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Europe - a Continent of Liberation. Even for the Swiss

A GFYL supporter, speaker and participant since 2017, Ivo is a climate economist working towards aligning the financial system with international climate goals. He is a proponent of active citizenship and the co-founder of the foreign policy think tank foraus in Switzerland and the crowd-sourcing public policy think tank Argo in France. Furthermore, Ivo is one of the initiators of Operation Libero, a political movement dedicated to an internationally open, pluralist, and progressive Switzerland. When asked about his main interests, the self-declared policy nerd lists with his very own sense of humor: Literature, schnaps, dancefloors, responsible hedonism, joyful stoicism, the Alps, and the Mediterranean. 

Ivo, why are you engaged with the German-French Young Leadership Forum?

The GYFL offers a great opportunity to forge friendships across borders. And more importantly, it is a great way to meet creative, entrepreneurial minds who are determined to tackle the big challenges of our days. How do we deal with the impacts of the digital transformation? What do geopolitical shifts mean for Europe? How can we find effective responses to collective issues like climate change or terrorism? These are all questions that warrant innovative and clever responses - both from aspiring business leaders and policy makers. And all these answers need to transcend borders and have to be addressed at least at a European level. Otherwise, they will be ineffective.

Can you give an example of an important challenge that needs a European response?

There are many. But I am particularly fascinated and alarmed by the prospects of the deep digital transformation of our lives, societies, economies and polities. I think we need to find ways to ensure that modern European values are reflected in the algorithms that will rule our lives. With modern European values I refer to the values of humanism, scientific progress, democracy, social inclusion, and personal liberty. In the past, policy makers had to deal with moral dilemmas and political tradeoffs - and their decisions were subject to public scrutiny. With an increasing amount of decisions being delegated to algorithms, there is a danger that intricate political and moral decisions will elude democratic control. So, I think we need to ask ourselves how can we make sure that the values we cherish are reflected in these algorithms.

What do you think makes you a European?

First of all, I believe in the European dream. To me, the European dream embodies the conviction that the rights and the wellbeing of the individual citizen should be at the centre of politics, rather than some delusional nightmare of nationalist grandeur. It is a dream of liberation from political tyranny - both from the nationalist and military autocracies that dominated parts of Western Europe until the 1970s, as well as from the communist dictatorships that subjugated Eastern Europe until 1990. For me, the European dream is also a dream of the liberation from the tyranny of the accident of birth, where we try to provide everyone with the opportunity for their just chance at the pursuit of happiness.

The European dream is also one of unity and pacification - two achievements I don’t want to take for granted. My great-grandfather fought in the German Army  in the first world war – one of his brothers fell at the Western front in 1914, just one week after the first battle of the Marne. 25 years later, the cousins of my grandmother fought in armies of the Commonwealth and the US against Nazi Germany. My grandmother herself had to flee her hometown of Dresden and survived both the Holocaust and the war in the UK.

What does it mean to be a European for your daily life?

I am grateful for the immense liberties that the modern Europe provides us with. I am Swiss and I feel deeply connected to my home country. But I also feel at home in Paris, in Berlin, and in London – cities where I’ve lived and loved, studied and worked. I have friends across the continent. And  I am very grateful that I can lead a life across borders. It is something I will never take for granted.

As a European, I want to contribute to help improve our political system, knowing, the institutions that embody the European project are far from perfect. Wherever power is concentrated, the abuse of power looms. We have to keep working to render these institutions more democratic, accountable, efficient, and effective. To make sure that the European dream lives on.


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