Ken Sweeney chats with Roger Casale, founder and CEO of New Europeans, which is an organisation dedicated to the European project. Rogers talks to us about the genesis of the organisation and what the future holds.
How did New Europeans become established?
We started to plan New Europeans in 2012 as public hostility to the European UInoon and to EU citizens living in United Kingdom started to manifest itself more strongly in the wake of the financial crash of 2008 and the resulting long-running recession. It was clear that EU citizens did not have a voice in the debates and that although there were organised groups representing the interests e.g. of the Irish or the Polish in Britain there was no common platform for EU citizens as a whole. There was also little understanding in the UK that the rights of EU citizens were enjoyed by British citizens too for as long as the UK as a member of the EU – we decided to position ourselves as a champion of EU citizenship rights and free movement in the UK. We set up a steering group and on 18 June 2013 we launched the initiative at the House of Commons. We incorporated in August 2013 and we have been growing stronger ever since.
What are the goals of New Europeans?
Our goals as stated in our mission statement are to empower the EU citizens of today and the new Europeans of tomorrow. What we mean by this is that we want to inform citizens in the UK and across the EU about the rights they have as EU citizens and to mobilise support for EU citizenship and free movement rights. We want these rights to be used by citizens so we promote registration in local and European elections, and we work with other civil rights organisations to encourage EU citizens to use their rights as a defence against discrimination in the workplace or in terms of their access to public services. We also recognise that our European citizenship rights reflect an underlying set of values including the values of equality, liberty and solidarity. We believe that these values should inform how we as Europeans relate to our neighbourhood and the outside world in general and we also work to promote the rights of migrants and refugees, the new European citizens of tomorrow.
In the wake of Brexit, have those goals changed?
Our goals have not changed but our mission has been scaled up considerably. We are in the eye of the storm as the lead campaign organisation championing the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK and the rights of British people in Europe. We are also stepping up our European work, and opening an office in Brussels to take this forward. We are working with migrant organisations in the UK to counter the rise in hate crime. In the EU we are lobbying for a new kind of associate EU citizenship, not linked to membership of an EU member state that could be given both to British citizens in Europe post Brexit and to migrants and refugees from outside the EU so they can travel freely and be protected from discrimination within Europe. As EU citizens were excluded from the referendum and yet have been so badly affected by the outcome we are also campaigning to block Brexit and for a second referendum to reverse the decision to leave.
What is the next step for the organisation?
We are developing our local and regional networks in the UK and across Europe so that we can remain a grassroots organisation which offers a platform and a voice to our members wherever they may be. We have opened up branch membership of New Europeans so that like-minded organisations can affiliate and we can work together on joint campaigns. We are establishing a Citizens Unit to provide expert legal advice on issues to do with EU citizenship. We have also set up our parliamentary units in Westminster where we act as the secretariat of the Freedom of Movement All-Party Parliamentary Group and in Brussels where our office will be the base for further developing our links with the European Parliament and institutions.