Political innovation prize aims to restore public trust in politics

Launch of the Innovation in Politics Award. [Cécile Barbière]

After an election marked by the collapse of France’s traditional political parties, the organisers of the award for political innovation hope their initiative will restore the public’s faith in politics. EURACTIV France reports.

For the first time, around a hundred projects selected in France will compete for the Innovation in Politics Award, which recognises the best political initiatives in Europe.

With citizens’ trust in the political system at an all-time low, this prize aims to raise awareness of initiatives that really work.

Object of distrust

“Politics has become an object of distrust for citizens,” said Lena Morozova-Friha, the director of development at Europanova, which is organising the French prize.

“Politicians, politics and institutions are losing credibility all around in Europe,” added Jürgen Gangoly, one of the award’s founders. “To the point where just 8% of young people under 30 trust political parties,” he said.

In this, its first year, the prize has been launched in eight European countries: Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. In the long-term, organisers plan to expand it to the 47 members of the council of Europe.

“We want to improve the reputation of Europe’s politicians,” said Gangoly. But the prize also aims to reward young people with innovative ideas, who are too often shut out by the traditional parties. “A reward will put more weight behind their ideas,” he added.

A jury of 1,000 European citizens will choose the winners, which will be announced in December this year.

Projects under development

In France, several innovative projects are already being developed, including the country’s first humanitarian camp, led by Damien Carême, the Green Party mayor of Grande-Synthe, a small town between Dunkirk and Calais. In 2015, the town saw a huge influx of refugees, following the closure of the Calais Jungle.

“Before we had been hosting around 30 refugees on average, but in 2015 this exploded to 2,500,” the mayor said. Faced with the inaction of the French state and the dire living conditions of the migrants trying to reach the UK, the mayor of the town of 22,000 people joined forces with Doctors Without Borders to build a camp that met UN standards.

“The construction of the camp was a real battle with the state, which feared it would attract more people,” said Carême. The camp lasted 18 months until it was destroyed by fire in April this year.

Calais: Europe's dead end

The ‘jungle’ in Calais, now home to around 3,000 refugees, is nothing new. For over 20 years, migrants have gathered there in the hope of reaching Britain. EURACTIV France reports.

But the results of the Carême’s political stand were felt across society. “My commune has an unemployment rate of 24% and 33% of the population lives below the poverty line,” the mayor said. Yet, “it is the only one in the department where the left came out on top and one of only five to have voted for Macron over Le Pen,” he added.

Another nominee, Vincent Chauvet, a local politician from the Burgundy town of Autun, launched the first citizens’ initiative on roaming.

“We submitted this initiative to abolish mobile roaming fees in 2012, through the Erasmus network,” the young liberal said.

Reformed ECI should make policymaking 'more accessible'

Five years after its launch, the EU’s tool of participatory democracy has never really worked. But Brussels last week announced plans for an overhaul of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). EURACTIV France reports.

The original citizens’ initiative failed, due to a lack of signatures, as well as the complexity of the system. “But five years later it is being accomplished,” said Chauvet.

En Marche!

More surprisingly, the En Marche! movement launched by Emmanuel Macron one year ago is also in the running for the award. “We thought a lot about whether to select the movement,” said Morozova-Friha, who added that the decision was justified by “the unprecedented mobilisation that En Marche! had provoked among people who had never been involved in politics before”.

Macron, the Fifth Republic's unusual eighth president

Just one year after making his big political gamble, Emmanuel Macron was elected president of France with more than 65% of the vote on Sunday (7 May). EURACTIV France reports.

This dynamic is reflected in En Marche’s list of candidates for the June legislative elections, most of whom have never held elected office before.

“We have tried to produce the spirit of a political start-up,” said Sandro Martin, Emmanuel macron’s advisor on civil society. Supporters can join the movement with one click on its website and no joining fee.

“Today, En Marche! has 300,000 members, that is more than any political party in France,” said Martin.