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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 other European countries here.

Our fourteenth debate is with students from the Kuldīgas Centra vidusskola, Latvia. We took their questions to Seán Kelly, an Irish MEP who sits with the  Centre-Right in the European Parliament; James Nicholson, an MEP from the UK who sits with the  Conservatives, and Margrete Auken, a Danish MEP who sits with the group of  Greens.

Take a look at their answers below, and see if they help give you a better idea who you want to vote for in our Debating Europe Vote 2014!

1. What qualities are necessary to become a leading European politician?

We started with a question from Ralfs, who wanted to know what sort of personal and professional qualities were needed to become a leading European politician. We got a video response from Seán Kelly, who said a prospective European leader needed to be convincing, engage properly with people, and also have “a bit of luck”:

We got a similar reply from Margrete Auken, who thought it was important for European politicians to feel truly “European”:

aukenWell, to be a “European” politician you have to really feel that you are a cosmopolitan. I call myself a Weltbürger – a “Citizen of the World”.

We have a responsibility to citizens not only in our own country, but across Europe and, as Europeans, also globally. And I think that if this feeling is deep in you and you see it not only a democratic honour but also as a burden and an obligation, then that’s the main quality needed.

Then, of course, it’s also very important that you are knowledgeable about current events, and that you are aware what’s going on; that you’re listening, reading papers, and following what’s happening. I don’t think you need a specific education, because normally it’s about personal qualities much more than specific education which makes a strong, leading politician.

2. What do you think about the EU’s reaction to the crisis in Ukraine?

The next question came from Toms, who was worried about the situation in Ukraine and wanted to know if Latvians can rely on the protection of the rest of the EU. What would Seán Kelly have to say?

We also took the same question to James Nicholson, to see how he would respond:

Finally, how would Margrete Auken react?

aukenI really hope that the Baltic countries are not under any threat, though I do understand their fear. I’m not entirely sure that the West has been smart in its dealings with Russia. It just seems a little bit arrogant that the whole position from the West is: “We are the good guys and you are the bad guys” – and I think that’s very provocative. So, I wish there was a little bit more understanding and awareness of that fact that there are failings on both sides.

I think the EU is doing as much as it can in the situation, because I think that threatening any kind of warfare would be extremely idiotic and dangerous, and I really hope that we will find a way to start a fruitful dialogue again. But, we also have to admit that it’s not only Russia that has committed violations of international law. You could also, with good reason, say that the immediate recognition of the new government in Kiev by the EU was probably not so clever, because it was not a lawful process we were following there. So, we have to be more aware of the risk of double standards and the risk of the EU and the rest of the West being too sure of themselves.

3. Why are living standards still so different between Eastern and Western Europe?

Finally, we had a question from Madara asking why, now that a decade has passed since the 2004 Eastern enlargement of the EU, living standards were still so different between Eastern and Western Europe.

We put this question to James Nicholson, who argued that there are historical reasons for the difference in living standards, and economic convergence takes time:

We had a similar response from Seán Kelly, who said it takes time for changes to occur and pointed to his own country, Ireland, as a good example of this:

What qualities are necessary to become a leading European politician? What do you think about the EU’s reaction to the crisis in Ukraine? Why are living standards still so different between Eastern and Western Europe? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions!

Vote 2014

Voting is closed in our Debating Europe Vote 2014! The results are now in, so come and see what our readers thought!



26 comments Post a commentComment

What do YOU think?

  1. Jaume Roqueta

    to not be a thief? to not be payed by huge companties with political interests? to be trustable? to have some defects… perfect people don’t exist!.

  2. Stephane Czajkowski

    Kidding? Those students want to party, get a good job, profit of the system and do not give a damn of Europe :) Yes indeed, they think it’s normal for them to get money from Europe while poor workers have no mobility :) An Europe drill them like that! The elite!

  3. eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    Eu luto por uma escola Europeia é muito importante que as novas gerações futuras da UE tenho uma matéria de formação profissional em muitas areas

  4. Raichin Rachev

    I am interested in your position concerning European Court of justice judgment C-314/12 UPC Telekabel Wien (Intellectual property) !
    According to me it opens the door to ACTA +

  5. Zoi Tzarta

    The differences are between Northern and Southern Europe … actually in ..all dimensions..

  6. Richard Osborne

    As an Aussie living in eastern Europe, I would say that the differences are because much of eastern Europe still has a feudal mentality which has created enormous differences between the elite and lower classes. The middle class (which the govt makes the most money from ) is small, so the lower class steals to live and the govt keep the workforce poor because they steal. A chicken and egg syndrome. However, poor people are also easier to control and hence easier to manipulate for the guys at the top. This keeps the big wigs at the very top in Lamborghinis and astons and the rest overextended on credit just to buy a Skoda.

    • Михаил

      I agree with you

  7. Nikolaos Sotirelis

    The top qualification to become a EU leader is to be easily corrupted.
    The living standards between North Europe and East and South Europe are different, because the N.E. steals them and lives parasit?c against them.

  8. Szymon Nowicki

    Because Ex Soviet Block, that’s why. When the western Europe has been pumped with money from Uncle Sam, we were pumped with Potatoes from Soviet Russia.

  9. Spyros Kouvoussis

    because the former soviet bloc is used as cheap labor for western industries and western workers are forced to compete with low-paidi, overworked workers in the East. It’s called “capitalism”.

  10. Christos Mouzeviris

    Szymon said it..and also, in order to join the EU or the euro-zone, many countries of the “Eastern Block” had to get loans to “better” their economies, from the EU or the…. IMF.. there you go.. we threw them to the loan sharks.. Also, because of poverty, corruption settled in.. It is natural. When resources and money are scarce, people will become corrupt out of need… With time I hope that Western Europe will allow these regions to become as rich and equal as themselves, if it wants stability and prosperity across the continent. Otherwise the project is doomed to fail.. You can not have a “united” Europe with so much inequality.. But that will mean redistribution of funds like CAP, industries and resources, to allow these countries to progress naturally, not with subsidies who are usually being misused by the corrupt elites..

  11. Ivan Bilokapić

    the western nations don’t even know what lucky they had, of never had to endure communism. besides all the difficulties in today’s western societies, it’s all a picknick compared to a life in a communist/socialist society.

  12. Ivan Bilokapić

    the western nations don’t even know what lucky they had, of never had to endure communism. besides all the difficulties in today’s western societies, it’s all a picknick compared to a life in a communist/socialist society.

  13. Stephane Czajkowski

    I am not communist but my cousins from Poland lived well under the communism. It began harder when the USA and Western Europe decided to destroy the USSR economy. It is well know for those who know history. Polish people seem to forget what has happened afterwards. Many Polish women had to come to Western Europe for selling their body and for survival. Local mafiosi tole their passports. In Belgium there are a lot of migrants from everywhere, and in general, they say that it is not better since they have entered Europe. Except in Poland, of course. It is quite strategical. Poland is the vitrine of Europe before Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. They want to show that everything is great in Europe, there is a lot of business between Poland and Germany, Slavic people are powerful together and Europe want to divide them. I know that the western manipulation is very powerful, but yet, it is hard to me to understand how some Polish people knowing that can be rejoicing of being in Europe while their sisters had to sell their body because of that western ideology. It seems to me that have sold their soul for money.

  14. Inês Beato

    I get pissed at some ignorant comments about south europe… We have more and more people under poverty line to the point people survive with 40 euros a month only and friends charity, while the cost of living remains high. We ARE on dire straights. And many of us have also suffered before, not through communism but fascist regime. This is not a competition to see who is poorer so don’t diminish the struggle of people here.
    East europe will be hurt by the EU eventually. You will need loans, you will adopt the euro and when your cost of living gets higher expect industry to move out to cheaper asia. I honestly hope you have better luck than we did and don’t have to go through a dying economy. We relied on the EU monetary support a lot and we didn’t use the money well, now we pay the price.

  15. Karel Van Isacker

    Since the EU/EC considers that a researcher in Bulgaria can only earn one tenth (!!!!!) of the wage of a UK researcher, then it is obvious where the core of the problem lies: the EU itself.

    • Tarquin Farquhar

      @Karel Van Isacker
      Would you please provide evidence of your claim as [if true] it would be a great ‘weapon’ in debating.

      Thank you

  16. Kalina Petkova

    I’m born in 1981 in Bulgaria and what I remember from ‘those years’ is that people had money but no commodities to buy. As a child I got my first jeans and Coca Cola. As a grown up person now I see a suffering country, the population’s incomes are low. However people have much more choice to buy, travel, supply is getting really huge on everything. But business is not going well because all industry was practically ruined after 1989 and now has to face EU competition. Yet lots of new businesses were found on EU grant.

  17. Stephane Czajkowski

    Unbelievably better than under communism? It depends on what period of communism you are talking about! Before the West began to destroy their economy or after? And yet, I wonder how citizens loving their brothers and sisters can be happy of seeing them starving because they cannot afford more expansive western products which have replaced their national products. Aren’t they sadists or what?

  18. Gatis Gailitis

    It has nothing to do with school system. If you go to Latvia and ask someone about national flag colours of different countries, they’ll be able to guess them right at least 7/10 as well as show the approximate location of them. Something so many struggle to do. They are not stupid. Just that Latvia isn’t really rich and they don’t have any resources. They don’t have much of anything worth a lot of money. The one thing Latvia should do is make people our resource. Follow Estonians and learn a lot of coding, IT and everything so that when we finish schools we have clear ideas, clear start and opportunities to work for international business people. Also start building renewable energy infrastructure. Absolutely necessary if we want to decrease our dependency from Russian resources.

  19. Roman Majcher

    I think that you guys exaggerate with these divisions a bit. Fair enough that western side of the EU is wealthier than eastern side of the EU, but when I read some of the comments, I have an impression that we are talking about the gap that no one will ever overcome. I think despite all the problems, and the gap between east and west is narrowing down. I think what is worrying is the widening gap between rich and poor within all of the countries in the EU. Soon, we will not be talking about wealthy West and poor East, but about wealthy few and overwhelmingly many poorer citizens – regardless of which part of the EU we are from.

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