Last week, we announced that Debating Europe would be introducing more audio and video content into our regular discussions. As part of this approach, we carried out Skype interviews earlier today with two readers: Nikolai Holmov (who blogs here) and Christos Mouzeviris (who blogs here). Both of them had some really interesting comments to make, and we’ll work to get reactions to their questions from European political leaders. You can check out our Vimeo channel for the latest videos we’ve published.
The Debating Europe team is located in Brussels, so we also want to take advantage of some of the live events that take place every week in the “Capital of Europe”. These seem like a good opportunity to conduct on-the-spot interviews with politicians and experts, and pose some of the questions taken from the Debating Europe platform. Last year, we attended Forum Europe‘s Data Protection event, and last week we had a camera at Friends of Europe‘s Pakistan event, interviewing the panellists.
We haven’t yet covered EU-Pakistan relations on Debating Europe, so we put our own questions to the panellists. However, in future we’ll be asking our readers for questions and ideas ahead of each live event, and we’ll also be asking audiences at events to take part in the online discussion on Debating Europe. We hope this will help open up the closed “bubble” of policy discussion in Brussels, and inject some tough questions and controversial ideas into the mix.
At last week’s Pakistan event, for example, we interviewed British Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim. We asked him what was holding back Pakistan economically, whilst the rest of Asia (including neighbouring India) was rocketing ahead.
Karim stressed the importance of strengthening the security situation in Pakistan, in order to encourage foreign direct investment in the country. Militant groups, including the Taliban, are a serious threat in Pakistan, with the country suffering regular attacks and bombings. In a nuclear-armed country such as Pakistan, political instability is therefore a global issue.
On the other hand, some of the panellists at the Friends of Europe event (and some of the questions from the audience afterwards) stressed how important it was to broaden the focus from just the security dimension. They argued that the root-causes of the problems in Pakistan were down to things like high unemployment and a failing education system. We interviewed Thomas Miller, Director of Strategic Communications at the US Embassy in Islamabad, and asked him why so much US aid was going to the Pakistani military when the root causes of instability in the country perhaps lay elsewhere.
There were also representatives of the Pakistani diaspora from both Europe and the United States at the Friends of Europe event. We spoke to Nadira Mirza, Dean of the School of Lifelong Education at the University of Bradford in the UK, and asked her a question that was raised by another panellist: should Pakistani diasporas focus on “helping themselves” (e.g. addressing issues of high unemployment amongst British Pakistanis) before they can more effectively lend support to communities in Pakistan. Nadira Mirza stressed how important it was for diaspora communities in Europe to identify with their home societies, and “if they’re Muslim, [see themselves] as European Muslims”.
What do YOU think? Does the EU have the right approach to Pakistan? Security has long been characterised as purely an American issue, with the EU preferring to focus on civilian projects… but is Europe neglecting its responsibilities in this respect? Or do we need to treat the root-causes of instability in Pakistan through greater support for civilian institutions? Do Europeans understand the importance of political stability in nuclear-armed Pakistan, or are there more important issues (such as the Eurozone crisis) that EU policy-makers should rather be focusing on? Let us know your thoughts in the form below, and we’ll take your comments to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.
You can see other videos from the event online here.