New ideas for future generations: Former Presidents of the European Parliament and distinguished speakers attend the Annual Events of the European Parliament Former Members Association

The European Parliament Former Members Association (FMA), under the presidency of Hans-Gert Pöttering, successfully hosted its Annual Events on 28th and 29th of November in Brussels.

During a cocktail reception, the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, welcomed the Former Members back to the Parliament. Among them were well-known former MEPs like Astrid Lulling and former president of the Parliament Pat Cox. Mr Tajani appreciated the work of the FMA and their members. He said that the information former MEPs can provide to society is very precious.

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation was the keynote speaker at the Dinner Debate. He focussed on challenges for EU generations in different points of time. Moedas especially stressed that it is on the new generation to negotiate the Europe of tomorrow and on the older generation to remind them not to take anything for granted. Both groups need to work together in order to shape the future of the EU. The guests participated eagerly during the question and answer session in the debate and discussed the issues raised by Moeads. Peter Price agreed with the arguments mentioned but wondered how it would be possible to reach the young generation with short and impactful messages. Moedas agreed that communication plays a crucial part between the generations and stressed that it is necessary to empower young people to speak up and express their opinion.

On 29th of November, the FMA hosted the Annual Seminar at the European Parliament. Former Members, as well as university groups from KU Leuven and UC Louvain, attended the seminar. Three experts provided the audience with their insightful presentations on how former MEPs and citizens can inspire enthusiasm for Europe.

Heidi HAUTALA stressed that in recent years the European Parliament has become an important platform for political debate which changed its’ perception among citizens but admitted as well that there are still shortcomings and many people are not aware of what the European Union is doing. She emphasised that all MEPs as well as former MEPs have to show to the citizens that the EU matters in their lives and makes a difference. Heidi Hautala concluded that one of our biggest challenges is sustainability but she remarked optimistically that the younger generation understands that we need to preserve our planet and the people.

Mikulas DZURINDA went one-step further and focussed on the importance of a new vision for the European Union based on comprehensive projects, structural reforms and a clear communication that is focussed on previous achievements of the EU. He argued for more Europe in certain fields but also stressed the core concept of subsidiarity. Dzurinda further pointed out that it is inevitable to strengthen the European identity and patriotism. He said it is necessary to create positive emotions when talking about the EU.

Iñigo MÉNDEZ DE VIGO on the other hand made clear that from his perspective it is often on to the politicians to do a better job in communicating about the EU. They often focus too much on negative aspects and shortcomings and this might have a discouraging effect on citizens. Mendez de Vigo also stressed that the European countries have to act united in order to stand strong against future challenges and other big international players. He said that the European way of life has to be preserved.

Around 25 students as well as former MEPs participated in the seminar and were able to ask questions and engage with the speakers. The question was raised if it might be necessary to implement a new EU treaty in order to make sure that the Union changes substantially. Mr. Dzurinda agreed that there has to be a new treaty in order to initiate change. However, Mr Méndez de Vigo disagreed with him and stressed the missing support from the Member States at this point of time. In a similar vine President Pöttering highlighted the necessity of political will and support of the citizens for a new treaty.

At both events communication was identified as crucial tool in order to reach citizens and especially the younger generation that will have a decisive voice in the upcoming European elections 2019. In addition, to reach those citizens who feel left out and not taken serious must be addressed. The EU recently launched a website specifically tackling these needs, which was introduced to the audience during the seminar .

Former Members Association Secretariat