JEF Training Days 27.-29.6.2008 in Alsemberg/BE

Activity Report

, par Sven Bisang

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JEF Training Days 27.-29.6.2008 in Alsemberg/BE

The aim of JEF TDs is to give a deeper insight to active Jeffers from different national sections into the activities of JEF-Europe as well as giving the participants a chance to exchange experiences. This year’s Training Days, held in a former paper mill in Alsemberg just outside Brussels, focused on ‘project management’.

Starting with short ice-breaking games to get to know each other better, the discussion of the group soon turned towards ‘federalism’. Peter, the designated Secretary General of JEF Europe, summed up what ‘federalism’ means to JEF based on FC resolutions of the last years (positions can be found on www.jef.eu). The following discussion made clear that different views on federalism co-exist within JEF – a very precious fact for a democratic organisation. This very basic concept of JEF is adapted by the different sections according to their local singularities and therefore interpreted differentially. Paying tribute to Switzerland’s tradition of federalism and its essential combination with direct democracy, I tried to make the point of involving the people more frequently than only once every four years in a general election. Even though I was not able to persuade everybody of the advantages of Switzerland’s model that evening, I am convinced that the Swiss experience regarding federalism could be valuable to achieve appropriate settings on the European level. In the evening, we let the day die away by watching the American road movie “Eurotrip”. A quite diverting comedy that plays with the particularities of Europe from Paris to Bratislava – for sure a film worth watching at a future yes event !

JEFfers suggested to ‘Europeanise’ the national election campaigns and to boost transparency in the European elections 2009

On Saturday, a marathon programme was waiting for us. From nine to seven, interrupted by a short lunch break, we addressed ourselves to the courses’ theme, ‘project management’, and its various dimensions. Brainstorming about possible projects was the first step. Working in small groups, two project ideas evolved from that session. On the one hand, the Italian Jeffers suggested that candidates for the European elections 2009 should not campaign with the logos of their national parties but instead on a common platform of the group in the European Parliament they would belong to were they elected. The aim of this JEF action is to ‘Europeanise’ the national election campaigns and to boost transparency in the European elections 2009 – something badly needed if, for example in Italy, several parties are campaigning separately whose eventual deputes are sitting in the same group in the EP… I think that the idea has a good chance to be realised, especially since JEF Europe is also thinking about a “smartvote à l’européenne”, an online tool used in Switzerland which allows voters to compare the candidates’ views on some key issues. On the other hand, the project idea that JEF went on a physical campaign trail before the European elections 2009 was launched. Therefore, a team of Jeffers would travel from one country to the other in a mini-van wrapped in the European colours. The aim of this campaign would be to promote the importance of the voters’ participation in the European elections. The campaigners would stop at various universities in every member state and organise events such as debates with candidates together with the local JEF section. JEF Belgium will follow up on this idea and will present concrete suggestions at the FC in Riga this autumn. The implementation of this ambitious project will require a big effort but chances are sound that we will hear more of that project proposal soon.

After the initial brainstorming, we continued with the parts ‘how to set up a campaign’ and ‘fundraising’ (digital presentations available under www.jef.eu). Besides the very basics of these activities, Peter mentioned the importance of creativity in such campaigns. As a youth organisation, we are allowed to conduct cheeky actions such as parodying politicians etc. as yes has done before. In the evening, the legendary ‘international evening’ took place with culinary specialities ranging from Belgium to the Black Sea. The hot Latin rhythms provided the excellent atmosphere for one or the other unexpected dance interlude…

After the intensive and packed programme on Saturday, we were pretty tired on Sunday so it needed the surprise visit of former JEF Europe president Jon Worth, nowadays a bike-loving Brussels-based internet campaigner, to reinvigorate the discussion.

All in all, the TD was a very successful and informative event. As always in JEF events, I could seize the opportunity to meet young people from all over Europe and last but to least, I could revive the contact to JEF Belgium so that the yes-project “Challenge Europe”, which takes place this September in Brussels, will become another successful event.

Images from the Training Days 2008, property of Margarita Lazarova.

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