For a free Europe: the EU election campaign by our Dutch members

For a free Europe: the EU election campaign by our Dutch members

Posted on the 20/05/19

As preparation for our campaign for the European elections, we published in March two key documents in which we developed our proposals to help the European Union fill the increasing gap between its values and the policies it pursues.

While we have spread our proposals and reached out to high-level policy-makers in Brussels, we encouraged our member organisations to use our manifesto at national level, reaching out to European election candidates as well as spreading the main messages within the wider public.

And so they did! Today we bring you the work done by Humanistisch Verbond, our largest Dutch member organization that launched its campaign For a free Europe focusing on some of the core messages of the EHF’s manifesto.

Building up on the work done by the EHF, Humanistisch Verbond chose to focus its campaign on a crucial point: the growing influence of ultra-conservative groups and political parties increasingly working together at European level.

On the organisation’s website, visitors can sign a declaration of love, a petition calling for a Europe that is the source of freedom with the right to have the family one wants, the right to abortion and contraception, to sex education, equality between men and women, LGBTI rights and preventing discrimination on all grounds, freedom of research and support for organisations promoting women’s rights and LGBTI rights worldwide. The petition is already signed by thousands of people.

Visitors can also see which candidates and public figures have endorsed the petition and how, read what Europe means to them and they can learn more about commitments of candidates in the domain of the petition. They can also use a Facebook profile picture overlay as well as join the Hart boven Hard mobilization on 19 May in Utrecht, as part of the wider series of marches organized throughout Europe on 19 May by the No To Hate, Yes To Change campaign.

People in EU countries where human rights and the rule of law are under pressure, such as Poland, Italy, Romania or Hungary, count on Europe – and therefore on us. We cannot abandon them. Our humanist values ​​- freedom, equality, solidarity and human dignity – are at stake.

– Ineke de Vries, Member of the EHF Board

Finally, before the elections, Humanistisch Verbond is publishing a series of interviews and portraits under the name My Europe in which they will be able to learn about the stories or the motivations of people to speak up for Europe and vote at the European elections.

We wish our Dutch members a huge success with this campaign and are very happy to have been able to provide some of the building blocks to it. We leave you in company of Ineke de Vries, our Board Member, former Director of Humanistisch Verbond, who tells us about the main reasons and objectives of the campaign. This interview was translated from the Dutch version published on the website of Humanistisch Verbond.


Interview with Ineke de Vries, Member of the EHF Board

In the run-up to the European elections, the EHF expressed great concern about freedom in Europe. Why?

Ineke de Vries: We believe that the importance of the European Union is not stressed enough nowadays and that its humanist and democratic values are insufficiently protected. In the member states, there is little interest in Europe, the turnout at the elections is likely to be low and a mere third of Dutch voters actually trust the European Parliament.

The hassle with the Brexit does not help. In short, Europe is on the defensive. And this is a problem because EU policies are extremely important when it comes to finding solutions to cross-border issues such as migration and climate change. Similarly, it plays a key role in the fight against undemocratic tendencies and the protection of the rule of law, democracy, independent media and fundamental rights.

People in EU countries where human rights and the rule of law are under pressure, such as Poland, Italy, Romania or Hungary, count on Europe – and therefore on us. We cannot abandon them. Our humanist values ​​- freedom, equality, solidarity and human dignity – are at stake.

Is it really that bad?

Yes, conservative, orthodox groups are building influential coalitions. And they are supported by conservative governments. The Agenda Europa network has been active since 2013. These are more than 100 anti-human rights organizations that pursue a reactionary agenda through lobbying, referendums and petitions. Their goal is “to restore natural order”.

This includes limiting marriage to a union between a man and a woman, combating modern means of contraception, limiting access to safe and legal abortion, rejecting sex education in schools and opposing the equal rights of LGBTI people.

How is it possible that these collaborations are so successful?

What strikes me is that despite differences in beliefs, these groups come together on a few concrete goals and systematically pursue them from a long-term strategy. In addition, they are morally and financially supported by individuals, groups and political parties in Europe and America. They also have a sophisticated media and lobbying strategy in which they frame their discourse around human rights, e.g. by promoting anti-abortion positions under the term pro-life.

I believe that civil society organisations at national level should focus more on Europe. This includes us, humanist organisations as well. It is extremely important to realize that we are an international society. It is very rare that an issue concerns only a single country. We will have to show solidarity, share information and knowledge, learn from each other’s experiences and then work together to bring change.

Take the increasing power of the anti-abortion lobby in the Netherlands. You cannot separate that from the renewed self-confidence of conservatives in other European countries.

Europe starts at the front door and we have to stay alert and remind ourselves all the freedoms that Europe brings us.

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