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 sixteenth debate is with students from the Gimnazija Franca Miklošiča Ljutomer school in Slovenia. They had questions on hydraulic fracturing, access to clean water, long-term effects of GMOs, and youth unemployment. We took their questions to Gabriele Zimmer, chair of the GUE/NGL group in the European Parliament, Michael Theurer, a German MEP who sits with the ALDE group, Olle Schmidt, a Swedish MEP who also sits with the ALDE group, Catherine Stihler, a British MEP who sits with the S&D group, and László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, and Inclusion.
1. How is it possible that the EU allows the privatization of water sources?
The first question came from Sanja and was about the privatization of water sources in the EU. The right to access to save water was recently debated in a public hearing in the European Parliament, after the “Right2Water” citizens’ initiative received close to 1.9 million signatures.
We put Sanja’s question to Gabriele Zimmer; a German MEP and chair of the Radical Left GUE/NGL group in the European Parliament. She said that access to safe water and sanitation is a human right that has to be guaranteed, and that she wants the European Commission to be obliged to propose a concrete legal proposal disallowing the privatization of water.
Secondly, we had a question on youth unemployment from Helena. As many policymakers have different opinions about which solution is best to tackle youth unemployment, we put this question to three policymakers, all with different expertise. First, we spoke to László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.
In the video, Commissioner Andor explains how the “Youth Guarantee” programme aims to offer young people a good-quality job within four months of graduation in all EU countries. We then put the same question to Gabriele Zimmer. As a MEP with the Radical Left, how would she respond to Helena’s question?
Finally, we asked the question to Michael Theurer. As an MEP with the Liberal Democrats, how does he think we can best tackle youth unemployment in the long run?
The youth unemployment in some parts of the EU is much too high. Especially in countries affected by the worldwide economic and financial crisis, like Spain, Portugal, Greece but also Ireland and also Bulgaria and Hungary, youth unemployment numbers are far too high. But what can be done to overcome youth unemployment? First of all, we need to realize that unemployment cannot be overcome by state measures itself. The best way to create jobs is to develop products in the enterprises which can be sold on world markets. As the EU has an economy that is integrated in the global market, this means we have to increase our competitiveness. We are now completely relying on new inventions and innovations, but should focus on improving the technical capacity, technology transfer, the start-up of new firms. For young people we have to improve the opportunities to be better educated and have good access to university education. Focusing on improving the knowledge-based, innovation-oriented economy will lead to more jobs, and fight unemployment.
3. Where does the EU stand on fracking?
The third question was from Urh and is about hydraulic fracturing.
We took his question to Olle Schmidt, who sits with the Liberal Democrats in the Parliament. What will he say to Urh?
That is a tricky question. I have voted for very strict environmental measures; because we don’t know enough to allow it in Europe. In that sense, I voted against fracking and the use of shale gas. On the other hand, the energy prices in Europe are getting higher and higher, and you can see our energy dependence on Russia for gas and oil, while the prices in the US are actually decreasing. EU companies are now moving to the US. This means we have a sincere problem because we need to be competitive. I tend to be in favour of using safe and nuclear power, and that is of course also a very sensitive issue in Europe. I do believe we need a common energy policy in Europe and don’t have that at the moment. The relationship with Russia shows the sincere problems we have in Europe.
4. Why does the EU not ban GMOs until it is proven safe?
The fourth and final question came from Betka. She had a question on the EU’s position on banning genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs can be both plants and animals, whose genetic characteristics are being artificially modified. Although genetic modification of foods already happens for instance in the farming sector, the EU has been more careful introducing this technique in other sectors, due to safety issues and environmental concerns.
We put her question to Catherine Stihler, a Scottish MEP who sits with the S&D group in the European Parliament. How would she respond to Betka?
I thought we were very strict in GMO. The fact that we have to take a more precautionary approach compared to what happens in US where there is widely used GMO food. I thought we were doing some really good work, because it’s something the EU is concerned about the long-term impact. I do think that you have to keep the precautionary principle when it comes to GMOs and that is the right thing to do.
What do you think? What should be the long-term plan to improve the the new generation’s employment prospects? Do you think the EU should ban genetically modified foods? Should privatizing of water sources in the EU be possible? Leave your thoughts, questions and comments in the comments section below and we will take them to policymakers for their reaction!