My name is Ophélie, I am a 24-year-old French expat in Luxembourg. I was born in the suburbs of Paris, in a melting-pot family that allowed me very early to have broad horizons. I am now a lawyer specialising in European law (of course!), with a huge crush on learning new languages (I currently know 6, but am eager to add more to my collection!). I fell for JEF after participating in the Ventotene seminar as my very first ever JEF activity, where I actually started to understand what federalism was. That was four years ago after I had joined JEF in 2010; and since, I think I have experienced all levels of the organisation. From president of my local section in Paris in 2012 to International Officer of JEF France for the past two years (and until the end of last month), through participating in setting the first Cross Border Seminar (2012) or chairing the French Political Commission (2013), I have always been impassioned by the genuine European dimension of our organisation and the incredible cooperation between our sections all across Europe.
Motivation for the position
Thanks to the positions I have held within the organisation and my commitment to the different levels and activities, I have had a very enriching and exciting JEF career, which has helped me understand how deep I believe in federalism and European shared values, and why I think my next big step should be entering the EB, especially as one of the two Vice-Presidents. From the very beginning of my commitment, I have always been interested in the European level of the organisation, how it worked and the role it had. I have attended quite a few international seminars and statutory events – whether in Germany, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands, or elsewhere! – which made me realise that the work of our national sections is only meaningful through the wider perspective that JEF-Europe provides. The interconnection, cooperation and mutual understanding between the European and the national levels are essential, not only for the organisation to grow, but also to make it stronger, in order to face the tough challenges coming on the way. Having observed JEF as much as possible and lived it ‘hardcore’ for the past few years, having had the chance to take a close look at its strengths and weaknesses, and having discussed internal matters with my fellow neighbour sections when working together with them, I now want to use all the knowledge and experience acquired to serve JEF and help it work efficiently with its network – should it be inside or outside.
In my opinion, the position of Vice-President requires three main skills that I believe I have. The Vice-President should:
- Have a good understanding of the organisation as a whole, and have a good knowledge of both our internal functioning and our relations with our external partners.
Out of my five years as a member of JEF, I have had responsibilities for almost four of them, at different levels, and was an intern at the JEF Secretariat in my early commitment. I therefore think that not only do I have a pretty good picture of how JEF works – from the activities on the ground to the statutory requirements during FCs – I also understand the stakes of maintaining and improving our position regarding other European and youth organisations.
- Be a team player.
The Vice-Presidents hold the responsibility, together with the President, to keep up the good spirit within the EB team and be ready to support its members when needed. And the more efficient the EB is, the more useful it can be for the sections, which can thus rely on it. As a former board member of an active national section, I know what it takes to work closely together with other people, be reactive and share tasks in order to be as efficient as possible, making sure that nobody gets lost in the process.
- Be flexible and open-minded.
The greatest richness of our organisation lies within its cultural diversity. We all have a cultural background that we feel comfortable with, but the Vice-President should be open to try and understand the reasoning of all, by putting herself in their shoes. Discussions with both sections and partners can only be fruitful if they are made in a constructive way, trying to take into account everybody’s specificity. Thanks to my participation in various transnational projects, I had the chance to realise how challenging and yet valuable it is to work with people from different cultures, and these experiences gave me key skills that could now be useful if I am chosen for Vice-President.
My Vision of the Future of JEF
The next two years will probably be the most challenging years Europe has known in its recent history…and so they will be for JEF as well! The European project is now questioned almost on an everyday basis, and JEF needs to be fully prepared for the great ‘rendez-vous’ coming up, where Europe will have to decide to step up or step back, and where JEF will have to push forward. Federalism is one of the solutions foreseen by some politicians; we need to make it THE answer to the problems we currently face and keep on being ‘simply a generation ahead’. Our members, therefore, need to be trained, our sections need to be strong and numerous and our claims need to be clear. We will also have to secure our partnerships and our networks, in order to spread our ideas as far and to as many people as possible.
Bearing those requirements in mind, I see four major goals for JEF in the near future:
- Reconciling the citizens with the European project, by having concrete arguments defending why we want more Europe and why we want this Europe to promote democracy, freedom and justice. JEF should, therefore, think about the tools to use to be understood by everyone and broaden its range of actions;
- Giving a general framework for the national sections to fit in: the more coherent and striking JEF’s discourse and actions are, the more the national sections will rely on it for their own local activities, thus reinforcing the whole structure;
- Attracting new members and helping the creation of new JEF sections to spread our influence on the whole continent;
- Shaping a strong and clear political message to increase the visibility of the organisation, for our partners to understand where we stand and where we can, therefore, be a major actor on the European organisations’ scene.
My Opinion on the needed Political Commissions and Taskforces/Working Groups
I think the framework implemented by JEF regarding the spreading of Political Commissions has been quite efficient in past mandates and we should keep it that way for the next one. There should, however, be a specific emphasis on the means given to PC3, regarding external affairs. The international position of the EU and its relations with its closest neighbours is already a very hot topic and is to become one of the most important subjects for the coming years. JEF, therefore, needs an organ that allows it to have strong positions on such sensitive issues. As far as Task Forces are concerned, I also think we should keep the ones currently in place, because we have had a pretty balanced system there, which allows to strengthen the organisation both on its inside and on its outside. I do however believe that we should create another one, based on Education, in order to facilitate the cooperation between sections and provide them with some tools for educating young people on the European project. Deepening the idea of European citizenship and spreading European values can only be reached with more educated young people, and I know a lot of our members and sections feel the need for such tools. Therefore, I think JEF should provide them with some solutions and support in this regard.