The 1989 Generation initiative was born in London, the most diverse city in Europe and capital of the country that promoted and defended many of the principles at the core of European integration. Regrettably, it seems, the United Kingdom is now turning its back on these same values.

Our mission is to engage younger generations in shaping the future of the European Union, at a time of deep crisis and uncertainty. The project of European unification has shaped the development of our continent since the end of WWII, and represents for the young generation the best opportunity for a brighter future. Whilst being dissatisfied with the current state of affairs in the European Union, we are convinced that in the long term, Europe will be better off united than divided.

A tragic turn

On June 23rd, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. As has since become increasingly apparent, the Brexit camp manipulated facts and used the suffering of a large portion of the British people for their own political gain. The Remain camp, lacking credibility and leadership, failed to make the positive case for Europe, whilst public debate was dominated by the country’s Eurosceptic media. The Prime Minister must bear significant responsibility, amid suggestions that he gambled the future of the country for short-term political gain. Yet more concerning is the wide generational split – the younger generation overwhelmingly favoured staying in the EU whilst older citizens voted to leave (75% of 18 to 24-years olds voted Remain, compared to around 40 per cent of over 65s).

This decision will most affect the British youth, who will sadly have to live with the consequences of a vote which does not reflect their will.

The 1989 Generation Initiative speaks today both to and for the majority of European youth, who on June 23rd felt their voices to be silenced.

Our way forward

European Commissioner Lord Hill, rightfully stated on resignation that: “What is done cannot be undone”, but what we can do is turn adversity into opportunity. Let us then use this moment as a wake-up call to strengthen the common European values on which we stand. Let us think creatively to reform a European Union, paralysed and exhausted by crisis. Now more than ever, let us show solidarity in order that future generations do not inherit a continent divided by fear and intolerance, perpetuated by sinister replicas of Nigel Farage.

The 1989 Generation Initiative is European: We are the United Kingdom, Spain, Slovakia, France, Portugal, Austria, Italy, Lithuania, Greece, Poland, Germany, Romania, Ireland and Belgium; and now, more than ever, is the time to expand our reach and impact.

Together, we call on our national and European representatives and especially on the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Council, Donald Tusk and the European Parliament, Martin Schulz to listen to our concerns and consider that we are ultimately the ones most affected by Brexit. We seek assurances that young people’s interests will be taken into account in the Brexit negotiations and in the future reforms that are so obviously needed. In this endeavor we want to unite with other major European youth organisations to voice a common position.

Our position:

We ask you to consider special protections for all young Europeans, safeguarding their opportunity to travel, access higher education and seek jobs freely across the European Union, including in the United Kingdom.

We also urge the European Union to take into account the situation of young people currently living in the United Kingdom by ensuring that European youth policies such as Erasmus+ and EU subsidies available for young people will continue in the future. It is crucial that commitments such as these are made.

But we will also play our part. Inspired leadership is required in politics, business and civil society to reverse a cycle that will, if not reversed, bring about the end of the European Union. Vision and direction must be delivered, but it must emerge from a universal public debate that crosses borders and places youth at its centre.

As the young generation, we can be catalysts in organising and shaping this. The 1989 Generation Initiative seeks to foster and contribute to this public debate and invites young Europeans to join in doing so. Over the next few months, the organisation plans to set up new chapters across Europe that will act as nodes for the engagement of young (and older) Europeans in discussion over the future direction of the European Project. Through a process of broad discussion, the Initiative seeks to foster new ideas that can add dynamism to the European Project.

Having grown up enjoying all the benefits of being citizens of a free and united Europe, we must now work together to ensure its continuity, wherever we are. Europe may yet be saved. But it is our collective actions that will determine this.

The 1989 Generation Initiative

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Note: This article gives the views of the authors, and not the position of EUROPP – European Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics. Photo credit: Mihai Simionica Ⓒ.

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About the authors

1989 Generation Initiative – LSE
The 1989 Generation Initiative is a European policy organisation of young Europeans based at the LSE European Institute. It seeks to reinvigorate the purpose of the European Union, through the production of new policy reform proposals. Read more about the initiative here.

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