The first European leadership programme


hink European and work transnationally, but also look beyond Europe’s borders: this was the main message of the European Young Leaders seminar.
Coinciding with the European Summit on the debt crisis, this seminar allowed the Young Leaders to reach a clear consensus that a breakup of the Eurozone is neither an option nor a solution to Europe’s problems. Most agreed, however, on the necessity of rethinking – or at the very least repairing – Europe’s economic and social models. With the pressures of the financial crisis, new ways of stimulating growth and competitiveness have to be explored, with some participants calling for greater fiscal federalism and others suggesting a reinforcement of the Single Market.
Many participants also pushed for a greater focus on corporate social responsibility and ‘green growth’, although others underlined that these models could only be sustainable if they made good business sense. Furthermore, it was emphasised that corporate social responsibility and ‘green growth’ would only be viable in the long-term within a context of global reciprocity, and by avoiding the damaging effects of over-regulation.
A desire for more decisive European leadership was expressed, as was the necessity for greater European integration. The Young Leaders particularly stressed the need for a truly common foreign policy, which seems to be sadly lacking during the Arab Spring, in spite of the newly-created European External Action Service (EEAS).
Faced with a rise in populism and nationalism, and to counter the influence of extremist movements, it was suggested that greater attention be paid to local populations and communities. Moreover, in order to avoid marginalising minorities, the Young Leaders pointed to the need for forging a veritable European identity – one inclusive enough to assemble all the diverse aspects of what it means to be European.
Social media was put forward as a way to increase democratic participation and to bridge the gap between citizens and their leaders, with the divide between the elite and the people identified as a problem that clearly needs addressing. New technologies, the Young Leaders argued, could better be exploited to keep the public engaged with Europe and with European ideals.
The Young Leaders also called for a broadening of our horizons, wishing to see a Europe more open to its neighbours, and to the rest of the world. The important role that culture can play in achieving this objective was emphasised, with many pointing to culture as a powerful and fundamental lever that is too often overlooked. Culture, the Young Leaders stressed, serves as a window onto our values and allows us to share these with others.
The seminar concluded with the Young Leaders reaffirming their commitment to Europe, because although many changes undeniably need to be made, the European project was never called into question. We need to keep on building Europe, the Young Leaders enthused, and we are motivated to do this.

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