Volt Europe is a new European party founded by an under-35 who wants to put more of Italy in Europe. We interviewed the founders.
In a western political landscape that was unsettled by Brexit and the Trump presidency, the Italian election of the 4 of March added a new unsettling element to the puzzle. Volt is a sore thumb in Europe: as a movement that doesn ́t just put Europe at the centre of its program but that was also born with a transnational view, Volt aims to run in 7 different countries at the EU election of 2019 and to become the first European party. The post-Brexit reasoning over the future brought Andrea Venzon, together with Colombe Cahen-Salvador and Damian Boeselager, to found Volt Europe one year ago.
As of today, Volt is present in all of the 28 EU countries, Switzerland and Albania. It is led by a team on 12 people which is supported by a large volunteer force that is growing also in Italy. Given that young people are highly active on social media, it is through these digital platforms that the movement has started growing. Since the launch of the Facebook page, one year ago, Volt Europe amassed 28 000 (in Italy are over 8 000) and 20 000 newsletter subscribers.
To support itself financially, Volt launched 4 crowdfunding campaign which resulted in more than 70 000 euro raised. This money is used to finance the team working full-time on the campaign.
To gain insight into what Volt is, we interviewed two leading spokespeople: the 26 year old co- founder and President of Volt: Andrea Venzon, and Federica Vinci, 25 years old, President of Volt Italia.
Why did you decide to establish a European movement?
Venzon: “It came as a natural decision, since I am Italian and the other two co-founders are French and German. Up until now it has never been done because there are still too many national interests in place. Even Macron for example, whom presented himself at the last election as strongly pro- European, ever since he came into power has answered first to his electorate, as for example on immigration matters”.
Vinci: “We decided, as pan-European political party, to develop a transnational program that could reflect the common values among every EU country”.
Have you ever considered introducing yourself to the national parties that have a stronger European view compared to the rest?
Venzon: “On Facebook different parties pursued us, but for now we work independently. It is something we might will discuss over for the next national election”.
Vinci: “As for now, we are focused on developing our own identity and growing”.
To be elected at the European election it takes a lot of preferential votes. Will you two be the
candidates? How do you expect to gain enough votes?
Vinci: “We won ́t necessarily be the candidates. We will have primary internal election to decide the candidates. At the moment our strength lies in the fact that we are able to involve a large number of young people”.
Venzon: “There is a strong interest from people under the age of 40. The average age of participants at our events and followers on social media is between 30 and 35 years. There is a lot of interest in Europe for people on that range of age. We have run events throughout the whole Italy over the last 3 months and we have been asked to do more. We want to include everyone, especially those who live outside the entrepreneur and university bubble. At the Volt assembly in Bologna there were more than 200 people, of every social background”.
Vinci: “The political parties of today have anachronistic structures, with a top-down approach to decision-making. During our events we have witnessed a strong interest among people who want to be involved in the political discussion”.
What about Volt then? How is it structured?
Venzon: “We work primarily online: to coordinate ourselves we use a Facebook platform called Workforce and ADoodle for internal surveys. At the moment, we have physical team at a local, regional, national and European level. Being connected online guarantees the involvement of everyone, even for someone who comes from a remote area. We have very well structured internal regulations”.
How are you planning to gain votes from people currently supporting other parties?
Venzon: “We are aiming to target those who feel let down by the M5S. They entered the political landscape with an idea which was consequentially illusory after they went into power in the last election. The strength of Volt is that we base our decisions on empirical data and research. We bring concrete examples of policies that have worked, such as the positive effect of the European regional funds in Spain. When we show this example at the events in the South of Italy, people realize the potential of Europe. We show the positive outcomes of the European Union and how they can be achieved in Italy. This is something that the other parties do not do”.
Vinci: “Our network allows us to share the best practice that have already been implemented in other countries. Isernia has the potential to become like Copenhagen, this is possible because we are able to connect the communities of the two cities. This is a completely new approach”.
In comparison with M5S, your main form of communication is through the internet and you are aiming to achieve a system where every citizen can have his say online. Do you also believe in the rule of one-is-worth-one for any topic that can be discussed?
Venzon: “No, a person ́s experience matters. Our political program was written by 200 volunteers, the labour for which was distributed among different topics based on the volunteer’s level of experience and interest. This type of involvement works very well in Switzerland. Nevertheless, it is still important to consider citizens opinions, regardless of their experience on the subjects, that is the reason why we believe it is important to give everyone the possibility to participate. At the moment, we use external tools like Adoodle, which allow us to carry out anonymous surveys. We
already have a large database of information and in future we will start thinking to develop a tool internally but before that we will have to prepare citizens for this new approach”.
What about the electronic voting system?
Vinci: “It is interesting but cyber security is still a major issue. We haven ́t really put our minds to it
What does not work about Europe nowadays?
Venzon: “It is difficult to understand how Europe works. We would like the European Parliament to have a legislative initiative and also that a real prime minister could be elected, with the European Commission as government. The European Council (composed of national Presidents and Prime Ministers of countries belonging to EU) should look more like a senate. Currently, it has much more power”.
What are Volt’s next steps?
Venzon: “We will have a general assembly at the end of October in Amsterdam and at that point we will launch the official campaign. After the European election we will also focus on the local and regional elections”.
Vinci: “At a national level, we will reach our final decisions for the national campaign by December. We are feeling confident because in comparison to just one year ago, when it was 10 of us and we had no money, today we can count of a large number of volunteers that are working toward an idea, regardless of what the outcome will be”.