How well do we Europeans know ourselves? Do we really know how the French truck-driver who joined the yellow-vests thinks? What about the Pole who voted for PiS and the Hungarian who supports Viktor Orbán? Do some in Britain regret their vote for Brexit? How are the Greeks, who were once daily fixtures in the European press but have since faded from view? Do we Europeans know enough about each other?
We don’t think so. That's why 16 European media outlets have joined forces to launch Europe Talks, a platform to bring together people with contrasting political views from across Europe for face-to-face debates. From today until the European Parliament elections in May, you will find a small box here and on the pages of the 16 media partners from around Europe. The tool asks seven politically controversial yes-or-no questions that are currently under debate in many EU countries: Should all European countries reintroduce strict national border controls? Should rich European countries support those states that are less well-off?
Once you have answered these seven questions and subsequently registered, we will try to connect you with another European from a neighboring country – someone who has answered the questions completely differently. In mid-April, we will then introduce you to your debate partner. As soon as both of you have agreed to a meeting, you can establish contact with each other via email. It is quite possible that you won't share the same native language and will have to communicate in English or another language you might have in common.
On the afternoon of May 11, you then have a choice: Either you get on the train, climb into your car or board an airplane to meet your debate partner in person at a place of your choosing – or you meet up in a video conference. If all goes well, strangers from Belgium and France, Austria and Italy, Germany and Poland will meet up for face-to-face discussions across the continent. We will also be inviting some participants to Brussels, where we will be holding a festival together with our media partners at the conclusion of Europe Talks.
Does the idea sound familiar? You may already have heard of Germany Talks or similar national events in Italy, Austria, or Switzerland. In the last two years, My Country Talks has brought together more than 30,000 people with conflicting political views for political, one-on-one discussions. What started as a small ZEIT ONLINE idea has since grown into an international platform that has been utilized in an ever-growing number of countries. In this year alone, around 10 discussion events are planned, including in Denmark, Finland (Suomi Puhuu), in Belgium (Het Grote Gelijk), Norway, Italy and in Britain.
With Europe Talks, we are now trying something new. For the first time, we will be setting up debates between people with competing political viewpoints from several EU countries at the same time. And for the first time, we will be matching people not just within a single country, but across national borders.
- arte.tv (France & Germany)
- Capital (Bulgaria)
- De Standaard & Knack (Belgium)
- DER STANDARD (Austria)
- DELFI.ee (Estonia)
- DELFI.lv (Latvia)
- Efimerida Ton Syntakton (Greece)
- Financial Times (UK)
- Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland)
- Helsingin Sanomat (Finland)
- La Repubblica, HuffPost (Italy)
- Morgenbladet (Norway)
- Politiken (Denmark)
- ZEIT ONLINE (Germany)
All of these media outlets will be asking their readers the same seven questions, hoping to match them with their political opposites in a different country. If our experiment is successful, we could see thousands of people meeting up with someone else from Europe on May 11. The outcome is unclear, but it could very well be that a few Europeans will get to know their continent a bit better than before.