Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is this initative called 'Fraternité'?

We were inspired to use the slogan of the French revolution - liberté, egalité, fraternité - for this initiative by the BBC's Historic Reith Lecture with Daniel Barenboim, who is a conductor and pianist heavily engaged in Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation. In his fourth lecture Barenboim explains:

"[...] I don't like the word 'tolerance', because to tolerate something or somebody means you tolerate them for negative reasons. You tolerate somebody in spite of the fact that he or she is ugly, you tolerate somebody in spite of the fact that he or she is stupid. [...] The French Revolution gave us three much more important and powerful ideas, or concepts - liberty, equality and fraternity."

[You can read and listen to the full lecture here.]

We picked up this thought and transferred it to the European context: We should not only tolerate other European peoples in spite of the fact that they are different and live together with them peacefully while staying in our own home countries. We should learn to appreciate them for being different! In this sense, we want to take the process of European integration one step further and give people a better chance to find out more about the beauty of other people's traditions. The process of European integration, which started in the 1950s economically and politically, has always had implicitly this exact same goal of bringing the people of Europe together.

We think that only by spending time in another country one can learn to truly appreciate other people for being different and hence develop a European identity. It is therefore absolutely necessary to step up European exchange programmes and give more people this chance!

In effect, we think it is not enough in a united Europe to prevent people from turning xenophobic. We want to actively encourage them to become xenophilic!

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2. Isn't it sexist to use Fraternité (brotherhood), only? Shouldn't it also say Sororalité (sisterhood)?

We hope that by rolling out our motives behind using Fraternité in question 1, we have already helped prevent the misconception that we want to promote something sexist with this initiative. We would like to assure you that we have devoted considerable time to thinking about gender-neutral alternatives but in the end it didn't feel right to replace the motto of the French revolution, which is otherwise perfect, with a uni-sex term. Nonetheless, let us assure you at this point one more time that we have in no way intended to be sexist with this initiative and hope to have plenty of female support!

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3. Concerning GOAL 1: Isn't 20 billion yearly too much? Isn't this an unrealistic claim?

The 20 billion Euros annually figure might seem very large at first. This is why we would like to put this number into perspective: The EU budget today is about 140 billion yearly. Of this, about 65 billion are devoted to Structural Funds and Regional Policy, and another 55 billion for Agriculture and Rural Development (see also Background: EU Budget). If one applies the widest possible reading of today's budget, the amount allocated to European exchange programmes covered by the EU budget totals about 2 billion Euros annually (see here). So, asking for 20 billions to promote European exchange programmes would indeed multiply the money available by ten, but still leave expenditures far behind agricultural and regional subsidies.

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4. Concerning GOAL 2: Why should the age limit for doing an EVS be abolished? Why can’t it stay focused on young people?

It is our strong belief that the ‘door to Europe’ should stay open to everybody! A strict age limit is always prone to disfavour untypical personal biographies. For example, say someone didn’t care for the EU until 33 for whatever reason. But then something happens and she/he full-heartedly wants to go abroad and learn more about a new country. Why shouldn’t that person be allowed to do an EVS? If she/he finds a host organisation that is interested in her/his profile, why shouldn’t she/he be able to go and experience Europe while helping others? If you think about it, there really should not be an arbitrary age limit for the EVS.

Anyway, even if the age limit for doing an EVS will be scrapped and also people over 30 will be able to do it, most people applying will most probably be below that age. The truth is that people are usually interested in exchange programmes when they are rather young. Hence, even if the age limit is scrapped, most money will still be spent on younger people. For example, although Erasmus does not have an age limit, quite naturally most money is spent on students below 30.

Finally, let us point out that goal 2 is of course connected to goal 1. If more money is available in total, then more people above 30 doing an EVS does not automatically mean less people below 30 doing an EVS. In that sense, if we are successful with this initiative and gather enough support, then enough money will be available for EVERYONE and fears of young people not being able to do an EVS because of the removal of the age limit are completely unwarranted.

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5. Concerning GOAL 3: How is the percentage of Europeans to have spent 20 weeks in another EU country to be measured? What is the percentage today?

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Unfortunately, there are not many numbers which can help us answer this question out there. This is exactly why we ask for an Open Method of Coordination (see also Background: OMC) to be created with this initiative. Still, two numbers that we do have are: First, concerning students - generally a more mobile layer of society - only 2.3% of students with citizenship in the EU were studying abroad in Europe in 2006. Less than 1% (!) of all students in the EU participated in an Erasmus exchange the same year (see here, p. 97ff.). Second, there are numbers on how many EU citizens lived in other EU countries in general. In 2008 the highest shares were recorded in Luxembourg (37% of the total population were citizens of another EU member state), Cyprus (10%), and Ireland (9%). On the other end to the scale are Bulgaria and Romania, where the share is below 0.0%. On average, only 2.3% of the total population of the EU27 were citizens of another EU member state in 2008 (see here, p.3).

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6. Should exchange programmes financed from the EU budget be limited to exchanges between EU member states?

In our manifesto and throughout this homepage we use 'EU exchanges' and 'foreign exchanges' somewhat interchangeably. The dilemma is that, on the one hand, spending time in any foreign country helps expanding one's horizon. In fact, sometimes spending time outside the EU can help even more to build a European identity. On the other hand, this initiative is in the first place about bringing EU citizens closer together. Anyway, since even today EVS and Erasmus exchanges can be done in countries outside the EU, we clearly think this should be continued, also to give people the chance to choose for themselves were to spend their time abroad. Still, the majority of money dedicated to exchange programmes in the EU budget should always be used with a view to building a united Europe and encouraging EU cross border exchanges.

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7. What does 'finalité' mean?

Finalité, which would translate into English simply as 'finality', is a word very commonly used in debates about where the EU is going, i.e. where the EU should be 20/30/50 years from now. Almost exclusively this debate has focsed around a political Europe in the past: the question hence was if the EU is moving towards a federal state (with its own constitution, flag, anthem etc.) or if it should stay more like a confederation of independent states (i.e. an international organization, such as the UN or WTO). One of the last times 'finalité' has been used in this way was in Joschka Fischer's widely noticed Humboldt speech (see here).

We have a slightly different understanding of what the discussion on finalité should be about, as we transfer it to a civil society context. The question hence becomes: Where do WE CITIZENS want Europe to be in 20/30/50 years from now FOR US? We think this is the much more important question to address at this point!

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8. Why is this initiative directed at the EP and European Council, also? Isn't it that pursuant to the Lisbon Treaty only the Commission can be asked to take action by a Citizens' Initiative?

You are absolutely right! According to Article 11 paragraph 4 TEU one million EU citizens can ask the European Commission to

"[...] within the framework of its powers [...] submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaties."

[emphases ours]

Now, we don't want to get into the nitty-gritty of the legal provisions at this point, but it is true that strictly speaking our appeal with this citizens' initiative is wider than that forseen by the instrument created with the Lisbon Treaty. We therefore understand this initiative as a wider political demand, adressed to all actors involved in the EU today - the EP, the European Council (i.e. national governments) and the European Commission. All three of them have their role to play in changing the EU budget as foreseen in our first goal. 

Of course, we have no way to influence the former two with this initiative other than by exerting pressure over collecting enough public support to make our voices heard. In this sense, the narrow scope of a citizens' initiative granted by Article 11 TEU is irrelevant. If enough people echo our claim, it will be realised. 

Rest assured, YOU can change Europe!

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9. I am from a country that is not member of the EU, but I still like this initiative very much! Can I participate in Fraternité2020? (Question received via Facebook)

There are three things that we would have to say here: 

1.) Fraternite2020 is an EU citizens' initiative, so to speak. Hence, we need at least one million signatures from EU citizens to make it a success. As your country is not a member of the EU, formally we cannot collect statements of support from your country and count them against the one million mark.

2.) If, however, your country is a candidate country of the EU (i.e. Croatia, Macedonia, and Turkey) or has a clear membership perspective (i.e. all successor states of former Yugoslavia plus Albania) then the changes we fight for in the EU will - sooner or later - also directly affect you. Hence, we also feel that people in your country should have the opportunity to express their support for Fraternité2020. So, everything in this page applies to you as to any other EU citizen.

3.) Only if you are from a country without any clear EU membership perspective (or even from a country outside Europe), we are afraid that trying to promote Fraternité2020 in your country does not make a lot of sense. In that case we sincerely thank you for liking our initiative! We are glad to see people are inspired by our idea, no matter their nationality. And be sure to visit Europe after 2014... it should be a great spirit around here if we are successful with Fraternité2020 ;-)

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