The XXI UEF Congress, held in Vienna from 30 June to 2 July 2006,
In view of the changed political challenges the U.E.F. needs to adapt its political strategy, but also its organisational functioning.
The Congress therefore asks the UEF Executive Bureau to undertake the necessary measures and to report first results at the first meeting of the new Federal Committee in 2007. The basis of discussion should be the following document.
The Union of European Federalists can look back at a tremendous history of 60 years, fighting for a federal Europe and, especially in the first decades after WWII, with a lot of influence on Europe’s unification. The more the European Union moved towards political normality, the more Europeans perceived it simply as a given fact, accepting more or less the Union’s dynamism towards permanent widening and deepening as stated in the Treaty of Rome.
However, UEF experienced a diminishment of its political peculiarity, influence and high profile among the public. The political environment, visibility and resources-situation became more and more difficult. Nowadays, a positive attitude of Europe’s citizens towards the Union and further integration cannot be taken for granted anymore. Member states’ politicians - depending on the support off their electorate - are increasingly under pressure of eurosceptic populism, making active engagement of pro-European forces more important than ever before.
UEF´s task - and chance - is to confront these developments, put pressure on politicians to stand up against anti EU tendencies, and to turn EU scepticism into positive attitude. UEF enjoys a clear political view and modern supranational structures. On the other hand there are many weaknesses with respect to its financial and organisational capacities.
TO ACHIEVE OUR COMMON AIMS AND TAKE OUR CHANCES, THE UEF HAS TO IMPROVE SOME BASIC ELEMENTS OF ITS WORK!
- UEF has to transform into a truly and visibly "supranational” European political movement, focusing on harmonising activities to increase visibility and impact. EU institutions are looking for the support of and alliance with civil society (see Plan D & White paper on EU communication). UEF, as one of the few supranational civil society actors, has to take this chance.
- The Constitutional Process, retarded and reluctantly facilitated by EU Member states and institutions, has triggered many pan-European civil society activities, such as signature campaigns, citizens’ initiatives, etc. This opens a chance for cooperation with potential partners beyond our obvious allies JEF and EMI. UEF could take a leading, coordinating function subject to its capacities.
- UEF has to become a truly European-wide organisation. UEF branches have to be set up where none exist yet and weaker organisations should become more active and visible.
- UEF has to raise more independent financial resources to ensure that also in the future it won’t have to make any political compromises, because of financial dependencies.
These intentions require political guidance, efficient organisational structures, sound and flexible finances and efforts to create a certain common "Corporate Identity" of UEF Europe.
The organisational improvements shall not remain vague. Hence the success of the EB, the FC and the secretariat in this field shall be regularly reported on the basis of three objective criteria
- Representation: Number of active national sections
- Sustainability: Percentage of (active and non-active) membership in the age range of 30-50 years
- Independence: Percentage of non-public funding in the annual budget
Main organisational Issues
The financial situation is the most urgent problem. It hinders UEF from consequently working as an effective supranational organisation, preventing mobility, cooperation, campaigning, political and media work, support for and set up of new constituent organisations, and an urgently needed stronger European Secretariat. Depending on EU subsidies is not sustainable and the constituent organisations’ contributions are limited and not always reliable.
A new approach towards fund raising is inevitable, if UEF wants to increase its capacities. Without improving its financial situation improvements of UEF are extremely limited. A special taskforce should start to take care of this issue.
The Bureau´s effectiveness depends on the availability of its members. Improvements of both the frequency and speed of its decision making structures are thus highly desirable.
The Federal Committee serves - next to the Congress - as the supreme political decision making body and is responsible for the supranational atmosphere of UEF, thus overcoming tendencies for purely national approaches within the UEF. However, its individual members could become more involved in and responsible for the implementation of decisions on the national and regional level.
Besides taking general political resolutions, the FC could increasingly support the exchange of information and best practices among UEF’s constituent organisations and should in particular contribute more actively in the set up of new and support of existing, but weak, organisations.
The Brussels Secretariat (SG) should focus on enhancing contacts with the European political stakeholders, networking and observation efforts, information gathering, and the collection of interesting ideas and initiatives.
A: Enhancing the pan-European network character
The existing constituent organisations:
There is enormous diversity among our member organisations, varying from well-established, strong ones to those who barely exist on paper. And there is obvious room for improvement in many aspects.
Further expansion on the regional level;
Focus on membership growth;
Special attention to former JEF-members;
Closer cooperation with like-minded organisations
In vacant European countries, especially EU Member states, there is a need for
Acquiring new individual members, in particular former JEF activists;
Managing a kind of patronage support (neighbourhood assistance)
Regular start up/ launch events
UEF has the best preconditions to become visible as a supranational organisation
by acting as much as possible in a pan-European manner
by joint, harmonised activities (see Plan D, signature campaigns, etc.);
by increasing exchange of representatives for public events (panel discussions, etc);
improving bilateral contacts and visits between our members.
Regular meetings of the Secretary Generals of the constituent organisations are needed, to replace the current Enlarged Bureau meetings and thereby improve the supranational character of the organisation.
B: Personnel situation and task distribution of the Secretariat
The current administrative structures are insufficient to provide the required services, fulfil public relations tasks and perform lobby activities. The incoming Executive is therefore asked to develop, in cooperation with the treasurer, a feasible strategy to increase the number of staff.
In the first immediate phase the Bureau should allocate the necessary financial means to always have two qualified long-term (at least 4 month) interns to support the work of the Office Director.
Intern 1: Media and Communications
• Press review and Press releases; media relations; Newsletter; website updates
Intern 2: Event organisation
• Organisation of public events in Brussels; support of the organisation of seminars, conferences, and other public events
Medium term goal of the organisation must be to hire - as soon as the financial situation allows it - more permanent staff, to improve the function of the office on a sustainable basis.
Establishment of support teams
The Secretariat could use the assistance of volunteers for various special tasks, but lacks information about interests and skills of potential supporters and thus has no access to a regular team of supporters. We encourage the incoming Executive to develop a substantial list of individual members, containing their contact details, areas of specialisation and interest, and work on the establishment of support teams, which can be contacted on basis of the respective subject dealt with.
This approach shall both ease the work of the Secretariat staff and improve the connection between the European level and the sections through their involved members. Potential focus areas could be press and media communication, finances, political issues, European joint actions, etc.
Accounting duties take up a lot of valuable work time that should be spent by the Office Director for other, more important tasks. We thus encourage the EB and the Secretariat to look into sharing a professional accountant with EMI and/or JEF.
C: Press and Media relations
The UEF is currently facing a serious crisis, mainly caused by vague prospects of future financial support by the European Commission. It is therefore mandatory for the organisational leadership to enhance the UEF’s public presence and thus its reputation among the relevant stakeholders. There is a clear need to develop a unique image of the UEF for the media, the stakeholders and the general public. Public Relations in general and press and media relations in particular have been neglected in recent years.
The organisation should reconsider to shift budget resources from translation and interpretation tasks to additional (short-term) staff. The respective expenses could be invested more useful for the employment of up to two interns, one of them responsible for public relation tasks.
Access to and use of membership assets
Make use of the support teams for the preparation of media outreach material. The task of the Secretariat would be limited to summarising the provided input and putting it into a standard format for Press releases.
Efficient decision making procedures
Effective press work demands rapid reaction and thus swift approval mechanisms. Therefore the incoming Executive Bureau shall be asked to take appropriate organisational measures for establishing an efficient internal decision making procedure, which enables the organisation to publish same-day press-releases when appropriate.
Examples for such internal measures could be:
- Assign each EB-member with a certain binding portfolio.
- Give the Secretary General the freedom to temporarily transfer some of his political duties to the Office Director.
Basis of all public activities - in particular of the organisations press and communication activities - are the political guidelines and agreements decided on by Congress and Federal Committee. Additional information and approval of the Executive Bureau shall therefore be desired, but not necessarily mandatory.
D: The financial situation
The financial reality for European NGOs has steadily been deteriorating over the past years. This evolvement may broadly be divided in two reasons:
1) The Commission’s approach of how to administer the EU budget has made a clearly noticeable change to a more complex and time-consuming administrative process. The lengthy decision procedure of the European Commission (which notifies organisations having applied for the operation grant 2006 in December 2005, only at the beginning of June 2006 whether or not the grant will be approved, and that by the end of June 2006 has not reacted to the activity report 2005 and the request for the remaining 20% for 2005) makes the planning and implementation of an effective work programme very difficult.
2) Political pressure, mostly by the Eurosceptics, is increasingly used by the Commission to defend budget cuts for pro-European organisations.
Even though the 2006 EU budget and the new Financial Perspective foresee allocations for administrative budgets of the pro-European NGOs, this situation may not continue indeterminately. The UEF has to prepare for a swift and comprehensive change in the way its administration and activities are funded. Administrative grants will have to be replaced continuously by project-based financing. In addition, the UEF must be ready for even more thorough scrutiny by the Commission on how it is spending the European taxpayers' money.
Shortly, the sound financial management is getting increasingly important!