Olai, through the campaign “Je peux voter”, aimed at encouraging foreign residents of Luxembourg to register to vote in the EU parliamentary elections. She thought the project might be interesting for our asbl, and invited us to become part of the team.
The project proposed was more complex, involving other tools and ways of increasing awareness regarding the importance of voting in elections like these, as well as providing information about how to make informed decisions (without being manipulated by fake news for example). Our Board agreed that the project ideas respected our values: interactivity, authenticity and community. But the project was only partially approved by Olai [the integration office]. This is how we arrived at this formula of public debate with KTC, which is a very specific method Lisa uses with clients here in Luxembourg and abroad. (KTC is a process creating a comfortable and safe environment for open communication and information sharing, giving participants the opportunity to have a lively conversation and even to disagree or air differences of opinions, but in a way that holds a space for innovation to arise.)
JB: Why is Luxembourg a good place to host such a discussion?
DM: Luxembourg is the best place to experience “live” the multiculturalism of EU and most of the great things deriving from it. But it is also quite exceptional for context setting because of its size. Many people living in Luxembourg are indeed convinced that the EU is on the right track and is especially the best way for democracy to thrive, but the problems come from our own countries where people see less often what we experience everyday in Luxembourg.
Because of this, we experience Brexit, the rise of populism, and limitations to democracy, just to name a few problems. This is why we believe that debates between simple but involved citizens are very important. It promotes the importance of voting, and more: it transmits the implications of stakeholders becoming involved at national and also EU level. At least getting informed, if not more involved, by using the simple power of voting. Voting (especially informed voting) is the minimum we should do, but we hope to encourage people, through our event, to also talk about the issues and why voting is important, with friends and families back home.
When we formed our panel, we looked specifically for residents of Luxembourg, involved in the community, and who have an interest in what is going on in their own countries, as well as in Luxembourg and obviously EU level. Yes, you may say we are preaching to the converted, but the powers invested in the EU Parliament have changed. It is the only pan-national Parliament in the world that is elected. Most of the EU citizens may be convinced about the advantages EU brings to them or their own countries, but they are not happy with its direction, thus the importance of voting.
Avris president Dana Moldoveanu, pictured, says that the event will provide food for thought to challenge opinions, ideas and wishes for the EU. Photo: Avris.
Another fact is that the turnout percentage to the EU elections has decreased over the years (from almost 70% in 1979 to 42,6% in 2014). Some countries like Belgium, Luxembourg or Malta maintain a high turnout, but some countries have always had a low turnout (eg, U.K, Eastern Countries or Baltic Republics). In Luxembourg, residents do not usually vote, thus also, the need for the Olai grants and our preference for panelists from these countries.
Another interesting fact to look at is the distribution of men and women voters, more information about which can be found here.
What we would like to share with the participants, besides the importance of voting, is food for thought regarding their own opinions, ideas, wishes for EU, for the direction in which EU should go, what is important for them and what is not etc. In this way they can also make informed choices and be less prone to manipulations.
JB: One could argue that events like these preach to the converted. So, what can participants gain from attending?
DM: We specifically chose community leaders who are recognised as being active, and who are also interested in leading by example. We want people to see that their voice matters and that the starting point is just having the conversation. Even if the only people who show up to the event are already registered to vote, they will walk away with interesting notes to discuss with family and friends who have not yet registered. We hope by modeling active conversation around the election and voting, we will encourage people to continue the discussion outside of the event.
We also believe quite strongly that people who have not registered to vote yet, will attend and register to vote following what they hear at the event. It’s an interesting and accessible topic and encourages everyone to think about what is important for them, every day, and how they can effect change through dialogue.
JB: What do you think is the most important tool or skill for EU citizens to defend the principles on which the EU was founded?
DM: The most important tool is our democratic process, so getting informed and getting involved; getting informed about what the EU has brought into people’s lives and their countries. Also, we would like people to think about their own country’s role in creating general EU policies. How EU institutions function exactly and what is true or less true from the “blame and shame” game of national politicians finding the fault externally (or in Brussels) for national problems. At the moment, one has to be a real artist to get to the facts regarding the actual influence of EU inside a specific country. The reality is that each country plays a role in the EU’s construction and with that, each citizen.
Getting involved in politics can be done at any level. In other professions, they have strict rules and regulation, playing a role in politics does not require much. Anyone can wake up one morning and get involved in politics. And if you are a specialist in something, or you have an interesting competence in a certain domain, all the better. The point is to get involved. The first step is to get informed so you can form your own opinions.
"AVRIS", (Association of Romanian-speaking women for interaction and socialisation) is a non-profit voluntary organisation, created to animate and strengthen the links of the community of women from Romanian diaspora in Luxembourg and the Greater Region. Its common graunds are the Romanian language and culture. All the association's activities are carried out on a voluntary basis. The association is open to all women who speak Romanian, regardless of their nationality, as well as to those who wish to learn or communicate in Romanian.
Its aim is to create meetings and networking to foster links between women living in Luxembourg and the surrounding area, provide them with information on cultural and social life, help newcomers to integrate into their new living environment and promote women entrepreneurs wishing to develop a new activity.