There are many voices demanding change in Europe, often opposed to furthering the union of European countries. In the back room of a dark bar in Rotterdam, a young political movement called Volt wants the opposite. An even more united Europe after the European elections in May 2019.
The multi-coloured lights gleam softly in the darkness. “Eat, shit, die” reads in large, graffiti like letters on one of the walls of the half empty bar. The young crowd has just arrived and take the first, slightly awkward sips of their beers. One person is wearing a purple sweater with large print which catches the eye: “Volt”.
The small group moves through the bar and assemble in a back row. Stray objects are dispersed around the room, and in one corner there are large letters seemingly belonging to a sign. The dim lighting gives it a satisfying underground feeling. The person in the purple sweater takes a leading role and presents herself. Her name is Reyhan Cigdem and is a fairly new member who joined a couple of months ago. Nonetheless, she has big news to the group. “Yesterday I decided that I’m going to run for a seat in the European parliament in the elections in May” she says with a blend of excitement and insecurity in her voice.
Volt in a nutshell
Brexit was the decisive moment for the creation of this pan-European political movement. It is seen a huge blow to the EU, aimed to divide and destroy the union. But it also awoke a counter trend across Europe, which Volt is a part of. It is a political movement with party affiliates in most EU countries, aimed at combating populism and re-uniting Europe.
Volt has the ambitious goal of forming their own political group in the European parliament after the European elections in May 2019. In order to do this, they need to gain at least 25 seats from a quarter of the member states.
Another member, Coen Buvelot, arrives a bit late to the gathering. He introduces himself and takes out a bunch of pamphlets from his backpack. One of the peculiar things about Volt is that they will campaign with one single programme across Europe for the elections: The Amsterdam Declaration. It was written by the founders of Volt and consists of three main points:
Fix the EU
The first point sets the visionary tone of the programme. The political party wants to establish a federal Europe, an EU which entails a single government, a European Prime minister and a European President. Reyhan Cigdem is the strongest proclaimer of unification in the room, speaking about the need for focusing on the similarities between European citizens, not the differences.
Another of the points discussed during the evening is the matter of security. Volt stands behind Merkel and Macron in their belief in the necessity of a common European army. One of the evening’s newcomers, a French man named Cédric who recently settled in the Netherlands, speaks with great enthusiasm about the success of En Marche in his home country and draws parallels to ideas of Volt.
The latecomer Coen Buvelot is one of the, relatively, veteran members and has been with Volt for over six months. He has a degree in economics and claims to have an economic outlook on politics. “I’ve looked at it from all different angles, and a more leftist approach is the only option that I believe will work in the current situation”, he says confidently.
The Amsterdam Declaration’s second point describes the aim of boosting growth and standards of living, especially focusing on the European youth. Amongst other things they want to create a European labour platform to unite the labour market across the member states. A big focus is also put on the importance of entrepreneurship.
Erik Versteegh is one of those members who sits quietly in the back and doesn’t say much. But when it comes to the topic of sustainability he is very vocal. “Today’s politics need to be aimed at stopping climate change”, he says.
The third and final point of the Amsterdam Declaration aims to build a just and sustainable society. Volt wants a faster shift to greener alternatives in order to fulfill the Paris Climate Agreement. This means, amongst other things, to adopt a circular economy and promoting sustainable agriculture. Under this point one can also read about the need of a reform of the Dublin System and the necessity to break the glass ceiling and combat inequality.
Volt’s campaigning programme, the Amsterdam Declaration, contains ambitious goals that at times seem more idealistic than realistic. The aim to reshape and strengthen the EU at every level, but how this will be done was not very clear this evening in Rotterdam. Time will only tell how this young political movement will do in the upcoming European elections.