As two of the biggest states in the EU, French and British JEFers may well be feeling sorry for themselves right now. Those of us who didn’t stay up all night cringing between each victory for the eurosceptics awoke this morning to find the smug grins of Farage and Le Pen on the front pages of our biggest newspapers. But now is not the time to be depressed, now is the time to remember what JEF is all about, to remember the values that we all hold dear as European Federalists, and to keep on fighting for a more efficient and a better integrated Europe.
The French and the English have been the best of frenemies over the centuries, but thankfully the notion that we are anything other than friendly rivals who find each other irresistible has increasingly took root. We’re no longer just bound by a military alliance, or even the institutions of European integration but we are bound by close friendships that span La Manche. The Brits love French food and fashion, the French (almost) love the English weather! While Eurosceptics may try and collaborate across borders, their friendship will not endure. Their being xenophobic means they will turn on each other before long. Not so for us JEFers. It’s not just the British and the French that can embrace one another through these Eurosceptic storms, we have 26 other member states to cuddle and a handful more clamouring to get in on the action! We’ve worked hard so far, but there’s plenty more to do. Rather than analyse how we got into this mess, this Anglo-Franco political machine thought it far more useful to suggest a few ways that we can set Europe ablaze with optimism:
1. We need the right arguments.
Wherever you are based in JEF, it is often said that we need reasoned arguments backed up with good, strong evidence. Apologies to all the students of European Affairs at LSE, Sciences Po Paris, or elsewhere, but this is simply not true! In the fast-paced environment of debates and in the lectures given to swathes of the undecided, it is not statistics that will appeal, it is emotion. Anyone who watched Nick vs Nigel will see that facts can be disputed but not proven until after the debate has been won or lost. Anyone who cares about statistics will investigate and find that we pro-Europeans win. Every! Single! Time!
Our time is much better spent making people dream of the Europe we could have. The Jeunes Européens in Isère have shown us that Europe can be sexy. We need to also show that it can protect the poor, the environment, the ill, the marginalised and the weak. We need to make it known that European integration will make us all richer, it will make us all happier, it will quite simply make things better.
2. We need to grow, together.
JEF is not a small organisation, and it has continued to be taken seriously since it began. But that doesn’t mean we cannot grow. No section should be complacent about this, whether it is smaller sections like the British or Dutch, or larger sections like the French and German, we can always do more. We can always reach more people, and we must! The sections need to work together, we need to share our best practices, build twinning links, support each other as we grow and take on bigger challenges.
3. We must look outwards and inwards.
We Federalists are not alone in dreaming of a better Europe. All of us can think of organisations which share our values, or fight for a cause which can be benefited by using European institutions or by encouraging further integration. We must work closely with the European Movement and the UEF wherever they have sections to ensure they aim to be as ambitious as JEF. All these groups will have lessons to teach us, we will have lessons to teach them. All of us will have important contacts and resources and ideas and the more of us that collaborate, the greater the impact we can have. Where Euroscepticism seeks to divide and conquer, we all know that, to paraphrase Lincoln, a house united can and will stand!
Europeans, whether you are French, British or something else, whether or not your patrie is a member state of the Union, you all have a responsibility to stay positive and stay strong. The forces we are fighting against are not invincible, we’ve just got to raise our game.