At citizens’ debates in France I found the best way to fight messaging from activists like Steve Bannon is to talk to people
The story of my life is, in some ways, the story of Europe. My father emigrated from Egypt to France in 1986, one month before I was born. My French mother fulfilled her dreams of becoming an English teacher after having grown up in the Calais region looking at the cliffs of Dover. Together they worked hard to give their children a bright future in a free, borderless, united Europe. I grew up with this dream, which has partly become a reality. But I’m not sure my own children will get to enjoy the privileges of belonging to the EU in the same way – if at all.
So I decided to go on a debating tour of France, to better understand what makes us still believe in the strengths of the EU, as well as the fears some people have. I quit my job in Brussels at the European parliament to travel to small towns and villages in 30 of France’s départements and take part in discussions with local people about Europe, immigration, Brexit and Frexit. I’ve now held more than 60 such debates, ahead of the EU-wide elections due in May. Here are some of the lessons I’d like to share, and which must surely hold true elsewhere in Europe too.