Pan-European movements: ‘We want to bring real change to all European citizens’

25 May 2018 – VoxEurop

In slightly more than a year, Volt has become one of the most active pan-European political movements. Its immediate goal is to make an impact on next year’s European elections. We met its president, Andrea Venzon (at the centre of the picture), on the eve of the presentation of Volt’s political programme, in Paris.

Venzon, 27, is the president and co-founder of Volt, which is due to present its political programme on 27 May in Paris. We’ve asked him to tell us more about this political movement that, like others before it, wants to ‘bring real change’. Is Volt just another “new way of doing politics”?

VoxEurop: What is Volt and what is its purpose?

Andrea Venzon: Volt is a pan-European, progressive movement that stands for a new and inclusive way of doing politics and that wants to bring real change to all European citizens. A new pan-European approach is needed to overcome current and future challenges, such as, climate change, economic inequality, migration, international conflict, terrorism, and the impact of the technological revolution on our jobs, among many others. National parties are powerless in face of these challenges, because they extend beyond national borders and need to be tackled by us as Europeans together. As a transnational party, we believe we can help European people unite, create a shared vision and understanding, exchange good practices across the continent, and come up with solutions together.

Who started it and why?

The inspiration to start this movement came with the Brexit and the gloomy trends of 2016. Shocked by what was happening across the continent and the lacking reaction I gathered a group of like-minded people and started the discussion about what was to be done. On March 29, 2017, when article 50 was triggered, the group set up a first Facebook page and started challenging the status quo. Without funds, big names, or political endorsements, Volt has now grown into a political movement with hundreds of members in almost every European country. Volt was started because reactionary and populist tendencies are threatening the values our members believe in and because traditional political factions fail to provide attractive and pragmatic answers to the challenges of our time.

Why wouldn't it be another pro-European urban and educated cosmopolite élite movement? What distinguishes Volt Europa from movements like Pulse of Europe or Stand up for Europe or the Federalist movement?

We chose to do things differently than other European initiatives, focusing immediately on the local level to get out of the “pro-European” bubble, that has a limited reach. To do so, we trained our activists and applied at every level of our organization the methodology of “community organizing”, aimed at mobilizing citizens to drive changes on issues at European, national, and local level. This is the same methodology that Obama used in his successful campaign in 2008. Aside for being really focused on organizing at local level, we are quite different compared to pro-European advocacy group because we are doing politics, at all levels. In fact, we are proposing policies well-beyond the topic of the reform of the EU, and aim to be a truly transnational political force, running for elections at local, national, and European level.

How do you think you will be able to attract and seduce voters who are ever more euroskeptical, especially in countries like Italy or Central and Eastern European countries?

As said above, our message will not be only focused on Europe. Our political scope is larger, and we can pursuade citizens to support us because of our proposals on public administration reforms, or on SMEs and entrepreneurship, or on tackling the gender gap, and others In addition, we aim to bring the European message at the local level, showing concretely what Europe can do for our communities; we believe that this will also help in creating a better perception of the work that the EU does.

How do you distinguish yourself from parties like +Europa in Italy or La République en Marche in France?

Aside from the policy aspects, where differences can be considerable (for example, we diverge quite a bit from certain judiciary and security reforms carried on by Macron), we differ from national parties as a force that does not only target pro-Europeans per se, but also all those people that are disappointed with the political status quo and look for a radical innovation in politics. In particular, having no big names behind us, 4,000 activists with an average age between 30 and 35 years old, and more than 60 percent of our members without any former political attachment, we definitely have a different “face” than other parties!

How are you setting up your programme?

Hundreds of our members worked as a Policy Team to draft a 180-page European programme which revolves around our 5+1 challenge: 1. Smart State, 2. Economic Renaissance, 3. Social Equality, 4. Global Balance, 5. Citizen Empowerment, and +1 EU Reform. This documents contained guidelines that represent our political vision, that each national chapter will then take and adapt to local realities. EU Reform is branded +1 because it is the only one that will be completely the same in each national campaign. We are currently voting on it, and it is something we will keep on building on!

How are you funded?

We have been entirely crowdfunded, by members and non-members. As an extensively digitalized movement, our expenses are quite low: marketing, events, etc. Now, we are starting working with foundations for specific projects, and soon we will expand our fundraising activities even further.

What affiliation will you be seeking at the European parliament should you get seats in the 2019 European elections?

Our objective is to get 25 MEPs from 7 European countries to form an independent group in the European Parliament.

Why should one trust you?

Because we simply represent a new way of doing politics. We are an inclusive group of people, with a democratic and participatory way of doing things. We are motivated and energetic, extremely efficient, we propose real solutions and we are all doing this because we truly believe in a better future for this continent. And yes, we have proofs to back this up: in one year, we developed in 25 European countries, sacrificed an incredibly amount of time and energy to do so, and none of us got any material gain from this – aside from the great sense of being part of something that could change the tide of this continent, forever.

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