Occupation: social researcher presenting the ‘Solidarity Proposal’ for human resources and volunteering to the EU Institutions.
Languages: English, intermediate Spanish and French, and polite niceties in a few others.
Hobbies: adventure, the outdoors and reading
Most important things in life: spirituality, family, friends, to embrace one’s life and to support others to do the same.
Why as an Australian did you decide to work for Europe?
I was basically a country kid with a pretty normal background – from a big, outgoing and fairly conservative family. I was shaped by ‘down-home’ values – where what you see is what you get, where you leave your front door unlocked, and where sharing bikes and clothes with my brothers and sisters was commonplace. My dad taught me that you could tell something about people by whether they looked you in the eye or not and by the way they shook your hand. You ask how I ended up ‘working for Europe’? Well, because, I want to help change the world, it’s as crazy, lofty and simple as that. And Brussels is one of the best places in the world to inspire and change the world. Europe is relatively small in global population and geographical terms, but so is a key to a car. Europe is a global player, both respected and imitated around the world, and influential in terms of the world’s past, present and future.
Some critics say Europe is about bureaucrats and administration. Are they wrong and can one really change the world from Brussels?
The fact that the EU even exists is vastly impressive. Sure, the EU project has its trials and tribulations, but so do football teams and plants trying to grow. One great thing about my ‘European career’ in Brussels is seeing people who are passionate about people and about their work, investing knowledge and teamwork in reports, policy and seminars etc, and dedicating themselves to a better world. The EU institutions are built on strong European/universal values and rigorous and open democratic and social processes. The challenge is to live the values and then the processes take care of themselves.
The great thing about my ‘European career’ in Brussels is seeing people who are passionate about people and about their work, dedicating themselves to a better world
Winston Churchill said: “What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?” One of the principles I try to follow is to have an uplifting vision and then just take a positive step, no matter how small it is. Thus, together with some of these dedicated EU civil servants, I am presenting a proposal to the EU institutions – called the ‘Solidarity proposal’ – for a joint human resources programme among the EU Institutions to facilitate the involvement of staff and trainees in benevolent humanitarian and social activities, both as part of current staff training and in staff’s own time. This ranges from EU staff’s practical, voluntary involvement in local humanitarian activities, such as reading to the elderly, to an option for staff training through genuine community engagement (as opposed to training in a conference room). Research shows that such training is cheaper and more effective in developing skill-sets transferable to the workplace. About 20 such pilot training events have taken place throughout the EU institutions and the response has been positive. Such things are also in line with EU policies such as proximity to the citizen.
What does this involve?
When in Brussels, I spend my days sharing and explaining the ideas behind the proposal with key people throughout the institutions, lobbying for support, problem-solving, researching, developing best-practices, meeting people and deepening contacts and foundations for the proposal. We have a letter supporting the Solidarity proposal signed jointly by the leaders of every political group in the European Parliament – on paper this is amazing and is something to help keep one’s faith and a testament to democracy, European values and the European process.
Isn’t it hard to always be in the driver’s seat, to be the ‘motivator’?
The toughest, and sometimes the saddest thing about being in Brussels is indeed the mammoth task of creating change, of trying to keep a fire burning in this challenging environment amid the institutions’ vast range of priorities, expectations, systems and almost an invisible, heavy mood at times. People are so busy and their work priorities so strong that it seems to also take over the head and heart. It’s understandable and it’s tough under such conditions. If you believe in something that helps others, it helps you to try to find the strength, the people and the ways to support a foundation and ongoing engagement with the cause.
Many people working in Brussels feel that what they do is misunderstood and not valued by citizens.
There are moments of joy for those working on European projects and wanting to ‘change the world’… moments of air-punching jubilation at successes. There are also moments of gratitude and awe or disillusionment and disappointment. We all share them in Brussels, wondering if it is worth it… and then, hopefully, even though we may have to adjust our sails, we know that it is. I remember being alone on a snowy winter night, looking to the sky and thinking this is too hard, the institutions too cold, and people too stuck. And within moments a friend walked past encouragingly and my phone started suddenly ringing with friends doing what friends do best.
What is your wish for Europe?
That it can be a bastion of values, example and encouragement to the world for a happier world of human connection and sustainability – and that it authentically generates things supporting this which become as normal as football and brushing your teeth.
Respect and Solidarity. Europe is our future. It’s up to all of us!
Occupation: retired, this year, from the New South Wales Public Service
Hobbies: gardening, oil painting, journalism,
My link with David: from his work for the ‘New Italy’ project, a long-standing community-based organisation that promotes Italian heritage and culture.
You are Australian, living in Australia. What is your link with Europe?
I was born in The Netherlands in 1948 and received my degree from Nijenrode University International Business School in 1970 so I have a strong attachment to Europe and an interest in how the EU is progressing. A keen student of history, economics and political philosophy, I am a supporter of European unity and integration. My siblings live in Europe and keep me up to date with information. Since migrating to Australia in 1974, the European impact on my life has been markedly less, as Australia is progressively becoming more a part of the Asia Pacific sphere, through its trade relations and vehicles such as APEC and ASEAN.
How is Europe’s reputation down under?
Australia is the beneficiary of millions of gifted European migrants bringing their skills and resources to Australia, and there are powerful links to ‘the old country’. The initial creation of the EU however came at substantial cost to Australia and New Zealand in terms of trade. The EU seems too navel-gazing in its internal bickering, often too shy of its global role, and greatly burdened by excessive levels of bureaucracy. This undermines the strength of its potential role. Australia needs long-term partnership and a can-do outlook, a world player that does not need to make much use of a fist, but offers abundance in culture and community values.
Would that be your biggest wish for the EU?
I would like the EU to become a more significant driver towards the truly global community of the future. It would be good if Europe progressively fills a growing void in world affairs, providing a workable socio-economic model for the 21st century that is an exciting alternative to the US and Asian spheres. I would like Europe to guide the world economy and political frameworks over the coming century from an unsustainable materialist perspective to a quality of life perspective. A perspective that accepts and measures progress less in terms of GDP and more in terms of enlightened sustainability.
How do you know David?
In my role as Community Economic Development Manager for what was then the Department of State and Regional Development in New South Wales and in his advisory role for the New Italy project. He has kept me informed over the years about his work and progress with the EU. I am not only impressed by his vision but also inspired by the wisdom of his initiative to build bridges between the EU civil servants and the communities they serve. To grow, the EU needs to ground itself stronger… and so better reach the hearts and minds of Europeans!
Imagine David would be your direct line to EU decision makers, what message would you like him to deliver?
My wife and many of my friends hope for greater European global leadership, bringing stability. Personally, I would like him to stress that the EU needs to invest much more in space and change waste and weapons not into ploughs but into spacecraft, and claim a vital part of the high frontier… We need a Europe that accepts that space travel is the long-term social and environmental safety valve, and a tremendous economic frontier of the future. The people need not only an improving quality of life but also a splendid vision, as President John F Kennedy so aptly proved.
Innovation and Science, Prosperity, Peace. Europe is our future. It’s up to all of us!
Occupation: human rights lawyer/researcher for Human Rights Watch
Hobbies: listening to and playing classical music and jazz, yoga, running and being a dad
My link with David: good friends since 1998-99 when we did the Commission traineeship together
How does being an international human rights lawyer influence your view on Europe?
Having worked a lot in insecure places in Africa and the Middle East, Europe for me is home, it is safety, it is the luxury of belonging. I am half German, half English. As a middle class Englishman with a good school education, I am lucky and privileged to speak various European languages and to have studied European law and the basis of the European project. Europe is my home.
Are the people that surround you concerned about the European project?
In France, where I now live, I think people worry most about the EU taking away agricultural subsidies or, if they support the far right, about French identity being destroyed by the European project. In the UK, I think most people don’t care or don’t have an informed opinion or support a more moderate version of the French far right’s position.
What do you think about the European project? Can it do better?
It could if it would get rid of the career-oriented mind some bureaucrats have and if it would replace it with the mindset thousands of highly educated, kind, charitable and visionary young Europeans out there who are dedicated to turning Europe into a continent that cares for people, not for money. Let’s get these people on board!
Do you think David could help you with this?
If there is one way one could change the EU from within, it would be through David and his ‘Solidarity’ project.
Prosperity, Identity, Safety. Europe is our future. It’s up to all of us.
Brüssel ist für den Australier David Barnes einer der besten Orte, um die Welt zu inspirieren und zu verändern. Besonders bereichernd war für ihn, hier so viele Menschen kennenzulernen, die mit Leidenschaft ihre Arbeit tun.
So hat er gemeinsam mit einigen engagierten EU-BeamtInnen den europäischen Institutionen einen Vorschlag für ein Programm (“Solidarity proposal”) zur Förderung der Freiwilligenarbeit von MitarbeiterInnen in den EU Institutionen in humanitären und sozialen Projekten ausgearbeitet.
Wenn auch seine Vorreiterrolle nicht immer leicht war, er bereute seinen Weg nie und gab niemals auf. Denn Freunde waren immer im richtigen Moment für ihn da und bestärkten ihn in seinem Tun.
David ist überzeugt: Europa basiert auf universellen Werten und starken demokratischen und sozialen Inhalten. Die Herausforderung besteht darin, diese Werte zu leben. Und Europa kann eine Bastion der Werte und Vorbild für eine bessere Welt sein.
In seiner Freizeit liebt David das Abenteuer und Lesen. Auf Spiritualität, Familie und Freunde will er auf keinen Fall verzichten.
Respekt und Solidarität: Europa ist unsere Zukunft. Es liegt an uns allen!
David Barnes: L’Europe est construite sur des valeurs solides et un processus démocratique ouvert à tous
« Pourquoi je travaille pour l’Europe alors que je suis australien ? Tout simplement parce que je voulais aider à changer le monde ! »
David est a beau être Australien de part sa nationalité, c’est de l’Europe dont il s’est fait l’avocat. Car il voit dans l’Union le moyen de changer le monde, surtout quand elle fait rayonner les valeurs qui la portent, et qu’elle est source d’inspiration pour les autres pays. Et tous les jours, il travaille à faire avancer son idéal de solidarité au sein même des institutions européennes, en leur proposant de mêler la formation continue des fonctionnaires à des projets caritatifs.
Ce n’est pas sans moments de découragement, surtout quand les institutions européennes semblent trop lourdes pour être capable de s’adapter à ses propositions avant-gardistes. Mais l’Union restera toujours un phare pour les valeurs démocratiques et humanistes, ce qui continue de motiver David à frapper à toutes les portes pour faire avancer ses idées. Quand son enthousiasme n’est pas entièrement consacré à ce but, David est toujours candidat à un peu d’aventure et beaucoup de sport en plein air.
Respect et Solidarité. L’Europe est notre avenir. Cela ne tient qu’ à nous !