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Why Bucharest turned purple...

A month ago, on Thursday, June 5, I left with Mart and Jules by plane (sorry, world...) from Düsseldorf to Bucharest. Why? The Volt General Assembly. 

For most Volters, this is the biennial moment to look forward to. As a member of a pan-European party, at Volt you are a member of a party with many members from other countries who only see the chance to meet during such a General Assembly. Long-distance friendships are forged and rediscovered here on a biennial basis, during our colorful outings through the inner cities of Europe.

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Ryan Wilmes

During such an event, Volters get the chance to attend workshops and presentations, are informed about current developments in the party, get to think for themselves about Volt's future, and have a chance to vote on changes to the rules. And that looked like this;

Day 0:

What for many Volters is the day before the General Assembly is the first day for elected officials and their group support. In sweaty rooms on the second floor of Grand Hotel Bucharest, this day was spent exploring the depths of council work and exchanging ideas and strategies, including the workshop Help, I'm in the governing coalition. This workshop discussed what it is like to be in a coalition. It quickly became clear during this workshop that our Council group in Maastricht is in a unique position; from left to right, our coalition is widely represented. In other coalitions, especially among our colleagues in Germany, the coalitions were a lot less broad and predominantly left-wing. Both scenarios bring their own opportunities and difficulties. Our German colleagues said they found it difficult to differentiate themselves from Die Grünen, the Green Left of Germany. We were questioned about how we are doing in Maastricht. "Stay true to yourself!" Party leader Jules Ortjens replied. 

The questions kept coming, and after heartfelt cries from the German groups, we decided to organize our own workshop later in the day. We then prepared this on-the-spot; Jules conducted that workshop. Moral of the story is that you have to agree with each other, within your Council group, what you want to achieve in the 4 years you are in the council. Is the answer: "get re-elected"? Then you may want to think to yourself if you are in this job for the right reasons. Do you agree with each other that this may fail? Then the freedom that comes from that and the sincerity with which you make choices will automatically be appreciated by your supporters. Then you are truly free to stay true to yourself. The workshop was voted the best workshop of the day.

Day 1:

The GA always opens with a wide range of workshops and talks, but let's not beat around the bush; the highlight, of course, is the march. We marched there because of a very concrete goal: to allow Romania into the Schengen zone. I can hear you thinking: What is the Schengen zone? Good question. That's a cooperation of 23 countries in the European Union that have abandoned all forms of border control. Romania is in the EU, but not in the Schengen zone, and it's not because they don't want to be. This has to do with an issue that we also ran for in Prague last year: veto power. In the European Parliament, every member state has the ability to veto a decision away if they really don't agree with it. And this is being widely used. Austria's foreign minister has ensured in this way that Romania and Bulgaria are still not in the Schengen zone. So it can just happen that national interests of one country get in the way of the future of several. We as Volt find this hard to accept, so we will continue to make our voice heard when it comes to the inclusion of Romania and Bulgaria in the Schengen zone and the existence of the veto right.

Day 2:

The second day had a personal highlight for me, as a trained UX designer: the presentation of an internal management software. This means that by the end of this year, Volt will roll out a software package that will make it easier for Volt factions to perform all sorts of tasks involved in organizing a political party. With one central program, a Volt council member can view policies of other Volt factions throughout Europe, or a member of the marketing team can view available budgets, or a community-lead can keep track of the contact details of everyone in the respective Volt chapter. With this, Volt makes strides in digitizing and modernizing our work, and makes even more effective use of the essence of the party: the fact that our direct Volt colleagues may be in Germany or Belgium or Italy. For us in Maastricht, this means even shorter lines with our colleagues in Aachen or Bonn. 

The second day of the GA included votes on new policies within the party. Among other things, we voted there on establishing an integrity team for our party. This proposal was adopted, after an emotional speech by Anouk Ooms (one of the European party leaders), with an 80% majority. This means that we will have a team where reports can be made of, for example, cross-border behavior. The core task of this team will then be to investigate this and to inform the party about steps that can be taken. This is an important part of our desire to keep politics as accessible and friendly and fun as possible for everyone. 

After day two, the 3 of us left again for Maastricht. I experienced Bucharest as a city with many faces; a hodgepodge of large domed buildings, idyllic city centers and old Soviet apartment complexes. A city where rich and poor are kept apart with all their might, but do not really succeed. In a country recovering from major corruption scandals. And where there is still so much to gain, economically and socially. So time for a purple sauce over the Sarmale. Time for Volt. 

If you want to hear more about our trip to Bucharest, listen to our new podcast! Mestreech Made in Europe episodes 18 and 19 are now available on Spotify. In episode 18 we interview Volters, and our house critic Chris Aalberts, during d e GA about politics, the future of Volt and about a cute terrace that was once part of the silk route. In episode 19 we talk to Reinier van Lanschot, co-chairman of Volt Europe and candidate list leader for Volt in the European parliamentary elections. We talk about Volt's beginnings, his motivation to enter politics, and what makes Volt such a success.

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