Cohort 1, 2018/19
Reconnecting Citizens: European Solutions to Energy Poverty
Over 57 million people throughout Europe live in energy poverty, meaning that they cannot meet their fundamental energy needs such as heating, cooling, cooking and lighting, at an affordable cost. Hitherto, the EU and Member States have tackled the issue in a fragmented manner. This project explains why the EU must tackle energy poverty comprehensively, provides analysis of existing policy measures, and develops recommendations for a European energy poverty policy. We conducted data-driven analysis of existing policy measures at the national and EU level, and fieldwork with local initiatives tackling energy poverty. We conclude that energy poverty is a preventable social problem, and that the EU can contribute more to alleviate the harm it causes to individuals and societies. Our recommendations are: (1) Prohibiting power disconnections for vulnerable households; (2) Creating mechanisms to identify vulnerable households; and (3) Expanding EU funding for local initiatives.
Group members: Ioannis Asimakopoulos, Caroline Damgaard, Manuel Dorion-Soulié, Cristina Güerri Ferrandez, Franziska Hobmaier, Luis Santos, Elisa Schramm, Igor Tkalec
Europe, Listen and Respond
Cohort 1, 2018/19
The recent history of the European Union is a story of increasing public distrust, dissatisfaction, and disengagement from EU institutions. The Euro and migration crises have compounded public discontent with EU policy results and processes. In the Brexit campaign, terms like ‘sovereignty’ and ‘take back control’ highlighted the perception that EU institutions do not adequately represent the public. Many believe the EU is run by technocratic elites who form policies without heeding to citizens’ perspectives, and that ‘Brussels is only talking to Brussels’.
To restore public trust in EU institutions, citizens must be involved in the policymaking process. One avenue is public consultation. Public consultation enables citizens to voice their opinions on proposed policy and increases their trust in democratic processes. It obliges EU institutions to be transparent and accountable regarding how public opinion influences policy and incorporate diverse views in the decision-making. Furthermore, online public consultation, at low cost and with low barriers to access, makes citizen engagement more efficient and inclusive.
Some of the group’s key findings were presented (by invitation of the OSCE-Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) in Venice (Italy) on December 5th 2019 under the title “Responsiveness and Recognition in Public Consultations”, in the expert roundtable discussion “DEMOCRATIC LAW-MAKING AND PUBLIC CONSULTATIONS: THE THEORY AND REALITIES FROM THE OSCE REGION” organized by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law.
Group members: Bernard Bernards, Felix Biermann, Jennifer Garcia Carrizo, Timothy Glover, Daniel Gołębiowski, Gerard Llorens deCesaris, Giulia Raimondo
InclusivEU: Encouraging diversity in EU Institutions
Cohort 2, 2020/21
Although it boasts a workforce of over 32,000 civil servants, the European Commission continues to suffer from a diversity gap when it comes to the representativeness of its workforce. While progress has been made in recent years to address the lack of representation of historically underrepresented groups by increasing the participation of women in middle and senior management roles and to improve access for people with disabilities, the inclusion of groups such as ethnic and racial minorities remains a challenge. Online campaigns such as #BrusselsSoWhite bought the issue to the forefront, emphasising that there has not been a single European Commissioner of colour to date. People of ethnic and/or racial minorities are also visibly underrepresented in the Commission workforce. President Ursula von der Leyen underscored the urgency of addressing the issue during her speech at the European Anti-Racism summit in March 2021, calling on the Commission to lead by example by bringing Europe’s diversity into the civil service.
The current lack of diversity is problematic for many reasons, ranging from the unfulfilled potential arising from the exclusion of valuable experiences and perspectives in the policy-making process to issues of justice and representativeness. Given the importance of EU institutions in creating and implementing public policy across the Member States, the institutions have a responsibility to strive for maximum representation and inclusivity. This project both highlights the challenges and obstacles that contribute to the Commission’s diversity gap and proposes concrete actions to address them.
Group members: Ashlee Beazley, Eduardo García Cancela, Riccardo Nanni, Thalia Ostendorf, Elena Porter, Lewin Schmitt, Inga Steinberg, Mariana Vega Martinho, Sue Anne Teo
Lost in transition
Cohort 2, 2020/21
Lost in Transition?
Charting a Course for Europe’s Automotive Industry Workers
Our project crafts a policy response to the impact of rapid structural change on workers in Europe’s carbon-intensive industries, triggered by the green transition in Europe and the corresponding need to decarbonise domestic economic activity and associated value chains. This inevitable process has been accelerated by European Green Deal recovery policies adopted in response to the coronavirus crisis. Our project complements the renewed emphasis on European initiatives to promote a greener economy, with a focus on those most affected by the upheaval facing traditional automotive manufacturing. While the green transition enjoys substantial political support, it is also a source of great concern for groups of workers in vulnerable sub-sectors, and for their suppliers. Opposition to green policies has been seen among workers at risk of losing their jobs who also face difficulties in adapting to the new green economy. Failing to address these ‘just transition’ issues may pose a danger to the transition itself, with catastrophic consequences for the European public.
This project identifies opportunities for supporting those at risk of being left behind, and for bringing companies large and small, trade unions, and workers together. We choose to focus on the automotive industry, which is expected to accelerate its transition in the coming years. It is also structurally different to other industries subject to ‘just transition’ measures, notably coal, requiring a different set of policies that may also be transferable to other sectors. By giving companies a more active role in articulating their transition needs, and establishing new institutions modelled on similar attempts to address just transition issues elsewhere, this project proposes a possible model for other sectors to transition. It blends contemporary thinking on the just transition contributed by trade unions, with reflection on the social role of companies (across the value chain) in driving and guiding the transition, while taking into account the current economic and political context.
Group members: Kateřina Chadmiová, Alex Clark, Joshua Hill, António Leitão Amaro, Chiara Lovotti, Frederik Ørskov, Nils Renard, Christoph Semken, Peeter Vimha
Making Room for Mental Health: Bloom Box
Cohort 2, 2020/21
European Society and the world of work seem destined for change. With a global health crisis coupled with the inevitability of green and digital transitions, thoughts turn to how societies will adjust, and continue to develop in the future. Yet, a question that has escaped the minds of EU and national policymakers alike is one of mental and social preparedness. A transitioning Europe must mean a prepared and anticipative Europe, a Europe which recognises the value of future-thinking approaches to crucial policy areas such as mental health and social welfare. As European societies respond to longer term challenges and the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment, for young people in particular, has the potential to cause a lifetime of mental health problems. Before the pandemic, 1 in 6 Europeans suffered from poor mental health during their lives, costing Member States approximately 500 billion Euros, an estimated 4% of their GDPs. Mental health and unemployment are bidirectionally linked, in that mental health problems both increase the difficulty of finding and keeping a job and arise from unemployment. This project suggests innovative yet tenable solutions as to how both the EU and its Member States could and should react to the imminent mental health issues relating to youth unemployment including the ‘Bloom Box’: a toolbox to be sent to all youths when they register as unemployed and which is designed to help them manage the unemployment period. It helps youth reclaim their agency and ward off psychological distress around unemployment in a time of hardship.
Group members: Tuukka Brunila, Silke Creten, Ilana Hartikainen, Antonia Markiewitz, Arron McArdle, Ariadna Petri, Irene Soriano Florez, Zea Szebeni
Unmute the Youth!
Cohort 2, 2020/21
The winning team in 2021!
Democracy seems to be no longer in vogue. Not only are democratic values eroding but authoritarian ones are also increasing, especially among the young. Despite efforts by the European Commission and national governments to increase youth engagement, today young people are more disconnected from the democratic process than older generations. The Covid-19 pandemic appears as a critical juncture in the history of Europe after a period of crises. Therefore, we believe that now is the time to act to bring back the youth. Our objective is to bring young Europeans back into the fold by offering online democratic participation tools that they would be willing to use. This will, we hope, help unmute the youth!
Young Europeans aged 16 to 26 merit particular attention for several further reasons. They have been hit especially hard by the current pandemic in educational, employment and mental health terms. As their prospects have worsened, they still tend to ignore traditional political channels and prefer protesting populist parties to traditional ones. Given that the youngest are digitally active, online is where the bridges to the young need to be built. However, if we are to reach them through digital platforms these have to account for their distinctive characteristics such as their shorter attention filter and high expectations with regards to interfaces.
We hope our recommendations will help to foster a new ethos of political participation among the youth and thereby strengthen the underbelly of liberal democracy. They are based on 1) a review of the literature on the habits of the young, deliberative democracy and the existing participatory online platforms; 2) an exploratory survey across three European municipalities (Krakow, Leiden, Trieste) to identify the most salient reasons of disengagement; and 3) interviews with experts who have developed successful online tools of public deliberation and decision-making.
Group members: Alessandro Ambrosino, Simon Cecchin Birk, Cerni Escalé, Carlotta Mingardi, Georgios Nikolou, Lukas Spielberger, Elodie Thevenin, Alice Trinkle
Voices of Europe
Cohort 1, 2018/19
This project focuses on the ways in which European citizens have become disconnected to the European Union or a European political project more generally. It aims to understand the variety of disconnections and reflect on how to overcome them, thereby leading to a more inclusive and participatory European political project. The project members conducted 16 qualitative interviews with individuals across different countries to identify factors that cause (a feeling of) disconnection from Europe (e.g. socio-economic background, generational divides, cultural and religious affiliation) as well as reflected on related themes in eight essays that will form the basis of a book publication. Finally, in order to overcome disconnections and improve the current state of the European Union, the project members proposed a reform of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) that strengthens the role of the European Parliament.
Group members: Céléste Bonnamy, Maximilian Kiener, Ana Martins, Antonia Niehuss, Andrei Petre, Rafael Ruiz Andrés, Ana Wennäkoski, Tamara Fröhler (first year only)
You & EU
Cohort 1, 2018/19
Increasing the legitimacy of the European Union
THE WINNING TEAM OF 2019! They are currently trying to decide how best to spend the €10,000 given as prize money by the Financial Times!
You&EU is a social media campaign that encouraged young people to participate in the 2019 European Parliament elections. Motivated by the continued decline in voter turnout from 1972 to 2014, we illustrated the impact of specific EU policies on people’s daily lives in an accessible and engaging way. We designed, produced and disseminated a variety of content across our Facebook, Instagram and Website, including blogs, posts, and a video series. This material informed voters of the European Parliament’s function and impact, how they could vote, and why they should vote in the 2019 elections. Across these platforms, we reached nearly400,000 people with our message: ‘The EU impacts your life, so have a say in how’.
After winning the FT-sponsored prize of €10,000, You&EU will now organise a ‘Campaigner’s Summit’ for other similar campaigns. This event will enable knowledge exchange and develop a sustainable network to support future collaboration.
Download Conference presentation (only to be shared under an ‘Attribution NonCommercial NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND’ licence)
Download Policy brief (only to be shared under an ‘Attribution NonCommercial NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND’ licence)
The group can be contacted on email@example.com
Group Members: Frederik Behre, Thomas Gidney, Mladen Grgic, Stephanie Haywood, Laura Nordström, Anna Simbartlová (Lukesová), Claudia Hartman (first year only).