Senior French politicians joined forces with the ALDE Group in the Committee of the Regions (ALDE-CoR) at the French Senate in Paris to organise a Citizens' Consultation, led by French EU Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau and other representatives from French centrist parties, including La République En Marche (LREM), Mouvement Radical and UDI.
Hosted by the Union Centriste group of the Senate, the event brought together about 80 people – citizens, ALDE-CoR members, ALDE Individual members in France, representatives of these parties, who seized the opportunity to ask their questions about the EU or relate their views on Europe to the Minister and other speakers. Senator Vicent Delahaye (UDI) offered some welcome words and called on Europe to focus on the challenges and opportunities in the area of Artificial Intelligence.
Identifying synergies to strengthen the European Union: French EU Affairs Minister @NathalieLoiseau with @ALDEParty President @hansvanbaalen, our President @BartSomers & our VP @fdecoster in Paris just before our citizen consultation. pic.twitter.com/lN6DQvdeKe— Renew Europe CoR (@RenewEuropeCoR) June 11, 2018
Find below are some of the key messages from the speakers:
French EU Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau: "At EU level, it cannot be business as usual. But we can only find new solutions by listening to the citizens, and that is why we have launched this process of Citizen Consultations. This is my 27th! One of the concerns that comes time and time again in the various Citizen Consultations I participate in is the question of European defence. There has been very significant progress in practical terms in recent years that was unimaginable only 5 years ago, such as cooperating on expenditure. There is really a revolutionary change in culture on this front and the Europe of defence really is becoming a reality."
ALDE Party President Hans van Baalen MEP: "The ALDE Party is also taking a bottom up approach to the drafting of our manifesto for the European elections. People want solutions to problems and therefore we have to defend Europe by focusing on where Europe is delivering already, and where it can do so in the future."
Intense and passionate debates about Europe & positive message for the future to fight divisive policies of populists. Speakers @PA_Anglade @DominiqueRiquet @hansvanbaalen @BartSomers @fdecoster at our #Citizen Consultation in Paris pic.twitter.com/BIBuceFash— Renew Europe CoR (@RenewEuropeCoR) June 11, 2018
Pieyre-Alexandre Anglade MP (LREM): "For years in France, the two main political parties were divided over Europe and simply put these matters on the back burner, allowing the extremists to dominate the discussion about the EU. President Macron has turned that around and put Europe at the heart of French political discourse. If Europe is currently disfunctional it is because not enough attention is paid to Europe at national level, and that is no longer the case in France. The objective of President Macron’s party is to transform Europe by 2024 so that citizens perceive that European democracy has real added value, and we must start with a strong political response in 2019 at the next European elections."
ALDE-CoR President Bart Somers: "Populists try to reduce identity to one dimension, but in reality we all have multiple identities. The European identity is not like a national one or like the American one, it is something else, quite unique. And what is common to all Europeans is the values for which the Union stands. Populists want to destroy the EU, but we say it must be strengthened in order to protect freedom and facilitate the multiple identities of Europeans."
Dominique Riquet MEP (Mouvement Radical): "The Europe of Citizens needs to be redefined. Citizens either accept or don’t accept the European Union and the relationship is not always rational, there is an emotional aspect. Some will either like it or not like it. Europe appeals to the emotion, but the European Union is a political-administrative construct which appeals less to emotions than “Europe”. But for the EU to deliver in those areas where citizens feel most passionate about, such as defence or social policy, it requires powers that national governments have not granted it."
Senator Cathérine Fournier (UDI): "In the North of France we had the feeling that we were abandoned when confronted with the now famous Jungle area where migrants were concentrated for so long. We need to know what the European policy will be in the area of migration. When people love something they make an effort to make it work. I want my citizens to love Europe, because in the second round of the presidential elections, 52% of citizens in my area voted for the National Front. That is unacceptable."
At the end of the event, the regional coordinators of ALDE Individual Members in France took the chance to have a group picture together with Hans van Baalen.
For more quotes and photos, please visit the ALDE-CoR's page.