60 Ideas for Europe

A Euro Peace Corps

Drawing on the ideas of Kjell Kühne and Isabel Aspe-Montoya, what Europe needs is an overarching volunteering organisation in the model of America’s Peace Corps and Britain’s VSO.

Under the jurisdiction of the UNDP’s volunteering branch (UNV) this pan-European organisation could be deployed to pool the resources and manpower of the different national volunteering organisations and fund the transfer of skills and expertise from the richer countries to the less developed new member states in the east; perhaps also countries in the EU neighbourhood such as Turkey, Ukraine and former Yugoslavia.

It would provide a positive apolitical ‘face’ of the EU, encourage intercultural engagement and perhaps even contribute to creating a more economically homogeneous Europe as a whole.

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  1. I know what Peace Corps means. I do not get why should a possible European Peace Corps should be “under the jurisdiction of the UNDP”? I would also call your attention to “the transfer of skills and expertise from the richer countries to the less developed new member states in the east”. I think many people would find it ridiculous in the US if the American Peace Corps would transfer skills and expertise from the richers states to the less developed members states in the south… The US Peace Corps have three main objectives:

    The program officially has three goals:

    * To help the people of interested countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained workers
    * To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served
    * To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans

    If you replace the word Americans to Europeans you will get a very different proposal.

  2. Sure, fair enough. “Under the jurisdiction” is possibly the wrong phrase: what I mean is that the fledgling Euro Peace Corps would work closely with UNDP/UNV as do the existing Peace Corps, VSO etc. in order to share experience and expertise.

    Since UNV is headquartered in Europe as well, it might make sense to co-locate the two and create a mutually-reinforcing management structure rather than an inefficient doubling of duties.

    You are also right that it is ridiculous to compare Europe with US. We are not comparing like with like. Though there is a massive disparity of wealth in the US, as evidenced by Hurricane Katrina, part of the US did not fall behind an ‘Iron Curtain’ for 45 years and persist with a failed planned economy that left it unnecessarily economically weakened. The fact that such a significant proportion of the current and future EU budget is dedicated to development within Europe proves that this is no joke.

    Moreover, the US has a single national government, one (maybe two) languages and a relatively homogeneous culture and history. It’s not like the EU at all, even the most vehement of European federalists would have to agree. To equate being ‘American’ with being ‘European’ doesn’t make sense.

    As for your three points:

    1. There is undoubtedly a need for skills transfer in several fields in Europe’s developing regions; just as the poorer southern US states wouldn’t mind seeing skills and finance coming in from the rest of the country. And people do perform volunteer work within the US, it’s not as ridiculous as you make out. The EU Peace Corps would also work in and around the EU neighbourhood too, it’s not just directed at the former Communist bloc.

    2 and 3. We may all be ‘Europeans’ but I can guarantee you that as yet there’s little mutual understanding between, say, French and Bulgarians, Spanish and Poles, Danes and Lithuanians etc.. With much of Western Europe quaking in its boots at the thought of “floods of migrants from the East invading and taking all our jobs”, some positive cross-European contact wouldn’t go amiss.

    Cheers,

    Phil

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