Debating Europe wants to give students the chance to question policymakers, debate with fellow students from other European countries, and learn more about the work of the EU.
To achieve this goal, we are working closely with schools and colleges across each EU member state to launch a series of student-led online debates. You can read our previous debates with students from Romania,Greece, Denmark, Bulgaria, Sweden,Spain, Belgium, Italy, Malta and our special-guest debate with students from the USA.
Our tenth debate is with students from the Katedralskolan i Åbo Gymnasium, Turku, Finland. We took their questions to Reinhard Bütikofer, co-spokesperson for the European Greens and Philippe de Backer, a Belgian liberal democrat MEP.
1. Does the EU consider itself a successor to the Roman empire?
We started with a question from Molly, who wanted to know if the EU considered itself to be a successor to the Roman Empire. Certainly, the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, has said in the past that he likes to “compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empire. We have the dimension of empire.”
However, Barroso also believes that, unlike the Roman Empire of old, the EU is a “non-imperial empire” that emphasises peaceful co-operation rather than force. It’s worth pointing out, though, that Barroso’s reference to “empire” generated a fair amount of raised eyebrows at the time… and it is not a comparison he has brought up since.
Still, we asked Belgian liberal MEP Philippe de Backer how he would respond:
2. How much does lobbying have an impact on the decisions of MEPs?
Next we had a question from Magnus asking what was the impact on lobbying on decisions taken by MEPs in the European Parliament. First, we put this question to Reinhard Bütikofer, a German MEP and the co-spokersperson for the European Greens:
It depends on which MEP you’re talking about. However, we know there have been examples where MEPs did the bidding of individual companies or industrial sectors. I remember that, two or three years ago, I saw a so-called “grey paper” where a major German company had put in writing the amendments they wanted to have voted in committee. And I just waited until the vote came up, and then it was interesting to see which MEPs had offered exactly the language that the company had proposed to them without acknowledging or making transparent that they were doing the bidding of this particular company. So, there is indeed a problem. And I think there should be new rules to make the whole business more transparent and to push back against lobbyists.
For example, I publish on my website regularly a complete list of lobbyists I have been talking to and I have been having appointments with, so voters and people who want to check on what I do can go there and have a look and see who I talk to and, if they want to, ask questions.
We also put the same question to Philippe de Backer to see how we would respond:
3. Should the EU help finance start-ups?
Finally, we had a question from Jonas, asking whether the EU should follow the lead of the US and provide greater support for start-up companies. Would that help encourage a European “Silicon valley”?