Finn Rowold: David against Goliath

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Photo: Gewinner, PDN Best Friends Wettbewerb 2009.

The background for the My!Europe project was a concern for Europe’s future with economic crisis, problems of social character related to the free movement of work,  the beginning flows of refugees and the diminishing public interest for the EU. The hope was it would be possible to have an effect on the development with a starting point in the Sonnenberg movement.   

Based on the development which Europe has seen since then, initiatives like ours are even more important.  The problems have multiplied due to a completely incalculable refugee situation, which is a threat to the European cooperation in key areas. The borders between European countries are closing in more and more places, which mean that the core of the European cooperation, the free movement between countries, is under threat for being disintegrated. Right wing movements are growing and spreading to large parts of Europe with nationalistic and xenophobic parties in many countries, as in two countries, namely Poland and Hungary, where they have gained power completely.

Furthermore, Europe’s borders are also threatened by Russia’s invasion in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. The dwindling and critical attitude to the EU has manifested itself in England, which has called for a referendum about the country’s continued membership of the EU. Also in Denmark the result of the recent referendum about the legal reservations shows the same tendency.

It is on this gloomy background our My!Europe project shall be seen as an attempt of making ordinary citizens discuss these problems without the politicians’ often lack-of- perspective populism.

It would be justified to ask if our project can have any influence on development. Isn’t it simply David against Goliath?

I feel we can have influence. That everything starts from scratch and that in the end it is a matter of what the population wants. The politicians’ populism often rests on false imaginations of what the population wants. The way the local communities have received refugees has shown that in many cases it has been more positive than the ideas of the politicians.

Our two first conferences on Bornholm and in Riga have demonstrated that there is an interest and use for citizens in individual countries to come together and discuss these matters. Attitudes, questions and problems may differ, but the wish for cooperation and unity has proven to be paramount.

On Bornholm we learned something about how local cooperation could have an influence on local people’s everyday life, and how an annual big meeting between citizens and politicians could be instrumental in forming national policies.

In Latvia a strong wish of being part of Europe was felt. The problems, however, concerning major economic differences between eastern and western Europe and the resulting emigration from Latvia became visible during the conference. Nevertheless, there was some pointing out that the refugees in Latvia as well as in other countries may be able to fill up the void in the population. It goes without saying that the relationship to Russia and the Russian minority in the country was another important topic during this conference.

We are now planning the next conference in April in the Czech Republic and intend to deal with the migration question, not just from the side of the Czech Republic, but also from the so called Visegrad countries comprising Poland, Slovenia and Hungary. This topic will be discussed with students from the University of Pardubice and contribute to the declaration, which will be the final conclusion of our work and which is to be presented to the European Parliament at the beginning of 2017.

You may well say that our project is David against Goliath, but don’t forget that it was David who won.

Finn Rowold

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