In electrostatics, the potential difference between two points is called voltage, the unit of which is known to be the volt. This is also the carefully chosen name of a new pan-European movement or party, which is already active in 30 countries with over 15000 supporters. The active members are mostly around 30 years old and work in associations, companies or even in politics. A political allocation to the right or left, liberal or conservative is not appropriate. In one point they claim to be essentially unique : – Volt as the first transnational party in Europe, with a uniform logo and supranational interests.
Thus, participation in the European elections in May 2019 is an important goal, in order to then have at least 25 members in the European Parliament thus being able to form a parliamentary group there.
On the website voltdeutschland.org the history of the movement is described as follows:
After the Brexit, Andrea Venzon and Colombe Cahen-Salvador discussed its effects. On June 23 they had talked enough and decided to create a new political platform. This is how Volt’s idea came about. Damian Boeselager joined in January 2017. He also brought a lot of enthusiasm and became part of the small group. On 29 March 2017, when Great Britain applied to leave the EU, the team set up a first Facebook page and questioned the status quo. Without money, big names or political support, Volt has grown into a political movement with thousands of members in all European countries. Volt was founded because reactionary and populist tendencies threaten our values and established parties do not provide attractive and pragmatic answers to the challenges of our time.
The main features of the programme, namely to counteract the emerging populism in Europe, which is obviously the basis of national tendencies, as can be observed in Hungary, Poland, Austria and, most recently, Italy, are already becoming apparent here.
Programme and Objectives
Wikipedia – which in turn refers to “variuos media” – believes that the movement’s aim is to promote democracy in the EU and strengthen European patriotism. Now, a free democratic basic order on the basis of our (German) constitution is definitely worth preserving and here, too, a lot could still be “promoted”, but what should the democratic system of the EU ultimately be like in order to do justice to the most diverse cultures with their very different needs? Volt’s claim to work for democratic structures in the individual member states in order to create a functioning democratic Europe on such a basis is certainly to be welcomed. I regard the ‘strengthening of European patriotism’first of all as a dubious and also misleading objective, since this term is not sufficiently distinguished from nationalism and chauvinism, which should now be overcome. What is meant, however, is probably patriotism in the sense of a commitment to the supranational political fundamental rights and values enshrined in a European constitution. On this basis another Volt belief is to be understood:
We believe in a united Europe that values its citizens and helps them to realise their unique potential. Only in this way can we together achieve the highest standards of human, social, environmental and technological development...
Volt identifies 5 priority themes to be implemented at national level in each European country and another major project to reform the EU as a whole.
1. Smart State
Governments should provide high-quality public services for the benefit of their citizens and residents. Smart States must therefore continuously adapt to provide state-of-the-art public services in areas such as education, health care, and justice, to ensure social inclusion and equal opportunities. At the same time, new tools allow governments to increase their administrative effectiveness, fight corruption and earn their citizens’ trust through accountable and transparent governance.
In addition to some quite general demands, which are formulated in a similar way in many party programmes, two noteworthy points also appear here. Governments should ensure maximum social inclusion. What is meant is (hopefully) the emphasis on the equivalence of human beings, without assuming normality – and if normal, then in the sense of diversity, the existence of differences. Only in this way can peaceful coexistence be guaranteed in the “Smart State”.
2 Economic Renaissance
European economies need to become the engine of society’s progress and allow for a decent living standard for all. For this, we established 3 key levers: rebuilding economically challenged areas, fostering leadership in innovation, and pushing for the EU to become a ‘Social Union’. This requires innovative policies to reduce bureaucracy, tackle unemployment, revive innovation, invest in smart & sustainable productivity and trade, and create a unified European social and fiscal system.
In addition to some very general statements, it becomes clear that the focus of “economic renaissance” is on the creation of new social structures. A Europe-wide uniform social system, realised in a social union, supported by the principles of equality and justice, would indeed be a great step forward and would thus eliminate many inner-European imbalances. Investing in smart and sustainable trade is desirable and will probably become increasingly important in the future, but this requires investors who have the courage to implement new innovative ideas; here the state or even the Union can only act in a supportive and accompanying manner. In doing so, we should focus on decentralised, regional and local innovation structures and not leave the management to a centralised competence centre, especially in view of the size and scope of Europe-wide structures.
3. Social Equality
In 2018, no one should still be left behind. Everyone in Europe has to be guaranteed equal rights and opportunities, and human rights need to be respected, applied, and upheld!
To achieve this aim, we are introducing groundbreaking and holistic policies that tackle all types of inequalities and discrimination, that aim to alleviate poverty, to include everyone in society and provide access to basic needs, and that emphasize a person’s right to their own body.
Demands that seem so self-evident and yet are so well-founded. According to Human Rights Watch, for example, the human rights situation in Europe worsened in 2018:
Racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic attitudes and violence remained widespread throughout the EU. Throughout Europe, Muslims were confronted with hostility and intolerance. Anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic hate crimes also remain a serious problem.
The EU’s willingness to promote human rights in its foreign policy has often been undermined by other interests, including national security, access to natural resources and migration control. Moreover, the European External Action Service does not set a good example with regard to human rights either.
Country-specific developments highlighted in the report include France’s decision to translate anti-human rights emergency regulations into regular legislation; Hungary’s action against human rights organisations and independent universities; the dismantling of correctives and executive controls in Poland; the ongoing crisis situation affecting asylum seekers in the Greek islands; and the fact that the British government did not guarantee human rights protection in the Brexit process.
On the subject of social justice, a study by the Bertelsmanns Stiftung shows that a negative trend is also emerging across Europe:
The EU Social Justice Index comprises six dimensions: Poverty avoidance, access to education, access to the labor market, social cohesion and non-discrimination, health and intergenerational justice.
The analysis has shown that social justice has declined in the EU in recent years. In addition, the extent of social justice within the EU has been realised to varying degrees. There is a social division in the EU, e.g. between the Scandinavian countries plus the Netherlands and the southern European crisis countries, a negative trend in social justice.
Here a huge problem is emerging, a big challenge for a party like Volt!
4. Citizen Empowerment
Europeans should be empowered to take informed political decisions, be able to influence politics beyond elections alone, and exercise their democratic rights within vibrant, resilient and highly deliberative democracies. Our policies are based on best practices regarding the fostering of a pluralistic information and media landscape, tools & technologies for political engagement and empowerment, and ways in which democracies can be made to thrive.
Finding a sensible way to inform citizens consistently and fairly and, above all, to motivate them to become actively involved in politics is certainly a challenge.
Here I would like to add the fair use of social media. A young, digital party in particular should seize the opportunity to disseminate its ideas effectively in the media on the one hand, but also to counter the widespread abuse by using fake news, striking memes and similar populist propaganda on the other.
5 Global Balance
In today’s interconnected world, and given the recent developments in the international policy arena, Europe needs to assume responsibility for its role in global challenges. These challenges include topics such as climate change, international fair trade, sustainable farming, food security, biodiversity, migration issues, and international development cooperation. This Challenge seeks to establish policies in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.
Under the heading “Global Balance”, Volt emphasises the EU’s responsibility in relation to global problems. The challenge of “social justice” in the European area already described under point 3 is here sensibly and logically extended to the worldwide, usually much larger problems. However, the fight against climate change should be emphasized, unfortunately only one point among others, but the biggest ecological catastrophe to be expected must be averted. Temperatures continue to rise, glaciers and sea ice are melting, weather extremes are increasing, drought and deserts are spreading. According to the latest IPCC report, we have 12 years left to take fast and decisive action to keep the temperature rise below 1.5 degrees. According to many experts, this is already triggering so-called tipping elements and at around 2 degrees the point of no return would already have been reached.
After China and the USA, the EU is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases and, despite numerous political declarations of intent, despite the Paris Agreement, emissions are rising in Germany, in Europe and worldwide. So there is an urgent need for countermeasures here. The energy turnaround must be implemented politically. Technologically this is already possible. (see report) The traffic turnaround must come. Unpopular measures for energy use would also be unavoidable. If this does not happen, the above challenges such as jobs, poverty and fair trade will become meaningless, and in many parts of the world it will increasingly be a matter of bare survival.
For a young, progressive and innovative party as Volt, this would be the first touchstone to prove oneself.
+1. EU Reform
The European Union is our common project: we have managed to come together and build a Union that has ensured peace and prosperity for over sixty years. Yet, it has its shortcomings, which is why we want to reform and strengthen EU governance and institutions for a more democratic, more transparent and stronger Europe, a federal Europe; and we propose concrete policies for more efficient EU action to promote and protect the interests of all European citizens.
Here the Volt EU Reform Team has set itself something really big, but as with the other challenges mentioned above, I consider all goals and tasks to be meaningful and necessary, albeit with different weightings.
One can attest to this movement that it has not only recognised the essential challenges on our continent, but that it also offers predominantly convincing solutions. Implementing these goals requires people full of energy, innovation and motivation. Volt offers a great field of activity for these people.
Bernd Riebe DEC 2018