Study: Young Germans demand more environmental protection and justice from Europe

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Citizens' Europe

1 July, 2020 – As Germany today assumes the presidency of the EU Council, it will face many challenges in setting a course for the future of the European Union. But what direction do young Germans want it to take?

Debating Europe, the online citizens platform, held a series of online focus groups with 100 young Germans about the issues most important to them and what they expect from their politicians. The results show that while they want “more Europe”, they express high levels of dissatisfaction with the state of the environment, refugee policy and the distribution of wealth in society.

Their top 10 to-dos for EU and national policy-makers are:

  1. Fight harder for climate change. Young Europeans in Germany are calling on politicians to take stronger measures to mitigate the devastating consequences of climate change. They urge the European Commission to keep its focus in the context of the economic recovery.
  2. Develop a refugee policy with humanity and European values at its heart. Young Germans are frustrated with the EU’s inability to develop a common asylum and refugee policy. They expect more humanity and readiness in dealing with the issue.
  3. Promote economic growth, but not at any price. Young Germans want to see a rethink in the way we create and attribute value. They want sustainable economic growth that is in harmony with environmental protection.
  4. Support a more democratic EU with a strengthened role for the European Parliament. The reputation of the EU among young Germans suffers from the fact that they perceive its structures as insufficiently democratic and transparent. This can be remedied by a stronger role for the European Parliament and a better respect for the “Spitzenkandidaten” process in future European elections.
  5. Accept Germany’s special responsibility within Europe. Young Germans believe that for historical and economic reasons, Germany has a special responsibility within the European project. They expect the German government to play a more prominent, pro-European role in guiding other EU countries towards deeper solidarity with the project.
  6. Become a global pioneer for fair international cooperation. Young Germans expect the EU to play a pioneering and exemplary role in the realisation of fair international cooperation.
  7. Show greater solidarity. Too often the EU appears to be divided. Young Germans would like to see a united Europe, with member states that show solidarity with each other and with communities around the world.
  8. Encourage a limitless desire to travel. Young Germans view the ease of travelling and settling within the Union as an essential human right given to them by the EU. Programmes that encourage mobility should be expanded.
  9. Improve the EU’s image within member states. Young Germans feel that the EU does not adequately communicate the advantages of membership. The project should be better explained to all and better defended against critics.
  10. Restore credibility through honest politics. Young Germans strongly criticise the way in which politics are conducted and doubt whether politicians actually care about their concerns. This credibility gap should be urgently addressed.

Debating Europe Germany Editor Elisabeth Wisniewski comments: “The focus group participants have given their policymakers a mandate.  One thing is very clear: they all want Europe, but they are challenging politicians to build a better one – in their lifetime.”

Direct conversations with and between young people are key to deepening the debate on Europe’s future. The findings of the study have been presented in a report (in German), “What does Germany’s youth want from Europe” . More than 100 18-to-35-year-olds from all over Germany were interviewed in focus groups in February and March 2020 for this report.

Debating Europe is an initiative of the Friends of Europe think tank. The German edition of the platform, in operation since 2017, has brought together over 330,000 (mainly young) citizens.

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