This is a guest article by Haroon Saad
About 9 months ago, over dinner with a group of friends, we entered into a kind of pact. We decided that it would be good to explore the setting up of a movement that could generate a list of candidates for the 2009 European Parliament Elections. Our goal was NOT to create another party, at least not in way that corresponds to what we currently have. The movement would be based on some key principles:
â€¢ Politics is service NOT a career.
â€¢ We are â€œEuropeansâ€ but not in the current institutional sense.
â€¢ We are committed to developing a more inclusive political discourse – more cafÃ© style than chamber style. A â€œ we thinkâ€ model as opposed to the current â€œI thinkâ€ model
â€¢ Comfortable with diversity and pro-equality
So was born WE CAN EUROPE. By December last year we had 18 potential candidates wishing to stand from 15 member states. I was very surprised by the scale of interest and felt that our message had really struck a chord across the EU â€“ at least on the ground.
However, our initial hopes were relatively short-lived. During January and February this year we were able to undertake research which began to sink our potential candidatesâ€™ chances one by one. In every case we found a mixture of financial or procedural barriers and/or age discrimination. Just as with the opaqueness of the expenses racket, so political parties have created a system of rules and regulations designed to protect their own interests.
In 14 member states: Greece, Hungary, Latvia, The Netherlands, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, France, The Czech Republic and Austria you simply cannot stand as an individual candidate. In 11 member states: Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, and Luxembourg, on paper you possibly could stand BUT in practice its virtually impossible.
For example in Italy you have to get 30,000 handwritten signatures which have to be verified by a lawyer certified for the work. You of course have to pay for this service. Alongside this there are financial barriers which price this action out of bounds for many. Finally two of our potential candidates ran into age discrimination barriers as well. In fact in 16 Member States, you can vote and die for your country at 18, but you cannot represent your fellow citizens! You can find more information on www.wecaneurope.org
To cut along story short, today only 1 out of these 18 individuals remains â€“ me. My nameâ€™s Haroon Saad and Iâ€™m standing as a candidate in London for â€˜We Can Europe.â€™
My motivation is about the inescapable need to radically changing HOW we do politics. Recent events had rammed home my conviction for such systemic change. Above this overarching goal, I am also standing because I do not see or hear the voice of what I call â€˜the new tribes of Europeâ€™ in the EU institutions.
This is not about colour or ethnicity, itâ€™s about mindsets. Itâ€™s also about demographic evolution and changes that have taken place in big urban areas across Europe. I find it incredible that there are so many gullible Londoners who believe that we should not be in Europe and therefore will vote UKIP – itâ€™s like trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube. London is in Europe and Europe is definitely in London.
I am also standing because I believe that our current economic model is socially, politically and environmentally problematic. We cannot cling on to measures such as GDP as signifying some great success, at least not success for the vast majority.
Economic led development has brought us to our knees, metaphorically speaking. We need a new balance which recognises that prosperity and wellbeing are not tied to economic growth as measured by GDP. We need an approach that recognises life values alongside money values.
If elected, I want to offer a service to Londoners that is radically different from that currently provided by the 9 people who represent London.
In concrete terms if you vote for me I promise to do the following:
â€¢ Use the resources that an MEP receives to support the creation of online London communities on issues linked to the EU agenda.
â€¢ Ensure that the voice of these communities is heard in Brussels.
â€¢ Work with public and third sector organisations in order to secure EU funding for work linked to the online forums.
â€¢ Campaign with EU wide groups to increase the amount of EU funding allocated for European co-operation and collaboration at local and city level.
â€¢ Develop links with other cities in Europe to strengthen the voice of Londoners in Brussels.
â€¢ Lobby with EU groups to promote the need of EU funding for supporting social innovation in our mainstream public services.
â€¢ Publish my expenses â€“ how much I got and how I used the money.
â€¢ Provide a monthly blog so you know what I have been up to.
â€¢ Be present and accessible
Haroon has a blog here.
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Filed in: Current affairs,Economy,Party politics,The World