Our Volter in the European Parliament

In 2019 Germany voted our member Damian Boeselager into the European Parliament.

Follow Damian on his own website!

Damian, as Volt MEP, is representing Europeans in Brussels. He represents our wish for a stronger and united Europe. But things do not end here. This experience and our vision for Europe has set Volt to become a prominent political player in the years to come. We have organised around our European identity and have empowered communities to take an active role in politics. We are ready to keep working for Europe, and run in local, regional and national elections. We will continue to challenge traditional politics, and bring to our societies a people-powered, progressive and pan-european way of doing politics. Through our campaigns, community work and civic actions, Volt will further empower people to claim their voice in politics. We will build a European democracy fit for the 21st century. We are here to stay, and reshape politics.

(Please find a statement from Damian below on: Volt in the European Parliament: Progress report 2019 & Goals for 2020.)

Dear all, 

Thank you again to those of you who voted for Volt in May 2019. It was a slim chance and you really took a risk: your vote could have been lost in the first place. And it was unclear what Volt can achieve with only one seat in the European Parliament. Thank you for being brave.

To update you about the effects of your voting decision, I wrote a little progress report, summarizing what happened since I was elected. And I added a little outlook with our goals 2020. Hope you enjoy the read! More will come!

Review | since June 2019

After digesting that we won the seat end of May last year, my first concern was to establish the basics of my political work:

  • Joined a group and negotiated 4 committees:I instantly started to negotiate with the Liberals and the Greens in the European Parliament after the election. I realized that without a group I could not deliver on any of my electoral promises. The negotiations circled primarily around the parliamentary committees and information-sharing and decision-making within the group. In the end, the Greens' offer was simply better, which was reflected in the Volt members’vote to join the Greens. Here is a list of my committees and my priorities within them - based on our electoral promises:
    • Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO): Focus on electoral Law and the Conference on the Future of Europe as part of a bigger EU reform
    • Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE):Focus on labour migration and the European asylum system
    • Committee on Industry, Technology, Research and Energy (ITRE): Focus on European strategy on digitalization and Artificial Intelligence
    • Committee on Budgets (BUDG): focus on European fiscal policy and budget negotiations

Members usually concentrate on only one or two committees, whereas I have my hands full with four. However, as Volt’s only MEP, it allows me to demonstrate that at Volt we are working coherently towards a fairer society, a functioning and sustainable economy and a strong EU, capable to solve the biggest challenges of our time.

  • Recruited 4 parliamentary assistants:The second big task was the recruitment of my team. I know how important the quality and ‘personal fit’ of staff are for the success of the mandate, which is why I left the screening and first round of interviews to experts. We received over 200 responses to an open call for applications. I conducted only the final interviews for the various roles myself - and I am today very happy and grateful to have a really strong team working with me! Rina helps me with administrative tasks;Joachim is the head of office and supervises the Constitutional Affairs Committee;Kamilla helps me on migration and asylum policy;Johannes coordinates my work in the Budget and Industrial Policy Committees; and Blanche, our intern, helps across the different tasks.

With team and priorities in place, the real work began. Here are some of our achievements of the second half of 2019:

  • Helped shape the design of the Conference on the Future of Europe: At Volt, evidence-based work in detail is important to us. Ever since Mrs von der Leyen promised in her election speech to set up a Conference on the Future of Europe, we have tried to sharpen the Parliament's position on this. This is not always easy, because unfortunately personal interests at times influence the structure.However, we continue to do our best to push a clear concept with meaningful citizen participation into the debate. Below is a schematic diagram of how we imagine this conference to work. In quarterly cycles, individual topics are discussed and end in a resolution;the process always starts with citizens' meetings and ends with an evaluation of the outcome by the same citizens to ensure accountability. Treaty changes or legislative follow-up would then ensue
  • Made labour migration a parliamentary priority: In the debate on migration, the discussion about the asylum system dominates the political and public debate. Indeed, the European asylum system is where the greatest humanitarian needs are (more on this in the next item). However, to add a positive tone to the debate and pointing out that in many places in Europe considerable shortages of skilled workers exists in times of an ageing population, we succeeded in convincing our fellow MEPs in the Green Group and later in the relevant committee to think proactively about new ways of labour migration. A good labour migration system is a success factor for the EU as a whole. One possibility, for example, would be a kind of European labour register, in which employers looking for employees would first be shown only EU nationals for 15 days, and would then also be able to find job-seekers with suitable profiles from outside the EU. The visas are still a national competence, but the matching could be perfectly organized on a European level.
  • Pushed for a new dynamic in the debate on the European Asylum System: I went to Lesbos this autumn, to see the terrible situation in the refugee camps with my own eyes (Here is an article I published on the subject in the Guardian). In my view the title should have read “Our national leaders are looking the other way”, instead of “Brussels is looking the other way”! Anyone who knows the situation a little understands that it is, above all, our Interior Ministers and the national leaders who simply cannot agree on any solution amongst themselves. The environment was so toxic, that Member States could not even sit down to discuss the issue in the past years. That must now change. I will do my utmost to push for a renewed and fact-based debate, via internal channels and via the media. After all this time and all this suffering at the borders, we must develop a functioning European asylum system in which we finally honour one of Europe’s greatest achievements again: human dignity. To this end, I have already organised various background discussions and panels of experts, not only in Brussels but also in Berlin, Paris and Stockholm - and I will continue to travel a great deal to the Member States and to our borders and talk to the people on the ground.
  • Advanced our thinking on the opportunities of a European digitisation policy. Are cloud servers in the USA a sovereignty or industrial policy issue? How do we deal with non-personal data? What can we do to bridge funding gaps in the start-up growth phase? Should we support the creation of giant European industry champions or do we prefer a web of innovative European SMEs? How can a small SME benefit from an artificial intelligence cluster in its vicinity? And above all: How can EU policy help here? The field of digital policy is comparatively young. Merely the amount of unanswered questions in the digitisation debate is impressive to begin with. With all this complexity in mind, what does not help, in our opinion, is to fall prey to regulatory actionism without good economic and legal analysis. We believe that there is incredible potential in Europe to unleash, if we use innovative and evidence-based regulatory approaches to digitization and artificial intelligence. In any case, we are still in the discovery phase and thankful for your ideas.

In addition, many other exciting things happened along the way: we participated in the marathon meetings of the 2020 budget negotiations between the Parliament and the European Council; we started shaping our views on a new European fiscal instrument (“the Eurobudget” or BICC) with governments; we wrote our own AI regulatory narrative; we were covered in a number of newspaper articles in El Pais, Der Spiegel and others; and we brought together innovative MEPs in private circles on several occasions in order to ensure to push for system innovation from within the European Parliament, too.

Outlook 2020

What do we want to achieve in the coming year? At the end of January, we are planning a retreat to reflect on this in a detail, both as a team and with external support. The rough goals are clear, however, and follow logically from what has been said above:

In the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO):

  1. Actively participate in the Conference on the Future of Europe
  2. Initiate European electoral law reform.

In the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE):

  1. Develop new pathways for labour migration and contribute them into the Parliament’s position
  2. Contribute to push for agreement on a European asylum system, in particular with regard to the European Asylum Authority
  3. Help improve the humanitarian situation of asylum seekers in the short and medium term

In the Committee on Industry, Technology, Research and Energy (ITRE) :

  1. Develop best practices for a European digitisation/AI strategy and contribute them into the Parliament’s position
  2. Help develop and design pilot projects & regulatory sandboxes for AI regulation.

In the Budget Committee (BUDG):

  1. Advance the creation of real European fiscal policy tools and contribute our pan-European ideas into the Parliament’s position.
  2. Fight with the Council for a sensible EU budget, which will enable us to tackle the major issues of our time together. At the same time, increasing focus on spending efficiency and control.

Considering that the full team only started in September and that we are still finding our way through the turmoil of the Parliament and our new jobs, I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved so far! If we continue to learn and act so quickly, I am convinced we can make our voice heard both inside and outside the European Parliament and push for real change.

Furthermore, it is very important for us to be perceived as an honest and well-prepared office, to strengthen our voice in the national dialogues, also in Germany, and to accompany Volt in its growth.

Thank you very much for your trust! And to you, too, a successful new decade, with everything that lies ahead of you! If there is any overlap with our subject areas, or if you have any other ideas, questions or suggestions, please feel free to write to me!

Yours,

Damian

PS Thank you for reading this long, long update! 

PPS Sign up for my newsletter if you want to get regular updates via www.damianboeselager.org