Our Vision for Europe: Interview with Jacopo Barbati

, by Juuso Järviniemi, Radu Dumitrescu

Our Vision for Europe: Interview with Jacopo Barbati
Graphic made by Robert Klimacki for the Young European Federalists.

On 12 May, in the context of the Eurovision Song Contest, the Young European Federalists (JEF) launched the #ourVisionforEurope campaign. The campaign calls on broadcasters to air debates between European-level parties’ top candidates for Commission leadership (Spitzenkandidaten) ahead of the 2019 European elections. On Saturday, the campaign began with social media publicity targeted at Eurovision-watching audiences. In the upcoming weeks, other means such as letters will be added to support the campaign. We interviewed Jacopo Barbati, Vice-President of JEF-Europe, about the campaign.

TNF: What’s the desired outcome of the campaign? Why is JEF running it now?

JB: The scope is both to raise awareness of the fact that we are only one year ahead the European Parliament elections, and to underline that Eurovision is nice, but it cannot be (almost) the only scope of the European Broadcasting Union. If we want to build a European debate and public opinion - and it makes perfect sense since we have European democratic institutions - European citizens need to be informed about the plans of the European parties and their lead candidates. It is still less than optimal when talking about European media outlets, we would need more truly European broadcasting products, but this one is really necessary.

TNF: Why do you think debates between top candidates weren’t broadcast in 2014? Is Europe more prepared for a European-wide TV debate this time round?

JB: I would say that last time it was more the parties that were not prepared, rather than Europe and European citizens. The whole “Spitzenkandidaten process” was developed maybe a bit too late, but it is understandable since it was the first time. Now it won’t be, so it’s legitimate to expect some more preparation.

Another important thing would be that national/local parties and media outlets, the ones that the citizens already know and trust, give the right importance to the event, in order to avoid misleading and underestimations.

TNF: The motion for transnational lists famously failed in the European Parliament earlier this year. What scope do you see for transnational debates between candidates other than the Spitzenkandidaten?

JB: Either way, debates like this will be useful for stimulating the European public sphere to acquire consciousness about its own existence, about the democratic European institutions and their role. They will also raise awareness about the topics that will hopefully be tackled, understanding that in some cases international issues should be tackled at international level and that democratic institutions work better than intergovernmental ones.

TNF: What is the future of the Spitzenkandidaten process, given that it has already been criticised as not being transparent enough?

JB: We hope that it will remain in place, it is certainly an enhancement to the whole process since it increases its accountability. However, also many national parties do not elect their leaders or candidates by consulting their voters, so I do not see many differences about that. We hope that the debate broadcasting will increase the participation rate within parties throughout the whole Europe, therefore making them more transparent.

TNF: What can ordinary citizens do to demand European democracy in the 2019 elections?

JB: The only way to have a full European democracy would be to have a full European federation. Ideally, citizens could ask for the Parliament to become a constitutional assembly that would found the European federation. Realistically, any intermediate step is a necessary one towards that big objective. One may think about a real common European foreign policy and/or defence and security policies, army, or a budget for the Eurozone.

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