Yes, you've read it right, potentially unknown to some but handled as THE insider tip amongst politicians for a while, he finally came out of the dark on Tuesday when he officially announced his candidacy to run as one of the currently two candidates for the European People's Party.
On the previous day, we got to meet the man who might soon become the "defender of the free world"! And we didn't have to travel for it, because indeed it turns out that he is here in Luxembourg!!
We are talking about Alexander Stubb. Just one day after we met him he announced that he is going to run for President of the European Commission. Since the Commission is the government of the European Union, if he wins, Stubb will be the next "EU president", which—as we know—is actually a VERY important thing—with many more people living here than in the US.
At the moment, he is a vice-president at the EIB—that big see-through-building up in Kirchberg close to the red bridge. So he already has a top job working for the EU but now has decided to go all the way and run for the EU's very top position.
So listen up! No need to go any further if you wonder what Stubb wants to do for Europe and for us. We managed to ask him about what he actually thinks about the EU that he would like to run soon.
What does the European Union mean to you?
It means four things: peace, prosperity, security and stability.
Why do you think some countries like the UK still want to leave it?
I ask myself that question every day. It almost feels like a push back from trying to solve common problems with common solutions. Sometimes it feels like being against the internet per se. It´s just not very smart to leave the EU, it´s better to influence the content of it. So, to be honest, I do not know why the UK wants to leave the EU.
We are teenagers in Luxembourg, a very EU-dominated environment. Our parents often even work for it. Why is it that even we don´t know a lot about it?
We humans usually care for things which have a direct impact on our lives. That can be school, healthcare, roads . The EU deals with the stuff that only impacts us indirectly.
Many of us are influenced a lot by social media. We often have youtubers, musicians, and bloggers as our role models, but not politicians. You are quite popular on social media. What do you think politicians could do to connect in a better way with young people?
Politicians are always quite good people to blame for things that go wrong. I think you have to be yourself, even in social media. I am very active on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and now as of tomorrow (Tuesday) also a bit more public on Snapchat.
This is what Stubb twittered to his 366K followers about our get-together, right above it you see the announcement of the press conference in which de declared his candidacy.
Do your colleagues also use social media much?
Here in the bank: a little bit. But in politics in my previous life—perhaps new life, you never know—I was probably one of the most avid users.
I actually do it all myself, so I don´t have anyone else writing the tweets for me.
Sometimes you burn your fingers as well, you put out a tweet where some journalist thinks it´s inappropriate so you have to be a bit careful, but as long as we don´t tweet like Donald Trump…
…But Donald Trump does reach quite a lot of people?
Oh yes, sure he does, it´s a different way of communication—and an important one. Also those of us who are not like Trump have to learn it.
Have you ever thought of using celebrities that young people look up to for the EU’s cause, as a way to reach more people?
I think it´s quite tough for celebrities because they don´t want to be affiliated with politicians. I have many friends from sports or music and sometimes I ask them to help out or comment, but quite often they can burn their fingers. However, there are some people that are above politics that can do it, like Bono from U2. He is now waving the European flag in his concerts. I think to be affiliated with politics is quite scary for these people, because politics comes along with a lot of negative news, unfortunately.
When thinking about their future, hardly anyone we know is considering becoming a politician later on, should young people be more interested in politics? Do your kids want to follow into your footsteps?
I try to keep them away. If you define politics as influencing things, trying to change things and doing it with a big heart, I think it´s good to be in politics, but my big fear is that in the future a lot of youngsters won't want to go into politics because they see so many negative sides in it. And I have personally experienced that as well. It´s nice when things are going well, but then when you are the prime minister and not many people are wanting you to succeed. It´s not fun. I think my kids have seen politics from close enough to perhaps do something different with their lives, but I do have a lot of admiration for people who go into politics. I went into politics very late, only 15 years ago and I wasn't interested in politics in your age. At your age I was interested in sports and … well … girls ;-).
On the EU's website, one finds a lot of information, (almost too much information,) and we don´t see why it is relevant to us. Here's an idea: How about creating an app with a lot of pictures and only a bit of text, where young people can receive EU compact news of the day, maybe delivered by those ambassadors and—most important—with a lot of emotion, “The daily dose of EU news” so to say…
I think it´s a great idea, you should start creating one. I give you an example, which is quite simple and straightforward (he goes through his travel bag, which—we must say—is rather untidy and contains A LOT of newspapers ;-) … Where is it?
So they have something like that, they call it the European story, shorter, snappier…
Look here. Actually I think I am on this picture. Where am I?...There is Jean Claude….Rutte, I think was fairly close to Rutte….
So where can we find this booklet? Ha ha, wrong question …;-)
Best you google the "European Political Strategy Centre", you google the "European story" and then you will find it … probably.
A lot of negative things are happening around us. In connection with the EU, we hear about countries in crisis or countries that want to leave, young people that can´t find work or young people that don´t even have a home. This is the news that reaches us.
Why doesn't the EU promote the "good" news in a more efficient way?
You have to be quite pragmatic: You take a decision on roaming, you promote it. You take a decision on the free movement of people, the Schengen agreement, you promote it. You decide not to change the time from summer to winter time, you promote it. The EU is much better at it nowadays, if you look at the social media now it's actually not as backward as it used to be.
How can we as teenagers help promote good news?
I think that's a sign of times. We humans are strange. Quite often ‘good news’ is ‘no news’ and ‘bad news’ becomes news. Then, when you keep on pushing that envelope all the time, hate, fear, tsunamis and air plane crashes and scary stories of migration, you sort of think that the world is like that. I always try to also bring the positive sides of things. You could look at the big picture and say that in the past 200 years we have basically eradicated the top three main killers of human beings:
No 1 is wars, they kill less than obesity in our days. No 2 is famine and the No 3 is disease, today not many more people die of disease than of old age. We humans sometimes like stories more than we like facts .The fact is that the world is a much better place for you as teenagers in 2018 than it was for a teenager when I was born in 1968.
We have looked at youth statistics and saw that Greece had a very low employment rate, the younger people hardly ever find a job.
If you look at the statistics, overall there have never been more people employed. When you see a figure of 30 or 40% youth unemployment it obviously becomes a big problem. These things need to be addressed. Politics can't do it alone, it's the private sector that can do it better.
We have heard that the Finnish education system is deemed to be more suitable for children than the one that we study in.
The Finnish system has gotten very good results in the Pisa study, which is obviously a boost. I think it is good for a few reasons:
No 1: Teachers are very respected.
No 2: You need to be very qualified to be a teacher, you need a master's degree.
No 3: Teachers have a lot of teaching autonomy. There is a curriculum, yes, but then they choose how to do it.
I have visited many schools in the past. Once I visited a fourth grade. They didn't have normal desks. They didn't have normal lessons. Every student had an iPad and then they had tasks for the week. The kids were on sofas—La-Z-boys - and they could always communicate with their teachers. I think, a lot of freedom helps with education quite often.
What do you think the other countries could do to reach those standards?
It's very difficult to cut and paste because learning is also about culture, but I do think we need to get away from this mode where you put 20-30 pupils in a room, sitting in perfectly neat rows and being all quiet and getting information.
I look at my two teenage kids. I don't remember ever having as much homework as they have to do these days.
My life might be study, work and retire, but your life is probably gonna be study, work, study again to learn something new, work with something else, study, work, study, work!
We are going to have to move towards a life where there is changes all the time and that is going to be quite a challenge for many.
I think we need to start addressing people who might fall outside the safety net in a changing work environment and see how to deal with that. That's a big question that politics has to answer and Europe is probably the best one to answer that.
What would be your "Dream EU"?
Probably we have to be realistic that there is never going to be a perfect EU. It's always going to be about imperfections. The EU develops in 3 phases: you have crisis, chaos, and then suboptimal solutions. My ideal EU would obviously be one, which lives in peace and harmony, is prosperous and secure and where individuals and nation states cooperate. That's the Europe, I felt we had from 1989 to 2016. From end of cold war and fall of the Berlin wall to Brexit and the election of Donald trump. Now we need to get back on the barricades and defend European values.
What do you think us teenagers could do to help get that "Dream EU"?
I think you do it already much better than any of us did in my generation, by being involved in society, at school, being engaged in social media…You live and breathe an open world in a completely different way than we used to, sometimes you take it for granted…
I think the next generation is always smarter than the previous generation. Because of the experience that you get in life.
If at the end of the day you can be engaged and start diminishing disparities and income gaps then I think we will create a better Europe.
How do you think someone not as privileged as us could work towards this idea?
I quite often get asked the questions what today´s youth should study, I think 3 things:
1. To learn how to learn
2. To know thyself, it's an old Greek saying to take care of your body and your mind
…and the most important:
3. Learn empathy and emotional intelligence because the more machine-like the world gets, what we humans are left with is empathy.
That, I think, is a good start in life, even for the people who don't grow up in a similar environment as us.
If you made it to here, congratulations! Sorry that this is rather long but trust us, it's already the short version.
A big thank you to Mr Stubb, who so kindly gave us the interview on his very last day at the EIB before taking off a month to prepare for the election. Good luck with the campaign!
Teenage Truth is a series where typical teenagers share their thoughts on being a teenager in Luxembourg.
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