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.”
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.
The European Young Leaders meet during the second half of a pre-election year for Europe, during which the jostling of right-wing populists and left-leaning neoliberals will move from the national arenas of member states to take centre-stage at the European level.
It’s a key moment for European citizens to examine their understanding of the European project, assess its strengths and weaknesses and their expectations for the future of the Union, in order to shape its governance for the coming years.
Winning audiences through both digital and traditional media will be intrinsic to the outcome of these elections, whilst citizens themselves must be more vigilant than ever to guard against “fake news” when assessing the campaigns of the candidates and parties vying for their support. Meanwhile, social platforms operating in Europe will face increased scrutiny as to how they filter and manage the information presented to their users, particularly in the wake of alleged Russian and North Korean interference in democratic processes across Europe, and the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The overarching pre-election theme has two main components which will be further reflected throughout the European Young Leaders’ programme during this important year. The first of these is the enabling and embedding of resilience in the people, policies and processes of the European project. The second concerns the bridging of the gap between citizens and states, which has widened in recent years due to an increasing lack of trust and confidence in governments and the EU institutions.
The Valletta seminar is the second in a series of seminars which form the foundation of the 2018 edition of the European Young Leaders’ programme, and its themes have been chosen to reflect the core work of Friends of Europe for this year and into the future. Many of the ideas generated in this seminar will feed into the 2018 workstream of our Citizens Europe programme and will also provide the basis for a series of wider follow-up debates via our online platform Debating Europe and its 3.5 million strong community of citizens.
Part I – Laying the foundation: trust, transparency and accountability
In the early part of the 21st century, transparency is primarily achieved through leaks, whistleblowing, and hacking. These phenomena give us new information, but do not deliver change, which history tells us requires courage, conviction, passion, and motivation on the part of people who are willing to go the extra mile, push past the status quo and strive for something more. This has implications on perceptions of both corporate and public sector governance; from the point of view of ordinary citizens, the whole system appears corrupt.
With low levels of trust in both political and corporate leadership, how do we empower citizens to pursue real system change? How can we turn the cynicism that has been building over the past two decades into a common belief that any individual has the capacity to act to change things for the better?
Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, Süddeutsche Zeitung and 2018 European Young Leader (EYL40)
As emerging leaders facing the multiple crises of our time, we are going to need to harness all the energy we can. People are coming together in new ways, and leaders increasingly need to be able to tap into and respond to these dynamics. In this session, we will work together to explore the changing nature of leadership in the age of people power, exchange experiences and insights from our personal leadership journeys, and experiment with new tools and ways of thinking.
We will be working together to ask what we as leaders need to do more and less of in order to build trust and lead the change we need.
Chief Executive at New Citizenship Project
Part III – Making use of the digital world
The arrival of big data collection has led to manipulation and brought with it new opportunities for profiling people in terms of their needs, wants, and fears, using the information collected as a basis for developing campaign platforms designed to appeal to the masses. This reverse-engineering of political leadership is fundamentally changing the nature of politics. It’s a dynamic so forceful that politicians and political parties are losing the ability to be authentic in their convictions and to develop relationships with voters based on trust.
Driven by data collection providing new insights to campaigners, is the idealistic side of leadership being neutered by an over-reliance on digital voter-profiling? What techniques and approaches can be developed to manage, respond and mitigate the influence of big data on our democratic processes?
Founder of Code for Germany; Senior Fellow at Mozzilla Foundation
Member of the Dutch House of Representatives, Leader of the Dutch green party GroenLinks and 2018 European Young Leader (EYL40)
Co-Founder and CEO of K-Monitor and 2015-2016 European Young Leader (EYL40)
Director, Asia, Peace, Security & Defense, Digital & Chief spokesperson
How genomics offers new horizons for healthcare
New gene-editing techniques make it possible to correct errors in the genetic code that result in diseases like cystic fibrosis. Although these are new (and mostly untested) tools, researchers in China have started to actually ‘fix’ flaws in human embryos. This has huge potential for the thousands of rare diseases for which there is no cure or treatment. From implantable cybernetics to hacking the genome, human bodies are the new frontier for health breakthroughs. Digital innovations are improving clinical outcomes, human experiences and labour productivity.
But what are the ethical implications of new health technologies? How do European policymakers regulate this personal space? And how do we ensure equal access to the benefits of these innovations for all citizens?
Senior Research Fellow at Uppsala University; Research Professor at the Estonian Genome Center
Political Scientist, University of Vienna and King’s College London
Head of the Directorate General for Digitalisation and Innovation at the German Ministry of Health and 2018 European Young Leader (EYL40)
PARALLEL SESSION I: THE BLOCKCHAIN REVOLUTION
A leapfrogging opportunity for Europe?
Blockchain technology doesn’t just enable bitcoin – it could change the way we use the web. Blockchain has the potential to disrupt the massive tech giants of the US and of China because it removes the need for centralised data platforms. How can Europe use this potential? How can Europe avoid moving in fragmented way (like it did with AI)? How can blockchain be a source for both value creation and social good?
Serial Entrepreneur, award winning speaker and academic and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)
Founder and CEO of Zingr
Founder & CEO of OpenCollective and Co-Founder of Storify and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)
PARALLEL SESSION II: HOUSING: A DRIVER OF INEQUALITY IN EUROPE
Implementing an inclusive approach
Housing exclusion is growing in Europe: almost all Member States are seeing an increase in homelessness, increasing numbers of citizens are locked out of housing markets and neither the private nor the social rental sector is responding adequately to citizens’ needs. What are the key drivers of the housing crisis? How can affordable housing be made accessible to all? Did the Grenfell tragedy in the UK led to a push-back movement against government policies of cutting budgets and privatising public services?
International News Correspondent, TRT World and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)
CEO of the Y-Foundation
Independent Senior Housing Expert and Adviser at the European Commission
Activities co-designed with Young Leaders
This session is an opportunity for Young Leaders to have their say on topics or activities they would like to focus on during the seminar. You Decide is dedicated to the Young Leaders and is about defining and discussing those issues that you think are important to discuss in this day and age.
For this session we use the unconference format, an open space for peer-to-peer learning, collaboration and creativity. The concept is simple. At an unconference, the topics have not been predetermined, no keynote speakers have been invited, no panels have been arranged. You will decide what topics will be discussed and you will convene the individual breakout sessions. In other words, an unconference has no agenda until the participants create it.
At the beginning of the session, the EYLs will get the opportunity to pitch a subject or idea for one of the breakout groups. Afterwards, we will split up into smaller groups, each covering one subject to discuss in-depth. The objective of each group will be to come up with three clear policy recommendations. In order to do so, each group will have to appoint one moderator and one rapporteur.
This session is devoted to it’s attendees and begins and ends with their participation. So, please think about possible subjects for your pitch!
Empowering citizens across Europe
Engaging people in the political process and regaining their trust is the key question facing Europe as it redefines itself during the 2019 elections campaign. But Europe can’t do this on its own. To take full advantage of this key moment, politicians and citizens need to come together to reflect on the current status of the European Project. If we are truly committed to defending and rebuilding democracy, now is the time to take joint action.
Friends of Europe is organising several discussions with citizens on how to involve people in politics. At the last EYL-seminar, we invited 100 Warsaw residents to join the Young Leaders for a conversation on active citizenship. In this session, we will continue the discussion, this time with Maltese citizens. We will be asking the Young Leaders and our Maltese participants to debate the practical implication of the recommendations tabled at the Warsaw meeting: are you willing to put in the time and effort needed to participate in politics? If yes, how? What practical tools could Europe introduce to facilitate your participation?
The session will aim to identify key recommendations to improve the direct participation of citizens in national and EU politics. These recommendations will be shared with EU decision makers in the lead up to the 2019 European elections.
Maltese Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)
First Vice-President of the European Parliament and 2018 European Young Leader (EYL40)
Member of Parliament and Deputy Mayor of Helsink, National Parliament, Finland and 2018 European Young Leader (EYL40)
Director, Asia, Peace, Security & Defense, Digital & Chief spokesperson
Connecting with EYLs and alumni
Over breakfast, 30 minute short conversations with European Young Leaders run in parallel on issues that matter to them, to gain expertise from this resourceful network.
Portugal’s drugs decrimalisation policy - what lessons for the rest of the world?
Ricardo Baptista Leite
Founder and President of UNITE, Member of the Portuguese National Parliament and 2015-2016 European Young Leader (EYL40)
Why Africa is Europe’s most important strategic partner and why its development is instrumental
Founding Partner and CEO of Regenopolis and 2018 European Young Leader (EYL40)
The digital society – how Estonia is leading the way for businesses and technology startups
Co-Founder and Chief Testing Officer of Testilo and 2018 European Young Leader (EYL40)
Political journalism in a populist age - a new climate of antagonism towards journalists?
Founder of the Czech Center for Investigative Journalism and 2018 European Young Leader (EYL40)
Voice building for the unheard by and for a new generation - fighting political apathy and changing a consensus
Nassira El Moaddem
Journalist at France 2 and 2018 European Young Leader (EYL40)
Why and how: inspire young girls into tech and science
Chief Executive Officer of Stemettes and 2018 European Young Leader (EYL40)
Europe goes beyond the low-earth orbit: human exploration of the moon, Mars colony and beyond?
Astrophysicist and Exoplanet Discoverer; Ramón y Cajal Research Fellow at the Institute of Space Sciences (IEEC-CISC) and 2018 European Young Leader
How neuroscience enables AI to give computers eyes
Radoslaw Martin Cichy
Research Group Leader, Free University of Berlin and 2018 European Young Leader (EYL40)
What if Europe didn’t exist…?
Europe has been the most successful peace project in history, a cooperative effort that has bestowed unprecedented social and economic benefits on its people. But the EU is in crisis. The European debate is confused, characterised by doubt, fear and disenchantment.
Yet Europeans continue to enjoy some of the greatest civil protections and social advantages of any region in the world, and whilst there is still much that can be done to improve the European project, it remains a success story worth telling. Europe is the only place in the world with a social model that offers all citizens education, healthcare, a minimum wage, a pension, annual leave, and equality between men and women.
But what if the EU had never been established? What if Europe – as we know it – were to no longer exist? What would be the impact on the everyday lives of Europeans? In the run up to the 2019 elections, what story will you tell to campaign for Europe?
Pitch your own ideas for Europe!
Co-President and Co-Founder of Operation Libero
Professor, Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent and 2018 European Young Leader (EYL40)
A former advertising executive, Jon Alexander co-founded UK-based innovation consultancy the New Citizenship Project (NCP) as a vehicle to bring the skills of the creative industries to bear on inspiring people to claim their agency in society as citizens instead of just selling stuff to people as consumers. Part think tank, part consultancy and still in its early years, NCP has worked with organisations ranging from The Guardian to Coop Group, and potentially soon with the European Central Bank.
Helena Dalli is Minister for European Affairs and Equality in Malta. First elected to Parliament in 1996, her experience in the Maltese Parliament has been one of the longest held by a woman in Maltese politics and the only woman to be elected from two districts in the interest of the Labour Party. During the 2013-2017 legislature she was minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties. Under her direction the Government introduced several laws and policies to strengthen the equality and human rights framework placing Malta among the first in Europe in this field. In 2016 Minister Dalli won the European Diversity Award for her work in human rights and equality.
Giselle Frederick has an established career working in Financial Technology Swiss and British Investment Banks. She is the Founder and CEO of Zingr, a FinTech startup providing solutions to the unbanked. Built on Blockchain technology, it reduces the cost of accepting and making payments through an app that makes online and peer-to-peer payments seamless, fast and secure. She is a passionate advocate for the growth and development of the Tech ecosystem in the Caribbean and a renowned blockchain advocate. Frederick is also the Chair of the Millennial Women Initiative at Women in Banking and Finance, a stream that tackles issues around attraction and retention of female millennial women in the finance sector.
Juha Kaakinen has worked in public administration of the City of Helsinki, as a researcher, consultant and CEO of Social Development Ltd, a company devoted to developing social and health services for cities and municipalities and as a Program Leader of a National Program to End Long-term Homelessness. He is now Chief Executive of Y-Foundation, the biggest Finnish NGO providing housing for homeless people and social housing with a housing stock of 16700 flats. He is internationally known as an advocate of Housing First policy.
Abdalla is a serial entrepreneur and award-winning Fintech expert. He specialises in the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in the design of complex financial systems. Throughout his career, he founded a number of start-ups and companies specialising in deep learning, professional match-making and Fintech. Furthermore, Abdalla is an Alumni of Microsoft Ventures UK and worked on projects which were featured at the World Economic Forum 2017 in Davos. He is also an academic at the University of Malta where he lectures and researches topics related to computational intelligence, financial engineering and financial data science. In addition to these roles, Abdalla advises governments on matters related to strategic development and the utilisation of technology, Fintech, and Blockchain/DLT technologies.
Flavia Kleiner founded the Swiss political movement Operation Libero, which gained national importance in Switzerland in 2016 when it successfully campaigned against the so-called ‘enforcement initiative’ by the Swiss People’s Party. Her work focuses on the future of democracy, the rule of law, the current rise of right-wing populism and civil society engagement. Flavia is a council member of the European Council on Foreign Affairs (ECFR), one of POLITICO’s ‘28 people who will shape Europe in 2018’ and among Forbes ‘30 under 30’ in the section ‘Law & Policy’.
Julia Kloiber is a researcher and designer who works at the intersection of technology and society. In 2016 she founded the Prototype Fund, Germany’s first open source funding program that supports technology projects for the public good. As part of the Open Knowledge Foundation, she has been running multiple initiatives that foster the reuse of open data and promote transparency. She is a Senior Fellow at Mozilla where she focuses on building public awareness to demand ethical internet technologies. Based in Berlin, she is currently researching emerging technologies and exploring future narratives.
Lili Milani’s main areas of research have been epigenetics and pharmacogenetics – studying the genetics of inter-individual variation in drug response. She is now a research professor and head of the personalised medicine initiative at the Estonian Genome Center, University of Tartu. She is actively participating in preparing and implementing the national strategy for personalised medicine in Estonia in close collaboration with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Institute for Health Development. She is also a SciLifeLab fellow at the Department of Medical Sciences, Uppsala University.
Barbara Prainsack is a Professor at the University of Vienna and at King’s College London. Her work explores the social, regulatory and ethical dimensions of biomedicine and bioscience. Current projects focus on personalised and “precision” medicine, on citizen participation in science and medicine, and the role of solidarity in medicine and healthcare. Prainsack is also a member of the Austrian National Bioethics Committee, and of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE) advising the European Commission.
Orna Rosenfeld is a senior housing expert teaching at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) since 2013. An architect by training, she designed and assisted in the delivery of over 6,000 affordable homes before dedicating herself to counselling and researching the advancement of affordable and social housing policies. Among other publications, she is the author of the flagship study “Social Housing in the UNECE Region: Models, Trends and Challenges”.
- By Jamie Shea
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