CitiPart first meeting in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, FR

CitiPart first meeting in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, FR

Conference Debate:

“What about Solidarity, Tolerance and Peace in today’s context?”

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

IMPLEMENTED BY: La Maison de l’Europe des Yvelines

INTRODUCTION:
– Mr René PRIOUX Municipal Councillor of Saint-Germain-en-Laye for International Relations
– Video message of Mr Alain LAMASSOURE, MEP Ile-de-France
– Mrs Regina LECOINTE, General Secretary La Maison de l’Europe des Yvelines

SPEAKERS:
– Mr Kamel REMACHE, Project Manager, Mission Locale Taverny
– Ms Françoise CHOTARD, Director of the Office of the Île-de-France Europe Representation in Brussels

INTERPRETERS:
– Mrs Tasmine FERNANDO-SCOTT
– Mrs. Zeina MOKAIESH

  • René PRIOUX

Having welcomed the European partners and thanked the French participants attending the conference, he recalls the different perceptions of European integration people have depending on their age, by briefly summarising the successive stages of the construction of the European Union since the Schuman Declaration.
The period of peace within the EU has lasted for 70 years. There had never been such a long period without any intra-European wars. It is a vital asset that must be preserved.
However, Europe continues to evolve and also to face tremors. The acquired tolerance is the result of the last fifteen years labour. The solidarity demonstrated today towards refugees, has naturally been making its place in the heart of Europe for decades.
ERASMUS + is an illustration of this, for this programme defends the values of the EU and fosters openness to others, fighting racism and discriminations. The towns also contribute to the good relations and understanding between peoples, fuelling tolerance and solidarity by the support they give twinning committees.

It is therefore essential that the participants involved in the project, promote through their interactions, the three values of democracy: Peace, Tolerance and Solidarity.

  • Alain LAMASSOURE (video message from the European Parliament in Brussels)

The MEPs attach great importance to the proposals developed during the three multilateral meetings. Mr Lamassoure defines the three fundamental values of the EU, starting with peace.

    1. PEACE: the greatest achievement of the EU, a historic success which has almost been forgotten. Our countries fought each other in wars for twenty centuries. Today, we are at peace. This unprecedented “miracle” of reconciliation is based on the European construction, the meetings and exchanges at various political levels, town twinnings, and the ERASMUS programme, which is unique in the world. We must therefore do our utmost to preserve it.
    2. TOLERANCE: it refers to a quality, an attitude. This vocabulary was introduced by Henry IV (XVI century) at the end of the religious wars. We need tolerance in our public debates in France, in Europe and in the world to move forward together. We must learn to live together, with our qualities and our faults, and we must accept that, even if we are in fundamental disagreement with our interlocutor, there may be a part of truth in his words. A good example of “tolerance” is the European Parliament: despite differences between the countries and parties. Its members (751 of them spread across 8 different political families) must listen to each other and exchange in order to meet a majority poll and therefore weigh in the political development.
    3. SOLIDARITY: Everything is yet to be invented. We must rediscover the term “national solidarity” that has eroded: between the rich and the poor, between the urban and the rural, between those who advocate economic modernity and others who stand for traditional economy, and between different cultures within the French population itself. We must rediscover this solidarity on a European and global scale. This solidarity is not an abstract concept, it weights in the EU budget. France has a tremendous budget, we redistribute 50% of the national wealth we produce. In comparison, the EU budget is tiny: the redistribution at EU level accounts to only one percent of the wealth produced. Solidarity is also evident in the way we consider external challenges, either in positive ways, with the emerging of new information technologies in all areas of economic life, or in negative ways, with the wars and migration flows. The values of peace, of tolerance and of solidarity are very interlinked topics, if we are not united and tolerant, we will not achieve peace. Mr Lamassoure wishes good luck to the partners of the CitiPart network.
  • Regina LECOINTE

The Secretary General of the Maison de l’Europe des Yvelines introduces the European project CitiPart, which is a partnership between cities which defend fundamental European values such as: Solidarity, Tolerance and Peace. The project has a duration of two years. It is supported by the European Commission and its programme “Europe for Citizens”, by the French-German Youth Office, the Yvelines department and the towns of Saint-Germain-en-Laye and of Chatou. This project is open to any citizen wanting to actively participate in any event organised around three themes (solidarity, tolerance, peace). The CitiPart network brings together eight European partners from five countries (France, Germany, Poland, Austria and Croatia). It provides three multilateral meetings (one for each theme) and a multilateral launch meeting, that of Saint-Germain-en-Laye currently taking place and a multilateral conclusion meeting in September 2017. Partners will organise various activities in between multilateral meetings to prepare each multilateral meeting. During the next three meetings in Warsaw, Potsdam and Scy-Chazelles, thematic work related to the three values of the EU will be emphasised. A final meeting in Villach in Austria will end the project in September 2017, but the resulting network will extend to other partner organisations to address other societal relevant topics. The consultation Mr Lamassoure spoke of is a full part of this project: participants must listen to each other, discuss together to find out how they can work as one on this project.
To prepare these multilateral meetings, the theme discussion will first take place at the local level with the inhabitants of the respective cities.

To help the reflection on the subject “How about Solidarity, Tolerance, Peace, in today’s context?” experts will answer different questions:

  • Kamel Remache for a field analysis of the French position
  • Françoise Chotard for an insight into what the European Union can do for its regions, its departments and municipalities and how to assist them in their tasks.

Question to K. Remache:
Avec la chute du mur de Berlin et la disparition du monde bipolaire, nous sommes entrés dans une ère de changements permanents suivis d’effets souvent négatifs. Le chacun pour soi semble aussi être davantage à l’ordre du jour que la solidarité.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disappearance of the bipolar world, we have entered an era of constant changes, often followed by negative effects. Nowadays “every man for himself” also seems to be on people’s agenda more than solidarity.
-> What can you tell us about the current situation in France and about the relationship of the French people to the three fundamental values of the EU?

The situation of young people in France is particularly worrying because they are living through both a social and an economic crisis, but they are also facing a crisis of representativeness.

– Social and economic crisis of youths:
In the aftermath of the Second World War, for the first time in history, Europe created for its children a better life than that of their parents, which is to say that during the post-war boom, the children met much greater success than their parents in making for themselves a better social and professional life. Positive developments took place, that of a social elevator: children from modest backgrounds could access promising careers. As it turns out, the situation has been working anticlockwise for the past 10 to 15 years: the category of 15-24 years olds has become fragile. They are left with the opposite perspective. In the coming five to ten years they will experience a drop in their social status, that is to say that today’s middle class youths will regress with the current situation. In Europe, there are 14 to 15 million NEETS (Not in Employment, Education or Training nor employee or trainee). In France, the unemployment of youths between 15 and 24 years old rates 24% against 13% in the late 1990s. Youths pay a heavy tribute for to all the economic changes Europe has gone through, particularly the economic crisis.

– Political representation Crisis:
While the participation in national elections – especially the presidential elections in France – is good, there is a high abstention in the European elections amongst youngsters. What are the reasons? In his book “On achève bien les Jeunes” Bernard Spitz publishes statistics on the average age of French deputies and senators. According to him, these politicians are between 60 and 65 years of age. With this age average, young people are struggling to feel represented at national and European level. Local intercommunity also presents a danger as it makes the work of locally elected ones less legible. At the local level, there should be more transparency and, on a national level, a lesser age gap within the elected officials, as it is the case in Norway, where the age average, according to him, is between 38/40 years old.

Questions to F. Chotard:

-> What can Europe do to take into account the social and economic situation of young people and to ensure that they better understand the representative authorities in their respective countries?

Ms. Chotard delivers a halftone message. She emphasises the idea of Solidarity. The role of the Representation of the Île-de-France region in Brussels is to be the interface between the European institutions, the communities, the elected officials, communities’ administrations and the government territorial stakeholders.
In order to fight the representativeness crisis, Europe must be embodied in its territories. The first positive message is that the EU and the European institutions now acknowledge that the regional and the local authorities are an interesting and pertinent platform which contributes to the creation and to the construction of the European Union.
There are about 300 representations such as the Île-de-France in Brussels, representing communities in Europe.

A number of people try to highlight Europe’s actions to draw citizens and the ones acting on the territory closer to each other. European networking has been greatly developed, particularly over the last 10 to 15 years.

There is a European policy dedicated to solidarity called cohesion policy, structural funds or regional policy. We receive on our territories these European funding envelopes determined by the EU, and implemented by the European Commission. This policy should reduce inequalities at a European level, between regions and even within a region. This policy is constantly questioned, especially in times of crisis. The European Union is a union that always has to prove the usefulness of its policy.

Compared to the NEETS, and at the request of several European leaders, the EU has set up the initiative for the employment of young people. It aims specifically to help European regions with an extremely high rate of unemployment amongst its youths. This shows that Europe is aware of the needs, but that the territories (communities) are the ones carrying the projects in favour of their young ones. Europe embodies this idea of solidarity. The part of the European budget dedicated to regional policy can help to develop the territory. But we must bear in mind the words of Mr Lamassoure: the EU budget is only one percent of the overall wealth of the EU. A third of this figure is a relatively limited amount, although it is a significant one.

Other types of European programmes (Community Action programmes) which can be made available for the citizens.

  • The research and innovation programme: The most richly endowed programme, which also provides research and social innovation against the major social challenges that Europe is facing (eg aging, migration.)
  • Erasmus +
  • Other projects related to citizenship, culture, education and training (smaller amounts).

Europe exists through its projects but in order to gain a European co-financing, it requires a project engineering and some expertise. But the structures often lack the ability to come together and to promote such projects. Administrative simplification is a wide topic as regards European institutions, but there is still much to do for the values of solidarity, but also for the ones of tolerance and of peace and for them to become truly be incarnated.

-> What does Europe in the Yvelines department?

SOME EXAMPLES IN THE YVELINES DEPARTMENT:

  • The projects implemented by the Maison de l’Europe des Yvelines are projects that are carried succeed and that are funded.
  • The Departmental Council of the Yvelines has just decided not to be represented in Brussels for budgetary reasons, which is unfortunate because the Representation wishes the widest possible partnership in order to represent the diversity of the territory. But the Department is also acting as an administration authority delegated to the European Social Fund (ESF) for the inclusion part. Europe is there to help the department with some major projects.

-> Do you frequently work with inter town communities?

Although they are not members of the Ile-de-France Representation in Brussels, as the official members are the region and the departments, the Representation works with inter town communities and they are accompanied when it is appropriate.

-> The economic crisis, the mobility required in professional life, relocations cause of a high unemployment rate amongst active seniors population. What does Europe offer?

During the negotiations within the European Commission for the operational program ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) / ESF Ile-de-France, Employment and Social Affairs GD which was the entry point to the ESF has spread the message “what do you intend to do about the problem of unemployment of senior workers?”.
The issue of unemployment of senior workers is considered within the measures made available to the ESF. In addition, social economy projects are achieved within the ERDF framework with a transgenerational logic, for example: the support programme for young entrepreneurs tutored by experienced seniors. The ESF also addresses the problem of aging population. Furthermore, some clusters in the Île-de-France region work on the “Silver Economy”.

-> What concrete measures have been implemented at a local level on the territory of the Seine-Saint-Denis department, following the agreement of specific funds to fight the unemployment of young people?

The Region and the Seine-Saint-Denis department receive ESF funding for customised projects to fight against school dropout.
The Seine-Saint-Denis department was already part of the previous “Comenius Regio” programme on the issue of early school dropout. The County Council has in mind to clearly identify the NEETS as they are not always easy to spot.

-> For months now, thousands of refugees have been arriving in Europe and have been appealing to the European people to show a solidarity spirit. An allocation of refugees was adopted by the European Council. Are the French regions assigned to be the interface for the redistribution on the national level? And if that is the case, how do you manage this in the Île-de-France region?

The cities, rather than the regions, are in charge of welcoming the refugees. The European Commission has asked the question in all European regions as to whether they were considering changing the framework of their operational programmes to include measures that would facilitate the integration of these refugees. A dialogue is currently taking place between ERDF managing authorities and the European Commission. At the last regional council, the Region adopted a large support package for refugees, also making financing available to those who will accompany the refugees.

Question to K. Remache:

-> How is it possible to deal with migratory flows and to integrate these people, as integration also implies shared values? How does the Mission Locale address this issue?

Young people today, who are the children of the fourth or fifth generation of immigrants, should be considered as experts in terms of migration. It is essential that they become part of the integration protocols intended for refugees are now arriving.

Often, immigrants experience a phase of euphoria quickly followed by a culture shock, when they come to realise that they do not share the same values and the same references as the population who have settled long ago. Likewise, the professionals who welcome such ones are shocked by these cultural differences. We must therefore prepare and train those professionals on multiculturalism and equip them to face this cultural shock.
Above all, migrants must be introduced to the French language to facilitate their integration. The knowledge of French is the basis of any integration; it precedes the sharing of values.

Question to K. Remache:

-> In today’s context with strong issues on immigration, is the work of the Representation made difficult by the politicisation of the immigrant’s issues?

The permanent team of the Representation in Brussels has no political mandate. It leans on a group of technicians who are there to create a dialogue between the European institutions, the elected officials, and the various services and actors. The political issues are dealt with amongst the elected officials. The Representation assists each one, and the partnership brings together people with different views: the community, the region and the departments.

Question to K. Remache:

-> The social elevator has been out of order for the last 10 to 15 years. Can we quantify today how many children of labour workers or disadvantaged social groups benefit from the Erasmus programme?

There are 3 categories among the young population:
– Hyper-nomads (100 million worldwide): people who can, thanks to their social status, their income, and their wealth, regularly travel from one end of the world to another;
– infra-nomads: refugees, migrants who must leave because of wars or crises;
– Sedentary: the majority of people who are afraid to be in the category of infra-nomads but who cannot afford to be in the hyper-nomads category.
We must encourage the sedentary public to become mobile by taking advantage of the Erasmus+ programme, because their sedentarity is rarely a choice.

Questions to F. Chotard:

-> The hundreds of thousands of euro envelope allocated by European funds is considerable. Are there monitoring tools to check where these funds are going?

The first level of control is the responsibility of the managing authority. At a national level, each Member State has controlling commissions (CICC in France). Audits are held by appointed cabinets following tenders.
At a European level, the European Commission and the Court of Auditors carry out some audits.

The Court of Auditors publishes an annual report which shows the issues they were faced with in the various audits. Some errors (although in good faith) are highlighted. However, very few cases of fraud are noted.

-> What is the view of Europe on the situation of refugees, especially with Hungary where a wall has been built? Is it within the power of the European institutions to stand and to have an influence on countries, using sanctions for instance?

The question of Hungary is a difficult one as it goes beyond the problem of refugees. Several other decisions taken by the Orban governement in the past preoccupy a certain number of people. The European Council made a decision based on a qualified majority, as some member states voted against, including Hungary. The big question is how these decisions will be implemented (especially the key distribution). There is also a strong influence from the regional authorities and from the civil society whose initiatives will perhaps allow to host refugees.

CONCLUSION

  • René Prioux

He thanked Mrs Lecointe, Mrs. Chotard and Mr Remache for this afternoon of interchange. The city of Saint-Germain-en-Laye supports the Maison de l’Europe des Yvelines.
This meeting demonstrated the importance of interchanges between the European institutions and the field stakeholders. We are compelled to consider social and economic phenomena which sometimes are higher than ourselves. But we must admit that the European Union has succeeded in making traveling from one Member State to another easier and that, today, all kinds of exchanges are possible, simply because we often share the same language, the same culture, the same monetary language with the euro currency.
The debate in Europe is open, everyone can take part in it and contribute to its improvement by voicing his point of view.
It is up to young ones to build the new phase, through the values of solidarity, of tolerance and of peace. There are two ways open to us: the way of Nation-States (with a possible revival of conflicts) or the path of community, of exchanges, the merging of our cultures in order to work together on the basis of our core values.
Europe is still to grow. Balkan countries will be integrated in the years to come. New blocks are arising: the Asian bloc, and the bloc of emerging countries.
It is up to us to see whether Europe is going to disperse itself or face the challenges and become stronger.
Isn’t the motto of Europe “United in diversity”?

  • The video CitiPart is presented to conclude the conference debate.

This debate-conference held in the Chamber of the city hall of the town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye brought 70 people together, some from the CitiPart delegation, some elected officials and representatives of civil society, and some young participants who also took an active part in the discussions.

Interview from Alain LAMASSOURE

Teaser

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