Feb 20th, 2019, 05:15 PM

Volt Europa is Taking Politics into Their Own Hands

By Shadi Ayoubi
Volt logo. Image credit: VoltEuropa Twitter
A new political movement working to bring Europe together is on the rise.

Colombe Cahen-Salvador, the co-founder of Volt, said that before Brexit, she had never thought deeply about Europe. She only studied the general history of the European Union in school.

She grew up in France, studied law in the U.K., and had always planned to move to London someday with her partner Andrea Venzon, where they first met. Venzon is from Milan. They were talking on the phone on June 23 2016, feeling let down following the Brexit referendum.

They both studied abroad with Erasmus and felt they had to do something so that the rise of populism would not block future generations from benefiting from such experiences. Venzon told Salvador, “Let’s stop complaining and actually do something,” and came up with the idea of starting a progressive, pan-European movement. It would be a project involving all or most European countries, including non-EU members. They called it Volt, as they wanted to bring new energy to the continent.

Cahen-Salvador had moved to Washington for work, and Venzon to New York to study. He met Damian Boeselager there, a German student with whom he had discussions filled with fruitful ideas, and soon after Volt started to take shape. Their goal was to create a party with a strong internal democracy, a program shaped by relevant research with the best practices, while still following their values.

Cahen-Salvador felt that there was going to be a populist uprising in Europe following Brexit. Especially after Marine Le Pen’s growing popularity, which was countered by Emmanuel Macron, who also followed populist tactics in her eyes because of the emphasis on his personality, rather than the ideas he drafted. Moreover, Venzon was particularly concerned by the result of Italy’s referendum, leading to the resignation of Matteo Renzi, Italy’s former prime minister following his defeat with the popular vote decision to change the constitution. This result was a victory for anti-establishment and right-wing parties, creating severe political problems in the Eurozone’s third-largest economy.

Volt march in Amsterdam. Image Credit: VoltEuropa Twitter

The day Britain triggered article 50, declaring the intention of the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union, the three of them launched Volt on Facebook. They did not have an extensive plan, they just worked on their website and started crowd-funding -- none of them had previous experience in politics whatsoever. Their goal was to secure at least 25 Members of European Parliament (MEP) seats to be able to form an independent group and have a proper impact on politics in Europe.

Today, there are about 20,000 members in Volt, in more than 30 European countries. Possibly even more impressive is the fact that it's the first time 70 percent of their members have been politically active. 

In March 2018, the first national subsidiary was created in Hamburg, Germany. They are registered as a political party in seven countries: France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, and Bulgaria. The subsidiary with the most members is in Italy. In Luxembourg, Volt is incorporated as a non-profit association.

Over a period of two days from 27 October 2018, Volt hosted its General Assembly meeting in Amsterdam, presenting the Amsterdam Declaration programme for the European Parliament as well. This was a key event that increased the party's credibility.

They believe that among those of the “Erasmus generation,” originally many had been reluctant to participate in politics because they didn't see much hope in them. Since the creation of Volt, it seems like that has changed. Volt uses group “meet-ups,” discussions on Facebook groups, and tailored pages of Volt for each country in Europe, all in their respective languages to encourage involvement. 

On the one hand, their focus is around topics relating to economics involving investments in the green and blue economy, the fight against poverty and inequality, a more unified European tax system, and the public-private partnerships to revive economic growth and reduce unemployment. They support the advancement of welfare policies, particularly, those relating to education and healthcare.  On the other hand, socially, Volt supports anti-sexism, anti-racism, and LGBTQ+ movements.

Volt march in Amsterdam. Image Credit: VoltEuropa Twitter

Volt strives to reignite European patriotism, by stressing the need to have a united European voice in the world. This desire is subject to the idea of making European countries more cohesive concerning their economic and political needs, as well as designing trade policies that are aimed at underpinning their trade balance.

Volt's members support a federated Europe, meaning that the European Parliament would have more power, further allowing members of Volt to participate in the creation of new policies. The European policy team includes around 200 volunteers from across the continent along with the help of a range of experts who aid in the creation of policies. The primary objective for Volt is still to have as many seats as possible, and they have hopes of becoming more influential soon after the European Parliament elections in May of this year. At the same time, they are also preparing municipal elections in several countries and setting up new headquarters in Brussels.

Volt is fighting for Europe by betting on youth mobilization. They are demonstrating that there are other ways of doing politics, partly by making it more accessible for young people to get involved in shaping their futures. 

European Parliament. Image credit: DAVID ILIFF