This past Tuesday, our office in Brussels hosted a group of young people from JUNOS – the youth wing of liberal Austrian party NEOS and an active member of European Liberal Youth organization (LYMEC). It is for the second time that we had the pleasure of welcoming young liberals from Austria. The meeting resulted in a fruitful exchange on European affairs and challenges facing the EU.
Throughout the meeting led by Sebastian Vagt, European Affairs Manager at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Brussels, the participants debated a wide range of topics relevant to both the foundation’s activities and the European public. Our guests learned more about the current debate on the future of Europe. The upcoming revision of the EU budget, European integration and the idea of a multi-speed Europe were among the key issues discussed.
Mr Vagt, who focuses on security and defence policy at FNF, also discussed with the group the defence policy and security cooperation of the EU.
This led to an exchange on the topic of Brexit. One year ahead of the UK’s scheduled departure from the EU, Brexit is now set to significantly affect not only the EU single market and its social policies, but also the security and military budget.
FNF Europe also took the chance to get to know more about the political discourse in Austria. The young liberals voiced their concerns about the Austrian government its foreign policy and the pro-Russia stand of some leading politicians. They pointed to the effect it has on growing polarization of the public opinion.
Another subject raised in this context was the surge of right-wing populism. The young delegation discussed how liberal responses to the phenomenon should look like. Rethinking political communication should play a vital role in coping with this challenge. Also, collaboration between different liberal stakeholders and movements emerging across Europe could be enhanced.
The Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Brussels strives to get opinions and insights from all sides of Europe and reach beyond Europe’s capital. We were happy to speak as much as to listen to the inspiring liberal youth, and look forward to upcoming encounters.
Joanna Kopacka, Intern at FNF Europe