Young European Socialists: Laura Slimani, when politics excited

laura slimani, The President of the Young European Socialists

The President of the Young European Socialists in Sicily on the occasion of the Summer Camp Young European Socialists in a four days between laboratories and thematic tables to speak of the future of Europe and the new international scenerios. Laura Slimani twenty-six years old of Rouen, since april 2015 president de ECOSY. Graduated to the Science PO of Bordeaux, she is an expert in the France and United Kingdom political systems. Left wing militant of the French Socialist Party is known for her critical positions to the economic politics of Valls’s technocratic  government. Always against social and gender inequalities, nicely illiberal inside a increasinly liberal party (someone sees an analogy with Italian PD), Europeanist convinced (in her opening speech at Summer Camp she has remembered Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi) in a  Europe always more weak, fervent antiracist in a world more and more xenophobe. Some questions to know better this youth and sparkling witness of the new European left.


How this great passion born for the politics and for the European Left? I come from a mixed background which has led me to being very interested in living together and the acceptance of the diversity of our societies. When I was 14, I read Simone de Beauvoir’s “Le deuxième sexe” which made me a feminist. A bit later, I learned that equality could only be reached in our societies through political action, so I joined the French young socialists. I studied for two years in the UK and in a very European environment, which led me to take a deeper interest in European politics. A few years later, I took responsibility for campaigns and Europe at the national level of the French young socialists, and then became the national chair of my organisation. So much is at stake at the European level for our generation. Decisions made in Berlin affect young people in Italy, Spain and Greece. But our activism is still very much focused at the national level. I think this is a problem and we need to change it. If we want to succeed in building a Europe that brings a better future for all, we need to organise much better at the European level, to put the political pressure where it should be. Otherwise we are doomed to fail.


Europe and its future, we are to an alternative: renovation or implosion. In your opinion which the necessary elements to undertake a new course? In Europe for the past 40 years, only conservative governments have achieved their goals, using the institutional weaknesses of the EU in order to blackmail other member states into giving in. Thatcher is the prime example of that, Cameron the latest. I believe that as socialists we shouldn’t be afraid of shaking things in Europe in order to achieve our goals. On the long run, compromising with the right at this stage will lead to the dilapidation of the EU. We need European socialist and left wing governments to unite and stick together in order to achieve urgent changes : common minimum social and fiscal standards, common asylum and migration rules, the end of the obsession of deficit rates which drives us away from seeking the well being of Europeans as our primary objective. It means that during the next European council Renzi, Hollande, Tsipras, Costa, need to make these issues dealbreakers : if we do not decide on them, we do not decide on anything else. Some will say it’s too big a risk to take. I believe the risk is to leave things as they are which is most definitely taking the European project to the grave.


You were all in Sicily, heart of the Mediterranean and border country for the enormous mass of immigrants that from years try to find a hope in Europe that is not ready to recive them. Did your presence also want to be a signal of attention? We made a political choice by coming to Sicily, which is also coherent with our latest campaign, “Refugees Welcome.” We want European governments to hear this message, I hope they have. We did not forget that while we were debating European politics in Terrasini, women, kids and men kept arriving to Sicily and other places in Europe. Some of them also kept dying on their way to a better future. We are saying to European govenrments they cannot keep looking away from the tragedy that is happening right in front of us. It is simply not acceptable that European institutions and member states are stricter regarding deficit rates than basic human right principles. We are expecting from European governments to stick to these principles, especially left wing ones.


Italy for too much time has been left alone from Europe to manage this epochal phenomenon. Yes and the Italian government has made significant proposals in the matter. We need to open more legal routes for refugees, set common rules and principles regarding asylum so that the responsibility doesn not only lie with countries of arrival. Common rules are a prerequisite for our common space to function properly.


In the light of the last events in Turkey, how to deal with the structural phenomenon of the immigration. How can be supported economically and politically, remember money’s river given to the government of Ankara for the management of the flows, an illiberal and authoritarian country, as well as ambiguous n the struggle in the Islamic State, as Turkey in the delicate management of the migrants? We were against the deal with the Turkish government from the beginning. Firstly, it is morally unacceptable to “outsource” such a huge humanitarian responsibility. Second, because we already had very strong concerns regarding the state of human rights in Turkey, and the absence of monitoring concerning the living conditions of refugees. But the latest events in Turkey make it even clearer : this deal needs to be called off. Erdogan has no respect for human rights principles, and his only legitimacy stems from the weakness of European governments. This pact with the devil must end, or we will lose our souls in it and maybe much more.


Turkey is a Nato’s menber and in the last summit in Poland it was decided to manage together with Italy and Germany the Resolute Support Mission in Afganistan. With the risk to definitely lose it own credibility, as to keep on reporting with a inconsistent country  towards Europe? NATO’s credibility is questionable per se given the operations it has been involved in,  Afghanistan. It is its members’ responsibility to know whether they will keep cooperating with a non-democratic country. But more generally, the question NATO should ask itself is rather “defence cooperation to do what ?” Clearly, the situation in the middle east and more particularly in Irak and Syria have a lot to do with military interventions, support to undemocratic and bloody regimes, as well as weapon sales to states we know cooperate with ISIS. It is questionable whether the current strikes against ISIS are the most pertinent military move. Any military intervention is anyway doomed to fail if it is not backed up with a strong political and diplomatic strategy. There will be no resolution to the Syrian situation if Assad remains in place.


In Europe, left parties are near record lows and the strengths of the conservative and populist rights are having a dizzying growth. Which will be, according to you, the new challenges of the lefts not to definitely disappear? Left wing governments failed to create social Europe when they were hugely majoritarian in the European council, before the 2004 and 2007 enlargements. I profoundly resent their inability to see the need for Europe to guarantee social and fiscal minimum standards, high social protection levels and to provide for economic coordination in order to resolve the significant imbalances between different countries. This situation resulted from the influence of the neoliberal ideology among socialist parties in Europe, embodied by Tony Blair and Gerard Schröder. Today, Europeans do not know where we stand, and do not trust our ability to make another Europe possible. There is also a growing feeling of political powerlessness. The institutional structures of the EU are making it very difficult to lead heterodox economic policies in Europe. The convergence criteria has the same legal value as constitutions. That means it is impossible to derive from them, even if you are democratically elected to do so. This “economic constitutionalism” make neoliberal policies the only possible, and reduce the scope of action possible, therefore the possibility for alternative political offers. If you do not let people have a choice democratically, they will try and make change through undemocratic paths. In this context, the far right has risen by pointing at foreigners as the ones responsible for everything that goes wrong. Arguably, their growth has been fuelled by the increased tolerance our societies show towards them, including democratic parties. Conservative parties’ have copied the far right’s policies regarding regarding migrants, and socialist parties have also been influenced. The latest example is the legislation on immigration which was passed in Austria a few months ago, or the recent outrageous words of Robert Fico, socialist Slovakian Prime minister, regarding islam. I believe we need to put an end to our ideological compromise with the right in Europe, and build new coalitions with new actors on the left. While far right forces have boomed, new left wing parties have also appeared, which means there is a left wing answer to the current debate. We just need to come to terms with the fact that we are probably reaching the end of a political cycle of the left. In such uncertain times, we need to create the conditions of a new compromise on the left with green parties, more radical forces citizens’ movements, the civil society. That means talking to each other, working together on some issues, creating common campaigns.


What do you think about TTIP, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership? I think we should stop the negotiations. This treaty has been rigged from the beginning. What kind of democratic system would allow companies to sue democratic governments and prevent them from passing legislation that jeopardize their interests ? There is no guarantee TTIP will bring any jobs to Europe, it might very well destroy some by preventing us from protecting our local economy. I really do not think that the future of economics is more trade, whatever the conditions. We need treaties to promote local economy, and the production of sustainable goods, in decent working conditions. It is the only way to create the jobs of tomorrow and to protect the planet we live on. On the same topic, I think member states should not ratify CETA, which is based on the same principles and is coming to a conclusion very soon.


In what, according to her, the Italian Left is getting it wrong? If we look at the opposition implemented by French Left to the “Loi travail” and we compare it to the “soft” opposition done in Italy to the “Job act”, the Italian Left appears few combative in comparison to important choices. Each country has a different history and sociological reality. In France, social questions are hugely relevant to the political debate. They are the issues the left is always judged on when in government. But the massive mobilisation we have known against it is not only related to the legislation itself. Disappointment and frustration are very significant regarding the action of the French government, on many topics. The latest one was the debate opened by François Hollande on citizenship deprivation was very hurtful for many people who thought that the divisions among socialists could not be related to human rights issues. The labour legislation was only the last drop for many people. In Italy, I believe that Renzi’s platform was clearer so the feeling of betrayal was not the same. Nevertheless, the latest municipal elections were very worrying, especially regarding the voting patterns of workers and young people, who are clearly rejecting Renzi’s politics. In Italy too, citizens want a clearer understanding of what the left stands for, besides movement for the sake of it.


Which is the report of this days in Sicily? What remains of YES Summer Camp 2016? Fighting for a better world requires a deep faith in humanity, which is shaken every day. Attacks, racism, political apathy, disappointment in our political parties make it sometimes difficult for young socialists to keep fighting for their ideas. For the 1,000 young people present in Citta del Mare, including myself, these 5 days were like breathing again. I hope that the European leaders who joined us have heard our message: they need to shake themselves up if we want to save the European idea ! The most touching moment was our closing ceremony. We sang together beautiful socialist songs such as Bread and Roses, El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vincido, Bella Ciao and the International while paying a tribute to the thousands of lives lost in the Mediterranean sea. Singing together is a vibrant reminder of what our history is made of: struggles, togetherness, and a deep belief that tomorrow can be better than today. (exclusive interview for Italy by davide bruno)