Alberto Alemanno Lecture Summary
On 13 November 2018, Alberto Alemanno, a full professor at the French Business school HEC and a political activist, gave the second Jean Monnet lecture of this academic year. In his lecture titled “How to Make Europe a People's Project ahead of the EP Elections?” Alemanno discussed several ideas that could contribute to democratise the European Union in different ways. He claimed that despite the various elements that Europeans share, one very important aspect is missing, namely politics. Even the European elections every five years take place on different days throughout Europe. In these elections citizens vote for national and not for European candidates, parties and programs. Alemanno questioned if this really creates the sufficient political space that European citizens need. He claimed that there is no public sphere in Europe since for instance media coverage on European politics is very limited . Alemanno considered this to be a big issue since it automatically implies that the EU cannot entirely be held accountable for its actions. In this regard, Alemanno emphasized that measures need to be taken in order to directly connect citizens to the European Union. Alemanno also pointed out that every critique on the EU is immediately seen as Eurosceptic, and that this should not be the case. It should be normal and necessary to criticize the current political system and actively help to improve it. He claimed that 50% of the EU population feels interconnected in the EU, however implying that at the same time there are 50% remaining that do not feel interconnected at all. He criticized that even while Europeanization increases, European politics do not follow this trend and do not sufficiently address this problem. A solution suggested by Alemanno could be an institutional system that aims to connect EU institutions with its citizens. He furthermore expressed that he is a big believer of the current European political parties, however remains sceptical about their success in the upcoming elections. Alemanno considered it to be crucial to fill the gap in-between elections and encourage citizens to participate in European politics, ie they should not only participate during election times. The instruments for doing so are in place, however insufficiently used at the moment. Alemanno asked European citizens to stop complaining about the European Union, but to take action and actively participate in the political debate. Initiatives as for instance free roaming charges and free inter-rail passes for every EU citizen turning 18 are good examples of such active participation.
After his lecture Alemanno took some questions from the audience leading to a lively discussion on how the “average” citizen can also participate in European politics. Alemanno proposed to apply the instrument of legal aid to lobbying and provide citizens with a lobbyist that is funded and supports citizens’ initiatives.