The first European leadership programme


he EU is struggling to effectively address citizens’ diminishing trust while also struggling to present unified policies on the global stage. The European Young Leaders ‘40 under 40’ seminar in Berlin discussed the increasing disconnect between EU institutions and citizens.
This widening gap, driven by a seemingly endless series of failures to resolve the banking and European sovereign debt crises, is leading to a rise in nationalist and populist sentiment across the continent.
In order to tackle the demographic deficit and build citizen trust in the European project, many participants agreed that the EU must strive to build a strong European identity through policies in education and culture. It was also recognised that the creation of this identity will need time and effort.
As member states face different economic challenges, many feel that there is a clear need for national governments to cede more powers to the EU while keeping control of relevant portfolios at the member state level.
Proposals for a deeper political union in Europe aim to strengthen the EU’s waning role on the global stage at a time when global issues such as climate change, economic instability and immigration require unprecedented multilateral cooperation.
Until Europe’s debt and financial crisis can be resolved, however, EU leadership will lack the legitimacy and political will needed to reach an agreement on political union. Moving quickly towards banking union is a good step forward.
Europe’s high dependence on energy imports makes it crucial to carefully consider alternative energy sources and review energy security. The issues of energy cost and the creation of an EU internal energy market must also be addressed.
As global urbanisation rates continue to rise, European cities need to become smarter. Integrating new technologies and the vast amounts of data available as a result of the digitalisation of society into local initiatives can create more sustainable and efficient city systems. These smart cities can go a long way towards combating some of the alarming global trends seen in climate change and energy consumption.
Despite Europe’s economic difficulties, it is essential to continue support for the development of European culture. Art, science, culture and technology have a long history of interdependence in Europe and, as public support for the arts continues to decline, it is likely that innovation in other areas will suffer. Furthermore, it is crucial that policymakers consider the importance of culture in the creation of a more ubiquitous sense of European identity.

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