What it means to be a European Federalist

What is Europe? Does it stop at the EU borders? Is there a common identity, a common history and where is the continent heading to? For me, there is only one answer: towards an ever closer union, towards a European federation. I am not alone in this thought, as the European Federalist Movement has existed since the late 1940s and has thousands of supporters today. What it is all about and how I came to my political conviction is the subject of this article. 

After the Second World War, various political groups formed in Europe to work for a common peaceful and federal future. In Germany, for example, the forerunners of the Young European Federalists (JEF) were founded in 1949 with a meeting of 40 young Europeans at Wachenburg Fortress and based their ideas mainly on the Ventotene Manifesto published in 1941 and written by the Italian anti-fascists Altiero Spinelli, Ernesto Rossi and Eugenio Colorni during a prison stay. The young people initially campaigned for the establishment of the European Community and carried out activist actions such as storming border posts on the Franco-German border. Europe was to become borderless and united. Under the motto “Simply a Generation Ahead”, which is still valid today, they fought for the direct election of a European Parliament in the 1970s. Today the movement demands, among other things, the abolition of the veto rights of individual nation states in the European Council and transnational electoral lists. Of course, there are different ideas of a European federation among the members of the movement, but they still agree that the continent can only act together in peace and that the highest goal must be to preserve the common good of all. 

Young European Federalists History
Young European Federalists breaking barriers on the Franco-German border in 1950. Source: https://twitter.com/jef_de/status/1026419219741769728?lang=gl

Today, the political movement is active in all European countries and even beyond. I myself have been a member of the German section for 4 years, have held various offices from regional to national level and do not regret a single day of my voluntary work which mainly consists of organising seminars and events, running campaigns and supporting capacity building in our network. I am passionate about the idea of breaking down borders together and creating social justice for all people in Europe. We have a common past, which was marked by many conflicts. However, in my eyes, the future should be sustainable, close to the people and inclusive.  I have met many friends from all over Europe at JEF and my involvement allows me to get to know the culture and political situation of different regions better and thus gain a better understanding. Especially the European orientation of the Erasmus Mundus Master GLOCAL fits perfectly for me and I can meet JEFers in every country.

Young European Federalists Demonstration
Demonstration at the European Parliament by JEFers in Strasbourg during the March for Europe in May 2022. Source: https://mobile.twitter.com/StrasSummit

The EU today has many shortcomings and needs to be fundamentally reformed. Richer states have a greater voice than poorer ones, refugees are turned away at the EU’s external borders and, while economic union has largely been achieved so far, social union has not. The reforms in all these areas and an ever closer federal union are small steps that in a broad long-term perspective can lead to a world federation in which all citizens enjoy equal rights, war between nation states is no longer possible and the planet is inhabited together in a sustainable way. What seems to be utopia today can only become real if we start working on it today.