Talking Europe with Svenja Hahn

Svenja Hahn, President of the European Liberal Youth (LYMEC); the youth organisation of the ALDE Party and its parliamentary group in the European Parliament

Featuring Svenja Hahn: President of the European Liberal Youth (LYMEC); the youth organisation
of the ALDE Party and its parliamentary group in the European Parliament


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What is it that youth politics can give to European politics?

Youth politics is not only about topics that touch upon young people, education for example. It is giving a perspective of the young generation for every topic. There are different levels, from [the] local and community … level to [the] EU level and [youth politics is] providing guidelines about how our shared future should look like.

So what should our shared future should look like?

When it comes to the EU Institutions, the future should be more democratic with a strong European Parliament (EP), more open, closer to people. This is about communication at all levels, including local.  Especially for us liberals, our communication is very fact-based. We care about discussion and we care about exchange, and this is why it sometimes takes us longer to find a solution. But when we have facts and we [come to a position] it is important to find ways to communicate that to people and what it means for their life with concrete examples.

My party in Germany, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) was kicked out of Parliament in 2013. We changed our narratives, not our politics to make people better understand what our ideas are.

Ahead of June’s Summit, big portfolios like migration and EMU reform should conclude. Is June really the last chance for the EU to succeed and show voters that the EU project is working?

I personally think decisions should not be rushed, I prefer having a sustainable solution than having to come up with solutions because it is time, especially for important topics such as migration, where I strongly wish the whole EU works together and that we will have an EU wide immigration system with clear rules for everyone and that requires time. What I really want is that all parties have clear opinions and offer a solution.  With the EMU reform, that really is a matter of the next decades and we should not really rush into that. Maybe that could be something for after the elections so that is clear to the voters who has what ideas.

So, can an “EU wide Macronism” take this portfolio further?

We don’t know about Emmanuel Macron, how his party will be after the election, but what we know is that a lot of his ideas are actually not new, it is what a lot of liberals and ALDE have been advocating, but it is lovely to see that these ideas with Macron have gotten a “fresh touch”, along with the fact that France is one of the biggest member states, so he speaks to a much broader audience. He set the spark of reform and I now see potential for reform that has not been there for quite a long time. So, I do believe that the next EP mandate offers a lot of chances to actually reform the EU, and we should not let that pass this time.

As for ALDE and Macron’s En Marche! we have a lot of topics in common, keeping in mind that ALDE has a more broad liberalism represented across member states, with there parties agreeing with more and others with less ideas with Macron.

However both ALDE and En Marche! both belong to the progressive part of politics and I hope they will work together in the next European Parliament.

Talking about progressives, how would a coalition between ALDE and the S&D be possible, especially after the broken deal in Antonio Tajani’s election?

Liberals always try to work for the best solution, we don’t have much of that ideological thinking, we thing like “issues and solution”. So I do think liberals should work together with any democratic force, if we find common ground and common solutions to an issue. S&D see a lot of change going on in their national parties. From Italy, to Germany, they have a lot of questions to answer to themselves; how do they see the EU? How do they see the future? Where they want to stand?

How do you see the new Italian government?

This is something totally new, we should never forget that this is not normal, this is being extreme. We should as democrats always stand up to populists, even if they end up in the government. It is quite interesting that the new extremes have come together … Having a populist government in one of the founding member states is quite a challenge.

We don’t know what to expect, or how stable they will be at the end, but if they are able to govern, they could prove to be stable as they both were the forces in the past that have worked hard against the government.

The ideas they have for sure scare a lot of people. They are quite demanding, not very sustainable, and very nationalist. At the same time, we see the liberal forces … on the rise in Italy. So it is important that all the others join forces to show them that the time of national thinking is over in the EU.

Is national thinking over in the EU?

Looking at the history of Europe we had times of nationalist states and we have seen how badly this has failed, so I strongly believe there’s nothing good on the way back.  I myself am a federalist, as I grew up in a federalist state, Germany, and have seen that the system of federalism works and to me the idea of a federal Europe is nothing frightening but logical, it is the best system we can have, as close as possible to the people, to take decisions at the closest possible level. So I do believe this should be our long term goal; it is not something we are going to achieve in the next mandate, or the next decade.

As for the Spitzenkandidaten process, as we already have names dropping on the table, do you thing that people will be more involved in the process?

I do hope so, and I do believe that it is the duty of politics of bringing [the Spitzenkandidaten process] close to national voters. Unfortunately the idea of transnational lists failed; I was a strong advocate because I wanted to see politicians that don’t think as national politicians focusing mainly on national issues, but as truly Europeans.  We already have quite a lot of that kind of politicians but this would take it further. A mixed system with constituencies and lists could work, with not as small constituencies as on a national level of course. It is really important to have a figure represent the idea, I strongly believe that the Spitzenkandidaten process is good … it helps the voters to get an idea “who is this Brussels” away from this backroom thing of the European Council. We also need to make sure that the debates will be broadcast on national TV, we are campaigning with the Young European Federalists.

Who would be your pick?

Guy Verhofstadt is a really good candidate, he can really set a spark to people, Margrethe Vestager as a female is a role model and a really strong person. We hear some more names, it is good that the European party actually has a say in that and that it won’t just be the national leaders putting a name forward.

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