From 20-22 September, the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament will hold the 2023 ECR Group Youth Summit in Brussels, bringing together over 100 young people from 12 EU Member States. Together, they will discuss their views on Conservative prospects for the future of Europe and the challenges posed by the dominance of mainstreamed radical progressivism with ECR MEPs, intellectuals and EU affairs professionals.
Zdzisław Krasnodębski is the President of the ECR Institutional Reform Group and organiser of the event.
Ahead of next year’s European Parliament elections, the ECR group believes that any discussion on the future must involve those young Conservative voices that were underrepresented in the Conference on the Future of Europe. The ECR Group, of course, is neither the first political grouping to hold a summit like this, and nor will we be the last. What sets our Summit apart are mainly two things: First, we want to listen, not just talk. Our summit allows plenty of time for feedback rounds, workshops, and Q&A sessions that will give our guests the opportunity to ask any question that may pop into their minds and to voice their own views.
One of these voices is that of Alarico Lazzaro (22 years, Administration and Politics student from Bari and president of the Young Confederalists of Europe, a transnational association of young Europeans founded in Brussels in 2022 with the aim of protecting the cultural-political diversity of Europe). Already looking forward to our summit, he has written to me:
“There are more and more young conservatives like us who hope that the European mainstream will realise that not centralisation but equal rights for all Nations is the best model for the future of Europe. This was the founding idea of the European Communities, based on the bitter experience of two world wars. We should return to it for the sake of the freedom and development of the younger generations.”
This brings us to the second thing that sets the ECR Group Youth Summit apart from others: Because of the nature of our group, all topics and solutions are on the table – both national and supranational. This stands in stark contrast not least to the Conference on the Future of Europe: While the Conference did make use of so-called citizens’ panels, in which young people were allocated spots, these panels were only asked to voice their view on a number of carefully selected, guided questions, with the intent being to produce responses that affirmed the beliefs of EU federalists.
As Eurorealists recognise, there are areas in which the EU needs to be more involved and dedicate greater resources, but also many others where the Union ought to retreat and leave room for individual Member States to create bespoke solutions tailored to the intricacies of their own sovereign nations.
It is this pragmatic view that rejects the binary choice between centralisation and abolition of the EU that distinguishes us from every other group in the European Parliament. The ECR represents a middle way in EU politics, and the reason our ranks are growing is that more and more voters – young and old – are rejecting the status quo in favour of pragmatic solutions that recognise the need for co-operation while at the same time preserving national sovereignty and cultural diversity.
The European project has been in crisis for at least the last two decades. In their reaction to the migrant crisis, Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic or, more recently, the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, the European institutions have tried, time and again, to extend their competences and arbitrarily take over national prerogatives, acting beyond the Treaties. The responses given have often been proven wrong over time. Instead of contributing to the solutions according to the principles of proportionality and subsidiarity, they have dashed the hopes of many.
The European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament, the only constructive non-federalist opposition force in the EU, has always been a strong supporter of the Union’s motto: United in diversity. We believe that Europe is diverse not only in political opinions or religions, but also in its histories, cultures and identities. This holds for Europe’s youth. Young people’s views on the EU’s future are also far from homogeneous. The ECR group is now gearing up for the June elections. Polling indicates that our group is set to make large gains, as more and more voters reject the message both of European federalists and of nationalist isolationists. This summit will help not just promote our policy ideas and beliefs, but also provide us with invaluable input on how best to promote our vision for the future of Europe; our Eurorealist middle way.