Speaking at the presentation of the Europe Award 2019 to the New Europeans at the European Commission in Berlin
I am thrilled to be here today to give the Jury statement after we nominated the NewEuropeans organisation for the Schwarzkopf Europe award. Having spent some time working with the organisation in Strasbourg last summer, supporting the launch of their Green Card initiative, and seeing the hard work, passion and dedication of Roger and the NewEuropeans team, I am absolutely delighted that they were chosen as winners when the nominations were put to the public vote.
So let me begin by giving a little introduction, for those who are not aware of why they are such worthy winners for the award. The NewEuropeans is a civil society organisation with the values of the European Union at its heart. Founded in June 2013 by Roger Casale, a former British Labour party MP, it is “committed to building a Europe of cooperation, integration, equality and diversity” that celebrates the value of European citizenship. The NewEuropeans are working to champion Freedom of Movement and challenge perceptions of migrants by leading a positive narrative. The organisation aims to make the positive impacts of membership of the European Union felt more widely at a personal and local level, so that EU citizens understand the importance of their rights.
The organisation aims to empower citizens across the EU and has branches in Brussels, Strasbourg, the Mediterranean, Ireland and the UK, which organise events around civil rights issues for EU Citizens. The organisation also publishes articles on their blog, and influences policy in the European Parliament through their campaigns. They also have a strong social media presence with 50,000 followers on Twitter and 33, 000 on Facebook, delivering a much needed positive, pro-European dialogue.
The NewEuropeans were originally nominated for the “Schwarzkopf Europe Award 2019” to recognise their #GreenCard4Europe campaign to unilaterally guarantee the Freedom of Movement rights of the 5 million EU citizens living in the UK and the UK expats living in the EU. These citizens have been living “in limbo”, with no security or guarantee of their future, since the UK’s vote to leave the European Union. Many of these citizens consider themselves to be “bargaining chips” with their future rights dependent on the outcome of Brexit. The NewEuropean’s Green Card Initiative, if passed as policy, would put an end to the anxiety suffered by those EU citizens.
Through campaigning I have got to know personally, many of those citizens whose lives have been thrown into turmoil with their rights under constant threat, as a result of the ongoing Brexit pandemonium in the UK. The fact that nearly 3 years later, the shambolic mess still has not been resolved, but extended, is an utter disgrace that makes me ashamed of my country and its atrocious political leadership. That citizens, who are being disregarded as real human beings, with lives, homes, friends and family should still be suffering because of an ill-thought-through, shambolically executed political catastrophe, is an outrage – and highlights the importance of the NewEuropeans’ work. Challenges the toxic cultural narrative about migration by the right wing media and political campaigns is essential if the EU, founded on the principle of Freedom of Movement, is to continue progress into the future delivering those rights and opportunities to more citizens across Europe. The Europe-wide presence of the New Europeans organisation means that this dialogue is being delivered across the continent, where the threat of populism and the advance of far right movements should concern us all.
There is a great danger that the EU considers Brexit to be a problem solely of the UK and not of the EU itself. The EU must reflect on Brexit and learn from our mistake, but also accept some responsibility for the situation in the UK, so that it can work to prevent a recurrence in other member states. The stakes are gravely high, because the greatest achievement of the EU is that we have learned to forgive each other and this has brought peace to our continent, and therefore the greatest threat of a fractured Europe is a return to conflicts of the past, which we have worked so hard to leave behind us – where they belong – in the past.
I have spent 3 years working to promote the EU through my activism, and have also gained a unique insight into the successes and deficiencies of the European institution’s approach to comms and engaging citizens in the democratic process. And it is through this experience and understanding of what we need to foster a stronger Europe for the future – that I truly value the work of the NewEuropeans and their initiatives and campaigns. The work of organisations and individuals who influence the narrative about Europe from the outside should be prized and celebrated for their achievements leading this positive vision for the future of Europe – and this is why we are honoured to be here today to celebrate the NewEuropeans work being recognised by the Schwarzkopf Europe Award.