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”:
Well, 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?
I 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!