Building a Stronger Europe: Young Liberals Propose Solutions to Reshape Europe as Global Actor
Lisbon, Portugal - From 11th to 13th May, the European Dialogue of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation and the European Liberal Youth (LYMEC) invited 15 young liberals from 13 EU Member States to their regional Policy Hackathon in Lisbon. With the goal of strengthening the EU as a Global Actor, participants were tasked to explore innovative ideas on four key topics concerning the European Union's role in the world.
Throughout the hackathon, participants reflected on the European Union's journey since its founding in the 1950s, and the remarkable success story of this diverse group of 27 countries. From a mere six nations united by common goals, the EU has now quadrupled in size and emerged as a role model for intergovernmental cooperation. The freedom of movement enjoyed by citizens for leisure, education, and employment, coupled with beneficial agreements between Member States, has fostered prosperity and unity. The EU's common market, international trade agreements, and position as an economic powerhouse have further solidified its influence on the global stage. However, the EU's increased influence also entails greater responsibility. As it competes with established economic and defense leaders like the USA and grapples with China's growing influence, the EU faces the challenge of navigating global trade consequences and leveraging its power to promote democracy and human rights abroad.
The programme was kicked off with a scavenger hunt, to explore the city and get to know each other. In the evening, the participants had the opportunity to gain insights into the situation of liberals in Portugal and its unique political context, in an exchange with Claros Guimaraes Pinto (Member of Parliament, Iniciativa Liberal) and Ricardo Silvestre (International Officer, Movimento Liberal Social). The speakers reflected on the good liberal performance at the recent election and engaged with avid participant questions on the role of populist movements and hot topics like disinformation and the war in Ukraine.
Over the course of the two following days, the four teams were tasked to develop comprehensive policy proposals, aiming at strengthening the EU as global actor in their respective category. The twist: proposals had to focus on what could be changed within the EU to address current shortcomings, inefficiencies or overall opportunity for change. This is how it went:
The EU as a Security & Defense Actor: The participants examined the EU's role in an era of heightened tensions, such as the war in Ukraine, and explored ways to enhance internal organization to better prepare for future scenarios. The team tapped into the yet under-explored potential of the European security architecture and proposed a more effective common procurement strategy that fosters innovation.
The EU's Role in a New World Order: Considering the uncertainties surrounding transatlantic relations and the evolving global hierarchy, the teams analyzed the EU's desired role and identified necessary changes to foster a more unified and influential EU capable of assuming global leadership in the context of an improved Global Gateway Initiative.
The EU as an Economic Powerhouse: Recognizing the EU's economic strength and trade advantages, the participants addressed the responsibility that comes with power, particularly in relation to sustainability and human rights. They explored the potential of SMEs, the role that they may play in the global economic powerhouse and how they can be strengthened through a digital registry and procurement platform.
The EU's Role in Promoting Human Rights & Democracy: In light of challenges to democracy within the EU, the teams explored how the EU can establish itself as a global champion of values, by examining the future of approaches like the rule of law conditionality mechanism within the EU and evaluated the effectiveness of foreign democracy tools such as the Everything But Arms Agreement. The final pitch focused on strengthening independent media and tackling disinformation through a European agency, to promote access to information and combat hybrid threats to democracy at home.
During the hackathon, participants received food for thought through presentations on current security and defense issues by Jeroen Dobber (Head of Global Security Hub, FNF Europe), as well as the current state of human rights and democracy mechanisms of the EU by Jana Sproul (Senior Human Rights & EU Funding Manager, FNF Europe). The input was accompanied by mentoring sessions, to help the teams prepare comprehensive and innovative pitches.
After two intense days of collaboration and idea generation, the teams pitched their proposals to the judges: Balint Gyevai (Secretary General, LYMEC), Ricardo Silvestre and Jana Sproul. All pitches addressed their categories from a unique perspective and reflected the diversity of the programme participants and their national contexts. Although the decision was challenging due to the high quality of all the presentations, one team emerged as the winner: The "EU as Security & Defense Actor“ Team.
The winning team's idea focused on addressing inefficiencies in the European defense industry caused by redundant weapon systems and procurement processes. Their proposal involved consolidating resources at the European Defense Agency (EDA). Countries would register their demands at the EDA, which would then initiate a tendering process to select the best European country to develop the weapon system. This approach aims to enhance efficiency, increase capability, foster competition and innovation, ultimately contributing to a more secure Europe.
The winning team consisting of Nico Stein (Junge Liberale, Germany), Silvio Junger (Junos, Austria), and Khaled Elbaz (Mladi Progresivci, Slovakia) will receive further guidance to refine their idea and will compete at the final pitch in front of a global audience at the annual conference of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation on 10th October in Berlin.
The "Strengthen the EU as a Global Actor" Policy Hackathon in Lisbon was a resounding success, fostering collaboration and innovative thinking among young liberals from across Europe. The ideas generated during this event have the potential to shape the future of the EU as it continues to assert its role as a global actor on the world stage and will soon be published in a short publication on our channels – so stay tuned!