Italian-German Town Hall Meeting

05/04/2016, Rome

Within the framework of the "Dialogue on Europe" project the third European Town Hall Meeting took place yesterday with representatives from Italian civil society and the German Minister of State for Europe, Michael Roth. More than 100 participants followed the invitation of the Berlin-based think tank Das Progressive Zentrum, the Italian Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) and the German Foreign Office, to discuss European challenges and the Italian-German relationship.
Yesterday, on 5 April 2016, the participants of the third #EuropeanTownHall Meeting gathered in the cultural centre Opificio Romaeuropa. The event was part of the project „Dialogue on Europe“, a dialogue process engaging civil society actors from Italy, Greece, Portugal, France, Spain and Germany, initiated by Das Progressive Zentrum  and the German Foreign Office. Following successful meetings in Athens and Lisbon, young progressive thinkers from Italy now debated about the topics “Sustainable Growth“, “Social Cohesion“, “Migration“ and “Populism“ in the Roman district of Ostiense.

Nicoletta Pirozzi, Senior Fellow at IAI, welcomed the participants and guided them as a moderator throughout the afternoon and the ensuing public debate with Minister of State Michael Roth. 

Dominic Schwickert, executive director of Das Progressive Zentrum, invited the audience in his keynote speech to participate “in an open and constructive discussion about a common European future in the spirit of Spinelli, Rossi & Colorni and the manifesto of Ventotene. “ In his following speech, Ubaldo Villani-Lubelli, political scientist at the University of Salento and the Ruhr-University Bochum, analysed the dynamics of the Italian-German relation: “Despite the challenges they are currently facing, Italy and Germany remain close friends and allies. Their goal is to preserve Europe and therefore work together on its flaws.”
 
The participants were then asked to join the four mentioned simultaneous workshops according to their particular field of expertise and interests. Each work session was facilitated by an Italian-German tandem. As the participants came from a variety of civil society organizations and therefore represented a broad range of perspectives, their different experiences resulted in a very fruitful debate. Among them were representatives of Refugee Welcome Italy, the environmental NGO Legambiente ONLUS, the mobilizing platform Progressi, Rescue Partners, the ECFR Rome, the human rights organization Antigone and the recently founded think tank Volta.
 
Subsequently a spokesperson for each workshop presented the commonly developed results in order to then discuss them in the plenary discussion with Minister of State Michael Roth. The focus here was mainly on the question of how to handle the refugee crisis and the most recent EU-Turkey agreement. Michael Roth highlighted that “immigration is an opportunity for our society, whilst we need to make sure that our common rules and values continue to apply and will be accepted by everyone”. Questions about renewable energy, the fight against youth unemployment and minimum wage were also essential parts of the dialogue.  

Nathalie Tocci, Deputy Director of the IAI, eventually pointed out that a successful way to solve the bilateral challenges could be „starting to work on the topics where Italy and Germany agree on, which are first of all the migration and refugee issue, energy and also defense. By building trust in these areas, it may be possible to come back to economic questions, where we have indeed differences between Italy and Germany, and also find solutions there.“ 

Photos of the event, also realised thanks to the support of the Fondazione EYU, can be downloaded here and are available for editorial use with a reference of the copyright: Das Progressive Zentrum / www.carlosklein.de.

Subsequently, the results of the Italian-German Town Hall Meeting in Rome will be brought together with the findings of the other European Town Hall Meetings and serve as a basis for the upcoming multilateral Thinking Labs of the “Dialogue on Europe” we will initiate from Summer 2016 onwards. In these working groups, representatives from all involved countries will work on policy recommendations, and establish a transnational network of young thinkers and practitioners. 

The next European Town Hall Meeting is going to take place in Marseille on 26 May 2016.

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