Updated: May 2, 2021
A while ago I had the privilege to meet with Konrad von Klitzing (City Lead Volt Maastricht). He shared with me his views on politics, what it is like to be a member of the Volt party and what it is that makes Volt unique.
The spirit of Volt
Volt Maastricht is the Maastricht chapter of the pan-European party Volt. And to state the obvious, the main thing that differentiates Volt as a student party is its multi-layered structure. Volt Europe can be found in local politics, university councils, national governments and – not to forget – it holds a seat in the European Parliament. Volt is active throughout Europe, making it the first universal party of the European Union. No longer than one month ago, they made their debut in the national parliament of The Netherlands as well, now holding a remarkable 3 seats.
Their vision is to create a more democratic and transparent Europe, a united Europe with a genuine European democracy. Specific aims of Volt Maastricht are to improve European representation, especially for students. Maastricht holds its fair share of students who have little say in local affairs, even though EU students are allowed to vote for the local elections. Volt aims to unify the Maastricht population which highlights their spirit: consolidation.
So, what does Volt Maastricht bring us and how is it representing our student interest? Being a member state of the EU also means that legislation (for instance on general student benefits and the Erasmus programme) which is made in Brussels, has to be followed or implemented by local politicians and municipalities all over Europe. Volt uses this connectivity by being everywhere; “Every time we are represented in a certain level, it always ties into another level of politics”, says Konrad. Perfect example can be found right here in our small city. Maastricht is remarkably close to the German and Belgium borders and Volt has regular contact and collaborations with other Volt parties in those areas to figure out collectively what they can do in terms of policy for the region as a whole. On that note, Konrad points out: “Universities are different, but they do have a universal aspect that is everywhere the same: passing exams, making friends, having good grades, and having a good time.” Volt Maastricht aims to strengthen our European connectedness and find solutions for Maastricht by staying in touch with other Volt parties within Europe to bring new ideas to the table. Even though Volt does not hold a seat in the City Council of Maastricht yet, they are determined to have a strong campaign in the 2022 council elections.
Regarding the university elections: last year’s turn-out of the university council shows us that a mere 20% of students voted. Regardless that Volt was not voted into the council, Konrad informs me that they were not content overall. “The whole election was a representation of the whole time; everything was a bit of a mess in the years before corona disrupted physical campaigning, the interest in the participation was not that high either. It’s not that corona killed the elections; it was already dead for a long time.” If Volt can conquer a seat at the table this year, that does not mean that they want to make everything as European as possible. “It all comes down to what makes sense”, Konrad explains. If there is something that makes sense to be organised on a local level in Maastricht and which would also be beneficial to other cities, Volt will show support. But only if that policy makes sense to be implemented there. New development for this years’ university elections is that 7 Volt Candidates have teamed up with student political party ‘NovUM’ and are also running on their party list.
The pandemic has a huge impact on the European Union as a whole and the freedoms that it guarantees. This might make the challenge of creating a stronger union within Europe even more difficult. Volt’s view on this problem is twofold: “On the one hand you have the European element, this crisis has shown us that we need a strong Union to be able to handle things like that. For instance, the EU is currently stockpiling medical supplies and vaccines, they need to coordinate this because it is such a crisis way too big for one country to handle by its own. And in March last year we saw that when countries try to handle things solitarily, things can go horribly wrong (Italy and the mask-crisis). The other level is that we as Volt, are very well equipped to handle the crisis because we were already used to working remotely because of our international team and aspect.” Nevertheless, Konrad recognizes the value of meeting face-to-face: “A substantial part of the success of a political party also depends on being together, the ability to travel across Europe and meet other divisions of Volt: physical campaigning, which is currently on hold.” Regarding the corona measures Maastricht University has implemented, Volt acknowledges that the university has found a good balance between enabling in-person contact when it was possible and limiting the infection risk. “In person contact is essential in providing education of quality. In that regard, the university is doing a good job.” Nevertheless, a recurring problem of our university is its learning spaces. Konrad explains: “Even before the coronavirus was around, there was not enough capacity for providing students enough study places. Due to corona, this problem has worsened. A way to solve this would be extending faculty hours, as well as opening faculties for students during the weekends outside exam periods.”
Once a week, Volt Maastricht has a member meeting. Currently, they are working on restructuring, making sure all the responsibilities are lined up by making concrete agenda plans for their party. Further, they are moving into the campaign for the student elections, building a profile for the local elections next year. Volt Maastricht has grown since last elections to now consisting of more than a hundred members. It is an inclusive political party with even local members (70+ years old). “It’s an opportunity to come into contact with the local populations for a student party”, Konrad points out.
In Konrad’s personal view, Volt’s strengths can be found in several things: “Beyond student politics, we are a very young community, especially compared to other political parties. But the biggest strength is our hope. When I think about politics, often people feel that their interests are not being represented. Some might non-engage with politics altogether. But for me, politics can be seen as a beacon on the horizon, a flower in a barren wasteland; there is this one young party, and thousands of connected people from all over Europe, all over the continent believing in the same views. From London to Budapest: they all have one thing in common and that is a United Europe. And that is the drive that makes us unique from other student political parties.”
Volt’s progressive and pan-European ideas seem revolutionary in a sense that they aim to connect not only our beloved university with Maastricht but reach out to other universities across Europe as well. The interview with Volt felt particularly inspiring by giving our diverse university the option to reach beyond its borders in terms of student politics, as well as giving local universities a voice in municipalities, national governments and the European Parliament. A warm thanks to Konrad for his collaboration.