Are we still going to need JEF in 5 years time? Yes, so let’s re-balance!

, by Daniel Matteo

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English]

Are we still going to need JEF in 5 years time? Yes, so let's re-balance!

When our vision has come true, when a federal Europe is established, then JEF and its partner organisations have fulfilled their historical function. Until that time has come, and as long as we are not satisfied with the state of affairs in Europe, JEF is the kind of organisation Europe continues to need. We, the current generation of JEFers, have to ensure that, in the future, our organisation is strong enough and in a position where its voice is heard.

As we head to our Congress in Helsinki, Europe is sailing through stormy waters. As JEFers we feel that a lot is at stake, and that, now more than ever, our voice has to be heard. And while this is something that I share, we would do well to not, as they say, put all our eggs into one basket.

Demanding and pushing for a federal Europe is crucial. But if we do that at the expense of our organisation’s future, it is irresponsible. We have not done that mistake yet, but I would argue that we have neglected the development of our own organisation. This is not to blame anyone in particular; rather, we are all in the same boat on this.

To make this a bit more concrete, there are two issues that exemplify the internal challenges our organisation is facing. First, our membership numbers are stagnating. This topic alone is of huge importance to JEF’s future, and deserves its own article.

Second, parts of our internal structure are ineffective, and present obstacles and disincentives for our work. This is most evident when we look at the functioning of the Federal Committee (FC). Most, if not a majority of the, direct FC members have not been active and have not fulfilled their duties in the last two years. This is quite a bold statement, not because it is exaggerated, but because not all FC members will be happy with it.

One might argue that it is up to the Congress to simply elect better representatives. This argument misses, however, that we have tried that for years and without success. Yes, delegates play an important role in selecting good representatives; but if the structure does not set the right incentives, then even candidates’ best intentions will often evaporate, and if the structure emphasizes other criteria than candidates’ motivation and competence, then we will not attract the people we need in the first place.

Why elect 20 direct FC members without specifying their role in the FC? If direct FC members are supposed to develop and help implement internal and external policies, then let’s elect them accordingly, namely on the basis of their motivation and competence for those specific tasks. Why 20 direct FC members? A glance into the Statutes shows how arbitrary this number is. A sensible approach would be to see how many FC members we need and what their functions would be, and then to set the number accordingly. Also, psychologically, the larger a body like the FC gets, the more we see a diffusion of responsibility and accountability of members of that group – two key problems we have been facing in the past.

These and other suggestions (e.g. giving the Congress the power to elect all members of the Executive Bureau) have been made and we are going to discuss them in Helsinki. The reform proposals grew out of the dissatisfaction among our members, in the hope that we can change our organisation for the better.

So yes, I believe JEF will exist in 5 years time, simply because we will still need this organisation. If we want our message to be heard in the future, we have to re-balance, put some work in today and keep an eye on the development of our organisation.

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