MODERN DEMOCRACIES WILL BELONG TO THE CITIZENS

- interview with Ilhan Kyuchyuk, Member of Renew’s delegation to the Conference on the Future of Europe

Ilhan Kyuchyuk is a Member of the European Parliament since 2014, representing the Movement for Rights and Freedoms from Bulgaria and he is co-President of the ALDE Party.

He is a member of the Foreign Affairs, Transport and Tourism, as well as the Legal Affairs committees. He also serves as the First Vice-Chair of the Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee and a substitute member of the Delegation for relations with the Arab Peninsula.

Q: Why did you decide to take part in the Conference Plenary?

A: The truth is that the EU institutions have not undergone major reforms since the Lisbon Treaty more than a decade ago. Citizens’ participation in political processes is still limited and rather sporadic. Often actions need to be taken outside the EU Treaties to adapt to the new realities. The European Union of today is not fully equipped to the world of the 21st century. At the same time, the management of the COVID crisis at EU level has shown us the way forward for the future of European integration. As a European citizen, I want to see a strong Union, capable to act quickly in a wide range of policy areas, ranging from health and environment policy to defence and migration. All of this obliges us to rethink and change Europe’s relationship with its citizens: it is a difficult but necessary debate.

Q: Which topics will you be focusing on?

A: The focus of my work will be on a stronger Europe in the world. In recent years, the EU has experienced several existential crises, such as the financial collapse of 2008, the migration crisis of 2014, the Brexit referendum in 2016 and now the COVID pandemic, all of which have hampered building a stronger Europe. On the other hand, we have witnessed an individual national approach and a chronic inability to take collective decisions on strategic issues: on foreign, health and migration policies, for example. In this regard, I hope that with the Conference on the Future of Europe we can change the way decisions are taken in the European Council. Replacing the principle of unanimity with a qualified majority on foreign policy and defence issues will make the EU much more effective, predictable and solid actor on the global stage. Of course, the digital and green transformation are also a top priority for the first half of this century, and if we want to unleash our potential and become competitive in the fast changing international economic environment, we need to make important decisions for the future.

Q: How would you convince your constituents to take part?

A: Through digital technologies, we have been able to develop a model that could capture the most relevant and promising proposals coming from all over Europe. This is a unique opportunity for the citizens and could be turned into a permanent method that fuels day-to-day decision-making in the EU. They should be actively involved if they do not want to continue being static observers of the European political processes. Civic participation needs institutionalization, not ad hoc inclusion. And if this European exercise on deliberative democracy is ultimately successful, I am convinced that modern democracies will belong to the citizens.

Q: Renew Europe has initiated the idea of the Conference. What will be the Group’s priorities?

A: Citizens will decide what are the main European priorities. What we liberals want to see is that every voice, including the voices of the countries from the Western Balkans as their future lies with the EU, is heard and that the produced results of the Conference are well reflected by the European institutions. At the same time, we should not have the illusion that the Conference will produce exclusively and only positive conclusions. In fact, it can lead to more confusion than understanding and more Euroscepticism than “Euro-optimism”. However, this should not demotivate us, because now is the time to invest in our European democracy, away from everyday political disputes, but in close cooperation with active free citizens, who have a vision for the future.

Q: Why is this milestone so important in EU’s history?

A: Because the Union, which was created after World War II as a counterpoint to national forces, now has other tasks and goals. Europe is an idea and a project that belongs to all of us, but in order to be successful we must overcome the negative attitudes caused by political divisions or the fear of change. One of the EU’s founding fathers, Paul-Henri Spaak, asserted a similar understanding by declaring that “the Europe of tomorrow must be a supranational Europe.” 71 years after the Schuman Declaration laid the foundations of our European Union, it may be a high time to reflect on the words of another European supporter, the former President of the European Commission, Jacques Delors, who said that “the European model is in danger if we obliterate the principle of personal responsibility.” Well, now we have the chance to show responsibility by taking Europe into our own hands and building its future together.

Q: To you, the Conference will be a success if…

A: … we change Europe for better!