University of Lisbon, Portugal, 1-4 September 2019
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Panel 912: Remembering Europe - Education, Identity and Policy
The European Parliament’s Youth Policy, 1952-1979: An Attempt to Create a Collective Memory of Early European integration
Augsburg University, Germany
The formal powers of the European Parliament (EP) prior to its first direct elections in 1979 were marginal. Except for its power of control over the Commission and some budgetary influence, the EP was assigned a mere consultative role by the Treaties establishing the European Communities. However, this limited formal role did not correspond to the perception of the early Members of the EP (MEPs) as to what role the EP should play in Community policy-making. Predominantly driven by pro-integrationist ideas of ever closer union – and of an ever stronger Parliament – the MEPs became activists for deeper political as well as institutional integration. Their convictions are clearly visible in their behaviour, which reflected their self-perception as being Euro-parliamentarians rather than national delegates of a consultative assembly: their level of activity and involvement in Community policy-making significantly surpassed the narrow EP-related Treaty provisions.
This is particularly visible in the area of youth policy: perceiving a lack of public support for and identification with the Community project, MEPs invested considerable time and effort prior to 1979 into attempts of creating a Community youth policy. Through a variety of measures that would bring young Community citizens together and make them feel connected to the Communities, MEPs hoped to forge pro-European generations willing to become activily involved in the pursuit of closer integration. A major part of this endeavour was the creation of a collective memory of Europeanness: throughout the period under examination, MEPs invoked in their youth-related political activism a common cultural heritage. Morevoer, the delegates built their appeals for young people’s engagement in and identification with Europe on the member states’ more recent collective memories of war, followed by a peace guaranteed by the Communities.
This paper provides an analysis of such narratives and the underlying ideas and motives driving EP activism in the area of youth policy. It traces how MEPs sought to involve young people in the project of ever closer integration, notably through attempts of creating a collective memory of the Communities as guarantor of peace and prosperity, and as a space of shared cultural heritage supposedly connecting – even if subconsciously – all citizens of the member states. The paper builds on a collection of ca. 850 EP documents on youth policy from the period 1952-1979, and on ca. 25 semi-structured interviews with former MEPs and EP staff.
Collecting Memories: the Evolution of the European Parliament as seen by Former MEPs over the 40 Years since the First Direct Elections
1University College Dublin, Ireland; 2European University Institute, Fiesole; 3Maastricht University, Netherlands
The aim of this paper is to provide an initial assessment of what the European Parliament has and has not achieved in the 40 years since the first direct elections in 1979, as seen by a large number of former MEPs who worked inside the institution during that period. The paper looks at five key themes, in particular, the role and impact of MEPs at major moments in the life of the Parliament , the extent to which MEPs were able to shape European laws, the role of MEPs in ensuring accountability of the Commission and other EU institutions, and the way in which MEPs were able to make a mark beyond the EU, in such areas as enlargement , development policy and respect of human rights. The paper also looks briefly at the views of former MEPs both on the Brexit process and on the future of the EU, and thus seeks to provide some fresh and original perspectives on the development of the EP.
The paper is based on around 100 interviews with former MEPs, including with 25 foremr Committee Chairs, 6 former EP Presidents and many other former key office-holders. The interviews have been carried out by the co-authors and by 3 other former European Parliament staf f members. and are being made available as an oral archive on the site of the De Gasperi Archives at the European University Institute in Florence. A Palgrave Pivot summarising some of the main findings under 10 key themes has also been prepared.
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