Who am I?
My name is Sven. I'm 47 years old and come from Bavaria. I moved to Lille in 2012 and I manage innovation projects for an open source software publisher, which trying to prove what can be done today with technologies made in Europe.
The last two years, I served as co-president of Volt France, the French section of the Volt Europa, a political movement with over 25,000 active members in 31 countries across Europe. We are currently preparing to take part in the European elections in at least 20 countries. As co-president, I was mainly responsible for developing our network and fundraising - because democracy is expensive in France - plus I've also contributed to our European and French political programmes.
I'm married to a Slovenian, who is very patient with my two full-time 'jobs' and my other activities: I organise a German expat group in Lille, I'm on the board of the local twinning association and I try to finish a book every two months to take part in a book club. If work, politics and lunch breaks allow, you can also find me in the swimming pool and occasionally on the basketball court.
Why am I running?
Volt was created to advance the European project and oppose populism and the far right - a mission that is more important than ever today. We must restore hope and trust the European project. The European Union was built as an economic union for peace, but today it cruelly lacks a social and democratic dimension if it is to be legitimate and if Europe is to become a genuine political and geopolitical player on a global scale. If nationalists are calling for the dismantling of the European Union in 2024, federalists must also be bold and call for major steps towards European integration. Let's build this Europe together!
For me, this starts with democratic rights. The four freedoms of the European single market allow me to settle and work anywhere in Europe. We are considered as European "economic units". Why not as European citizens? I can't vote in all the elections in France. Even the European elections are organised at national level, with different rules in each country. As long as our democracies remain nationalist, election results will always be tainted towards nationalism. Let's change that, starting with candidates standing for election to the European Parliament in the countries where they live, regardless of their nationality. That's why, with Volt, we're trying to put together a list with candidates from each of the 27 EU Member States in France. Our society is already becoming European: let's make sure that France is known in Europe as a genuine European society, instead of being a bastion of the far right.
What do I do in real life?
I moved to France from Austria in 2012 to work for one of the largest open source software companies in Europe (in terms of the amount of code published - we are only 40 developers worldwide). I mainly manage French and European R&D projects covering cloud technologies, defence, telecommunications and industrial automation. I also coordinate Euclidia, an initiative bringing together 30 small and medium-sized technology creators in the cloud and telecom sector across Europe. Together, we are working to promote fair competition in EU markets, enabling our European ecosystem to thrive and contributing to Europe's strategic autonomy and resilience. It sounds complicated, but it's all about organising and working with partners and stakeholders across the continent on issues that I care about.
I got into IT well before 2012 with a start-up I created that wanted to automate small quantity orders in the sports goods retail sector (internet instead of phone and fax). Setting up my own business taught me programming and many other valuable lessons. However, my start-up grew not by leaps and bounds but like a bonsai, so I finally decided to move on and ended up in France.
The idea of setting up my own business came to me after working in my parents' family business in the swimwear sector. It sounds cool at first glance, but working with your family, especially in the textile business, can be difficult. As well as 'sourcing' from Asia to sell all over Europe, I've learnt the challenges of financing and managing a company in difficulty, including bancruptcies and takeover attempts. I believe you have to find your own shoes to be happy in life, and these were neither my shoes nor the path I wanted to follow.
Before walking a few miles in 'the wrong shoes', I studied business administration specialising in marketing, finance and innovation management in Germany and the USA - my second year in the USA after spending a year at secondary school when I was 17.
What do I do at Volt?
It was after the first round of the 2017 presidential elections and the run-off between Macron and Le Pen that I realised that democracy is anything but stable. I don't have the right to vote in presidential or national elections in France, but I still wanted to contribute to the Republican Front. So I did, only to leave a little disillusioned with a sticker from the first political meeting of my life. A little later, I discovered Volt and signed up out of curiosity. A first European campaign meeting in Paris confirmed to me that everyone was probably too naive given the scale of the task, but also very motivated to change politics and Europe. So I began my purple adventure.
Unfortunately, Volt in France didn't get very far, failing already to open a bank account - life as a new party in France is difficult. It was a big disappointment for me, but good things take time.The good thing about Volt Europa is that we always have 27 attempts to get it right. Only one attempt needs to work out to give life and meaning to all the other national chapters. And with our first MEP elected in Germany, we had our raison d'être to continue fighting for our goals in the 27 member countries of the European Union.
My first real campaign experience was during the municipal elections in Lille, where I stood as a candidate and organised our participation in a coalition with EELV. It was a great experience to campaign with established parties, learning things like door-to-door canvassing and the effort it takes to get elected. We lost by some 200 votes, but since my wife allows me to go into politics as long as I'm not disappointed, I've only got some good memories and lessons to share with other teams in France.
Volt remains a great playground. To give us a chance at the European elections in 2024, I was elected for a first term on the French Bureau - our board of directors - before being elected co-president of Volt France two years ago. Our objectives were to benefit from public funding by taking part in the legislative elections, to professionalise our movement by being able to afford our first paid interns and to build a coalition with a real chance of getting at least one Volt MEP elected in France. We've achieved the first two objectives and I'm now working on the third, which is also the most important. Our aim is to become a European party and have our own group in the European Parliament. We need at least 7 MEPs from 7 different countries to become a Europarty, and 23 MEPs to create our group. France is a driving force behind the European project and it should also be a driving force behind Volt Europa, so we need to make our mark in 2024!
Do I also have a private life?
I also do a lot of other things, as far as I can. I was a member of my neighbourhood council from 2020 to 2023, active in the political college, before giving my seat to an EELV member who also wanted to work on the council during the mid-term renewal.
It was also more than 10 years ago, after I moved to Lille, that I set up a Stammtisch (a discussion group) for German speakers. I still run it today, bringing together all those in Lille who are interested in the German language. I ran the Lille expat community for several years and am currently a board member of the local twinning association between Lille, Cologne and Erfurt. I am a member and part-time supporter of Interphaz Lille (the local Europe Direct centre), the association Droit au vélo (ADAV) and bicycle repair workshops, as well as Sauvons l'Europe, which occasionally publishes my texts.
I am the youngest participant in the local German literature club and often have to make time to finish a book so that I can contribute at the monthly meetings. I was a Couchsurfing host for many years, was good at tango and am always on the lookout for brutalist architecture when I get the chance. I mentioned above that I was married to a Slovenian: we had a blind date in a nuclear power station and I proposed to her in the cooling tower of the Charleroi power station - we do share more than the passion for concrete architecture.