Since joining Democracy International in April this year, I have been fortunate enough to work on one project in particular: the European Public Sphere.
With this initiative we travelled through Europe, from Spain via Austria to Germany. The aim was to create a public space in which people could express and discuss their ideas about Europe. Most of the talks took place in Northrhine-Westphalia, Germany - in cooperation with Mehr Demokratie NRW. Together we arrived in the morning at the ten different spots. Market squares, sports festivals, shopping streets, nothing was spared from us. Under the unsuspecting gaze of the passersby, we erected the Europe Dome, armed with cordless screwdrivers, safety helmets and ladders. Strut by strut, our geodesic dome, our public discussion space, grew upwards. And with every stop we got faster. From an initial 4.5 hours we could finally celebrate a record of less than two hours.
So far, each of our 13 stops was special and brought new aspects to the discussion. We had inspiring talks with four and 20 people. Wishes were expressed, the status quo was critically questioned, ideas were explained and debated. Children drew small pieces of art for the rope surrounding the cathedral, passersby with little time wrote down their wishes. The recurring topics were mostly: social Europe, social market economy, social justice and cohesion. But also the concrete reform of the European institutions and facets of an expansion of civic co-determination were mentioned many times. And by far not everyone was of the same opinion.
For me personally, this was one of the most promising features of the European Public Sphere. Behind my camera I had a good view of the conversations and participants. Many discussed Europe for the first time, entered the dome with a set opinion and thanked us afterwards for the various food for thought and the previously inexperienced appreciation of their voice.
Now the question is how to further developp this new European Public Sphere movement. It's not just about enabling others to share these experiences. On the contrary: we believe that we all can and should benefit from European citizens’ ingenuity for our common Europe. This comes about in two ways.
The dome must continue its journey. Our partners have just started a tour in Austria – right on time for the Austrian Council Presidency. But our path must also lead us to areas critical of Europe, such as Hungary or Poland or the British Brexit states. Founding states such as the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium should also have their say and the European South with all its challenges must not be forgotten. When it comes to our tours, there are no limits to your imagination.
But imagination is not only in demand under the dome. Results received, whether processed in summary videos, blog entries or as recordings of the entire hour and a half-discussions, are fed into a virtual sphere. Here they reach even more people and can interactively be developed further. The European Public Sphere moves from the dome to the net, which is accessible to everyone at all times.
However, we go one step further. Democracy International wants to make the results obtained – all our visions of Europe - the basis of a European Convention. A renewal of Europe is emerging. Its starting point are the people themselves. The results will therefore be presented to the new European Parliament in autumn 2019 which can then call for such a process. And, of course, every voice, every opinion counts in this growing renaissance of our continent.
The European Public Sphere is a collective project. The itinerary of the dome and thus the finding of creative solutions in times of political upheaval are only limited by financial constraints. That is why we are counting on you as part of the European community to support us.
Many Geman speaking subscribers already support us through the aid2 people Group Challenge 2018. As with crowdfunding, participants set a target amount. Our target is 3000€. It would allow us to organise four talks in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. However not the association with the highest amount received, but with the largest quantity of donors per aid category wins an additonal 1000€. Thus winning in our category Human Rights - because that’s what democracy and co-determination are - would mean an extra 1000€ for the European Public Sphere. Unfortunately no English version of the challenge is available. If you still want to take a look at our call you can find it here.
Of course there are also many ways for you to directly support the European Public Sphere Project - through your donation, your participation under the dome or the further discussion of our findings online.
Together we can mobilise as many people as possible for our movement. While this common future concerns all of us, we also remain the ones to shape it.