London-based young Moldovan Mihaela Sirițanu is running to become co-President of Pan-European Political Party Volt Europa. Educated, international and progressive, she would seem to embody the Europeanism for which Volt becomes a political vessel. In the wake of Brexit, however, how far can this Londoner really go?
Not all pro-European groups gave up at the end of 2019, Volt is one of these in the UK. The UK branch continues to campaign for rejoining the European Union, in spite of Brexit continuing to unfold before the youth movement’s very eyes. Volt Europa, the transnational political party was founded in 2017. With 50-odd elected officials, including 3 MPs and 1 MEP split between Bulgaria and Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, the party is riding a bubble of success which it hopes to translate into more MEPs in 2024. In just a few weeks, it might be led by a Londoner.
Moldovan native Mihaela Sirițanu, is a self-described “European suffering Brexit from the inside”, as put on twitter, Ms. Sirițanu has spent her last years working in the London non-profit space, latest for SheDecides, a subset of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
Her electoral programme, Ms. Sirițanu seems to continue in the same tracks, naming social policy as a key political priority of her presidential bid. Alongside that, she names a shared recovery from COVID, as well as digitalisation and green policies as her political repertoire, next – of course – to the unabashed Europeanism Volt has made itself known for.
While these policies are guaranteed to resonate on the continent, Volt UK voters seem to be wary about backing their local candidate after Volt banned British party members from voting due to a legal technicality. Volt UK has made no official comment of support for any candidate as they have done in 2019.
Volt’s 2019 European Parliamentary manifesto explains that “In a time of great political tensions, a group of Europeans from all walks of life decided it was time to stand up for what they believed in”.
It remains to be seen what electoral successes a party with such a profile can garner in Brexit Britain, with the electoral system punishing third parties. That said: Brexit, previously framed as the biggest blow ever dealt to the EU’s continued integration, has ended up invigorating the radical pro-European wing whose ambitions Brexit promised to curb. Europe did not stumble or stop when faced with Brexit – in fact, Europe continues to accelerate, full speed ahead.
Volt remains a fringe phenomenon on the British political scene, and the party has yet to establish a serious presence. Electing Ms. Sirițanu as their leader could go either way for Volt in the UK. On the one hand, leaning into the stereotypes by being led by a Moldovan whose success story would be tied to European free movement, can of course strengthen Volt in its pre-established audience. Alternatively Volt may become a weird party for EU citizens in the UK, irrelevant to the wider political scene.
At any rate, there would be a certain degree of irony if Europe’s biggest pro-European party was led by a Londoner so soon after Brexit.