Mercredi 9 Juin 2010
A more democratic Europe with more influence worldwide, such is the project I’ve been relentlessly fighting for in the past 25 years.
If this fight took on various forms along the years, I’ve always been careful that no specific interest group (institution, community, economic group, ideology…) has any hold over it. There lies all the difficulty of my political action, but also all its value. See for yourself…
Today aged 50, I am the director of research of the Laboratoire européen d’Anticipation politique (LEAP) and the founder and president of honour of Newropeans. I’m also one of the founding fathers of the Erasmus programme.
But how did I get there?
Born March 11th, 1961, I am a teachers’ son. I therefore grew in the French Republic’s school playgrounds, free and protected at the same time, lonely (I’m a single child) and surrounded, a playground for me alone everyday… and a fairly good understanding already of the corridors of power (that of school teachers, the « powerful ones » in the eyes of a pupil).
At the end of a good scholarship, I passed my Bac C (scientific) at the age of 17 at the Lycée Massena of Nice, where my family had come back to settle after 15 years spent in the region of Paris.
I considered the student life which then began for me as a series of opportunities, experiences and challenges: going deeper into sciences (advanced maths studies – Maths Sup’), flirting with literature (passing a literary “baccalauréat”), encountering illness (Hodgkins disease when I was 20), discovering Paris (Sciences Po Paris), walking my first political and citizen steps (president of Science Po’s student office), becoming aware of various realities (crossing the Iron Curtain), etc. It is during these years too that my general political project was born: in the framework of Science Po’s Student Office, with a bunch of friends in charge of student offices from other schools in Paris (Polytechnique, HEC, ESSEC and Sup Telecom), I launched in 1984 the first European student association, AEGEE-Europe. At that time of Euro-sclerosis, everyone used to tell us “it won’t work, young people are not interested in Europe which is a moribund project!”… Fortunately, the rest of the story proved the contrary.
Ever since, my professional and political lives have been closely intermingled to serve at best my project for Europe
As announced two years before, in 1988, as AEGEE-Europe had become the unavoidable European student movement in the EU system, I quit the presidency and created with most of the group of AEGEE founders the first trans-European political party, “Initiative pour une Démocratie Européenne” (IDE). I would never have imagined that IDE, an enriching student political experience, would remain in the next 20 years, and until Newropeans, the only successful trans-European electoral attempt: indeed IDE managed to run for the 1989 European election in Spain, France and the Netherlands. If the organization did not survive to the costs implied by its first European campaign, the same spirit today blows in Newropeans; moreover, IDE was a formidable test from which I drew innumerable lessons useful to today’s development of Newropeans. As anecdotal, one of the five key bullet-points of IDE programme, developed beginning 1988, recommended that the European community prepares itself to the « return of Eastern Europe to Europe » in the next ten years, based on the idea that USSR could no longer prevent this kind of development. During the first semester of 1989, many journalists referred to this point in order to illustrate the « delightfully naive » touch of ours analyses. History proved that only one more year was needed to reach this point of return to Europe.
In the 1990s, I gave myself the means to perpetuate AEGEE’s mission by creating Prometheus-Europe, an association of young European professionals dedicated to the information on EU policies and programmes serving both potential beneficiaries (top-down information) and institutions (bottom-up evaluation). Of course the second part of our mission was the most political and useful but also the most controversial within EU institutions. As part of our activities at Prometheus-Europe, we discovered many dysfunctions in European policies and programmes which led us to blow the whistle - in a constructive way, as we always made concrete reform and improvement proposals. It was the case in particular in 1991 when, shocked by the disinterest on the part of the concerned services at the European Commission, I signed an open letter, written by the team of Prometheus-Europe, on the dysfunctions of the TEMPUS programme, sent it to 500 top-level officials from the European Commission, the entire European Parliament and all EU Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Education. The letter triggered a European Court of Auditors investigation (which I was officially asked to take part in) which represents the first serious questioning on the opacity and mismanagement of EU programmes. In general, all along a decade, we regularly warned the Commission that it was heading to serious problems if it failed to reform its operating modes, namely those used in the management of its programmes. Considered as trouble-makers, one year before its resignation, the cabinet of the President of the Commission Jacques Santer, required us to stop sending our views on these issues to the Commission. What happened next speaks for itself.
Meanwhile, during the 1990s, I engaged Prometheus-Europe in a series of global meetings, organising some thirty conferences on the future of Europe’s relations with the rest of the world: Arab world, Latin America, Asia, Turkey, Russia and North America. It gave me the opportunity to discover the world and above all to get to know what people of my generation had in mind when thinking about the coming decades. One of the greatest souvenirs I have of that period is the sequence of three major congresses organized in Thailand, Peru and the US: a shock of cultures, partnerships and ideas very helpful to understand better the practical difficulties of on-going globalisation.
Regarding Transatlantic relations, in 1997, the European Commission asked me to build up a team of Europeans who would participate to the “New technologies” workshop of a major congress held in Washington and supposed to involve civil societies into EU/US relations. From this meeting was born the TIESWEB project which then became one of the main innovations in this field of the decade that followed. TIESWEB, and all related conferences, made me discover two thirds of the country’s states and meet with a very large sample of US society. This experience completed the knowledge I had gathered in 1991 when the US government invited me on a one-month visit of their country in the framework of their « Young European Political Leaders » programme.
Concluding to the fact that it was time to switch from vain criticism (because targeted at bureaucracies who do not want to change) to a more constructive attitude, I created the Europe 2020 network, an independent think tank working in collaboration with various organisations and with the national and European institutions (European Commission, national Ministries of Foreign and/or European Affairs, mostly) on key-topics of the future of EU: governance, democratisation, EU place and role in the world, institutional reform, enlargement, etc. Our initiative thus developed a parallel reflexion to that of the institutions, such as the Commission’s “European governance” Task Force with which we collaborated. After the salutary crisis which resulted from the Santer Commission’s resignation, the possibilities were endless, unfortunately the white book released by this task-force was buried by the Commission’s general secretary (who, strange coincidence, happened to be the former head of the TEMPUS programme which we had denounced in 1991 for mismanagement… obviously in a bureaucracy, incompetence brings in!). As I saw all chances of reform vanish, and most young, motivated and competent Eurocrats begin to leave the Commission, I decided to waste no more time with Brussels and to reorient our anticipation seminars in the direction of national Ministries officers and diplomats.
We continued to publish reports, executive summaries and operational recommendations to the intention of the institutions until 2005. In this context we finally warned the French government that we were convinced the referendum on the European Constitution would fail is people’s legitimate democratic demand was not addressed and if the way to communicate on Europe was not radically changed: no more little children and flying balloons, time for a Europe of citizens willing to understand and be involved. After a vain debriefing with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I came to the conclusion that it was time to initiate a new phase: since the institutions and national parties were incapable of anticipating European changes, of reforming and democratising the EU, it became necessary to turn to political action, returning to the concept of IDE. In January 2005, I therefore proposed that we create Newropeans, and in the next six months, we prepared the launching of the party which saw the light a few days after the Dutch and French referendums failed as anticipated.
In the mean time, breaking up with twenty years of difficult but constant cooperation with all or part of the European system, I launched the Laboratoire européen d’Anticipation Politique (LEAP), targeting the general public this time and grasping a theme I had seen growing in the previous years and which I then considered was becoming imminent: the global systemic crisis. In February 2006, I signed the public announcement which blew the wistle on an upcoming triggering of this global systemic crisis. To my great surprise, it generated a major infatuation worldwide with millions of readers on the Internet … while simultaneously a large majority of experts sniggered, considering such contingency utterly wacky. There again we know the rest of the story, as the world has been thrust into this crisis since at least mid-2008.
This isn’t it! Here come now some of the actions I also conducted in the course of the last 25 years:
In 1996, in Marrakesh, in the framework of Prometheus-Europe, we organised one of the biggest congresses on the future of Euro-Mediterranean civil society relations.
In 1997, in Blair House, during the Washington Euro-American congress, I launched TESWEB, the first Transatlantic web portal for a dialogue between European and American civil societies.
In October 2000, in order to celebrate the emerging of new generations of Europeans born after the Treaty of Rome, and contribute to invent tomorrow’s Europe, Prometheus-Europe, in partnership with other organisations including AEGEE-Europe, held a congress entitled “Newropeans 2000 - New Europe, New challenges, New generations” which gathered more than 2,000 young Europeans together with many heads of states and governments, ministers and European commissioners. This Congress gave its name first to a citizen organization which then became a political party in 2005.
In June 2002 and as a consequence of this congress, I launched one of the world’s biggest e-democracy projects, EU Student Vote, to elect by internet the first EU student Council. Due to this project, I was elected one of the 25 people/projects “who changed the Internet and political world” (out of 1,096 propositions identifying 292 people or websites in 30 different countries) in the framework of the online election organized by Politics Online and the 5th iDemocracy Global Forum!
In 2002-2003, I dedicated a whole year to the completion of a series of 100 citizen conferences in 25 European countries, the Newropeans Democracy Marathon, on the theme « What future for Europe? ». These conferences, and the resulting exchanges with thousands of Europeans from all social categories and ages, enabled me to elaborate the basic corpus of what was to become the political programme of Newropeans, a programme therefore founded on the individualized consultation of the European public opinion, later validated by the members of Newropeans.
In 2003, I had the pleasant surprise to be elected one of the ‘European Heroes of the year 2003’ by the readers of the Time Magazine.
In 2005, in the same line as the NDM, I engaged myself in a Transatlantic Citizen Marathon organized by TIESWEB. In this context, I visited 10 different states where I conducted conferences and debates with US citizens on the future of EU-US relations.
In 2006, I decided to launch the GlobalEurope Anticipation Bulletin in the framework of the Laboratoire Européen d’Anticipation Politique (LEAP). In February, the second issue of this monthly electronic bulletin released a « Global systemic crisis alert » which toured the world and inaugurated the new publication’s fame. Since then I have been coordinating the edition of the GEAB which continues to analyze the crisis’ trends and to anticipate its next stages.
In 2009, on the eve of London’s G20 summit, I decided LEAP to invest in a full page advertisement of the Financial Times’ international edition in an attempt to blow the whistle on the necessity, as a matter of urgency, for global leaders to re-think the international monetary system and to base it on a basket of currencies instead of the sole US Dollar, a currency at the origin of the world’s financial, economic, social and political chaos.
In 2010, the Spanish presidency of the EU made me the honor of including me among the « 20 people who changed our world » for my decisive role in favour of ERASMUS.