Le Taurillon: What is the goal of this project?
Antoine Baron: its aim is simple and yet highly ambitious, given the current situation of Europe and the forthcoming electoral campaign: we want to galvanize as many citizens as possible to join this European project in the coming months.
The name we chose for our association and initiative, Europe in our Hands, stands for the aim as well as for the means to achieve it.
The aim, because what we want is to convince European citizens to be the masters of their own destiny, to make their voices heard, to say what kind of Europe they want for themselves and for their children.
The means to achieve it as well, because the goal is to form, between January and May, the longest human chain ever seen in history, gathering more than 3 million Europeans expressing their longing for Europe.
Two steps have been scheduled:
Step 1: an online human chain will be put in place thanks to a specific website, available online since the 31 January, on which everyone can log in and hold the hand of another European.
Three options are possible: hold the hand of a random European, at the end of the chain; wander in the chain and choose the spot you want to enter in; find a friend who is already in the chain and join them. Even though this chain will first be virtual, we imagined an itinerary which would symbolically link the South and the North of Europe. In the morning of the 31st, the chain was launched from the Puerta del Sol, Madrid, and it is now going towards Warsaw metre by metre. Every time a new citizen joins the chain, it grows one metre. The distance is 3000 km, so we are expecting 3 million Europeans. The progression of the chain can be followed on our website and on Facebook.
Step 2: a physical human chain will be formed several days before the elections in order to draw attention and give a concrete dimension to this extraordinary action that “the friends of Europe” have taken. We are still discussing the modality of this action with our partners, but we will probably organize separate pieces of chain in each big European city.
Le Taurillon: How did you come up with that idea?
Antoine Baron: I grew up in a family where everyone was in favour of Europe but in which there were no activists. I remember that in my childhood, we would go with our neighbours to the Chevreuse Valley (France) to visit the house of Jean Monnet, turned in a museum. These visits had a great impact on me.
I am now 44 years old. For 20 years, I have worked in industry and travelled a lot. Even though my work does not leave me much time to act, it has deeply convinced me that Europe is a historical stake for France and for each and every European. Meeting people and travelling have enabled me to fully realize that our world is deeply changing, and that if Europe does not follow the lead, then it will be doomed to a slow but inexorable decline.
As a citizen and a father of four, this is definitely not what I want for them. I would even say that, to me, European integration is one of the utmost responsibilities we bear towards the next generations.
But what can we do as ordinary citizens? How can we act efficiently when there is no real debate, when our leaders and political parties keep saying they love Europe but fail to act accordingly? Little by little, I have become convinced that the only way to really change things would be for the main people concerned – citizens – to take action.
That is how we came up with the idea of a large-scale citizen action. We have thought it through with some friends and are making it possible today thanks to partners like the European Movement and the Young Europeans, among others.
Le Taurillon: Do you think the originality of this idea will seduce people? How can they contribute to the project?
Antoine Baron: I am absolutely sure this project can and will succeed, even though I admit it may seem highly ambitious.
It will succeed because it is the right time and because the message it conveys is simple, as is the way it works. Moreover, it’s fully based on the power of social media and we think the originality of this idea and its large-scale dimension will attract media interest.
To achieve that, we need the help of all the friends of Europe, of all those who share the values we are trying to put forth. It is a unique opportunity for us all to do something spectacular, something everyone will remember.
The recipe is quite simple: I would like each new member joining the chain to try to attract 100 new members from their friends and/or families.