Clara Salarich lives in Berlin since 2011 where she works for the consultancy Erste Lesung. She comes from Spain, but hasn’t lived there for the last seven years.
Clara, do you feel European?
Well, yeah. Of course.
I’ve not lived in Spain since 2007. I’ve lived in four or five different countries here in Europe. So if after this time I didn’t consider myself European, then I would have a problem. I would be always missing home, right? And I have to say, I really feel at home, for example, here in Berlin. I would definitely say, Europe is my home.
What is your academic background? You said you lived in different countries. Did you study there?
Yes, I studied politics and international relations in Spain and I did my last year, my Erasmus year, in England, in Exeter. I did a specialisation in Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic. Then I did my Master’s in European Political and Administrative Studies at the College of Europe in Bruges, in Belgium.
Coming back to the European topic, talking about a European identity. How do you think such an identity comes into existence?
Well, many people even ask, whether someone can feel European. I definitely think so. What is actually an identity? An identity is what you believe you are. When I say I am European, I’m already affirming that there is such a thing as a European identity. I think the main feature of the European identity is that this is a collective identity. It is not exclusive. This means I can say I’m European, I do see myself as European. But I can also say I’m Spanish. Or sometimes I even say I am Mediterranean, because I think I also have things in common with Italians! Even with a friend of mine who comes from Egypt. This European identity is based on, a common history, a common civilisational background and civic political values.
What are these civic political, European values to you?
I would say democracy is a value, the welfare state is another characteristic, freedom of speech, freedom of press, religious freedom. Basically all the political and civic values that started with the French Revolution and continued with the Labour Movement. All these come from Europe.
You volunteer for the Berlin-Brandenburg section of the Young European Movement. What is it you do there?
We share the same values and the same political programme, targets and aims of the Young European Federalists, but there is a decentralisation so that we can reach more people, more directly. We deal with Berlin-Brandenburg. Our aim is to go further into the European integration process. The ultimate goal is to have the United States of Europe. In the future.
What are you doing there?
I became a member of the Movement last year. And now I am a member of the committee and am responsible for “EUre Debatte” – “Your Debate”. So I, and a fellow member, organise debates in schools or high schools about European topics or issues.
How come you joined?
I’ve always been politically involved for the last ten years. I started being a member of the young section of a political party.
And in Germany?
Well, when I came to Berlin I thought I needed something different. And then I found the Young European Federalists and I realised how enriching non-partisan politics are. Because at JEF we are a non-partisan organisation. We don’t belong to any political party. We have different ideologies, but we altogether work for a common objective. And this is really, so to say, charming. And a very constructive and enriching experience.
Let’s talk about the elections. Are you planning on a campaign for the elections in May?
We are framing our campaign within the JEF Germany campaign. We will organise events, workshops and also street actions especially oriented to first time voters. We will also organise street actions on the 9th of May – Europe Day – at the Brandenburg Gate to reach a wide public. Our aim is to convince people first to go voting, and also to vote for Europe. As we are non-partisan, we won’t tell people which party to vote for, but tell them about our ideas.
Let’s get a bit more specific about the elections: A few of the parties have selected one top candidate. And those parties who haven’t are following along now. Do you think this will encourage people to vote, making the EU more personal?
I hope that this will encourage people to vote. I think it is a very positive development because this means we are politicising the campaign. Politicisation also means more democracy. This reaches out to the people, gets to them. They can connect political ideas to parties, with a person who will lead. I think Europe needs a clear leadership. If we have a clear candidate, I think this makes it more personal, lays it nearer to the heart of the voters.
The EU is quite an Elite project. I mean both of us have studied at different Universities, we spent quite some money on these studies, had scholarships. How do you think we could get the EU out more to the people who’ve not studied it, who don’t have that kind of money to go study across Europe?
I think studying has nothing to do with avoiding this kind of elitisation of Europe. What we need is more civil society. We need that people are aware that they are European citizens, that as European citizens they have rights. And then they need to get organised. This needs to be a bottom-up process. It cannot come from the top. They need to get organised and fight for what they believe and then transmit this to other people. This is basically what we do in JEF. No one is telling us: You have to join. We just have some ideas, we come together and we work to convince other people about our ideas.
And what can happen top-down?
At the political level for example the citizen’s initiative is an important stepping stone. It is a pity that it is not actually working properly, since many citizens are organising themselves to reach their objectives, but they are not having a real impact within the political system.
Where do you see the European Union in 20 years?
That’s a difficult question. (laughs) Well, six years ago, no one had thought of the crisis we have now. But I really want to see a more integrated Europe. At the economic level, I’m sure this will happen, this has to happen, this is the only way forward, the only path and the only way out of the crisis in this moment. But also politically, I don’t know whether we will, for example, have a European army… But I really believe the citizens will get closer. And the societies will be more entangled.
Anything else you want to add?
Go vote in May!
Thank you, Clara!
all photos ©laurasoria