The media’s role in pushing for political accountability, boosting citizen participation in democratic life and harnessing digital technology for political good were among the ideas in focus in debates among young leaders from across Europe on 13 September.
Empowering citizens formed the core of discussions on the opening day of the second 2018 European Young Leaders (EYL40) seminar in Malta.
The three-day meeting is the latest in the Friends of Europe EYL40 programme bringing together pace-setters under-40 in fields ranging from politics and the media, to business, science and culture.
“We are meeting at a critical time for the European Union and the future of Europe,” said Aaron Farrugia, Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds and Social Dialogue in Malta and 2017 European Young Leader. “We are experiencing Brexit and the rise of populism. The EU is at a crossroads, we have to decide what sort of Europe we want.”
The Malta seminar will identify key recommendations to improve the direct participation of citizens in politics that will be shared with decision-makers in the run up to next year’s European Parliament elections, in the context of Friends of Europe’s #EuropeMatters project.
Speakers included Bastian Obermayer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and 2018 European Young Leader who played a central role in the ‘Panama Papers’ investigation, and Jon Alexander, founder of The New Citizenship Project, a social initiative that helps catalyse the shift towards a more participatory society.
“Trust is reciprocal. When you put trust in the people, you get it back,” said Alexander. “We are still living at a time where people are living as consumers, but the new story that’s forming is of people as citizens.”
Obermayer explained how, against the odds, he had worked with 400 journalists around the world to expose corruption in the Panama Papers. “If you have a really dedicated group of people you can make it,” he told the group. “You have to have a common goal, you have to be really convinced.”
The final session of the day featured a three-way debate on the use of technology in politics with Jesse Klaver, leader of the GroenLinks party in Dutch Parliament and 2018 European Young Leader; Sandor Lederer, CEO of K-Monitor - a non-profit public funds watchdog in Hungary and 2015 European Young Leader; and Julia Kloiber founder of Code for Germany, which seeks to promote transparency, open data and civic technology.
Klaver said progressive politicians need to make full use of digital technology to stop the rise of the far right. “We have to stop them and therefore we have to make use of big data,” he said. “The way to do that is through trust.”
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Led by Friends of Europe, each year the European Young Leaders (EYL40) programme brings together talented, established leaders, aged 40 and under, who have made their mark in a wide range of fields such as politics, science, business, media, NGOs, the arts and civil society. You can find more information about the programme in the EYL40 overview. The programme was originally conceived with EuropaNova.