MADRID, June 17 2016- Yesterday, on 16 June 2016, the participants of the fifth #EuropeanTownHall Meeting gathered in the lively coworking space utopic_US located in Lavapiés, Madrid. The event was part of the project DIALOGUE ON EUROPE, a dialogue process engaging civil society actors from Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, France and Germany, initiated by Das Progressive Zentrum and the German Foreign Office. Following successful meetings inAthens, Lisbon, Rome and Marseilles young progressive thinkers from Spain now debated about the topics “Sustainable Growth“, “Social Cohesion“, “Migration & Integration“ and “Populism“.
Aurora Mínguez, former Berlin correspondent for Spanish Radio and Television (RTVE), welcomed the participants and guided them as a moderator throughout the afternoon and the ensuing public debate with Niels Annen.
Just before the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the Spanish general elections,Dominic Schwickert, director of Das Progressive Zentrum, referred to the recent Austrian presidential election and the rise of the populist AfD in Germany to warn about growing populism in Europe.
After Vicente Palacio, director of the Observatory of Spanish Foreign Policy, Fundación Alternativas, took the opportunity to give an outlook on the “United States of Europe”. Cristina Manzano, director of esglobal, commented the evolution of the Spanish-German relations: “The mutual perception of Spain and Germany did suffer from the austerity measures, but has now improved through the liberal role taken by Germany regarding the refugee crisis.”
The participants were then asked to join the four mentioned simultaneous workshops according to their particular field of expertise and interests. Each work session was facilitated by a Spanish-German tandem. As the participants came from a variety of civil society organizations and therefore represented a broad range of perspectives, their different experiences resulted in a very fruitful debate. Among them were representatives from the Spanish Young European Federalists (JEF), from the blog Polikracia, Real Instituto Elcano, Red Floridablanca, Comisión Española de Ayuda al Refugiado andAttac Madrid.
Subsequently a spokesperson for each workshop presented the commonly developed results in order to then discuss them in the plenary discussion with Niels Annen. The focus of the debate was on youth unemployment and the importance of a better transition from education system to the labour market, the possibilities of decentralized energy supply and the different populist phenomena in Southern and Northern Europe. Concerning this issue, Niels Annen stressed the fact that “even if there is a growing populism in Spain, these movements are not necessarily turned against the European integration, in contrast to many other EU member states”.
Ramón González Férriz, founder of the Newspaper AHORA, concluded the event by pointing out that despite all crises, the European Union remains the best possible scenario for our common future.