Newropeans want change too

Newropeans want change too

8th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

You don't let local parties run a country, so why let national interests run Europe? That's the message Newropeans tried to get across at the launch of their Dutch campaign for the upcoming European elections. "The revolution starts here", believes party leader Arno Uijlenhoet.

You don't let local parties run a country, so why let national interests run Europe? That's the message Newropeans tried to get across at the launch of their Dutch campaign for the upcoming European elections. "The revolution starts here", believes party leader Arno Uijlenhoet.

Newropeans describe themselves as the first truly pan-European party. In fact, though, they will only run in a handful of EU member states in June and not in all twenty-seven. The Netherlands and France are of particular importance to them, because people there said 'no' to the European Constitution in 2005.

That wave of anti-European sentiment prompted a group of idealistic former students who tried and failed to start a European movement in the late 'eighties to spring back into action. They started a party that's independent from national politics, that communicates mostly via internet and that lets people choose candidates direct by e-voting.

Arno Uijlenhoet, the number one of the Dutch Newropeans, denies he's the very type of politician - well-spoken, well-educated and wearing the standard issue grey suit - European voters are so disenchanted with.

"Well, if you talk about change, change in countries and change in societies usually come from the middle classes. Still, we would like to have contacts with people who are less elitist than we are."

 

 

Crunch time
It's crunch time for Europe, believes Arno Uijlenhoet. He says he understands why many people are unhappy with the EU as more and more powers are transferred from national parliaments to Brussels. But he also says it's not the amount of Europe that counts. It's the quality.

"We are not for more Europe, we're for a better Europe. It's the national parties who are for more Europe. All we want to do is to make the power that Europe already has accountable to the people. So democracy is not about more Europe, it's about better Europe."


Nevertheless, some of the ideas raised at the Newropeans launch are likely to send eurosceptics running for the door. Including the idea of European taxation, although Uijlenhoet stresses that people shouldn't have to pay more tax in the end.

Simple citizens
Another problem facing Uiijlenhoet is how to draw in the man in the street - the European citizens who express their frustration with Brussels and with their own governments by shrugging their shoulders and staying away from the European polls.

Most of the people in the audience at the Dutch launch of Newropeans turn out to be friends, relatives and neighbours of Uijlenhoet. Including someone who asks critical questions during the public discussion afterwards and who describes himself as a 'simple citizen'.

Thursday, 3 April, MEPs vote in Brussels
Thursday, 3 April, MEPs vote in Brussels


"I totally disagree with them. I think it's very important that you also address national issues in your politics, and not say that those are not important at a European level. if you want to involve normal citizens in European politics, you need to address national issues."


Live and learn
Arno Uijlenhoet is not disheartened by the response. He says he's in it for the long haul, and expects it may take up to twenty years before Newropeans get their message across.

Uijlenhoet's target for the June elections, he says, is two seats in the 750-seat European Parliament for the Dutch chapter of Newropeans. That means 360,000 Dutch voters would need to agree with him. Judging by the turn-out at Newropeans' launch in the small southern town of Rosmalen, there's still a lot of work to be done.

Listen to Perro de Jong's report, click here.

Perro de Jong
Radio Netherlands

Head picture: Newropeans logo

rnw

 

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