Good afternoon, and welcome to Debating Europe’s liveblog of our event in partnership with Friends of Europe: “Healthcare in Times of Austerity”.
Today’s event will be focusing on the barriers that still exist to the successful implementation of immunisation programmes across Europe, as well as looking more generally at how Europe’s healthcare spending model can be re-shaped to boost prevention and reduce the social and economic costs of diseases (which was also the topic of our recent themed week on healthcare).
21:36 - Friday 27 June
And that’s all, folks! It looks like the “Battle for Berlaymont” is nearly over. Jean-Claude Juncker has officially been nominated by the European Council as the European Commission President designate. He must now pass a simple majority vote in the European Parliament. However, as Mr Juncker already has the public backing of both the socialists and the centre-right groups in the Parliament, this looks almost certain to pass.
You can read more on Juncker’s victory and what it means for the future of the EU here.
17:18 - Thursday 26 June
With that settled EU leaders will start horse-trading over who will get the other top EU jobs. Check out our infographic below to see what happens next!
11:36 - Tuesday 24 June
Geert Wilders, controversial leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, has admitted that he and Marine Le Pen have failed in their attempt to form a group in the European Parliament. Before the elections, Wilders and Le Pen of the French Front National had vowed to “destroy the monster of Brussels from within” by forming a pan-European alliance of eurosceptic and anti-immigration parties.
Divisions between anti-EU parties mean that a rival alliance, including Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party (UKIP) and Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement, has split the protest vote. Indeed, Farage and Grillo were only successful in forming a group because of a last-minute defector from the Front National. Likewise, Le Pen and Wilders have refused to sit with parties they consider too extreme, saying they don’t want to form a parliamentary group “at any price”.
Failure to form a group will deny Le Pen and Wilders the additional funding, staff and guaranteed speaking time granted to parties able to cobble together more than 25 MEPs from at least seven EU Member States. MEPs from the Front National and Dutch Freedom Party will now sit as “non-attached” members of the Parliament.
17:34 - Monday 23 June
Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council, has a difficult balancing act ahead of him. On Thursday, EU leaders will attend a ceremony in the Belgium city of Ypres to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. They will also be discussing the policy agenda for the EU over the next few years and the (likely) nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker as the next President of the European Commission.
Mr Van Rompuy’s difficult balancing act will be to try and smooth ruffled feathers and avoid letting a public row between European leaders overshadow the anniversary of the start of the “War to end all wars”. Making the task more complicated, British Prime Minister David Cameron has decided to force a vote in the European Council on the appointment of Mr Juncker (whom Mr Cameron rejects as “too federalist”). It is likely that the British Prime Minister will be outvoted, creating even more bad blood between the UK and other European Member States, and potentially hastening a British exit from the EU.
In addition to walking this tightrope, however, Mr Van Rompuy will also be juggling the competing demands of certain EU Member States (lead by Germany) for strict budgetary discipline with those of centre-left governments (lead by France and Italy) calling for greater flexibility.
Both Paris and Rome would like to see rules governing EU investment spending relaxed in order to kickstart economic growth, and Mr Van Rompuy is struggling to try and include wording in the Council’s conclusions that will allow all governments to claim victory.
But will it be enough to convince embattled French President François Hollande to support Juncker? We asked François Beaudonnet, a French journalist working as Brussels correspondent for France 2:
I think Hollande supports Juncker. It’s never easy to interpret, but I believe I understand that he supports him. What I think is that if neither Juncker nor any of the other four candidates are eventually designated as the next President of the European Commission, then we won’t have a turnout of 40% in the next European elections – but of 20%!
If Europeans were somewhat motivated to vote this time, it was because the election was personalised around those five names. The debates played a key role, all of this made European democracy more present. If now we tell the citizens who went to the polling stations: “Thanks, it was nice, but we, the heads of governments, the European elites, we’re going to do it our own way”, then next time citizens won’t vote at all. And then we will have a huge democracy issue, that’s clear.
16:00 - Friday 20 June
Earlier today, Germany’s main centre-left party (the SPD) announced it would accept a centre-right (CDU) German commissioner if Martin Schulz was re-elected President of the European Parliament. Previously, the German socialists had been pushing for Schulz to become Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for a major EU external relations portfolio – though support from Chancellor Angela Merkel seemed unlikely.
The EU’s socialist heads of state and government are meeting tomorrow in Paris to further negotiate the distribution of the EU’s top posts. The meeting will be attended by François Hollande from France, Matteo Renzi from Italy, Sigmar Gabriel (leader of the German Socialists), Martin Schulz, Werner Faymann from Austria, and Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo.
Meanwhile, newly-elected MEPs are struggling to form new political groups in the European Parliament.
The deadline of 24th of June is now less than one week away. Nigel Farage seems to have succeeded in putting together a Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group after a re-distribution of seats. According to the latest updates, the new EFD group now has 48 seats from seven EU member states, including one MEP from the Front National. The Danish People’s Party left the EFD in order to join the European Conservatives and Reformists group, and the Italian Lega Nord left to join the new group set up by Le Pen.
Earlier this week, the new far-right Eurosceptic group set up by Marine le Pen was joined by the Polish Kongres Nowej Prawicy (Congress of New Right). The new group now consists of six parties: the French Front National, the Dutch PVV, the Belgian Vlaams Belang, the Austrian FPÖ, the Italian Lega Nord and the Polish KNP. It has four more days to find one MEP from a seventh member state if it wants to meet the criteria for forming a political group.
17:35 - Wednesday 18 June
Martin Schulz has officially stepped down as President of the European Parliament. In the meantime, he will be replaced by acting president Gianni Pittella, an Italian socialist who is tipped to be a contender for the position permanently. Traditionally, the post has alternated between the centre-right and socialists according to an unwritten “gentlemen’s agreement”, so it should now be the turn of the centre-right EPP.
However, there was an attempt made in 2011 by the liberal ALDE group (as well as the conservative ECR) to shake up the contest – and who knows what might be possible with the Parliament feeling so flush with democratic legitimacy after the “spitzenkandidaten” process.
Reports suggest that Schulz, a German MEP, is angling for a top position within the new Juncker commission (assuming, as now seems likely, that Juncker will indeed get the nomination).
German Chancellor Angela Merkel won’t be thrilled by the prospect of putting forwards a socialist candidate as her country’s commissioner, so Schulz (who is temporarily serving again as leader of the socialist group in the European Parliament) is also rumoured to have a ‘plan B’.
If he is prevented from joining the new commission, there are reports that he might push to stay on as President of the European Parliament in return for his group’s backing for Juncker.
In other news, former British Prime Minister Sir John Major has intervened in the debate in the UK over the nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker as the next Commission President. Major is seen as “preparing the way” for a British defeat, but this is unlikely to make it any less bruising for David Cameron, who had staked a lot of Britain’s limited political capital in Europe on blocking Juncker at all costs.
17:43 - Tuesday 17 June
More bad new for David Cameron’s (increasingly lonely) campaign to block Juncker. The Financial Times is reporting that Angela Merkel “fears an extended fight” between the European Council and the European Parliament and is “pressing for a vote to override British objections as early as next week“. The German chancellor is concerned that, unless a new Commission President is appointed swiftly, institutional gridlock will paralyse EU decision-making and threaten Europe’s economic recovery.
Cameron has been trying to woo the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi over to his side, but reports now suggest this strategy could be in trouble. Renzi appears ready to accept Juncker’s bid in return for concessions on austerity.
15:37 - Friday 13 June
British Prime Minister David Cameron has launched his most direct attack yet on the candidacy of Jean-Claude Juncker for the next EU Commission President. Writing an open letter in several major European newspapers, Mr Cameron described as “nonsense” the argument that Juncker had a democratic mandate from voters, arguing that:
Most Europeans did not vote in the European Parliament elections. Turnout declined in the majority of member states. Those who voted did so to choose their MEP, not the commission president. Mr Juncker did not stand anywhere and was not elected by anyone.
Nevertheless, despite Britain’s best efforts, it is looking increasingly likely that Juncker will be named the next Commission President. Another blow was dealt to Mr Cameron after the two largest political groups in the parliament – the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the centre-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D) – publicly joined forces to back Juncker.
Further bad news came for Cameron when the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament – a group he himself brought into existence as an alternative to the “too federalist” EPP – voted to accept the German eurosceptic AfD party as members. Chancellor Merkel is reported to be furious with Cameron, who has “lost control” of the group he founded.
In a sign that Cameron may be grudgingly accepting a Juncker presidency, there are now reports that the British government is pushing for the purported future British Commissioner, Andrew Lansley, to be given a “cluster” of portfolios in the new Commission – including the internal market, competition and energy – in return for accepting Juncker for the top job.
14:41 - Thursday 12 June
With little official word yet on how the negotiations over the next EU Commission President are going, journalists are looking at any scrap of information that might offer a clue. Reuters’ Luke Baker recently reported that Juncker’s campaign manager has accepted a job in London, which could be a sign that things are going badly for Team Juncker. Or, as the Financial Times’ Peter Spiegel points out, it could mean nothing at all.
Jean-Claude Juncker is still clearly the bookies’ favourite to win, with a healthy lead over the other suggested candidates. However, there have also been rumours that EU leaders might push for a woman to take the top job at the Commission, with several names suggested, including IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.
But what does the world’s most powerful woman think? Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel doesn’t have a veto in the negotiations but – as leader of the EU’s most populous country – her vote in the European Council carries substantial weight that could help swing things one way or the other. We recently spoke to Matthias Krupa, EU Correspondent for the German newspaper Die Zeit, and asked him if he thought Merkel would ultimately back Juncker:
She is really in trouble. I can’t look into her mind or into her heart, but I have the suspicion that she is not really in favour of Juncker. However, she endorsed him as the candidate of the European People’s Party when he was nominated and now there seems to be no easy way out of this. So, it’s really a dilemma for her, and I wouldn’t bet one way or another.
But maybe I can put it this way: I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she tried to come up with an alternative candidate.
10:05 - Wednesday 11 June
Welcome to our liveblog covering the political battle over the next President of the European Commission! Before any candidate can claim the top office in the Berlaymont building in Brussels, he or she will first have to pass a (qualified majority) vote in the European Council and secure the backing of an absolute majority of MEPs in the European Parliament.
For the first time ever, the largest parties in the European Parliament each put forward candidates for Commission President ahead of the European Parliament elections in May, with the candidate for the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), Jean-Claude Juncker, claiming victory after his party secured the most votes.
But the negotiations look set to be long and bitter following reported threats by British Prime Minister David Cameron that he would no longer be able to guarantee continued British membership of the European Union if Juncker is elected EU Commission president.
French President Francois Hollande, as well as the Prime Ministers of Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden – Viktor Orbán, Mark Rutte and Fredrik Reinfeldt – have all either come out publicly against Juncker or are said to hold deep reservations over his candidacy. However, Cameron does not yet appear to have cobbled together a majority (or even a blocking minority) in the European Council, and many of the smaller EU Member States are rumoured to support the election of Juncker because they feel a more politicised Commission will act as a counterweight to the dominance of the big Member States in the European Council.
Another blow was dealt to Mr Cameron’s efforts this week following talks in Sweden with his German, Dutch and Swedish counterparts. German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters she still backs Juncker, and brought Cameron to task for his threats:
I made myself clear by saying that I am for Jean-Claude Juncker. But when I made that statement in Germany I also made the point that we act in a European spirit. We always do that because otherwise you would never reach a compromise… Thus we cannot just consign to the backburner the question of the European spirit. Threats are not part and parcel of that spirit. That is not part of the way in which we usually proceed.
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde has already ruled herself out of the running. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte flew to Dublin yesterday for talks with the Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny – also rumoured to be a possible contender for the job. However, there is strong cross-party support in the European Parliament for Juncker’s candidacy – not necessarily because they support him personally but rather because MEPs want to establish the precedent that support from voters – and not EU leaders – is the deciding factor in choosing the European Commission President.
Negotiations could drag on into the Autumn, so stay tuned to this liveblog in order to follow events.
11:46 - Monday 26 May
And that’s it for the liveblog! You can follow our analysis of the results here.
08:05 - Monday 26 May
Provisional results for the 2014 European Parliament elections are as follows:
Radical Left (GUE/NGL) – 5.73% (43 MEPs)
Social Democrats (S&D) – 24.77% (186 MEPs)
Greens (Greens/EFA) – 7.32% (55 MEPs)
Liberal Democrats (ALDE) – 9.32% (70 MEPs)
Centre-Right (EPP) – 28.23% (212 MEPs)
Conservatives (ECR) – 5.86% (44 MEPs)
Eurosceptics (EFD) – 4.79% (36 MEPs)
Non-Inscrits – 5.06% (38 MEPs)
Others – 8.92% (67 MEPs)
00:38 - Monday 26 May
The most recent estimation of the projected make-up of the groups in the 2014 European Parliament is as follows:
Radical Left (GUE/NGL) – 5.99% (45 MEPs)
Social Democrats (S&D) – 24.63% (185 MEPs)
Greens (Greens/EFA) – 7.32% (55 MEPs)
Liberal Democrats (ALDE) – 9.45% (71 MEPs)
Centre-Right (EPP) – 28.23% (212 MEPs)
Conservatives (ECR) – 5.33% (40 MEPs)
Eurosceptics (EFD) – 4.79% (36 MEPs)
Non-Inscrits – 5.33% (40 MEPs)
Others – 8.92% (67 MEPs)
23:51 - Sunday 25 May
Jean-Claude Juncker, the EPP candidate for EU Commission President, is claiming victory for the centre-right in the European Parliament elections. He told journalists at a press conference that: “Although we don’t know the exact results, we do know that the EPP will be seen as the party having won these elections. As we did win these elections, I feel fully entitled to become the next European President of the commission.”
He went on to say that the results represent a clear victory for pro-European forces, and that “unlike what’s being said in some parts of the media, the extreme right didn’t win the elections. In all countries, pro-European forces – if you add up the results of the liberals, the greens, etc. – clearly won the elections.”
22:55 - Sunday 25 May
The latest estimation of the projected make-up of the groups in the 2014 European Parliament has been published:
Radical Left (GUE/NGL) – 6.26% (47 MEPs)
Social Democrats (S&D) – 25.7% (193 MEPs)
Greens (Greens/EFA) – 7.72% (58 MEPs)
Liberal Democrats (ALDE) – 9.85% (74 MEPs)
Centre-Right (EPP) – 28.10% (211 MEPs)
Conservatives (ECR) – 5.19% (39 MEPs)
Eurosceptics (EFD) – 4.39% (33 MEPs)
Non-Inscrits – 5.33% (40 MEPs)
Others – 7.46% (56 MEPs)
22:11 - Sunday 25 May
The official turnout figures for the 2014 European Parliament elections have just been released. 43.11% of voters turned up to cast their ballot this time round, roughly the same as voted last time around in 2009 (43%). These elections saw the lowest recorded turnout in a single country in the history of European elections – with just 13% of Slovakians coming out to vote. Nevertheless, other countries saw an improvement in turnout – including Germany (47.9%, up from 43.27% in 2009), France (43.5%, up from 40.63%) and the UK (36%, up from 34.7%). There were fears that a lower result than 2009 would have brought the legitimacy of the elections into question.
21:57 - Sunday 25 May
More exit polls are being published for the EU’s “Super Sunday” European Parliament elections. In Denmark, the populist, anti-immigration Danish People’s Party is predicted to have topped the poll with 23.1%, with the ruling Social Democrat party in second place on 20.5% and the Liberal party in third with 17.2%.
Meanwhile, provisional exit polls from Poland suggest the governing pro-EU Civic Platform party has come first with 33% of the vote, with the opposition Law and Justice party in second place on 32%.
21:00 - Sunday 25 May
Exit polls suggest the Front National has won an unprecedented victory in the European Parliament elections in France. The anti-immigration, anti-EU party is predicted to have exceeded expectations and taken first place with 25% of the vote. The centre-right opposition UMP is predicted to be in second place at 21%, with the ruling Socialist Party of President François Hollande in third place with just 14%.
The results, if confirmed, will be seen as a humiliating defeat for Hollande, whose presidency is the most unpopular in decades. Turnout was higher than expected, at an estimated 41%.
20:31 - Sunday 25 May
Exit polls in Latvia suggest that the liberal-conservative party of Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma, the Unity party, has come in first in the EU elections with 31% of the vote. The pro-Russian Harmony Centre party is estimated to have come in second with 13%. Despite predictions that eurosceptics would do well in the polls, most of the votes went to pro-EU parties.
Following a worrying trend in many of the countries that have already voted, turnout was again low in Latvia at just over 30% – much less than the 53.7% who cast their ballot in 2009.
18:50 - Sunday 25 May
Preliminary figures from Malta suggest that the ruling Labour Party has come first in the European elections there with an absolute majority of 53%, compared to the opposition Nationalist Party’s 40%. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat called the results a “confirmation that the Labour movement is changing the landscape of politics in Malta.”
Similar to other countries, there seems to be a trend towards greater voter apathy in Malta. The official turnout was 74.81% – which is the lowest turnout ever in a European election in Malta and 4% lower than the previous elections in 2009.
14:29 - Sunday 25 May
Unofficial results from the European elections in Slovakia suggest that the governing Social Democrats will top the polls there with 25% of the vote, although this would deliver them one less MEP than they currently have. Slovakia has 13 seats in the European Parliament, with the estimates suggesting that four seats will go to the Social Democrats, two each to the centre-right Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and Slovak Democratic and Christian Union – Democratic Party (SDKU-DS). Five other parties (mostly from the centre-right) will also enter the Parliament with one MEP each.
Turnout in Slovakia reportedly fell to a record low of around 13%. If true, this could bring raise uncomfortable questions about the legitimacy of the elections in Slovakia and the mandate of the MEPs elected there.
10:43 - Sunday 25 May
EU citizens aren’t the only ones heading to the polls today. Presidential elections will be taking place in Ukraine on Sunday, following the toppling of the government of Viktor Yanukovych earlier this year. The constitutional powers of the President were reduced after the revolution, with greater power going to the parliament. Nevertheless, a great deal of international attention will be on Ukraine during the vote, and thousands of foreign observers will be monitoring the elections. Due to ongoing military operations in the east of Ukraine, there are doubts about whether the elections can be successfully held in all parts of the country.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he recognises the elections as legitimate and will work with whoever is elected to ease tensions between the two countries.
21:35 - Saturday 24 May
Exit polls suggest that Pro-European parties have done well in the Czech Republic. However, turnout in the country could be at an all-time low, with less than 20% of voters bothering to cast their vote. According to a survey by Dnes, the centre-right opposition party TOP 09 is leading the polls with 18% of the vote, just ahead of the governing social democratic CSSD party, which polled 17%. The exit poll also suggests that the protest party ANO 2011, founded by billionaire Andrej Babiš, took third place with 15.5%.
Turnout at European elections in the Czech Repbulic has been low since the country joined the EU in 2004 – with only around 28% of people voting in 2004 and 2009.
15:48 - Saturday 24 May
Could predictions of a Eurosceptic “earthquake” have been premature? Voting has closed in the UK and the Netherlands, two of the countries where Eurosceptic parties were tipped to lead in the polls. However, predictions that Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) would come first in the Netherlands have been upset by exit polls suggesting he will struggle into fourth place with only 12.2 percent of the vote.
In the UK, no exit polls for the European Parliament elections have been published. However, the results from local elections taking place at the same time have been released, and they suggest that the Eurosceptic share of the vote may have actually shrunk since last year. During local elections last year, UKIP’s result would have translated into 22% of the national equivalent share of the vote. Yet similar projections made by the BBC yesterday suggest UKIP’s share in a Britain-wide vote had dropped to 17%.
UKIP has still managed to shake up the results, and it looks like the era of two-party politics is definitely over, but it’s perhaps not quite the “earthquake” that was widely predicted (though we will have to wait until the UK’s European election results are published on Sunday evening / Monday morning to know for sure).
11:06 - Saturday 24 May
Exit polls in the European Parliament elections in Ireland suggest a “surge” in support for independent candidates. An exit poll for RTÉ gives Independents 28% of the vote, whilst the poll suggests support for the Labour Party – the junior partner in the governing coalition – has slumped from 19% in the 2011 General Election to just 6% in the European elections. Labour’s coalition partners, the centre-right Fine Gael party, have also seen support fall from 36% in 2011 to 22% in the European vote. The opposition Fianna Fáil party has seen an increase of 5% compared to 2011, with an estimated share of the vote of 22%, whilst Sinn Féin’s support has increased since the General Election from 10% to 17%.
Turnout in Ireland is predicted to be strong. In the last Europeans elections in 2009, turnout was a respectable 58 per cent, and forecasts suggest it could be close or even higher this time round.
17:00 - Friday 23 May
One of the common complaints against European Parliament elections is that they are not fought on “European” issues. Turnout is often low, and voters see them as a chance to punish the government (or, increasingly, to punish all politicians collectively). Although it’s true that national issues are again at the forefront this year, it’s also interesting to see some common issues emerging.
Tomorrow, it’s the turn of voters in Latvia, the Czech Republic, Malta and Slovakia to head to the polls. In Latvia, the vote is taking place in the shadow of the Ukraine crisis, and the EU’s relationship with Russia is an important issue. In Malta, immigration (including levels of support from other European countries) has long be a key issue, but more recently politicians have been fighting over the EU Commission’s decision to require Malta to reduce financial incentives for industrial investment.
Slovakia is something of an interesting case, in that public apathy toward the EU has tended to dominate there. Turnout in Slovakia was the lowest in the EU in the 2009 elections at only 19.64%, and polls indicate that it may fall even lower this time round.
14:47 - Friday 23 May
Is UKIP’s electoral performance in the UK being overhyped by the media? Quite a few people have been taking to Twitter to argue that the UKIP “surge” is being exaggerated, particularly as the anti-EU party is unlikely to take control of a single council. It’s true that, in terms of absolute numbers of councillors, UKIP is likely to remain in fourth place behind the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that only 1/3 of seats were up for grabs in most parts of the UK. Furthermore, a reasonable claim can now be made that – despite a first-past-the-post system – the new order in the United Kingdom is now four-party politics. And, of course, strong support for UKIP in the local elections could translate into even better results in the European Parliament elections.
One interesting twist is that the rise in support for UKIP comes at a time of waning public support for a British exit from the European Union. A YouGov survey of 6,000 people taken before voting began suggests 42% would vote to stay in the EU versus only 37% who would vote to leave.
12:51 - Friday 23 May
Voting is now under way in Ireland for European and local elections (as well as for two by-elections). Polling stations opened at 7am this morning and will close tonight at 10pm, but the results won’t be available until Sunday evening at the earliest. Vote watchers will be paying extra attention to weather reports today and over the weekend, as voters are more likely to stay away if they have to brave a downpour in order to exercise their democratic rights. However, there are clear-ish skies over Ireland today, so there’s no excuse not to vote. Oh, and apparently it’s not against the law to snap a selfie in an Irish voting booth, but the government recommends against it.
Two days of voting will also begin in the Czech Republic today at 14:00 (CET). Pundits will be watching closely to see how well the Czech protest party ANO 2011, founded by billionaire Andrej Babiš, ends up doing.
Turnout is also being followed closely for these elections, because a lower turnout than 2009 will have an impact on the legitimacy of the new European Parliament. In France, the Interior Ministry has even called for the extension of opening hours at polling stations to encourage more voters to go the polls.
10:54 - Friday 23 May
Results for the European elections in the UK won’t be published until at least Sunday evening, but the vote was held on the same day as local elections and the results for those are starting to come in.
Possibly giving an indication of what to expect on Sunday, the Eurosceptic, anti-immigration UK Independence Party (UKIP) have done even better than predicted. Although pundits suggested they could take around 80 local seats, they seem to be on course to win almost double that number.
The opposition Labour party has only made modest gains, suggesting that the UKIP surge has been hurting them as well as the Conservatives. The governing Conservative party and their coalition allies, the Liberal Democrats, have both been losing seats. There are likely to be calls from all the main parties to reassess how they have been responding to the threat from UKIP in light of these results, particularly with a general election due next year.
23:18 - Thursday 22 May
Voting has now closed in the UK and Netherlands. Though the official results for the European Parliament elections will only be announced on Sunday evening, exit polls in the Netherlands suggest there could be a surprise upset in store, with the Eurosceptic, anti-immigration party of Geert Wilders being pushed into fourth place behind the three mainstream pro-EU parties. Despite having been widely predicted to top the polls, Wilders’ Party for Freedom may have taken only 12.2% of the vote, down from the 17% it received in 2009.
There are fears that turnout in the Netherlands may have been even lower than the
36.9% 36.75% who voted in 2009, which would make a poor result for Wilders even more surprising as mainstream parties tend to do worse with a low turnout.
19:36 - Thursday 22 May
Still having difficulty deciding who to vote for? Check out our profiles of the European party manifestos, as well as a look at the different candidates put forward for the next President of the European Commission (and, if you STILL haven’t decided after all that, check out some video interviews we recorded with the candidates).
18:10 - Thursday 22 May
17:51 - Thursday 22 May
Also from Twitter, it seems that voter turnout in the Netherlands could be even lower than 2009.
15:12 - Thursday 22 May
It looks like provisional results in the Netherlands will be published tonight at 10pm. This is despite the European Commission warning against early publication of results.
Also, Dutch media are reporting that voter turnout in the Netherlands is roughly the same as it was in 2009 around this time of day. Dutch voter turnout in 2009 was only
36.9% 36.75%, so not great. Still, it was better than in 1999 when only 30.02% of eligible voters took part in the European elections. The highest turnout for a European Parliament elections in the Netherlands was the first vote, in 1979, at 58.12%.
14:46 - Thursday 22 May
Are you voting in the Netherlands today? A Dutch court has ruled that voters are legally entitled to take “selfies” in voting booths with their completed ballots. The Dutch Interior Ministry is recommending people don’t partake in the self-portrait craze, but say they can’t prevent anybody from doing so.
Voters in the UK, however, are to be prevented from taking selfies by staff at polling stations (the British Electoral Commission fears that voting secrecy could be endangered – and anybody revealing someone else’s vote could face a £5,000 fine or six months jail).
Studies do suggest that people are much more likely to vote if they see their friends voting, so it’s not a completely trivial issue. Still, best to consult with staff at the polling station before you say cheese!
13:28 - Thursday 22 May
And, we’re off! Each country in the EU has its own electoral laws that determine exactly which day citizens will be voting during the four-day election period from 22 to 25 May. Voting begins today in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands; tomorrow it’s the turn of citizens in Ireland and the Czech Republic; Saturday is the Czech Republic (again), Latvia, Malta, Slovakia and the French Overseas Territories. Everybody else goes to the polls on Sunday.
The results will be announced on the evening of Sunday 25 May
17:26 - Monday 3 March
Oh dear… Not a great result in the final audience question today. They are asked again: Do you feel your voice is heard by the European Union?
Yes – 30%
No – 66%
Don’t know – 4%
This means that the audience has gone from 45% believing their voice is heard by the EU (versus 41% not), to a majority believing that their voice is ignored. It looks like the majority of those who voted “Don’t know” at the beginning of the session have come away with a bad impression.
17:22 - Monday 3 March
The audience is asked another question: Will you vote at the European elections in May 2014?
Yes – 69%
No – 23%
Don’t know – 8%
The Commissioner says this is a good result, and he hopes this means that the upcoming elections will have a higher turnout than the previous European elections held in Croatia, when the turnout was only 21% – among the lowest in the history of the European elections!
17:09 - Monday 3 March
A question from the audience about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently being negotiated between the EU and the US. The questioner asks how the European Commission plans to protect the high level of consumer protection standards in the EU compared to the US.
The Commissioner argues that there are huge potential benefits for both sides of the Atlantic in a deal, but says that Europe is not ready to decrease its level of protection in order to get benefits in trade. He adds that, personally, he would like to see more transparency in the negotiations, including greater involvement of consumer NGOs at the European level.
17:02 - Monday 3 March
An interesting poll result. The audience are asked: Do you consider your consumer rights are better protected now that Croatia is part of the EU?
Yes – 26%
No – 63%
Don’t know – 12%
Neven Mimica, the European Commissioner for Consumer Protection, responds:
Since this is an area that I am directly competent for in the EU, I would like to comment. Yes, it is quite obvious that you are confirming what has already been suggested in many surveys; that Croatia, in relation to consumer protection, is usually placed third from last in the EU. According to these surveys, Croatian consumers do not have sufficient information about their rights, they don’t know about these rights and don’t trust the institutions that are supposed to help them in protecting these rights.
In other words: citizens don’t trust the market, don’t trust manufacturers, don’t trust companies and don’t know what to do to protect their rights… We are going to initiate an information campaign for Croatian citizens, starting from the Autumn, and we hope that Croatia is going to overcome this situation of mistrust.
Mimica also suggests that this high level of mistrust might have something to do with Croatia’s history as a socialist economy, “Where the market and consumers did not mean anything”.
16:47 - Monday 3 March
More complaints about the justice system in Croatia. Petitioners are bringing their cases to Commissioner Mimica, and the Commissioner (not being aware of the individual details of each case) is doing his best to refer them to his office.
16:43 - Monday 3 March
Several questions have come in complaining about the functioning of the justice system in Croatia, particularly about the length of time it takes for a court case to be resolved. The Commissioner argues that it is important to improve the justice system in Croatia, rather than see the EU courts as a replacement:
In general, citizens shouldn’t have to look for justice in Strasbourg, Luxembourg or Brussels. European citizens should get justice in their village.
16:33 - Monday 3 March
The Commissioner is asked what the EU is doing to improve the economic situation in Europe. He answers that the EU cannot dictate economic policy in the Member States, but rather “There is better or worse coordination. There is more or less energy invested in coordination.”
He says that the EU could help to improve employment and the economy in Europe by making sure that coordination between Member States is as strong as possible.
16:30 - Monday 3 March
A question from Twitter now, asking what the Commissioner would say to all the eurosceptics out there. He answers:
In better times, there were fewer people who were against EU unity. I think that the [economic crisis] has created more euroscepticism in Europe. And I think a large part of these economic and social problems that were created in the crisis are attributed to the EU. Sometimes this is justified, sometimes this is not. My message to eurosceptics is [that] it would be better to invest the energy which they put into criticism of Europe into trying to formulate new proposals, new models, new viisons to improve the functioning of the European Union.
16:24 - Monday 3 March
An interesting question from the audience now. A young man stands up and says 8 of his friends left Croatia recently looking for jobs. He thinks this would be fine, except these young people did not leave for other EU Member States; they went to Australia and Canada. The questioner says young people in Croatia don’t have any prospects in Europe, and he asks what the EU is doing about this.
Commissioner Mimica says the economic crisis existed before Croatia’s EU membership, and it will continue for a while during our membership. But he argues that Croatians should see EU membership as “our path for recovery from the crisis”.
16:19 - Monday 3 March
As the newest EU Member State, it’s interesting to see what the audience thinks about further EU enlargement. They are asked whether they think Croatia will be able to help its neighbours in the Western Balkans also to join the EU:
Yes – 41%
No – 40%
Don’t know – 18%
16:14 - Monday 3 March
Commissioner Mimica is asked a question from Facebook, asking When will the economic standards of Croatia be at the same rank as Austria, Germany or Denmark? And how is the EU going to help things get better?
The Commissioner responds:
This is something that we’re all interested in. Well, this question was probably on the agenda and was probably also asked by the citizens of Austria, Germany and Denmark when THEY joined the EU. Because the expectations of a new European Community were always high. Citizens were always asking when will things get better? How will this community help me resolve my personal problems? But it took about 60 years for the first member states to really feel the advantages that membership in the European community had in relation to the possible development of member states.
Will Croatia also have to wait 60 years? Not sure how that would go down with the audience. Luckily, the Commissioner continues:
I would not say that Croatia needs 60 years… but I’m sure that we will need more time than the 8 months that we have been members of the EU up till now.
16:07 - Monday 3 March
And, we’re off!
Croatia has been a member of the EU for 8 months now. As an introductory question, the audience today is being asked: Do you consider your voice is heard in Europe?
Yes – 45%
No – 41%
Don’t know – 14%
17:09 - Monday 10 February
That’s all, folks! But stay tuned because later in the week we’ll be looking in more detail at some of the issues and topics raised today.
17:05 - Monday 10 February
Reding responds to that question on Amazon and tax:
Taxation is in the hands of the Member States… If you see that your neighbour, or a company, is not giving their fair share, then you become upset, and justifiably so. And I believe that we should find ways to close these shocking holes, where very big companies end up paying taxes nowhere. They do this legally, by the way. So let’s make this illegal. I am not a believer in high taxes, but I am a believer in low taxes that EVERYBODY pays.
17:04 - Monday 10 February
Reding is asked a question about promoting young women in the high-tech centre. Reding (who has previously proposed gender quotas in board rooms across the EU) says that she heard somebody say that when they look at the government, they see a line of grey suits (that “someone” was Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition). But she goes on to say that whenever she looks at ANY Member State government, she sees a “line of grey suits”.
Reding argues “[Women] should have a greater say in political decision making. We find ourselves next to nowhere when it comes to economic decision making.”
16:57 - Monday 10 February
Big applause for a question from the audience asking whether the EU or British government are planning to do anything about the “nnegligible sums of tax that Amazon pay.”
This will be an interesting question for Viviane Reding, as Amazon is accused of using Luxembourg (her home country) as a way to avoid UK tax.
16:47 - Monday 10 February
A couple of euro-critical questions coming from the audience now. One man at the back argues that British politicians are too afraid to speak up about EU matters, adding that “There are a lot of MPs who have views they are not willing to express.”
I’m sure David Cameron wishes some of his MPs would express their views rather less.
Also, a man very politely but very forcefully argues that immigration from the EU has been disastrous for the British economy.
David Lidington responds:
I think that there’s no doubt there is very widespread public concern about immigration in this country. Now, that is not solely a consequence of migration from other countries in the EU. If you look at the figures, roughly 50% are coming from countries outside the EU… but there’s no doubt that people have seen a significant population growth in the last few years – 2.2 million is one estimate I’ve seen. That has put pressure on things like housing supply. It is part, not the only reason, for the arguments about housing and planning in South-East England. It’s put pressure in certain places, not everywhere, on schools – with schools having to cope with significantly more people whose home language is not English.
[However], it is a fact that the majority of people coming from elsewhere in the EU are people working, paying taxes and contributing. One of the problems we as a government are faced with – when we talk to our hotel industry, horticultural industry, there are saying we have to have these people. That is why the present government have given such priority to reform of welfare so people do not have an easy choice of going onto welfare, even if it’s not the first choice of work they would have, and why we’ve put a focus on education reform…
16:34 - Monday 10 February
David Lidington responds:
Ultimately, it’s up for citizens to decide what sources of information they want to access. They can choose to take a paper that takes a very hostile attitude to the EU, or they can read George’s paper [the Financial Times] that has a much more sympathetic attitude towards the EU…
He also argues that there is a long-term problem with European Parliament elections:
You have elections that, let’s be frank, tend to turn on how hard people want to kick their national government. So, it’s 28 national elections… It’s one reason why I don’t believe the answer to the democratic deficit in Europe is to give more powers to Europe.
16:29 - Monday 10 February
An audience member (also very pro-EU) stands up to point out that most people in the UK (“unlike this audience”) don’t care much about the EU.
Reding agrees, and responds:
The British have a great tradition of debate, but I really wonder why you don’t exercise this tradition of debate on European affairs. You are on the verge of taking very important decisions. About what? Do the people being asked to vote know what they are being asked to vote about?
16:22 - Monday 10 February
The Chair of the Young European Movement is now standing up and complaining that the links don’t work on the European Commission’s website.
16:19 - Monday 10 February
Defying expectations, this is looking like an audience that is much more hostile to David Lidington than it is to Viviane Reding.
Attempting to get a “broad range” of questions, the moderator returns to an earlier audience member who had asked the event’s only “eurosceptic” question today.
16:12 - Monday 10 February
Reding is asked a sensitive question on human rights in the EU:
This continent is built not only on the market. It is built on values. It is built on democracy. And one of these values is the independence of the courts. It is freedom of the press…
Now, I always thought, wrongly so, that these values were firmly anchored in our democracies. And we have seen several times that this is not the case. Remember Hungary, where the independence of judges was eliminated. Remember Romania, where the constitutional court was eliminated…
But, that was management by panic. And that is the reason why, also after a long discussion with the European Parliament, we will ask for the power […] to intervene when something is going wrong and not only when something has gone wrong. Now, in the European treaties, the only way to intervene in such a case is to remove the voting rights of the Member State – that is to put a Member State out of the EU. I consider that the atomic bomb, and I think there should be measures before the atomic bomb.
David Lidington responds:
I can understand the argument that Viviane is putting forwards. [That] there is no option other than the nuclear option. But I do worry about the EU possibly trespassing onto new territory when there are specialist human rights organisations like the Venice Commission that are already doing an effective job, and how you draw the line between what might be an outrageous attempt to subvert the rule of law on the one hand, and on the other the right that any democracy has to arrange its constitutional arrangement after a free and fair election…
16:01 - Monday 10 February
A rather technical question on voting rights for David Lidington, which he seems to handle well.
What is striking, though, is that most of the questions today have been very positive towards the EU. As one of the earlier questioners put it: “I’m glad you’ve reserved so many seats for the eurosceptics, it’s a shame they didn’t show up.”
15:54 - Monday 10 February
David Lidington shows he means business by leaving his chair and walking around the stage with Reding. Will George Parker, the moderator, also be pursuaded to stand up and join them?
15:49 - Monday 10 February
The first hostile question from the audience now, with a man standing up and asking Commissioner Reding what she is doing to cut regulation for SMEs because, as the questioner says: “All I see is a constant stream of new directives, new burdens and new costs.”
We have eliminated 5600 European laws. Between 2007 and 2012, the weight of European regulations has gone down by 26%. So, that is what we have done… Many of the rules are harmonisation rules that actually eliminate red tape… For example, I have put on the table lately new rules on data protection. Because now we have 28 conflicting laws, and if you are an SME of Great Britain and you want to utilise the internal market, you have to abide by 28 different laws and I think we should do away with that. One continent, one rule, one regulator. This is a saving for SMEs of 2.8 billion euros.
She adds that the biggest generator of red tape is actually the Member State governments. Not sure how successful “One continent, one rule, one regulator” would be as a campaign slogan, though.
15:39 - Monday 10 February
A lengthy question from the audience asking about Britain euroscepticism and the UK government’s attempt to renegotiate powers back from Brussels.
David Lidington is asked, in this context, if he sees the value of European citizenship. He responds:
I don’t believe there is a European demos at the moment. Certainly, there are certain rights and benefits that accrue to people across all 28 Member States, and I went to [Ukraine] and I saw the EU flags there, and I noticed the contrast with London. And I’ve also been struck, going around the Balkans, that the EU represents a magnet and a beacon precisely because of its values, which have provided us with a way of institutionalising rule of law and human rights.
However, he adds that:
“What I would ask though, in return, is that everyone in the EU recognises the need for diversity, the need for national difference; that some countries want to move towards closer political integration and some don’t… I think the reality is that the EU flag is not seen in this country as a great badge [and] I do think flag-flying should be a matter of personal choice and preference derived from a genuine sense of pride… I don’t think if you try to impose it from London or Brussels it will work.”
15:27 - Monday 10 February
Interesting first question from the audience, asking if the EU is going to move away from “growth at all costs” and towards different ways of measuring progress.
Reding sidesteps the question and argues that if you want to solve a crisis you “cannot intellectually think about new models, you just have to do it.”
Instead, Reding says that the economist Nouriel Roubini predicted two years ago at Davos that Greece would leave the EU and the euro was finished. This year, she says, Roubini hasn’t repeated his prediction because she thinks he was embarrassed to be wrong.
Summing thing up, she adds that only after the crisis is solved can we start thinking about a “happy continent where happiness is measured.”
15:20 - Monday 10 February
The audience is asked to vote on the question: “Do you feel your voice is heard?”
Disagree – 44%
Agree – 34%
Don’t know – 22%
That’s a big result for “Don’t know”!
15:18 - Monday 10 February
David Lidington, the British Europe Minister, is setting out the ways in which his government would like to reform the EU. He says he would like to see more free trade deals and a “cutting of the cost and complexity of regulation” – but also he wants to see a more democratic EU with a stronger voice given to Member States and national governments.
15:11 - Monday 10 February
George Parker is setting high expectations today! He says the EU debate is perhaps nowhere as “ferocious” as it is in the UK, and that he hopes for a robust event, but asks: “Let’s try and keep it a polite debate”.
15:09 - Monday 10 February
Aaaaand we’re off! The moderator (George Parker, Political Editor of the Financial Times) is introducing the event, explaining that the EU stands at “something of a political crossroads” with the European elections coming up.
15:04 - Monday 10 February
Looks like they audience is starting to fill the room and they’re getting ready to start today’s Citizens’ Dialogue in London with Viviane Reding. Given the long-standing friction between the EU and the UK, it has the potential to be a tough audience for Reding today.
19:20 - Thursday 7 November
And that’s all, folks! Stay tuned, because we’ll be looking at some of the issues raised tonight in greater detail next week.
19:18 - Thursday 7 November
A final question for the audience (a repeate of the first question from the beginning of the debate): Do you feel your voice is heard by the EU?
Yes – 59%
No – 34.3%
The moderator: “It has gone down! Either we have not convinced them, or else, during the debate, more people have come into the room.”
19:12 - Thursday 7 November
A man in the audience asks about Commissioner Borg about taxation in the EU. He responds:
To have a tax which applies to everyone in Europe, we have to have the consensus of everyone. The clear example is with the Financial Transactions Tax (FTT). We did not have the consensus of everyone. Four countries – including Malta and the UK – these countries said ‘thank you, but no thank you’. We did not want it to apply. However, after the Lisbon Treaty, there is the possibility for enhanced cooperation. Those countries that want to go ahead with these measures can go ahead.
Now, we have the problem that those countries that go ahead, their actions might negatively effect those that do not agree. So, there is a discussion, mainly pushed by the UK, about whether they are respecting the treaties.
19:02 - Thursday 7 November
A tricky question for Commissioner Borg about reforming health systems in Europe.
Financial discipline is very important so that the social system does not collapse. Because, if debt levels continues to increase, we will not have enough money for the health sector. And how can we not reform the health sector when we know of the demographic challenges we will face? We know that, by 2020, the number of people over the age of 65 years of age will double. When we introduced pensions and put the pension age at 61, the life-expectancy of an average man was 60. Now it’s 77. So, reforms are necessary.
18:56 - Thursday 7 November
Apologies – we’re having some problems with the ordering of posts in the liveblog today, but it should be resolved from now on!
18:54 - Thursday 7 November
The audience is asked: Do you feel that Europe reflects the expectations of its citizens?
Yes – 46.3%
No – 40.7%
The audience is much less optimistic on this question.
18:48 - Thursday 7 November
To his credit, Commissioner Borg doesn’t dodge the question on animal welfare:
On animal welfare, this has become very important in the EU. The first thing I did when I was appointed Commissioner was that I confirmed the prohibition of testing on animals for cosmetics. If someone would like to test perfumes, it should not cause hardship for animals.
Now, the EU only has competency over animal welfare when it is related to food and food production, or when animals are used for commercial practices or transported within the EU…
On how a country treats stray dogs – and I’m referring to an ongoing controversy in one of the EU member states [Romania] – this is the responsibility of the national government.
18:47 - Thursday 7 November
Commissioner Borg has again turned to the question of immigration, which is a controversial topic in Malta. He says:
This issue is not strictly linked to the European Union. Whether we belong to the European Union or not, immigrants will want to come to Malta, Sicily and Lampedusa because we are between North Africa and Europe. But the question we should ask ourselves is: is it better to be in the European Union and get some support from our neighbours? We recieved 84 million euros from the EU to support our immigration centres. If we were not in the EU, we would have to spend that money anyway, but thankfully we are in the European Union so were given funds.
18:41 - Thursday 7 November
Commissioner Borg has (possibly wisely) decided to focus on a question on the economy from another member of the audience. He says the EU has been unfairly blamed for the crisis, which originally began outside of Europe and was exacerbated by irresponsible spending by national governments:
When you spend, spend, spend without taking care of the income, you are going to have problems.
18:39 - Thursday 7 November
Another question for the audience: Do you want a closer political union?
Yes – 71.3%
No – 19.4%
18:38 - Thursday 7 November
A woman stands up to ask a question about animal abuse in Eastern Europe, which she believes is psychologically damaging Eastern European children, who then grow into adults and travel to Malta where they might threaten the local population. She wants to know if there’s anything that can be done by the EU to stop this.
Good luck to Commissioner Borg with this one.
18:38 - Thursday 7 November
The “hot potato” of GMOs has come up again, with a woman holding up a photograph showing mice with (presumably cancerous?) growths on their body.
Commissioner Borg stands by his earlier answer:
If a product contains more than 0.9% GMO (which is practically everything) then it has to be labelled as such inside the European Union. This gives the consumer information… We have to base our decisions not on emotion, but on scientific opinion.
18:33 - Thursday 7 November
The audience is asked if they see the benefits of the EU, and fully 75% vote “Yes”. Again, this is higher than other audiences that have been asked to vote on the same question.
18:31 - Thursday 7 November
A question from a woman in the audience now about the Maltese language. She is unhappy that, since 2012, English has been the only working language used in universities in Malta.
Commissioner Borg responds:
First of all, we should be proud that we have a very nice language and it is an official language of the EU… But we cannot impose anything on universities as the EU… With education and language matters, there is the principle of subsidiarity. The EU is not there to solve all the problems of all the countries of all the member states, so some things are still in the power of the member states, and the universities have their own power as well.
18:24 - Thursday 7 November
The Commissioner is now responding to a question on GMO foods. He says:
Those EU Member States that do not want the cultivation of GMOs, they have the right to prohibit it. Still, we already import GMO foods from outside Europe, as there is no problem regarding this issue in America… But we in the Commission agree that food should be labelled to say this is GMO.
18:20 - Thursday 7 November
The audience in Malta has been asked if they feel their voice is heard within the EU. Interestingly, a significant majority feel that their voice IS heard by the EU.
Yes – 67.7%
No – 21%
That’s much higher than most audiences that have been surveyed in different EU member states during these debates.
18:19 - Thursday 7 November
And the controversial question of immigration has already been raised by Commissioner Borg in his opening remarks. He accepts there is popular frustration at the EU, but argues that there is not a general awareness of how the EU works and which institutions have which responsibilities:
When we speak about immigration, it’s always the Commission’s fault but it depends more on the Council. So, we have to distinguish between the various institutions that make up the EU.
18:13 - Thursday 7 November
Another question from the audience: Do you agree that Europe will come out of the economic crisis stronger?
Yes – 44.3%
No – 34%
Don’t know – 21.7%
18:11 - Thursday 7 November
And, we’re off! Today’s Citizens’ Dialogue will be taking place in Malta with Commissioner Tonio Borg.
While the moderator is warming up the crowd, you can read our interview with the then-Prime Minister of Malta from last year.
18:10 - Thursday 7 November
Commissioner Borg responds to a question on LGBT rights. He says:
Yesterday, I was in an LGBTI meeting, and the Commission was congratulated because of two things we are currently working on. First of all, when homosexual men give blood, we support that instead of the hospital asking them whether they are homosexual, all people should instead be asked whether their sexual activity puts them at risk.
Second, regarding transgender people, this shouldn’t be included in the mental disorder list. I’m trying to make sure that none of the EU Member States consider transgender people to have a mental disorder.
18:01 - Thursday 7 November
A woman from the audience stands up to ask about the economy and social protection:
[President of the European Council] Herman Van Rompuy has repeatedly emphasised the “social values” of the EU. However, we know that Europe needs to be competitive with China, India and the US, and these countries do not really care about social values… So how can we maintain the EU’s social values?
18:54 - Thursday 17 October
And, that’s all folks! But stay tuned to Debating Europe, because we’ll be looking at some of the issues raised today in greater detail over the coming days.
18:49 - Thursday 17 October
Barroso says next year will be the 100-year anniversary of the First World War, which affected Belgium greatly. The war, however, began in the Balkans – and Barroso believes this underlines the fact you cannot turn inwards and ignore the world around you.
18:41 - Thursday 17 October
The audience is being asked the last question of the evening: “Do we have to reinforce the European Union by creating a political union?”
And the response comes back as a massive majority in favour of political union.
18:39 - Thursday 17 October
An interesting question from the audience:
Should the summits of the EU heads of states be filmed, so that everybody can see everything that is happening?
Barroso explains why he thinks this would be a bad idea:
I was Minister of Foreign Affairs in Portugal in 1992 and, for the first time, we decided to introduce transparency by allowing cameras into the Council. And we were all very formal, and everybody spoke only for the television cameras for his or her country; and they all conveyed the national message. Then, only when the television cameras had left the room, we started the negotiation.
So, we need a space for negotiation. If the negotiation is public, everybody will be very strong – stronger than the others – but, as in a national government, as in any sort of negotiation, we need to have a certain space for compromise. Not a hidden space, but a discrete space.
18:34 - Thursday 17 October
Didier Reynders, the Belgian Minister for European Affairs, is now talking about the future of Europe:
We have to have a real debate. We need, after the European elections, to look at the treaties again. It’s not going to be easy, but one day we have to give the European Commission the role of a real government, and have the Council of Ministers act as a representation of the member states. But we have to defend the idea of a federal Europe.
18:30 - Thursday 17 October
The moderator attempts to introduce a brief video interlude. The video screams, stutters, and jerks onto the screen – “Shining Stars of Europe” reads the title – and then it just hangs there, frozen.
Not missing a beat, the moderator moves to the next item on the agenda:
I think that we have a few technical problems tonight.
18:26 - Thursday 17 October
Another tough question for Barroso, this one about protectionism and international trade:
You talk about rules within Europe for trade. We have environmental rules, we have social rules that are being implemented for all products, and this is very nice. But you do not see these rules elsewhere. And yet you want to open up this internal market to the United States whilst they do not have these same rules.
Barroso responds, seeming slightly on the defensive:
We do not want to decrease standards in terms of environmental standards or protection of the workers… It is a big thing to have this treaty with the Americans… In the US, there are a lot of non-tariff obstacles that we want to remove. And this is a splendid opportunity for Europe.
18:16 - Thursday 17 October
Barroso is asked why a citizen of Liège can go shopping across the border in Aachen and find that VAT is different on goods in Germany. He responds that this is not (currently) a matter for the EU:
It’s a national competence, and we need unanimity [between EU governments] for tax issues. The EU is not the United States, and even in the US each state has a different tax policy.
18:10 - Thursday 17 October
One angry member of the audience has just hurled an egg at the stage. The man is escorted from the room, and a joke is made about not being able to make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.
18:05 - Thursday 17 October
A Belgian Socialist MEP, Véronique De Keyser, has stood up in the audience and accused the Commission of promoting devastating austerity measures in Cyprus, Greece and other countries that are already “choking” because of the crisis.
You think we are interested in creating more suffering for our Greek and Cypriot friends? But all the adjustment programmes, whether in Greece, Cyprus, or in my country, Portugal, are implemented with the amounts put at our disposal [by the EU member state governments]. If we had more money, we could have had a correction of the debt which was more flexible.
18:00 - Thursday 17 October
An optimistic audience in the room today. They are asked “Will Europe emerge from the crisis stronger?”, and a slight majority have chosen to vote in the affirmative.
17:49 - Thursday 17 October
Barroso is asked if Europe has learned the lessons of the crisis.
Yes. The proof is that we have created instruments [to prevent a repeat of what happened]. Today, investments are coming back to Europe. It’s because Europe, with a lot of sacrifice, obtained again the confidence of investors. Now, if [another financial crisis] happened again, would we be protected? Yes. It would be much better.
17:46 - Thursday 17 October
A tough question from a woman in the audience:
I am worried, because I see how the steel industry in Liege is collapsing. What can Europe do to avoid the collapse of the steel industry?
We are presenting a plan to the member states for the steel industry, and it is a detailed and multi-part plan. The main problem is we have a decrease in demand in Europe, which is why we launched a plan – Car 2020 – to help the car industry, for example, and a plan for the housing sector, because there is a problem of lack of construction… But, of course, the competitive environment has changed. So, we have to look at dumping, and the Commission is willing to use all the tools at our disposal to protect the Internal Market.
This is an interesting statement coming from Barroso, who has traditionally been seen as being strongly anti-protectionist.
17:36 - Thursday 17 October
Barroso complains that the successes of the EU often go unrecognised:
Very often, Europe is a scapegoat for problems that occur at the national level. When things go well, the member states take the credit, and when things go wrong, the mistake is blamed on Europe.
17:34 - Thursday 17 October
Barroso is talking about EU structural and cohesion funds. He says that some countries, particularly poorer countries within the EU, want these funds to be spent only in poorer countries. Barroso, however, says he has fought to keep European structural funds for all member states, so that wealthier countries like Belgium can also benefit from them.
17:27 - Thursday 17 October
The audience is being asked to vote on whether they think their voice is being heard in Europe. A huge majority says “No”, they don’t think their voice is heard (and you can see our recent post on this question for more).
17:20 - Thursday 17 October
Ok, music aside, the debate is beginning. The moderator is now outlining the structure of the debate that will take place today with the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso.
17:17 - Thursday 17 October
Who is in charge of the music today? Quentin Tarantino?
16:55 - Thursday 17 October
Now I’m getting a bit of a trip-hop / early ’00s coffee bar vibe.
16:53 - Thursday 17 October
Nice bit of acid jazz playing in the background of the livestream while we wait for the show to kick off…
14:59 - Tuesday 15 October
And that’s all, folks! But stay tuned to Debating Europe, because we’ll be following up on many of the issues raised today in greater detail over the coming days.
14:50 - Tuesday 15 October
Another question for the audience: “Should the President of the European Commission be elected?”
Yes – 53%
No – 47%
Reding says this is, in fact, an unusual response because most of the people asked during these Citizens’ Dialogues have typically had a large majority supporting direct election of the Commission President.
14:46 - Tuesday 15 October
A man in the audience is asking a somewhat wonkish question about the “gold plating” of legislation. Should the EU set a minimum level of protection in environmental and social areas, so some member states can go further if they want? Or should the “floor” also be a “ceiling”, so that the single market is not disrupted?
Reding responds that this is a problem she has been wrestling with recently:
I have gone over-and-above the rights in 9/10ths of member states with the recent consumer protection rules… with the result that everybody now has Swedish rights on consumer protection… But, in general, what is the principle? It is that we set minimum rights, and individual member states can then go further than that if they choose. Now, these minimum rights can be very high, but no member state has the right to go under those rights.
14:37 - Tuesday 15 October
Olle Ludvigsson MEP is now responding to a question about the UK’s relationship with the EU. He says he would not be surprised if the famous British euroscepticism began to cool when an exit suddenly became a real possibility:
I wonder if we’re not perhaps going to see a reverse tendency. [Britain] has its automobile industry, for example, and they would be greatly affected by being outside the EU.
14:35 - Tuesday 15 October
A member of the audience stands up to ask: “When will it be possible for the EU to deal with issues such as violence, rape, and safe abortions?”
Birgitta Ohlsson says that the matter of abortion is not an EU competence, and that (as someone who supports free and legal abortion) she is not convinced that it ever should be. She says:
There is a need to draw the line. What should the EU do and what should it stay away from? Social issues are very important, but maybe we would prefer to have them decided at a local level by national parliaments.
Reding says she agrees:
We have to draw the line: who is responsible for what? … That is why we need very clear rules, and you are right when you say there should be a political union, so we can draw those lines.
14:30 - Tuesday 15 October
The audience in Stockholm is now being asked: “Do you want a closer political union?”
Yes – 69%
No – 31%
14:28 - Tuesday 15 October
An angry member of the audience is now berating Reding for speaking “qualified nonsense”. He says that “young people are not prepared to live as economic refugees… I think it’s very nice to have the opportunity to go to another country, but it would also be very nice if there was employment in my country, and I could travel only for the love of travel.”
The moderator asks him to come to the point and ask a question. In response, the man in the audience says:
Despite the promises that these politicians wanted to listen to us, we have had very lengthy answers from the stage, and there’s not always a lot of substance to them… I’m just trying to even out the score.
But he concedes, and comes to the point:
Either the citizens or the speculators pay for losses in the banking system. So, why doesn’t the EU implement a Glass-Steagall act and seperate speculative banking from normal banking?
Reding responds simply that the Commission has already put this proposal on the table, and it was now up to the member states to answer.
Birgitta Ohlsson, Swedish Minister for EU-Affairs, then offers her response:
Well, this is not black-or-white, so you can’t just choose between two models. We have a banking union, and we’re looking at these proposals, but if a country or an individual don’t look after their money, then you need rules. So, there is a tightening of rules in the EU, and I think that’s what we should be focusing on.
14:17 - Tuesday 15 October
A question from Twitter arguing that the EU seems to be combating the crisis by discarding trade union rights.
Olle Ludvigsson, an MEP with the Swedish Social Democratic Party’s (as well as a trade union leader himself), responds that he strongly agrees:
If you have free movement, you need to have rights for trade unions as well. And, if you look at a lot of the judgements that are coming out, you can see that trade union rights are not being fully respected… In a lot of cases, workers are living in the same conditions as slaves, almost, and the trade unions should be able to defend their members… So, the regulation should be tightened in this area and the trade unions should have more scope to change the situation.
14:05 - Tuesday 15 October
Reding says that one of her jobs is to ensure legal certainty for citizens, so that they know that wherever they go in Europe their rights will be the same.
She gives the example of restraining orders against those that abuse their partners. Reding says that she has fought to have these protection orders recognised in every EU member state, so that the victims can travel without fearing they will no longer be protected.
13:59 - Tuesday 15 October
The debate is now focusing on the question of the rights of European citizens. Reding says the EU is sometimes a victim of its own success here, as many people don’t realise that the rights they enjoy on a day-to-day basis have their origins in EU legislation:
It is the success story of Europe that many of these rights have become normal, and nobody knows anymore that they were European rights in the beginning.
13:51 - Tuesday 15 October
A critical comment from a man in the audience, who asks simply: “The EU seems to talk a lot but you don’t do much. You have thousands of administrators, how much do they all cost?”
Reding responds that the EU’s administrative staff have a budget that is smaller than the city of Stockholm’s, yet they have to deal with issues that affect more than 500 million people. She also argues that the EU does, in fact, do an awful lot:
Did you know that 80% of Swedish laws are not Swedish laws? They are European laws that have been translated into Swedish legislation.
13:47 - Tuesday 15 October
Commissioner Reding is asked about gender equality in the EU. Reding has championed a proposal to implement gender quotas in company boardrooms in Europe. She says:
60% of university graduates are women, and then we lose them. The European average of women on the boards of big companies is only 16%. And it has grown quite well since I put my fist on the table and said there would be legislation… Why start at the top? Because you need role-models. It is very important that women can see other women who have done it, then they can get the courage to do it themselves… So I think you need to shake the coconut tree.
13:42 - Tuesday 15 October
Reding is asked a question about the safety of bank accounts. She responds that she understands the uncertainty, because there was “one night of stupidity” during the banking crisis in Cyprus earlier this year, when there was talk of a deposit tax being levied that would also affect savers with less than 100’000 euros.
Commissioner Reding says this was a “very strange” decision, and was thankfully corrected swiftly, and that “people must have trust in their banks.”
13:36 - Tuesday 15 October
A young man in the audience (wearing a rather natty bow tie) is now asking a question: “What’s the solution to the problem of youth unemployment in Europe?”
Reding responds that, perversely, there are millions of unoccupied jobs in some sectors and countries of Europe that employers are struggling to fill, whilst other parts of Europe have sky-high unemployment.
Reding says people often don’t travel to other countries because they risk losing their unemployment benefits, so she wants to see unemployed people able to “export” their unemployment benefits and take them with them to place like Germany, which have higher levels of employment.
The moderator makes a tough point, though: “But we want to stay home!”
13:29 - Tuesday 15 October
A stunningly optimistic audience in Stockholm, today. They’ve just been asked: “Do you think Europe will come out of the crisis stronger?” – and they responded as follows:
Yes – 73%
No – No%
Olle Ludvigsson MEP is asked if this result is representative of the whole of Europe. His response is nothing if not diplomatic: “Well… it varies. [Enthusiasm] does become somewhat ‘toned down’ during a crisis.”
13:24 - Tuesday 15 October
The audience is asked to vote: “Do you feel your voice is heard in the EU?”
Yes – 39%
No – 61%
Reding says this result is exactly the European average (and you can see our recent post on this issue elsewhere on the site).
13:22 - Tuesday 15 October
Birgitta Ohlsson, Swedish Minister for EU-Affairs, has just finished speaking. She said the situation today has many parallels with the situation in the 1930s during the Great Depression:
Well, we’ve had the most difficult financial crisis since the 1930s, to start with… And we also have many elected racist parties across Europe. I was in Greece last week, where I met 1500 people who were about to be sent back, you know the ones who come across the Mediterranean in those frightening boats? And I also met representatives of the Roma people, who are living in great misery on the outskirts of Rome.
13:18 - Tuesday 15 October
The speakers today will be Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission; Olle Ludvigsson, Member of the European Parliament and Birgitta Ohlsson, Swedish Minister for EU-Affairs.
Reding is giving her introduction now, arguing that these Citizens’ Dialogues are “changing the way that politics is done”:
One cannot say that if politicians make a speech and people go to vote, that’s democracy. [We need] a more direct democracy, a more direct exchange… [And] these Citizens’ Dialogues are changing the way politics is done, because citizens go to their national politicians and say ‘Hey, we would like to have a dialogue with you, too!’
13:08 - Tuesday 15 October
And, we’re off! Today, Stockholm will be hosting the 33rd town hall meeting between citizens and the European Commission as part of the ongoing “Debate on the Future of Europe”.
18:02 - Saturday 5 October
And that’s all, folks! Stay tuned for a follow-up debate on some of the issues raised today in a future post.
17:57 - Saturday 5 October
Commissioner Šefčovič says the single market needs working on, but it’s already the crown jewel of EU integration.
17:53 - Saturday 5 October
A question from a pensioner in the audience: “Can we speed up the single market?”
17:42 - Saturday 5 October
Commissioner Šefčovič argues that the EU needs to provide cities and regions with more powers:
We need to invest in self-government, because cities play an important part in economic growth and development.
17:36 - Saturday 5 October
The Commissioner believes SMEs are critical to Europe:
We are working on eliminating roadblocks to growth across the EU, especially administrative red tape, and simplifying e-commerce – shopping and selling on the internet. We are also supporting creation of new jobs in Europe – thanks to the EU projects, 13 000 jobs should be created in Slovakia alone
17:33 - Saturday 5 October
A question from the internet now: “How does the EU support SMEs?“
17:28 - Saturday 5 October
Maroš Šefčovič agrees:
Why are people so afraid of federalism? Our citizens are free to live in any other EU country. We have one currency. Why are people afraid of this?
17:23 - Saturday 5 October
Pavol Paška, President of the Slovak Parliament, gives a straight answer:
We cannot be afraid of Brussels, we cannot be afraid of the EU. No one is taking away our boundaries, no one is taking away our language. We are not losing our sovereignty. Slovakia is so small, we need a strong partner.
17:17 - Saturday 5 October
A question from a law student in the audience, “How much integration do we need across the EU? Do you see risks in too much integration, especially for Slovakia?”
Commissioner Šefčovič was quick to reply
If someone said several years ago that we would have a say in the second biggest currency in the world, we would have had a hard time to believe them.
17:01 - Saturday 5 October
A member of the audience asks Šefčovič what should be done about the Roma issue. The Commissioner believes progress could only be made at a EU level.
16:54 - Saturday 5 October
Slovak MEP Monika Smolkova sitting in the audience agrees with Vice President Šefčovič that the lack of interest in EU affairs amongst Slovaks is down to the lack of EU media coverage.
16:45 - Saturday 5 October
Mr Pavol Paška, President of the Slovak Parliament, argues that Slovaks trust Brussels:
Slovaks are satisfied with the position of Slovakia in the EU, and therefore don’t feel the need to vote in European Parliament elections.
16:40 - Saturday 5 October
Another question from the audience: “Why don’t students vote, why don’t they get engaged?”
Commissioner Šefčovič believes there isn’t enough serious discussion about the EU in the Slovak media and people don’t really appreciate the power of the EU.
16:35 - Saturday 5 October
Commissioner Šefčovič argues:
Achieving post-war peace is no small accomplishment. However, there is far more to the EU than that.
16:31 - Saturday 5 October
A question from audience: “Is the EU only about post-war peace?”
16:25 - Saturday 5 October
Commissioner Šefčovič opens the debate by addressing the question “What does the EU do for Slovakia?”
Had we not be a member of the EU our standard of living wouldn’t have grown so fast. 85% of what is produced in Slovakia is now exported to EU countries. Without the EU we would not have achieved this. Before joining the EU, Slovaks compare their standard of living with Austria, a strong partner to compare yourself with. Better than Greece.
16:22 - Saturday 5 October
This dialogue’s themes will be “Crisis – what solutions does Europe offer?” and “The Future of European Integration”.
16:14 - Saturday 5 October
Good afternoon, and welcome to today’s Citizens’ Dialogue from Košice, Slovakia, with EU Commission’s Vicepresident Maroš Šefčovič, and the President of the Slovak Parliament Pavol Paška.
19:21 - Thursday 3 October
And, that’s all folks! But stay tuned to Debating Europe, because we’ll be exploring some of the issues raised today in greater detail later in the week.
19:20 - Thursday 3 October
As the debate draws to an end the audience is asked “Do you think this Citizens’ Dialogue gathering is useful?”
A lukewarm response from the crowd:
Yes – 66%
No – 44%
19:13 - Thursday 3 October
The audience is asked “Will you vote in the 2014 European Parliament elections?”
Given the result is looks like Hungarian’s will be flocking to the polls! Will this really happen next year?
Yes – 80%
No – 20%
19:12 - Thursday 3 October
EU Commissioner Andor points out there are structural imbalances between the South and North of Europe:
To address this closer cooperation is required, as well as larger solidarity.
19:09 - Thursday 3 October
The audience has now voted on the following question: “Would you like EU member states to have a closer political cooperation?”
Here’s the Hungarian audience’s feedback:
Yes – 79%
No – 21%
18:57 - Thursday 3 October
Enikő Győri says that before the crisis more people would have replied yes:
However, they need to remember the benefits that are available, like the reduction in roaming costs, free movement within the Schengen zone, and access to EU funds.
18:53 - Thursday 3 October
Another question now for the audience: “Is EU membership positive for Hungary?”
A rather positive response:
Yes – 59%
No – 41%
18:44 - Thursday 3 October
Csaba Őry MEP comments that the EU is now stronger than when the crisis started, but sounds a sobering warning –
A lesson to be taken on board is that people will have to work longer. Another is that the current European social models need to be challenged.
18:39 - Thursday 3 October
Commissioner Andor comments that the European financial crisis was exacerbated by the EU’s lack of fiscal powers.
18:37 - Thursday 3 October
The audience is asked another question: “Do you think EU will be stronger after the crisis?”
Not an upbeat picture:
Yes – 23%
No – 77%
Hungarian State Secretary of EU Affairs, Enikő Győri, comments that Hungary has never been an optimistic country..
18:33 - Thursday 3 October
A question coming from Facebook “When will our pensions be at EU level?”. Commissioner Andor replies:
Stagnant pensions are due to demographic challenges within most member states.
18:21 - Thursday 3 October
Another question from the audience – “Which educational policies will be discussed at the next EU summit?”
18:18 - Thursday 3 October
The audience is now asked: “Do EU member countries help each other?”
Here are the results:
Yes – 58%
No – 42%
18:12 - Thursday 3 October
61% of the audience think their opinion is not listened to in Europe, what do YOU think?
18:10 - Thursday 3 October
A lady from the audience is expressing her frustration at the EU’s treatment of Hungarian PM Orbán (in January 2011, Hungary found itself at the centre of a controversy over a new media law that threatened to overshadow the country’s EU Presidency and saw thousands take to the streets in protest – last year we had a debate on media pluralism in Europe, take a look here).
18:01 - Thursday 3 October
Unsurprisingly, the answer given by the audience in the room is no…
17:57 - Thursday 3 October
The audience is being asked the first question this afternoon: “Do you think your opinion is being listened to in the EU?”
17:45 - Thursday 3 October
László Andor is now giving his introductory remarks. He is talking about youth unemployment, and how it will be a critical issue during the 2014 European Parliament elections.
17:35 - Thursday 3 October
Looks like we’re almost ready to start! The moderator is currently warming up the crowd.
17:31 - Thursday 3 October
On the agenda today is the EU’s response to the crisis and youth unemployment.
17:12 - Thursday 3 October
Good afternoon, and welcome to our liveblog of today’s “Citizens’ Dialogue” from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Győr-Moson County, Hungary, with László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Enikő Győri, Hungary’s State Secretary of EU Affairs, and Csaba Őry MEP.
11:02 - Tuesday 24 September
And, that’s all folks! But stay tuned to Debating Europe, because we’ll be exploring some of the issues raised today in greater detail later in the week.
10:57 - Tuesday 24 September
The audience is asked: “Do you intend to vote in the European Parliament elections in May 2014?”
Yes – 84.9%
No – 10.5%
Don’t know – 4.7%
10:55 - Tuesday 24 September
Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP makes a point on the complexity of EU politics:
We have to explode the myth that EU politics is soooooo difficult. Hands up, who knows what their local government budget is? Hands up, who knows the agenda at their local government meeting was? And yet, nobody says local politics is too difficult to have an opinion.
10:50 - Tuesday 24 September
Reding is talking about the way decisions are taken at EU level:
We need, in all these kind of questions, majority voting. Unanimity voting is very bad because… one or two member-states can block 27 other member-states who want to continue.
Sirpa Pietikäinen agrees:
It is enough that when we have one member-state saying ‘no, I don’t want to have it’ then nobody can go forward. Is that democracy? If I don’t want to have it, none of you guys are going to have it.
10:39 - Tuesday 24 September
Another question for the audience: Would you like to see a political union in the EU?
Yes – 52%
No – 30.9%
Don’t know – 17%
10:38 - Tuesday 24 September
A young woman has now stood up, calling for greater EU integration toward political union. She also has a message to all the politicians in the room:
I hope you are not afraid of us citizens… Where is Europe going? I don’t want to hear about national problems. I don’t want to hear about member-state issues. I want to hear about Europe, and where is it going.
Reding says she absolutely agrees:
You cannot have political union if you don’t have very strong parliamentary democracy… I can imagine that the governments would become a senate. And, yes, I dream of the direct election of the President of the European Commission. That we have European candidates, and all 500 million vote.
10:31 - Tuesday 24 September
A young man stands up to ask:
How can you ensure a future for European youths and what is the EU’s mutual vision on how we can get young people working and educated so we can ensure the future for the European Union?
Reding responds that despite the high debt-levels in many member states, over the long-term she believes there must be sustained investment in education for young people.
10:21 - Tuesday 24 September
A man in the audience has stood up to ask about a treaty agreed between the UK and France in 2010 on cooperation and development of nuclear weapons. He asks, in the future European Union that Viviane Reding is envisioning, will it be a constitutional right for all EU citizens to vote on this issue? He asks: “Will it be in the constitution that Europe will not be armed with weapons of mass destruction?”
The decision about nuclear energy is outside the treaties, so it is for the member-states to decide. Germany has just decided to exclude civil nuclear energy… We would need a treaty change in order to bring the nuclear question into it.
She also responds to a second question he asked, about having the EU represented as a permanent member of the UN Security Council instead of France and the UK.
Should we, as Europe, be represented in international organisations? I have already proposed that this happens at the IMF, because we speak with so many voices and we are weaker as a result… The same will come one day in the UN also, that we speak with one voice, because the European continent is becoming smaller and smaller, compared to China and India and growing continents.
10:12 - Tuesday 24 September
Another question for the audience: “Do you think that politicians should more often engage in dialogue with their citizens?”
Basically, does the audience think these Citizens’ Dialogue a good initiative?
Yes – 90.6
No – 5.0
Don’t know – 4.4
10:03 - Tuesday 24 September
The audience is asked another question: “As an EU citizen, do you think the EU has brought you concrete benefits?”
A strong positive response in the audience today.
Yes – 80.4%
No – 11.4%
Don’t know – 8.2%
Either Finland is very pro-European, or there are some confused members of the construction industry in the audience today.
09:54 - Tuesday 24 September
A man stands up to ask a question, saying he is worried about the unequal status of the children of LGBT families. He argues that when these families cross the border from an EU member-state where marriage is protected into another member-state where this is not the case, then they risk being separated from their children.
This is a topic we covered earlier in a debate here, and it’s a controversial one because family law remains at the national level.
Family law is national law, and it is outside of the remit of the European Union. That means the Commission cannot make a proposal of law concerning the harmonisation of family law. That is not possible. What we can do is insist on non-discrimination… In the next treaty perhaps we can change that. So, this has to be in a future treaty change discussion.
09:42 - Tuesday 24 September
Reding makes a very interesting statement, arguing that these Citizens’ Dialogues are partly intended to pave the way for an eventual referendum on EU treaty-change:
We will have a treaty-change in the next few years, but we need to start the discussion now… If we go to a referendum, people must be well-informed so they can answer the question that has been asked. That is why we are starting now. Actually, these Citizens’ Dialogues are preparation for a referendum to come in some years.
09:35 - Tuesday 24 September
Sirpa Pietikäinen makes the point that the solution to the crisis must be European:
Just as one village or community can’t solve the financial crisis alone, nor can one member-state do it alone. They can’t ensure financial stability, transparency, they can’t ensure the seeds for growth on their own, nor can they ensure social benefits and rights alone.
Viviane Reding agrees, and gives the example of banking supervision:
Banks are born at the national level, but then they operate at the European level, and they [have gone into crisis] at the European level, but the bank supervisors are still national… This is why we have to federalise the European control… Ireland, for example, was doing well, but it’s banks were doing mischief. In the end, Ireland had to pay 28% of its wealth in order to save its banks, and that is tax payers’ money.
09:23 - Tuesday 24 September
The first question from the audience is from a woman asking about austerity. She says the only solution proposed to the crisis so far has been “to cut salaries, cut jobs… so poverty is rising and people are losing hope.”
She asks Reding what she thinks the “social” dimension should be for Europe.
Reding says we need to combine two things: first, to help young unemployed people in the short-term not to be on the street; second, to help small businesses to get access to financing in order to create jobs.
09:20 - Tuesday 24 September
A particularly Nordic description of the crisis from the moderator: “You could fill up all of Sweden with the unemployed young people in Europe today.”
Also, a personal blow for Finland:
Our beloved Nokia was sold to Microsoft; there is not one European company that is in the top ten ICT companies globally anymore.
09:17 - Tuesday 24 September
Both Viviane Reding and Sirpa Pietikäinen are surprised that the “Yes” vote in today’s audience is even as high as 35% – the European average is apparently only 28%.
09:16 - Tuesday 24 September
The audience is being asked the first question this morning: “Do you feel that your voice is heard in the EU?”
Yes – 35.7%
No – 48.2%
Not sure – 16.1%
09:12 - Tuesday 24 September
Joining European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding on the stage today will be Sirpa Pietikäinen, a former Finnish Minister of the Environment and current MEP with the centre-right European People’s Party.
09:06 - Tuesday 24 September
Looks like we’re almost ready to start! The moderator is currently warming up the crowd:
I know that, in Finland, silence is a virtue. But this is not a place to be reserved this morning! We want you to take positions, we want you to give comments on what you think are the burning issues today.
16:39 - Monday 16 September
That’s all folks! Stay tuned to Debating Europe, as we will be looking at some of the issues raised today in greater detail later in the week.
16:37 - Monday 16 September
The audience is again being asked to vote on the first question: Do you feel your voice is heard in the EU?
Aaand… The answer is almost exactly the same as last time. 56% say “No”, they do not feel their voice is heard.
Reding responds that these Citizens’ Dialogues are just a start, and she feels that a direct election campaign for the EU Commission President would really help to provoke a European debate that would involve all citizens. In order to do this, she believes the EU treaty will need to be changed, and she hopes the audience will remember today’s debate and will vote “Yes” in any referendum on a new treaty.
16:30 - Monday 16 September
A young man stands up to ask a question: Should the question of the status of Trieste be taken to the UN Security Council?
Minister Milanesi responds:
We can discuss these issues, we can interpret the rules, [but] this Union needs to unite people. We shouldn’t be taking further opportunities to divide or sub-divide ourselves.
16:21 - Monday 16 September
Another question for the audience: Do you want a directly-elected President of the European Commission?
72% say “Yes”
17% say “No”
11% say “Don’t know”
16:07 - Monday 16 September
A young man in the audience stands up to ask a question: “What can be done to raise the visibility of the European Union to ensure that information reaches the passive citizens, which of course is most citizens?”
It is the one million euro question. Well, we are trying… But still, it is not enough, as you perfectly understand. We do not have a real European media. All our media are local or, at best, national. And the information that people get about Europe, they mostly get them from their ministers, because those are the trusted faces. When Enzo [Italy’s Minister of European Affairs] comes back from a ministerial meeting in Brussels, he goes and says what has happened.
She says too many ministers come home from Brussels and tell their national audiences: “I won! You would think they were coming back from a boxing match! If you win, it means the others lose… But, actually, we reach a compromise and everyone wins.”
Minister Milanesi adds his own perspective, as one of the ministers who come back from Brussels:
If you come home with good news, it’s ‘we’ did it. Anything that is unfortunate or unwelcome, is blamed on Europe.
15:59 - Monday 16 September
The audience is now asked to vote on another question: Would you like to see closer union within the EU?
A massive 83% said “Yes”
Only 12% said “No”
15:57 - Monday 16 September
The minister is asked if the EU should be taught in schools. He responds:
Great question. My answer is ‘Yes’… I think it’s a real shame that in our schools people don’t study some of these courses that we should be studying. The sorts of civic education that we learned in schools are no longer taught.
But this is another potentially controversial question as school curricula are currently set at the national level.
15:53 - Monday 16 September
Enzo Moavero Milanesi, Italian Minister for European Affairs, is now speaking about the EU budget. He says:
The US government has a budget of 24.7% of GDP. Here [in Europe], we’re talking about 1% of GDP… [Earlier this year] there was a big debate about reducing the EU budget. The countries who wanted to reduce the EU budget were principally net contributors, apart from two: Luxembourg and Italy. So, representatives of both those countries are here today, of course… The Italian government feels [the EU budget] needs to be more ambitious.
15:46 - Monday 16 September
Reding is asked why so little money was allocated to education in the EU budget. She responds:
Because the budget is so small. Because the budget is only 1% of Europe’s GDP. It’s absolutely ridiculous. If we want the EU to become what is must become – a real political union, a real federal union – then we need also a budget that goes with it. That is very evident.
15:42 - Monday 16 September
The audience is being asked to vote again: Do feel stronger because of your European citizenship when it comes to confronting global challenges?
And an overwhelming (71%) vote in favour of “Yes”
Reding says she believes this is the correct answer:
Italy is a big country. But in a global fight with China, you are very small… But when [Europe] is together, we are the biggest and richest economy in the world. And there we have a say.
15:35 - Monday 16 September
Reding is asked a question by a pediatrician in the audience who would like to see a total ban on GMO products in the European Union. This is a controversial question, and is not technically something in Viviane Reding’s portfolio, but she addresses it in from a European perspective:
We do have European rules that only GMOs that get an authorisation can be planted… But we have always the same problem: half of the European governments are in favour and half are against. And who is in between these two chairs? The Commission! Because the people are shouting at us, even though it is the governments that cannot make a decision. The European Parliament would like to have a more stringent rule on GMOs; maybe GMOs are a problem or not, but this should be decided by the Parliament.
She adds that a European decision should be taken on this, because GMO seeds spread across borders and it does not help for one country to ban GMOs whilst its neighbours allow them.
15:29 - Monday 16 September
Reding is speaking about the importance of independent institutions, and strengthening democracy in the EU:
Every government needs a strong parliament to control what it does. And that is why I have always been pleading to become a real parliamentary democracy in Europe, to reinforce the powers of the European Parliament.
15:22 - Monday 16 September
Reding is asked a question about investment in education, and in reply she borrows from the speech-book of the UK’s Tony Blair:
If I had no money at all, I would invest in education, education, education.
15:19 - Monday 16 September
Minister Milanesi is giving a sly wink over Viviane Reding’s future political intentions (Reding is rumoured to be a potential candidate for the next President of the European Commission):
Viviane Reding has significant experience… and we need women in the corridors of power at the top level of power in our institutions.
15:15 - Monday 16 September
Reding is talking about the economic crisis, and specifically the European banking crisis. She says that the measures put in place by the European Union after the crisis will prevent a repeat of what happened:
We have learned from what happened, and we have put in place a system… in order not to happen again what we have been through in the last years.
15:09 - Monday 16 September
A question now from a man from Slovenia who complains he is blacklisted from government employment in Slovenia because he has never been a Communist. He asks Viviane Reding what the European Commission can do about this.
Reding says that it is still rather recent since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and countries need time. She adds that she has heard similar complaints in other countries, including Croatia, but that this problem can be overcome:
By having a fair justice system, an independent one where judges judge the law and not acquaintances or networks. And this is the basis [but] sometimes it needs a generation.
14:59 - Monday 16 September
Reding responds now, saying that the “solidarity model” which she believes is at the core of the European Union is currently under threat due to the economic crisis:
In some of our richer countries, people are grumbling: Why do we need to pay for those others? And people are starting to put into question the free movement of persons, which is the [greatest] value which we have in the European Union… Well, that would be the end of what we Europeans have been working for, have been striving for, have been dreaming of… We will not let the solidarity model fall into shambles, and we will not allow the free movement of persons to be blocked. Never, ever. This is not negotiable.
14:56 - Monday 16 September
Another question for the audience to vote on: Do you think Europe means solidarity between member-states?
A clear majority (62%) answer “Yes”.
14:54 - Monday 16 September
The moderator asks Minister Milanesi why he thinks so many people voted “No”. Milanesi responds that he hopes the numbers have changed at the end of the meeting, but he adds:
This attitude is rather symptomatic of a kind of disappointment now that we have the economic crisis, and the EU was born as an economic union and people had hoped it would be able to confront the economic problems more quickly. So, we have to confront that disappointment.
14:50 - Monday 16 September
With the introductory trailer finished, it’s time for the questions to begin. The moderator starts by asking the audience to vote on if they think their voice is being heard within the European Union.
27% say “Yes”
57% say “No”
14:41 - Monday 16 September
Enzo Moavero Milanesi, the Italian Minister for European Affairs, is now introducing the Citizens’ Dialogue. He talks about the history of Europe and Trieste, saying that almost 100 years’ ago was the start of the First World War. He describes 1914 as the start of a European “Civil War” that didn’t end in 1918 or even 1945, but: “Probably only when the armies started shooting each other not very far from here in the Former Yugoslavia”.
14:33 - Monday 16 September
Aaaand we’re off! Commissioner Reding begins very bravely by saying a few words in the local language, before apologising because here Italian isn’t perfect.
“Yes, it isn’t perfect… But it is very clear!” says the moderator, very graciously.
11:43 - Saturday 14 September
And, that’s all folks!
Stay tuned next week, because we’ll be looking at some of the issues raised in today’s debate in more detail.
11:41 - Saturday 14 September
Commissioner Olli Rehn gives his strongest statement yet that we are starting to see economic recovery in the EU:
We have green shoots now in the European economy. They are still very green and very fragile. This year, we expect that the European economy will continue to stabilise and return to recovery. And, next year, the European economy will stand on firmer economic footing and we will have better economic growth next year, and we will see better return to employment next year… [However,] complacency is a big risk, so we must stay the course of economic reform.
11:38 - Saturday 14 September
Commissioner Kallas is asked a question from the audience about those Estonians that feel frustrated because they achieved independence from the USSR only to join the EU.
Kallas doesn’t accept the comparison:
To compare the Soviet Union and the European Union is ridiculous. Come on, the purposes are completely different! The purpose of European Union is to create peace and prosperity. These were never the purposes of the Soviet Union. Never. So, simply, this comparison is ridiculous.
He also asks why countries that were formally in the Soviet sphere of influence, including Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia, would be so keen to join the EU if the European Union resembled the old USSR.
Olli Rehn agrees: “The Soviet Union was a very different union from the European Union.”
11:24 - Saturday 14 September
The audience is asked: “Would you prefer a closer political union in Europe?”
More than 50% answer “Yes”, whilst only 30% say “No.”
The two commissioners are asked to comment on this result. Commissioner Kallas says:
Several politicians have expressed the idea that the European Union is some kind of structure [similar] to the body we once belonged to (e.g. the USSR). The Union will always be together with the member states. The Member States can leave and they can accede to the European Union. In other words… It’s all down to the member states: to be, or not to be.
However, Kallas also argues that this talk of federation is premature:
The talk about federation seems to be out of context. Nobody has actually put forward a plan. How would the voting actually take place? How would the federation be put together?
Olli Rehn, meanwhile, says he is not a federalist and that he supports the existing structure of the EU, albeit with some limited reforms and “reinforced economic governance”.
11:17 - Saturday 14 September
A straightforward but provocative question from the audience: “The United States of Europe, are we moving towards it or not?”
Commissioner Kallas responds:
The United States of America moved towards a [federation] close to 200 years ago. But its states have still quite diversified competences…. My opinion goes back to Jean Monnet. If we think that we have to administer our airspace together, we can’t have national airspaces; we can’t have railways where crossing the border you switch the language of the railway and switch the drivers when you cross the borders.
However, he stops short of calling for a United States of Europe, saying: “When I start writing my memoirs, I can write about issues I can’t talk about today.”
11:03 - Saturday 14 September
A woman in the audience stands up to say:
[The Estonian] economy looks very good on paper. When we have visitors, they get to see the beautiful old town in Tallinn… [However], child subsidies are 19 euros, pensions are 300 euros, and we need to pay taxes on these. The lunch fees in schools are less than 1 euro. And I read that the Estonian Prime Minister said that when we help Greece, we help ourselves? I think the Estonian Prime Minister is getting tired, so can we can expect you [Commissioner Kallas] to come back to Estonia soon?
Commissioner Kallas (a former Prime Minister of Estonia) very diplomatically refuses to commit himself.
10:56 - Saturday 14 September
Siim Kallas asks the audience: “What is solidarity? Is there a definition? Do you know what the definition is?”
He says that, when Cyprus held the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the (then-Communist) President of Cyprus repeatedly called for greater redistribution of wealth within the EU. Commissioner Kallas said that he wanted to ask the Cypriot President whether that meant Cypriot wealth should be redistributed to Estonia, as Cyprus was clearly wealthier than Estonia. However, he says he “didn’t dare ask it at the time.”
10:52 - Saturday 14 September
Commissioner Siim Kallas now has the floor, and is talking about the labour market in Europe. He argues that one of the main problems is the lack of mobility in the EU , which he blames largely on the language barrier:
I read that the Estonian furniture manufacturing sector has a shortage of about 400 workers. I haven’t heard of Greek unemployed people coming to Estonia.
10:47 - Saturday 14 September
An Estonian politician stands up in the audience to ask Commissioner Rehn whether his office could publish a list of all the EU member states whose budgets are still breaking the rules of the EU’s “Stability and Growth Pact”.
This is always a risky question, because it risks dividing countries into the “Good” EU members and the “Naughty” members. Rehn replies diplomatically, pointing out that other countries (including the US and Japan) also have excessive debt levels, before saying he cannot remember exactly which countries are still breaking the rules.
It’s a good sign that [I can’t remember], because it means we have more countries respecting the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact than two years ago… Two years ago, Estonia, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, and at some point Finland [were the only countries respecting the rules]. Now we have 7 or 8 more, including Italy, Germany and Bulgaria.
10:41 - Saturday 14 September
Commissioner Rehn diagnoses what he considers one of the biggest barriers to economic growth in the EU:
The main bottleneck for growth in Europe is the excessively tight credit conditions for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).
He says that the Commission is working with the European Investment Bank (EIB) to get lending and create jobs in Europe. He adds that: “[Small businesses] are the backbone of the European economy, and pretty much the backbone of European society.”
10:37 - Saturday 14 September
Olli Rehn is asked a question on a possible EU-wide minimum wage. Rehn sounds deeply skeptical:
It would be politically very difficult to agree on any uniform minimum wage, especially taking into account that we do not have perfect convergence of the economies of the EU.
The other aspect is that many economists are of the view that minimum wage is not the best way of ensuring a high level of employment [so] it would certainly be subject to quite some debate and controversy within the EU.
He adds that, personally, he believes: “There are other and better ways of ensuring a high level of employment.”
10:26 - Saturday 14 September
Commissioner Rehn argues that it is important to implement deep and comprehensive economic reforms if Europe is to ensure a sustainable economic and social model, but suggests there also needs to be smarter investment, particularly in the fields of “Education, innovation and infrastructure”.
Clinging to the status-quo would only lead to the permanent economic decline of Europe. [I’m not talking about] dismantling the European social model… Instead, we need to work by genuinely reforming and modernising the social market economy in Europe for the sake of sustainable growth, better growth and sustainable job creation.
10:21 - Saturday 14 September
The big political question (which we addressed in our recent debate) is whether or not the eurozone economy has left the crisis and started its recovery. Commissioner Rehn admits that there is still “an unemployment crisis in several EU countries, of which we are painfully aware”. However, he does go out on a limb and suggests we may be seeing a “still-subdued nascent recovery”.
So, there you go. The EU is in a “still-subdued nascent recovery”.
10:17 - Saturday 14 September
Olli Rehn is now giving his introductory remarks. He is talking about the importance of EU enlargement, and arguing in favour of a broad consensus for economic reform, giving the example of Latvia (one of Estonia’s fellow Baltic states) and their willingness to implement tough austerity measures which, he argues, has led to a healthier Latvian economy.
10:06 - Wednesday 11 September
The leaders of the political groups in the European Parliament are now giving their responses. Joseph Daul, Chairman of the centre-right EPP Group, argues that Europe needs a stronger focus on industry as opposed to services:
We need to invest in industry again to create jobs. We shouldn’t be afraid of that.
Hannes Swoboda, leader of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, says we cannot possibly talk of a recovery whilst social conditions are still so bad:
Austerity is increasing the rift between the rich and poor. Between the North and the South. It is enhancing racism and xenophobia… This is also Europe today. Austerity is undermining solidarity, between states but also between citizens.
09:54 - Wednesday 11 September
Barroso finishes his speech by again setting out his two main priorities for tackling the economic crisis: first, implementing the EU budget and, second, setting up a banking union.
These are, however, hardly the sort of objectives (worthy as they may be) to set the pulse of most citizens racing.
09:45 - Wednesday 11 September
Barroso now addresses the question of EU reform:
If you don’t like Europe as it is, improve it… But don’t turn away from it. I recognise that, as any human endevour, Europe is not perfect… Not everything needs a solution at the European level.
Which will please the British Prime Minister, David Cameron. However, Cameron may not agree with the way Barroso wants to divide responsibility:
The European Union needs to be bigger on big things, and smaller on small things.
What would “bigger on the big things” mean in practice?
09:40 - Wednesday 11 September
Barroso argues that Europe should be proud of what it has achieved (but, he says, without being arrogant!):
Next year, it will be one century since the state of the First World War. A war that tore Europe apart, from Sarajevo to the Somme… [Yet] Europe has never known such a long period of peace since the creation of the European Communities.
He then turns to the question of Syria, presumably to underline the fact that war still is a very real threat in today’s world.
09:36 - Wednesday 11 September
Barroso says that the biggest risk for the crisis flaring-up again is not economic, but political:
The biggest downside risk is political.
He also argues that the solution must also be political:
Our idea of Europe has to go beyond economy. We are much more than that… It is about values [and] in today’s world, the European level is indispensable for protecting those values.
09:33 - Wednesday 11 September
A warning from Barroso to those people who think that, after the crisis is finally over, Europe can return to the way things were before 2007:
We will not come back to the old normal. We have to shape the new normal. We are in a transforming period in history.
09:31 - Wednesday 11 September
After unemployment, Barroso briefly touches on climate change and questions of trade (including the negotiations over the Free Trade Agreement with the United States).
He then talks to the thorny issue of the EU budget, calling on EU member state governments “not to hold [the process] up”.
09:26 - Wednesday 11 September
After the banking union, Barroso addresses the problem of high unemployment in the EU. He says “we must avoid a jobless recovery”, but also admits that many instruments for dealing with unemployment are at the national level.
This is set out in the treaties and there is nothing Barroso can do about this, but he says that strengthening the Single Market is something he CAN do to help lower unemployment. Of course, it does mean that when asked what his solution is for unemployment he has to respond by talking about things like lower mobile phone roaming charges.
09:21 - Wednesday 11 September
Barroso says the EU’s banking union is the number one priority for deepening European economic integration and preventing a repeat of Europe’s banking crisis in future.
09:18 - Wednesday 11 September
Barroso apparently does not agree with French President Hollande that the crisis is over:
The crisis is not over… but what we are doing is creating the confidence that we ARE overcoming the crisis, providing we are not complacent.
However, he still thinks the pessimists have been proved wrong:
No-one has left the Euro. This year, the EU grew from 27 to 28 member states. Next year, the euro area will grow from 17 to 18 member states.
Which is all well and good, but unemployment is still at record levels, and growth is still weak.
09:13 - Wednesday 11 September
Barroso is now speaking. He says: “In these [last] five years, Europe has been more present in the lives of citizens than ever before.”
Which is great! Of course… Europe has also been associated with what Schulz just called “apocalyptic visions of the end of time”… which is not so good.
09:11 - Wednesday 11 September
Schulz says we have now had five years of crisis, and this is the first summer in those five years which has been relatively calm, with “no apocalyptic visions of the end of time.”
However, he cautions that there are still millions of people unemployed and grave economic issues yet to be resolved. He particularly singles out youth unemployment: “How can young people possibly hope for and trust in the European Union if they have no jobs?”
09:06 - Wednesday 11 September
And now Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament, is giving his introduction. Schulz, of course, is rumoured to have his eyes on Barroso’s job when the latter steps down next year.
09:04 - Wednesday 11 September
Looks like President Barroso has arrived at the European Parliament, so the speech should be about to begin.
11:00 - Tuesday 6 August
And, that’s it! The judges will now retire and consider their decision. For my money, Team Canada managed to reverse what seemed initially like a very challenging position and came out with the stronger arguments.
10:59 - Tuesday 6 August
Team USA seems to be undermining their earlier argument. The current speaker says: “We need a centralised authority and cooperation. We can’t have unilateral people going out and doing their own thing.”
The speaker is now advocating a “centralised Europe”, which seems to contradict their earlier point about “centralisation” versus “federalism”.
10:44 - Tuesday 6 August
Team Canada is not being distracted, though. Very clearly, their speaker is now arguing that they don’t need to propose an alternative to federalism in order to win the debate. All they need to do is to prove that the euro is doomed to fail. The speaker says: “If we can do this, we have won the debate. All we need to do is prove: A) The euro can’t be saved, and B) Your solution certainly doesn’t help.”
10:40 - Tuesday 6 August
Team USA has opened a new line of attack, based on Team Canada’s argument that the euro is doomed to fail. They argue that “If the euro continues to fail, then it will be catastrophic.”
However, the motion doesn’t say anything about whether failure of the euro is a good or bad thing. Let’s see if Team Canada will be drawn into this argument anyway.
10:36 - Tuesday 6 August
Team USA are attempting to draw a distinction between “federalism” and what they call “centralisation”. They argue that their version of federalism is very limited, applying only to certain aspects of fiscal policy. They say this is not about “blending all cultures together. That is not relevant to a fiscal debate.”
10:29 - Tuesday 6 August
Actually, Team Canada has hit on a very clever strategy. They are arguing that the euro is doomed no matter what happens. So, rather than arguing:
“In the long-run, there is no hope to save the euro but a federal Europe.”
They seem to be arguing:
“In the long-run, there is no hope to save the euro.”
This is clever, because it avoids the challenge of them arguing in favour of the euro but against fiscal integration.
10:21 - Tuesday 6 August
I see the speaker’s hand waving at the bottom of the screen, which suggests that the “table” in front of the livestream camera is actually an enormous podium. If so, it must be twice the size of the speakers!
10:19 - Tuesday 6 August
Team USA is, indeed, coming out swinging on the issue of definitions. They argue that “federal Europe” does not mean centralisation of political power, it just means that certain policies are formed across borders (which seems quite a loose definition of federalism to me). The speaker has a good line, though, saying: “Centralisation is a term used by people who are scared.”
It also looks like they’re aware of the fundamental challenge of Team USA’s position. The speaker argues: “They say the euro is doomed no matter what we do. In other words, they are ignoring half of the resolution!”
10:12 - Tuesday 6 August
Interesting. It sounds like Team Canada is advocating some form of “limited” fiscal integration as a way to save the euro, but they argue that this would stop short of a “federal Europe”, which they define much more strongly.
Let’s see if Team USA decide to challenge those terms.
10:11 - Tuesday 6 August
Unfortunately, the livesteam is currently giving us an exciting view of what looks like a table…
10:09 - Tuesday 6 August
The real challenge for Team Canada is that the motion is not about saving “Europe”, but rather it is about saving the single currency. That means that a lot of classic eurosceptic arguments against the euro can’t be used.
10:06 - Tuesday 6 August
A strong rebuttal from Team Canada, who open by redefining federalism as logically (according to the current speaker) including “political union, defence policy, budget policy” and so on. They then argue that this transfer of powers to the European level is deeply unpopular and would be fundamentally undemocratic.
10:01 - Tuesday 6 August
The speaker for team USA is defining “federal” as a common “fiscal policy” (by which they seem to mean a common tax and spending policies). The eurozone crisis was, the current speaker argues, caused by a discrepancy between monetary and fiscal policies.
The USA and Canada are, of course, both federal systems, and this might influence the interpretation of the term “federal” by the teams. But are there different forms of “federalism” or is it all-or-nothing?
09:57 - Tuesday 6 August
Team USA is kicking things off by arguing in favour of the motion. First of all, they have to define exactly what is meant by “federal Europe”.
11:16 - Tuesday 23 July
And, that’s all folks! Stay tuned for more analysis on Debating Europe tomorrow!
11:10 - Tuesday 23 July
Reding explains her approach to politics (and embarrasses her sons in the process):
I have three boys – well, they are not really boys anymore, they are men – but whenever I put forwards a proposal I think to myself: how will this affect the world my boys live in? And, I think that’s a good approach, because you are not doing politics for yourself, you are doing politics for society.
11:05 - Tuesday 23 July
A woman in the audience asked Reding:
Do you believe it’s time to have a woman President of the European Commission? Because, previously, all the presidents have been men.
Diplomatically, Reding responds:
Yes. It is time for female talent everywhere. In politics, in civil society, and in economy… We have so many wonderful women. Put them to work! Don’t push them in a corner.
10:58 - Tuesday 23 July
The audience is asked: “Do you think politicians should be in closer contact with civilians?”
Don’t Know: 2.9%
Perhaps the people who answered “No” are so sick of politicians they want them to be as far away as possible?
10:47 - Tuesday 23 July
Throughout the debate, Reding’s message has been that it is not for the Commission to solve Bulgaria’s problems of governance, it is something that the citizens of Bulgaria must be responsible for themselves. One man in the audience appreciates the message:
Sorry we’re seeing you as a messiah from the European Union, capable of saving us. But I, for one, believe my people are extremely capable of finding unification through their own efforts.
10:44 - Tuesday 23 July
It looks like the debate with Viviane Reding is incredibly popular with the audience today, with many, many people wanting to ask questions. The moderator has asked that people limit their questions to a single sentence. Rather hopefully, he wonders: “Let’s see if it is humanly possible”.
10:36 - Tuesday 23 July
It’s certainly a passionate audience today, with a young man saying Bulgaria is becoming a “crippling dictatorship”, whilst one woman calls Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans for a Eurasian Union “more ambitious than anything in Stalin’s Soviet Union.”
10:30 - Tuesday 23 July
Reding goes into some detail about the future vision she has for Europe:
I want the European Union to become some kind of United States of Europe. We NEED that if we want to be strong. I want a political union, which goes over and above an economic union. The euro is important, but the people are more important… [Perhaps there should be a] second chamber for the government; some kind of European Senate. That is the vision for the future, and that is what you must discuss with your candidates for the European Parliament…
Should we vote one day for the President of the European Commission? I think so. If you look at what happens in the USA, when there is an election, people go out and debate the issues… That would be very good [in Europe]. In order to do that, we need to change the treaty.
This is strong stuff, particularly when the ‘F’ word (‘federalism’) has been taboo in the Commission for so long. Could Reding be positioning herself as a future Jacques Delors?
10:17 - Tuesday 23 July
Reding responds to some more questions on corruption, arguing that it is the responsibility of Bulgarian citizens to hold their government to account:
I’ll tell you something straight from the beginning: the European Commission, as the government of Europe, has the possibility through its President, to ask a Commissioner to give his resignation. It does not have the power to ask a national minister to give his resignation. That is up to you [and] I wish you well in building up a government which you can trust.
10:10 - Tuesday 23 July
Reding is asked why she intervened in Romania and Hungary, threatening to take those two countries to court, but not in Bulgaria. She responds that she intervened in Romania and Hungary because there were worrying constitutional changes taking place, specifically new laws that “eliminated the superior court”.
They reinstalled [the high court], finally, after the pressure [from the EU]. In Hungary, there were very concrete plans for eliminating judges. And I went to the European Court and the judges were reinstalled in their capacity… [However] corruption is something else… [Hopefully], nobody will touch the constitution in Bulgaria. Nobody will dismantle the courts.
10:06 - Tuesday 23 July
Every second question today is about oligarchs and corruption. Perhaps not surprising given that Bulgaria has seen weeks of anti-graft protests recently.
10:03 - Tuesday 23 July
Now, let me tell you, you are not making my job easy!
She goes on:
You protested against one nomination, and it was withdrawn. We were very relieved that your voice was heard.
Ms Reding is probably referring to the “32-year-old media magnate and lawmaker with no experience of security issues” who was about to be appointed head of Bulgaria’s national security agency, with the power to order arrests, wiretaps and surveillance. After days of protests, another compromise candidate was appointed.
09:52 - Tuesday 23 July
Another question on corruption in the judiciary, and one more about misuse of EU structural funds:
Most of the EU money spent on agriculture in Bulgaria goes to only four or five companies, which are known to everyone, who share this money.
09:50 - Tuesday 23 July
Reding is taking a lot of questions today on corruption from the audience in the room:
The Bulgarian judiciary is strongly corrupt and dependent on the oligarchs. Working only in the interests of the big fish… The media is owned by the richest people in Bulgaria, who manipulate the government. Never will the Bulgarian people hear the truth from the media.
All I can see is mafia behaviour, oligarchy, corruption, rackateering in the police. This is not the behaviour of a European Union member state. We are systimatically manipulated.
09:46 - Tuesday 23 July
Good morning, and welcome to today’s liveblog of the Citizens’ Dialogue event with Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding!
16:54 - Thursday 11 July
And that’s all, folks! Stay tuned for a follow-up debate on some of the issues raised today in a future post.
16:51 - Thursday 11 July
What does it actually mean to “Dialogue with citizens”?
16:50 - Thursday 11 July
And the bell tolls one final time for this debate:
The debate is drawing to an end now with a final question: Do you think that politicians should more often dialogue with citizens?
92% say “Yes”.
The moderator wonders if the 8% of people who voted “No” or “Don’t Know” might have accidently pressed the wrong button.
16:48 - Thursday 11 July
Reding is asked if there should be direct elections for the President of the European Commission. She thinks there should be, but it cannot happen straight away:
Before we can directly elect a president, we need to change the treaty. I believe, in the coming years, we will need to change the treaty, in order to establish a common European finance minister and in order to have a bigger say for the European Parliament so there is greater democratic control of the Commission, which I believe will become the real government of the European Union. And, if we are [changing the treaties], then it makes sense to have a direct election of the president of this government.
16:41 - Thursday 11 July
Viviane Reding is asked how much Croatian membership of the EU is going to cost Poland. She responds:
The fact that, after a decade-long effort from the Croatians to create a democratic state, we have finally taken Croatia in, was a signal to the whole Balkans to say full-stop for any war in the Balkans. Balkan nations are all bound one day to become members of the family, and in the family you live in peace. Remember, it’s not long ago that there were bombs falling in the Balkans, much like bombs fell on Warsaw during the Second World War… To pacify the Balkan region is one of the aims of the EU. But no country will join the EU without having fulfilled the conditions of joining the EU.
Polish MEP Róża Thun adds a few words relevant to the EU’s Eastern Partnership:
Sometimes it is said we are ambassadors of the countries East of the border who want to acceed to the European Union. We will be a better ambassador if we are an important country in the EU, cooperating constructively. If we stay out of the European mainstream then it will not be of any help to our neighbours. [However], it is not only a question of membership… Ukraine should continue to be in our orbit of interest, but it is not ‘To be or not to be’ in the EU. It would be entirely false if we positioned things like this.
As for the cost of Croatia, it should not be seen as a cost but an investment. Let us not look at cost alone.
16:30 - Thursday 11 July
The audience is asked: “Do you want a closer political union?”
70% respond ‘Yes’.
But how representative is this audience of Poland as a whole? In the latest Eurobarometer survey, Poland was (along with the UK and the Czech Republic) one of the most eurosceptic countries in the Union, with 46% agreeing that their country could better face the future outside the EU, versus only 43% who disagreed.
16:21 - Thursday 11 July
And there goes the bell again.
ROUND THREE: The future of Europe.
16:12 - Thursday 11 July
The audience is asked: Will you make your voice heard by voting at the European Parliament elections in 2014?
In the last election to the European Parliament in 2009, the turnout in Poland was less than 24%. However, in the audience today, 89% say they intend to vote in 2014.
15:58 - Thursday 11 July
A couple of questions from the audience: one on the rise of nationalism in Europe and what it means, and another asking what can be done for neighbouring countries where human rights are violated (such as Belarus).
On the second question, MEP Róża Thun offers a Polish perspective:
It is my impression that we are trying to behave the same way the West behaved towards us when we were behind the Iron Curtain.
15:54 - Thursday 11 July
Viviane Reding is asked whether the US spying scandal will have any impact on the negotiation of the EU-US trade agreement. She responds:
I am shocked that the Americans spy on European citizens. That really shocks me, because it is against European law. Of course, the intelligence services, in order to fight terrorists and criminals, sometimes have to collect information… but let them do it by the law, and not do it in a wildcard way. This is unacceptable.
However, she hopes that the trade agreement will not be too negatively affected:
What has happened was a real wake-up call for Europe’s relationship with the US, but we need strong relations with the US. We need a trade agreement with the US, because we have to put the first economy in the world – Europe – together with the second economy in the world – America – to become a real world power. But citizens need to be respected.
Finally, she adds that she believes the spying scandal will make it much easier for her to pass the draft EU data protection law.
One day, I will send Eric Holder [the US Attorney General] a thank-you note. Thank you for PRISM, which has helped me to make a very strong data protection law in Europe.
15:44 - Thursday 11 July
The bell rings:
ROUND TWO: The rights of European citizens.
15:38 - Thursday 11 July
Interesting comment from Reding, when asked what young people should do to fight the crisis:
I prefer to have young people out on the streets shouting at me than have them sitting at home gaming.
She explains that she means it’s important for young people to be active and to put pressure on politicians to achieve solutions.
15:35 - Thursday 11 July
The audience is asked: Will Europe come out of the crisis stronger?
- ‘Yes’ – 44%
- ‘No’ – 34%
- ‘Don’t Know’ – 22%
Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding tells the audience that they are the most optimistic audience she has spoken in front of during these Citizens’ Dialogues (with the exception of Luxembourg). She adds:
The crisis has shown to us that we need to go a step further: we need to build a Europe of political union. Thank you for this optimism, because we politicians need it. We need it to fight to build Europe. And I promise you, we are fighting for this Europe of the citizens, a Europe of political union, and a Europe of solidarity.
15:30 - Thursday 11 July
Barroso is asked a question about Europe’s aging population. The questioner suggests that the shrinking working-age population means that:
Either Europeans should start having three or four children per family, or there will have to be immigration from outside Europe. Do you see a third option? And, if not, how can the first two be achieved?
Barroso answers that both family-friendly policies and immigration will be needed:
Probably both. This is a decision that the European Commission cannot take, but I agree with your analysis. Europe has a serious demographic problem.
It’s a positive problem, because it’s good that people have longer lives. The life expectancy in Europe is one of the highest in the world, and that’s good… but, in policy terms, it puts pressure on the social security system that we have to find ways to finance. That’s why some reforms are necessary. Otherwise, we are not going to be able to pay pensions to the people that are now working…
We recommend to have policies that make life easier for couples that want to have children… and migration is indespendble at the European level. I know some extremist forces don’t like to say it, but more migrants are necessary to maintain the current level of workforce. Of course, we need to have an intelligent migration policy, fighting illegal immigration…
15:24 - Thursday 11 July
Barroso answers a question on the future of the euro:
I expect most European countries will join the euro. There are two countries that have agreed to have an opt-out or some other kind of measure… But it is important to be in the euro, because the countries in the euro area will have a more direct say in the issues related to our european project.
The two countries with opt-outs from the euro are the UK and Denmark (though Sweden also has a de facto opt-out). If all other countries eventually join the euro, will these two countries find themselves isolated at the edges of Europe?
15:14 - Thursday 11 July
Barroso is asked if the US has recovered from the crisis faster than Europe because it is a federal state. President Barroso responds:
In your question, you gave the answer. The US, even if the crisis started there, was able to correct some of the problems they had because they are a federal state. They are the United States of America, and we are not the United States of Europe. We are 28 member states, 17 in the eurozone.
And, let’s be honest and frank about it: there were originally different approaches to the crisis. The speed of democracy is slower than the speed of the markets. And when you have 27 democracies to agree on emergency measures, I have to tell you, it’s not easy. Which is why we are working to equip the euro area with common instruments to face any difficulty, like the financial crisis… So, Europe is a work in progress. I believe we are going in the right direction, but I feel we should learn the lessons of the crisis.
15:10 - Thursday 11 July
Barroso says he wants to deliver a message of confidence:
The missing variable in the equation for growth in Europe is confidence. Because we have enough resources in Europe, there is enough capital, human capital as well – imagination and energy – to overcome the crisis if member states are ready to do it. If they have the support of citizens – and that means you.
15:07 - Thursday 11 July
Barroso sets out what he sees as the biggest challenge for the EU today:
In Europe, we have a social market economy. It means an open economy, but with relatively high levels of social welfare. We want to keep this model, but how can we keep it when there are big challenges coming from international competition? This is why we’ve been developing a consensus around a policy of getting public finances in order, carrying out structural reforms, but also [increasing] investment.
15:04 - Thursday 11 July
And the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, has now rolled up fashionably late to the debate. He now offers his belated introduction to the debate.
15:03 - Thursday 11 July
Viviane Reding is asked whether the euro should be abandoned. She argues that the euro was a flawed creation, but many of the flaws have now been corrected, and the EU is now much better prepared than before the crisis. She says:
If a second crisis hit us, it won’t do the same damage because we have established a banking union; because we have established a common economic union; because we are automatically controling our budgets, because we know that if one country goes bust it affects the others… You have read again and again in the papers that the euro will collapse and Greece will leave the euro. But what has happened? The euro is still strong, Greece is still in the euro, and Latvia is about to join the euro. The euro is going perfectly well, it’s our national policies that sometimes are not, but the euro is part of the solution, not part of the problem.
14:57 - Thursday 11 July
Polish MEP Róża Thun is on the stage with Reding, pointing out that “Poland is the largest beneficiary in the new EU budget.” Historically, Poland has also been one of the largest recipients of EU structural funds.
14:53 - Thursday 11 July
The audience is asked: For you, does Europe mean solidarity between member states?
More thant 75% of the audience vote “Yes”. Viviane Reding says this is a rare answer, as most people in Europe answer negatively “when the money is scarce”.
14:49 - Thursday 11 July
A ceremonial bell rings, apparently inaugarating the first part of the debate on the crisis.
*Ding!* ROUND ONE.
14:46 - Thursday 11 July
Reding is giving her opening remarks:
I will shut up at once. We are not here to speak. We are here to listen.
First, though, she says hello to the young people in the audience:
Hello to the young people here today. You are numerous. That’s good. You’re the next one to take over the Europe that we are building. So you must prevent us from making the mistakes that you will pay for tomorrow.
14:42 - Thursday 11 July
The moderator has been padding like crazy, but Vice-President Viviane Reding has finally arrived at the venue and has been given a mic.
14:38 - Thursday 11 July
The audience is now being asked to vote on the question: “Do you feel that your voice is heard in the EU?”
- 32% – Yes
- 56% – No
- 12% – Don’t know what a voice is
Overwhelmingly, the audience in Poland feels their voice is not heard by the EU. Yup, tough audience.
14:35 - Thursday 11 July
A video vox populi of citizens in Poland is being displayed. The first young man interviewed is asked if he is hopeful about the future:
No, I’m looking at the future with fear. I don’t like how the EU is governed, and I’m sceptical about the EU’s economic policy. I used to be hopeful, now I’m a bit fearful.
It could be a tough audience for President Barroso and Vice-President Reding…
14:32 - Thursday 11 July
And, we’re off! Welcome to today’s liveblog. You can see some of our liveblogs of the previous Citizens’ Dialogues here.
16:14 - Sunday 30 June
And that’s all, folks! We’ll be continuing the debate with a post next week, looking at some of the issues raised today in a bit more detail.
16:07 - Sunday 30 June
The moderator, who has done his best to sprinkle proceedings with a sparkle of magic, asks the speakers: “Imagine there was a wizard coming here to grant you one wish. What would you wish for 2013?”
The responses come back, suitably European: “Solidarity!” “A more integrated Eurozone!”
As every schoolchild knows, you should always wish for more wishes!
16:02 - Sunday 30 June
Reding finishes with her closing remarks:
The EU is not just a Single Market. It is about citizens, values and rights… We don’t talk about this European project enough, but let’s do that! Let’s talk about it. Who do we work for? What we’re constructing now is for you.
16:00 - Sunday 30 June
A question from the audience asking what Europe is doing for refugees.
Solidarity. We must offer solidarity to refugees… And we are doing that; we have reformed the European asylum legislation to help many more people.
15:58 - Sunday 30 June
Laziness is something that is shared. We are all lazy!
The shared European value of laziness?
15:56 - Sunday 30 June
A comment from the audience:
I’m very pleased to see so many people here today saying they would like to see solidarity between member states, but there is a second pillar in the EU… the pillar of ‘subsidiarity’. That is to say, the countries who are currently in difficulties are responsible first and foremost for solving their own problems… We have to stop with all this solidarity nonsense. The countries responsible for these problems should put their own houses in order.
15:45 - Sunday 30 June
Interesting comment from Viviane Reding:
If there is a treaty change, I would like to see the European Parliament have the right to legislative initiative. At the moment, only the European Commission can initiate legislation. I think it would be very good if the Parliament had that right too.
That’s interesting, firstly because it would be a fairly radical overhaul of the decision-making process in Europe. But, also, because Reding seems to be suggesting that BOTH the Commission and the Parliament should be able to initiate legislation, rather than giving it exclusively to the Parliament (as in most parliamentary democracies).
15:37 - Sunday 30 June
An important point being made now:
There has been a lot of protests calling for more competencies for the EU in the field of social policy. I would say to these people: go to London, go to Berlin, go to Stockholm and call for it there, because these countries don’t want the EU to have more powers in social policy. The Scandinavian countries fear their social policies will be reduced, and the other fear they will be increased.
15:34 - Sunday 30 June
How long before the moderator brings out hand puppets?
15:33 - Sunday 30 June
The moderator is doing another magic trick.
He takes a bottle of transparent cola, adds a dash of a liquid he calls “solidarity”, a hint of “stable Euro”, and a splash of “citizen participation”. Then he puts on the cap (representing the Common Agricultural Policy?) and gives it a vigorous shake.
“And look, it’s turned Coca-Cola black! The lesson? Sometimes you have to give things time. Be patient, and give things time.”
15:28 - Sunday 30 June
A young member of the local Pirate Party is asking a question on data protection:
You said you’re against the fact the US and the UK have been spying on us. Let me ask: why has the EU been signing agreements with Australia on storing air passenger data? What gives the EU the right to spy on us? where is the coherence in your policy? Is that not hypocrisy?
Yes, you’re right. That would be hypocrasy. But that’s not happening. The US is taking data to which it has no rights. It’s one thing to give people access to data in an agreement, it’s another to take peoples’ data they have no right to.
She argues that the spying scandal will actually help the EU to pass its flagship Data Protection legislation, because citizens will understand how important it is to protect their privacy. She says: “The Americans behaviour has helped us make progress.”
15:22 - Sunday 30 June
A man in the audience is standing up and talking about competences:
“[On some issues] the Commission says that European governments are responsible, whilst governments say that the Commission is responsible. Citizens are confused.”
15:17 - Sunday 30 June
Reding is now talking about the thorny issue of US and UK spying on internet communications. She says the issue highlights a difference between the legal systems of Europe and the US:
If one American citizen – one human being – comes to live in Europe and thinks that his personal data has not been processed properly, then he can go to a European court. Now, a European who lives in the US has not got this right. That’s the difference between how Europeans and other countries deal with with human beings.
This is a touchy subject at the moment, because the EU and the US are negotiating a free trade agreement right now. Has this recent spying scandal soured relations?
You’ve got to negotiate among partners, and you shouldn’t negotiate as it was during the Cold War. You’ve got to respect the basic rules of a partnership, and that is not what’s happened.
15:08 - Sunday 30 June
So, will the questions be easier because Reding is on her home turf? It seems not.
A very critical question from the audience, accusing the Commission of “stealing” the rights of citizens because, as a member of the so-called troika (the European Commission, European Central Bank and the IMF), it decides upon the austerity measures that are implemented in countries like Greece without being accountable to Greek citizens.
Reding responds that:
The troika doesn’t decide anything, it’s always the government of the country and its parliament that decides.
Which is true (though the choice is between agreeing to the terms of the bailout or bankruptcy and disorderly exit from the euro).
15:02 - Sunday 30 June
Another question from the audience on social issues, this time education.
Again, education is not a European competence. Reding can only respond that:
“It is difficult for me to talk about things I cannot change… It’s very difficult for me to explain to citizens what I can do and what I cannot. We have treaties, and in these treaties it is stated article by article what the European institutions are responsible for and what national governments are responsible for. Anything that is not in the treaty, the Commission cannot do anything about.”
14:57 - Sunday 30 June
The audience is now being asked which European right they value the most. And, they’ve chosen:
“The ability to live and study where I want.”
14:54 - Sunday 30 June
For no reason at all, the moderator (who is, or so he says, a chemist) has now caused an explosive chemical reaction in a glass beaker filled with some unknown liquid.
“I hope that Europe has the same potential” he says, cackling as smoke billows from the ruined beaker.
What is he suggesting?
14:47 - Sunday 30 June
Another question from the audience on social issues:
Why is it that social issues are left entirely in the hand of member states, and, as a result, the smaller member states suffer?
However, making social issues (including taxation, spending, healthcare, welfare, etc.) a European competence would be a huge leap forwards in terms of European integration. Are European citizens ready for such a step?
14:45 - Sunday 30 June
Nicolas Schmit, Luxembourg’s Minister of Labour and Employment, is also answering questions from citizens in today’s townhall meeting. He seems quite in favour of a European minimum wage.
You can see our earlier interview with him here.
14:44 - Sunday 30 June
The question of a “European minimum wage” has come up several times from the audience today. Reding’s original response was that tax and wages are not competences of the European Union. Why can’t there be an EU Directive from the Commission on a minimum European wage?
Reding answers that it’s not a question of Directives, the powers for setting a minimum wage are simply not in treaties. She says:
We wanted to make changes to the treaty [to include a minimum wage], but Chancellor Merkel didn’t want a minimum wage in Germany. And if she doesn’t want one, there won’t be one.
14:34 - Sunday 30 June
Viviane Reding is from Luxembourg herself, so she’s on home turf tonight. Will the questions be any easier?
14:31 - Sunday 30 June
Reding is now being asked about the 6 billion euros that has been pledged by European governments to fight youth unemployment. Divided by the population of Europe, this works out to about 12 euros per person.
Fortunately, that’s not the way we do our calculations in the European Commission.
14:28 - Sunday 30 June
A question from the audience on European elections. If national elections are held at the same time as national elections, does it mean that European issues gets ignored in favour of national issues?
On the other hand, if European elections weren’t held at the same time as national elections, would anybody turn up to vote? European election turn-out has been falling steadily since 1979…
14:26 - Sunday 30 June
Viviane Reding is now in Luxembourg, answering questions from citizens on the future of Europe.
13:52 - Tuesday 25 June
And that’s all folks! You can continue the discussion below, and we’ll post the full video from the debate when it’s available.
13:45 - Tuesday 25 June
Jeremy Lester is now responding to some of the Debating Europe questions, arguing that:
Despite the economic problems faced by Europe, we have committed ourselves to maintaining the flows of aid to Africa. And I think the challenge will be to [convince publics in Europe] that this is not only a good, moral thing to do, but also in our advantage. Some of the discussions today in terms of mutual-interest should be brought out.
13:42 - Tuesday 25 June
Daniel Bach answered the question from our reader, Christos, on whether aid still has a place in Africa-EU relations. He says:
We don’t want to go back to the days of arguing whether overseas aid should be cut in order to increase welfare spending in Europe. There are returns as far as aid is concerned, but we’ve tended to think of aid in terms of foreign policy so far, and we should now think of it in a broader sense. We’ve seen the very positive development that enrichment in Africa is no longer related to the ability to pilfer from the state, and we’re seeing rich Africans who are proud to be making money as entrepreneurs. This should be encouraged and supported.
13:35 - Tuesday 25 June
Pim Van Ballekom, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank (EIB), is summing up the message that many of his co-panelists have also been making:
A fresh start [in Africa-EU relations] means trade instead of aid, a shift from public to private, and a shift from grants to investments, so the investment climate is now even more important than in the so-called “old days”.
13:28 - Tuesday 25 June
An interesting question from the floor, arguing that “No mention has been made in the debate about the role of democracy in development… This is surely a very important element in the development of the African continent.”
13:17 - Tuesday 25 June
If you’re looking for some facts and figures concerning EU-Africa relations, Debating Europe has put together an infographic below:
13:05 - Tuesday 25 June
The three questions from Debating Europe readers were asking:
- What has been the effect of the eurozone crisis on Africa-EU relations?
- Does aid still have a place in the EU-Africa relationship?
- What does the panel think of the shift away from Africa-EU relations and towards Africa-Asia relations?
13:02 - Tuesday 25 June
And now we’re turning to some questions from Debating Europe readers!
12:58 - Tuesday 25 June
Jeremy Lester argues that Africa’s growing population could either be a “driver of entrepreneurship” or an “explosive driver of discontent and conflict”, depending on how that growth is managed.
12:55 - Tuesday 25 June
Jeremy Lester, Adviser on Conflict Prevention, European External Action Service (EEAS), is now speaking.
He argues that: “It is in Europe’s interest that Africa should grow, and offer Europe bigger markets for European goods and services.”
12:53 - Tuesday 25 June
Obadiah Malafia, Chef de Cabinet of the SG of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, is now speaking. He makes an important point:
The discussions so far have been all very interesting, all very exciting. But who is this Africa? … Africa is a continent of 54 countries, very diverse, very different in terms of their levels of development. So, Africa, indeed, is not one country…
He also brings up the issue of Europe’s historical baggage in Africa, saying that when the Chinese explorer Zheng He sailed to Africa in the 15th Century:
He brought scientists, explorers, business people. And a few Africans actually volunteered to come with him to China. It was all a very civilized affair… And the Portuguese came a century later, and shall we say it was not exactly a civilized affair. The rest is history.
12:39 - Tuesday 25 June
Daniel Bach, Director of Research of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) at the Emile Durkheim Centre, is the first to bring up the effects of the European economic crisis on Africa-EU relations:
What is the additional value that Europe can bring to Africa? What are we going to bring that is new? Especially as we are confronted with the reality of having to implement our own structural adjustment programmes, which should make us more understanding of the challenges that have faced many African countries.
12:35 - Tuesday 25 June
Here is a new buzzword for the dictionary: ‘Synovation’ is apparently a combination of ‘Synergy’ and ‘Innovation’. Is synovation a useful concept, or just the latest example of the buzzification of the global development paradigm?
12:31 - Tuesday 25 June
The message from all of today’s speakers seems to be that Africa-EU relations have to move beyond aid and towards encouraging investment. Masato Watanabe, Vice-President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), is now arguing that the international development landscape has greatly changed over the last two decades, and we need to move beyond aid to engaging private companies in Africa.
12:23 - Tuesday 25 June
Pim Van Ballekom, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank (EIB), is now speaking. He says:
Somebody in the audience said the new fresh start should be based on respect and not on paternalism. I fully agree, but I don’t think that we [in Europe] dictate, or that our policies are based on paternalism.
12:22 - Tuesday 25 June
Elham Mahmood Ahmed Ibrahim, African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, now has the floor. She says that the situation in Africa has changed radically since the last Africa-EU summit in 2007:
“Now, I think it’s very clear that many of the African countries have done very well in their development and their growth… [And] there are new partners: there are the BRICs, for example… So, [the future EU-Africa relationship] should be win-win. There is no more place for aid. No, it should be based on investment and development.”
12:09 - Tuesday 25 June
And, we’re off! Giles Merritt, Secretary General of Friends of Europe, is now introducing the event. He says it’s not a secret that African leaders feel it is “not clear what Europe’s intentions are in the run-up to the Africa-EU summit in 2014.”
12:33 - Friday 7 June
And that’s all folks! And, as the moderator says, you can continue the debate here on Debating Europe!
12:27 - Friday 7 June
A university student has stood up to ask a question:
You say we spend one billion per day on oil. Why don’t we invest this money in the technology that is already available? We know that steam engines work, and we also know that Nikola Tesla invented many devices that generated electricity.
Should the EU invest in a steampunk future?
12:17 - Friday 7 June
Some more criticism of China coming from Commissioner Hedegaard:
We need to push the big emerging economies also to contribute their fair share. China is the world’s biggest emitter of carbon right now. And, you would say, ‘Yes, they are also the most people’. But, within the next few months, the emissions per capita in China will also be the highest in the world.
Again, EU-China relations (particularly with regards to trade) are rather tense at the moment.
12:09 - Friday 7 June
Commissioner Hedegaard responds that:
Planning is an extremely important tool. How do we plan our cities? It means a lot for our well-being, but it also means a lot for the way we treat our resources…
However, she also admits that:
One of the challenges is that, when it comes to planning, it’s not a competence of the EU. It’s very much about local authorities.
12:06 - Friday 7 June
A woman from the audience is now asking a question about land use, saying that “Every day, a surface area equivalent to the duomo [the cathedral] is used up… We are building too much.”
12:00 - Friday 7 June
Hedegaard also makes the point that:
In the EU-27, [we spend] one billion euros every day to pay for our oil imports. That’s the kind of cost it would also make sense in a time of crisis to try and reduce.
11:58 - Friday 7 June
Commissioner Hedegaard is now arguing that we cannot scale back our efforts to tackle climate change because of the economic crisis:
If we do not invest in [climate] mitigation and adaptation, then the costs will only mount. Economic costs, but also human costs… It’s not a luxury to address climate change. It’s not something you only address in the ‘good times’.
11:53 - Friday 7 June
On access to financing for SMEs, Commissioner Hedegaard says that it was decided last June that the European Investment Bank would be given money to finance SMEs. However, she admits:
Frankly, none of this money has come out working yet. That’s one of the challenges in Europe; it takes too long from taking sensible decisions to have them actually implemented. And [the upcoming EU Council summit] will be talking about how to speed up these efforts.
11:49 - Friday 7 June
A man who calls himself a “professional inventor” has now stood up to ask a question. He says he has more than 75 inventions under his belt. However: “Unfortunately, if you have ideas in Italy you are seen as a madman”.
He says he will be 47 in June, and he is going to leave this country to work in the United States because, in Italy, it’s almost impossible for me to get any funding for his inventions.
11:44 - Friday 7 June
The Mayor of Milan is telling an unusual anecdote about some schoolchildren who suggested we could solve the climate crisis if we all drove chocolate cars.
But surely we would just be replacing the climate crisis with an obesity crisis?
11:42 - Friday 7 June
The Commissioner answers that it’s important to be competitive, but it’s also short-sighted to destroy your environment in order to achieve that. She believes it is possible to combine competitiveness and a better environment.
11:40 - Friday 7 June
Someone from the audience asks: “If we focus on the environment, won’t the European Union suffer from competition from less environmentally friendly countries like China?”
There is, of course, a trade war between the EU and China looming at the moment over tariffs for solar panels.
11:37 - Friday 7 June
A question posed by a school teacher on behalf of her students: “Is it possible to reduce CO2 emmissions without a complete change in our lifestyle?”
The commissioner answers:
Yes, I believe it is possible, if we start seriously now. The longer the world waits, the more profound the changes to our lifestyle will have to be and the more serious we will be.
What can schoolchildren do? They could take good care that their computers are not open throughout the day, when they’re not using them. Small, practical things like that, so we think about our energy consumption. It’s not rocket science.
Also, transport systems that make it safe for children to bike to school, instead of taking the car. Recycling more. Getting rid of this use and throw-out mentality.
11:33 - Friday 7 June
The Commissioner answers that no, it’s the opposite. Had it not been for binding targets for renewables, the EU would not have increased its share of renewables during the crisis.
11:32 - Friday 7 June
And now some questions from the audience. A woman asks:
Don’t you think the EU’s 20-20-20 goals (a 20% increase in energy efficiency, 20% reduction of CO2 emissions, and 20% renewables by 2020) is an obsolete policy? Could it even become an obstacle in the development of renewables?
Second, don’t you think that air quality is worsening? You can feel it when you breath! We feel like we’re in a test tube, and we don’t know who the tester is.
11:24 - Friday 7 June
Commissioner Connie Hedegaard is now speaking. She says many in the audience may be wondering why the EU is still talking about climate change when there are so many people unemployed in Europe right now. She says:
We do not just have just one crisis in Europe. We have an economic crisis, we have a severe job crisis but, unfortunately, the climate change problem did not fix itself while we were handling the economic and job crisis… We cannot first solve the economic crisis, then solve the jobs crisis, then, finally, when we don’t have anything else to do, come back to the climate.
11:20 - Friday 7 June
Mayor Pisapia says Milan sometimes feels like a microcosm of the European Union. One local issue with many parallels is, apparently, the problem of music being played loudly. The mayor says that “Young people want to party in the streets, whereas older residents want to have the music turned off at midnight.
He says, just like in the EU, the requirements of everybody must be listened to and then a consensus must be found. He says: “People have the right to sleep, but there is also the right to leisure and happiness. In fact, this might be included in a future European Constitution.”
Question: Should the right to party be in the European Constitution?
11:16 - Friday 7 June
Giuliano Pisapia, the Mayor of Milan, says that Italy is going through a period of “mistrust, lack of trust in politics, and we must reverse this negative trend”.
In Italy, of course, Beppe Grillo’s so-called “anti-politics” Five Star Movement did very well in the 2013 general election, having 108 deputies elected.
11:12 - Friday 7 June
And, we’re off!
The Mayor of Milan is now introducing the event, saying “Europe is felt of as distant by the people, but this is not the case. Europe is democratic, and it must become closer and closer to citizens.”
13:03 - Thursday 6 June
And that’s all folks!
A really great debate, with loads of tough questions coming from the students in the audience and also from our readers. Thanks for following, and you can add your thoughts and comments in the form below!
12:58 - Thursday 6 June
The next question is about the impact of air pollution on wildlife, and Ulf Bjornholm from the European Commission answers it.
He says air pollution has a huge impact also on nature. In particular, it has an impact through nitrogen, which comes from combustion and also from the manure from livestock (he calls it a very “down-to-Earth issue”).
Nitrogen goes up into the air, Bjornholm says, and then it deposits somewhere on water or land, where it increases the nutrient levels and changes the ecological balance in the area. It changes the composition of species, so it’s “bad from a biodiversity perspective, but it’s also bad from an economic perspective, because we rely on these areas to produce food.”
12:54 - Thursday 6 June
The first question is on whether hydrogen could be the answer to Europe’s energy needs, and Bas Eickhout MEP answers it.
He says hydrogen has potential for the longer-term. However, he also says hydrogen is a method of storing energy, not producing it. In order to store the energy in hydrogen, however, you still need to choose between renewables, fossil fuels, nuclear, etc.
12:50 - Thursday 6 June
There are a LOT of questions coming from the audience now! Great to see all the interest!
12:47 - Thursday 6 June
A couple more questions from the audience now. One student asks how we can get more people to buy more environmentally friendly cars.
Ulf Bjornholm, from the European Commission, says that it is ultimately up to the consumer which cars they want to buy, but some policies implemented at the local and city level include things like congestion charging, free parking for green cars, low-emission zones where only green cars can go, etc.
12:39 - Thursday 6 June
A couple of video questions from Debating Europe now. First, Omar from Italy asks whether more “car-free days” in Europe would be a good idea.
Dr Haq responds that: “In terms of a habit, it’s a good habit, but at the same time, it’s only for one day.”
He says he was involved in a project in York to promote green travel, and they went to households and promoted cycling and public transport. In fact, people were receptive to different modes of transport and they thought the project had been a success, but they went back a year later to find that many of the people who had tried cycling, walking, etc., had later returned back to car use.
Why did they do that? Because “lifestyle changes all the time: one woman was pregnant, another had a fatal disease, our life experiences are always changing.”
He says, in order to encourage people over the long-term to change their habits, we need the right infrastructure and the right incentives, so that green travel is cheaper and easier than other forms of transport.
12:27 - Thursday 6 June
Ulf Bjornholm adds his perspective on lobbying in the policy-making process. He says: “In fact, environmental NGOs are very strong lobby groups. The only problem with lobbying is if it is biased. If one group has more resources to reach out than other groups, which, of course, is sometimes the case.”
12:23 - Thursday 6 June
Very interesting question from a student in the audience:
Your side (the policy-makers, scientists, etc.) expect so much from our side (youth) in terms of bringing change. But, frankly we’ve been bombarded with ecological messages from a young age, and I don’t think you see many 16 year-olds who don’t care at all about the environment anymore… So, perhaps the focus should be more on your side [and] I don’t see a representative on the panel of the companies that would affect all the work you are doing, and I’m 100% sure that the lobbying is an important part of decision-making.
Bas Eickhout MEP responds:
I’m not from the school that says lobbying is bad. Because, in the end, lobbying provides you with information about how policies are impacting different sectors, so that’s good. The problem is that the new sectors (such as renewables) are not well represented in Brussels at the moment compared to the ones that have been here for decades already.
12:10 - Thursday 6 June
Question from a student in the audience for Dr Haq. She says she had seen statistics suggesting that power generation, including fossil fuels, actually contributed to the majority of air pollution emitted. However, Dr Haq had said that transport was the biggest contributer, so she asked which was correct.
Dr Haq answered that she’s completely right in terms of the overall picture, but specifically in cities, in an urban context, it is transport that contributes the greatest amount.
12:06 - Thursday 6 June
Ulf Bjornholm asks the students: “Do you know how many people die each year in car accidents in the EU?”
Somebody shouts back: “Lots of people!”
Bjornholm responds yes, that’s unfortunately true. But the number of people who die prematurely because of air pollution is in fact 10 times higher.
12:04 - Thursday 6 June
Ulf Bjornholm from the Directorate-General for Environment of the European Commission is now talking. He says when he was a kid, he used to hold his breath whenever a car went past because he knew the fumes were bad.
However, he says that particles from emissions are everywhere, not just around car exhaust pipes: “Particles go over the borders. So you have to have something in place above the national level if you are going to address the problem properly.”
11:56 - Thursday 6 June
Dr Haq is now holding up Debating Europe’s infographic and telling that audience that the numbers on it “mean nothing”. (Oops!)
But all he means is that the numbers are too large and abstact to be meaningful. When we say there were 420,000 premature deaths in the EU because of air pollution in 2010, he says it’s important to recongise that “One of those people could be your grandfather. One could be our little brother. Or it could be you. It’s actually impacting people in Europe.”
11:48 - Thursday 6 June
Dr Gary Haq, Senior Research Associate at the Stockholm Environment Institute, now has the floor. He begins by arguing: “Air pollution is a silent killer”.
Very impressive. An audience full of students and there was not even a titter.
11:45 - Thursday 6 June
Eickhout says this is an important issue that affects peoples’ lives: “If you grow up in the Alps, you have a better chance of living longer than if you grow up in the Netherlands, because of air quality. That’s just how it is.”
11:43 - Thursday 6 June
And, we’ve started!
Bas Eickhout MEP is introducing the work that he does in the European Parliament, and why the work to improve air quality in Europe is important.
11:25 - Thursday 6 June
Welcome to the liveblog! We should be kicking off shortly (in about 5-10 minutes).
13:10 - Wednesday 15 May
And that’s all folks! A fascinating debate today, with some really frank and no-nonsense points being made about a difficult subject.
We’ll be continuing our focus on youth unemployment for the rest of the week, including publishing a poll conducted with Gallup on the attitudes of young people themselves. So, stay tuned for more!
13:01 - Wednesday 15 May
Péter Halácsy says that the EU’s research investment programme, the Framework Programmes 7 (FP7), is the worst programme ever because it wastes money and keeps the best people at universities instead of in the private sector.
He is asked by a member of the audience how he would change FP7, and he responds:
I used to be a university professor. I did a PhD, and I used FP6 money. I think the biggest problem is that we don’t define [what is] successful research. So, we invest money, but we don’t know if we get back a result.
12:52 - Wednesday 15 May
An impassioned plea from a member of the audience: “To all the educators, ministers, and so on in the room: Please, please, please teach students the basic skills! The rest they will find on Google.”
12:47 - Wednesday 15 May
It seems paradoxical that Europe has a declining, aging population as well as high youth unemployment. It’s a recipe for a social crisis… We have to inflate our way back into growth, in the same way the Federal Reserve is engaging in quantitative easing in the US.
12:45 - Wednesday 15 May
A couple of video questions from Debating Europe. One question about how we can stop unpaid internships, and another asking: “How can we involve more young people in designing schemes like the ‘Youth Guarantee’?”
12:37 - Wednesday 15 May
Péter “HP” Halácsy, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Prezi, is asked what sort of skills he looks for when he’s hiring people.
He says: “Reading, writing, maths and programming.”
He also has a message for universities:
Please don’t teach ‘useful’ knowledge. You just don’t know what is useful. Technology is changing so fast, that I don’t know what kind of technology we will have tomorrow. Fundamental skills is what we need.
12:33 - Wednesday 15 May
Ruairí Quinn, Irish Minister for Education and Skills, has the floor again. He’s says:
Young people are being tricked out of an education, doing things like ‘media studies’. These are just non-jobs. They’re a deception to the parents, who are having to carry the young people, and they’re a deception to the young people themselves. There is a certain sense of betrayal of this cohort of young people.
12:24 - Wednesday 15 May
Stefano Scarpetta, Deputy Director for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), is now speaking.
He says, more worrying than youth unemployment, is “idleness”. People who aren’t Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETs).
And what is the answer to this problem? Scarpetta argues: “Economic growth. Everything need to be done at the macroeconomic level to promote economic growth.”
12:20 - Wednesday 15 May
He says: “I like to convince people not to go to university. Don’t get a Masters. Instead start making things, so people can buy them.”
12:20 - Wednesday 15 May
Péter “HP” Halácsy, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Prezi, an internet start-up, is asked: “How do you get young people back into jobs?”
A simple answer: “We hire them.”
12:18 - Wednesday 15 May
Now Carmen Costea, Vice Rector of International Relations at Spiru Haret University, Bucharest, is outlining some of the ways her university is working to try and make the skills learned by students more practical and applicable in the labour market.
12:13 - Wednesday 15 May
Talking about internships and traineeships, Minister Quinn says:
It’s not exploitation if you’re being lowly paid but highly trained… And you learn things like getting up on time, being punctual, understanding how to work in groups, and being socialised… Those kind of values, which might not be very fashionable, are about becoming a young adult… It’s not exploitation. It’s about training on the job.
12:10 - Wednesday 15 May
Ruairí Quinn, Irish Minister for Education and Skills, is now speaking. He warns that:
We have a certain sense of entitlement in our society. A growing cohert of people, historically, it used to be the dispossessed or alienated working class people, and now there’s an emerging class of young unemployed people, who likewise see no connection between income and work.
12:05 - Wednesday 15 May
The final session is beginning now! This will be looking at some practical solutions: “Getting young people into jobs – what works best?”
11:55 - Wednesday 15 May
If you want to see some facts and figures about youth unemployment in Europe, you can see our infographic here.
11:45 - Wednesday 15 May
And that’s it for this session! The next session, with Ruairí Quinn, Irish Minister for Education and Skills, should be beginning at 12:00 CET.
11:44 - Wednesday 15 May
Koos Richelle, European Commission Director General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, says that it is “blatant nonsense” that the crisis was caused by Europe. He says the crisis began in the financial sector, and if you believe youth unemployment is a reason for increased euroscepticism, then you need to go “back to school.”
11:41 - Wednesday 15 May
The Romanian Minister of Labour is answering this. She says “Young people need to have free access in the labour market, without any kind of barriers. Only this way can we have a success story.”
Access of Romania and Bulgaria to the labour market in Europe is, of course, a fiercely controversial question at the moment.
11:39 - Wednesday 15 May
Another video question from one of our users. This one comes from Xavier, who asks about the relationship between euroscepticism and youth unemployment.
11:32 - Wednesday 15 May
A question from the audience saying:
The reality is that we have highly-qualified people, but we also are creating jobs that do not need high qualifications… 50% of the jobs created in Europe between 2000-2008, the ‘boom years’, needed less skills than driving your car to work.
11:27 - Wednesday 15 May
He also says that governments must give up the “obsession” with producing the next Silicon Valley. He says that this model does not give back to society, and California still has terrible unemployment and social problems. “We should aim for sustainability, not domination, which is the failed American model.”
11:26 - Wednesday 15 May
Like many of the previous speakers, Tsigos says: “the culture of failure is missing from European education.” However, he also says we need to produce more “team players… We are educating champions, not team players.”
11:24 - Wednesday 15 May
Now Dimitris Tsigos, President of the European Confederation of Young Entrepreneurs (YES), is now speaking. He says: “The truth is that Europe is old, and behaves like a very old person: slow moving and very conservative.”
11:17 - Wednesday 15 May
Olivier Küttel is making an interesting point:
“It isn’t the case that when you go for vocational training you are middle-skilled and when you go to university you are highly-skilled. Vocational training should not be seen as second-class training. It’s probably the most valuable education you can have, and it’s much more valuable than anything you can learn in a university.”
11:13 - Wednesday 15 May
A question from the moderator: “Labour markets are very much a prerogative of the national governments. Do you think the EU should have a greater role here?”
And a fairly straightforward response from Richelle: “Well, I can dream on, but we have the treaty and the treaty says it is the prerogative of the member states.”
11:10 - Wednesday 15 May
Richelle also brings up the Commission’s soon-to-be-proposed “Quality Framework for Traineeships”. He says too many interns in Europe are being exploited: “They learn nothing, and they earn nothing. They are simply cheap labour.”
11:07 - Wednesday 15 May
Koos Richelle, European Commission Director General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion is now speaking.
11:06 - Wednesday 15 May
Olivier Küttel, head of EU affairs for the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne now has the floor. Switzerland has an unemployment rate of 3% (and, even more remarkably, a youth unemployment rate of 3%).
How do they do it? Küttel argues, controversially, that “the higher the figure of people going to university, the higher your unemployment rate will be later on.” In Switzerland, 80% of people opt for vocational training instead of going to university.
10:55 - Wednesday 15 May
There hasn’t been a strong enough link between the curricula and the demand in the labour market, which has driven Europe to have an acute lack of technical workers. Romania was known in the 1990s as a country with good qualifications in the technical field, yet now we are starting to have a very large shortage of technical labour.
10:52 - Wednesday 15 May
A question from the audience for the Romanian Minister of Labour: “How can you involve universities in your programme, both teaching staff and students, and potentially even alumni who have already graduated?”
10:50 - Wednesday 15 May
Minister Câmpeanu also says the Romanian government intends to ensure a “decent working environment for trainees, by setting minimum standards for a quality traineeship.”
This is exactly the topic we discussed yesterday in our debate on internships in Europe.
10:48 - Wednesday 15 May
Câmpeanu is outlining some of the plans the Romanian government has for cutting youth unemployment. These include many of the measures brought up by EU Education Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, such as better vocational counselling and more professional training and informal training.
10:44 - Wednesday 15 May
And the second session is beginning! Mariana Câmpeanu, the Romanian Minister of Labour, is now speaking.
10:39 - Wednesday 15 May
Apologies, we’re running a bit behind today because of the bad traffic in Brussels, but should be starting in the next few minutes!
10:22 - Wednesday 15 May
And that’s all for this session! We’ll be starting up again at 10:30 CET, with a panel including Mariana Câmpeanu, Romanian Minister for Labour and Koos Richelle, European Commission Director General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.
10:19 - Wednesday 15 May
One final point from Vandenbroucke: “People do not choose technical subjects because they do not see the link between engineering and the big societal issues out there like climate change… Why did I choose economics instead of engineering? Because, when I was 17, I wanted to work in issues that affect society and politics. Maybe I was wrong.”
This coming from a man who is a former Belgian Minister for Employment and Pensions. What could he have achieved if he’d chosen engineering?
10:16 - Wednesday 15 May
Frank Vandenbroucke, Former Belgian Minister for Employment and Pensions, answers by saying: “We have a problem in organising counselling and orientation for young people… It’s about helping young people to discover themselves: both their talents AND their passions, and how those relate to the outside.”
But he also says: “I do think passion is very important. I would tell people to follow their passion. But, in order to broaden the scope in which passions can be applied, we must introduce technology at an earlier age.”
10:14 - Wednesday 15 May
A really good question from the audience:
I never felt there was a focus in the education system on what you were good at, but rather doing ‘what you really enjoyed’. Do you believe there needs to be a cultural shift to focus on your practical strengths, rather than your passions?
10:11 - Wednesday 15 May
A brilliantly sardonic question from a young person in the audience: “Thank you for organising this debate about how to save us… We are talking about a lost generation, but we’ve been talking about a ‘lost generation’ since the 1980s. Aren’t the ‘lost generation’ now in their 40s and 50s?”
10:04 - Wednesday 15 May
A very good question from the audience: “What can be done now about youth unemployment? Not in the long-term.”
Frank Vandenbroucke says he thinks that the broader economic situation has to improve. He says we need a “more expansionary approach in the North of Europe, to allow the South to reform and restructure.”
In other words: he argues that we need to rethink ‘austerity’ as a solution to the crisis.
10:02 - Wednesday 15 May
Commissioner Vassiliou says that young people need counselling.
She doesn’t mean therapy (although if things get much worse then that might help), she means vocational counselling. Vassiliou argues that too many young people are choosing to study subjects in the social sciences, and not enough are studying technical subjects. Vocational counselling, before young people embark on studies in higher education, could help inform them about what sort of skills are needed in the labour market.
09:57 - Wednesday 15 May
Andrea Gerosa, from ThinkYoung, says it’s important to also recognise the global context. When you look at young people in Africa, Latin America, Asia, etc., he says that they are often “working their &*$@’s off… We should not be too nice to young people. Otherwise we get lazy.”
09:54 - Wednesday 15 May
A video question asking how young people can be better exposed to the business environment at an earlier age.
Commissioner Vassiliou says that entrepreneurial education is absolutely vital, and in the long-term, there needs to be more of an acceptance of “failure” when starting a company, as it can take several attempts.
Karen Coleman asks what can be done now, not just in the long-term, and Vassiliou says that there are already schemes linking young people with businesses across Europe, and that it is important to focus also on “lifelong learning”.
09:49 - Wednesday 15 May
And it’s time to take some of your video questions to the panel, to see how they react.
09:46 - Wednesday 15 May
Frank Vandenbroucke, Former Belgian Minister for Employment and Pensions, is now speaking. He says the wider context of European austerity has to be considered when talking about youth unemployment.
Reforms, he says, are expensive: “If you need to reform, yes you can reform with tighter budgets. But it’s rather easier to push through reform with a large budget.”
09:42 - Wednesday 15 May
The European Council, in February, earmarked €6 billion for a new Youth Employment Initiative. Massimiliano Mascherini says this is nowhere near enough money. It is ‘a drop in the ocean’ – but at least it puts the issue on the political agenda.
09:40 - Wednesday 15 May
Massimiliano Mascherini, research manager at the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, says that, if you want to successfully integrate young people into the labour market, you need to first recognise the heterogeneity of “young people”. They should not be lumped together into one group. There are young people who have left school with few qualifications, young graduates who have a skills-mismatch, young people with a difficult background or disabilities, etc., etc.
Each of these groups needs a different approach.
09:36 - Wednesday 15 May
Giles Merritt makes an excellent point: the crisis might get better in five years. However, that could still leave us with young people who have never had a job, and never will have a job, because they have spent so long unemployed. How can we avoid leaving a generation of young people on the ‘scrap heap’?
09:33 - Wednesday 15 May
He seems fairly optimistic about the future. He says that national governments are currently focused a lot on young people, but he’s worried that “once the crisis is over”, young people and entrepreneurship will again drop off the agenda. He says: “In five years, when the crisis is passed and unemployment is solved, will policy makers still care about young people?”
Are we getting ahead of ourselves?
09:30 - Wednesday 15 May
Now Andrea Gerosa, a young entrepreneur and founder of ThinkYoung, is speaking. He’s 30 years old, and says he was “lucky to have left Italy years before the crisis started”.
09:28 - Wednesday 15 May
Vassiliou says: “We need investment. I am trying to encourage countries not to cut their education budgets.”
09:27 - Wednesday 15 May
Vassiliou is outlining the various steps the Commission wants to take in order to encourage improvement in various education systems in Europe, so that they can better provide the skills young people need to find jobs. It’s important to point out, though, that education remains largely the competence of the individual member state governments.
09:22 - Wednesday 15 May
Vassiliou says that the paradox of the crisis is the so-called “skills mismatch”. She says “We have about 2 million unfilled jobs, which cannot be filled because we can’t find the necessary skills to fill these jobs [and education] does not provide them with the skills necessary for them to find work or stay in work.”
09:19 - Wednesday 15 May
And Commissioner Vassiliou is now speaking. She says that youth unemployment is “the biggest challenge we are facing [in Europe]”.
09:18 - Wednesday 15 May
Giles Merritt is now introducing a poll that we conducted with our partner Gallup, asking young people how they felt about the future. We’ll be publishing the report later this week, but the results make for sobering reading (92% of young people in Italy feel very pessimistic about the possibility of finding a secure job in future).
09:15 - Wednesday 15 May
And we’re off! Giles Merritt, Secretary General of Friends of Europe, is just introducing himself and his co-moderator, Karen Coleman, Broadcast Journalist and Columnist for the Irish Independent.
The traffic is apparently horrible in Brussels today, and so Commissioner Vassiliou (EU Commissioner for Education) has just made it to the panel now.
09:07 - Wednesday 15 May
Looks like we’re running a bit late, but should be starting soon!
09:00 - Wednesday 15 May
The event is due to begin at 9am CET, with a panel discussion on the “Skills shortage in a dwindling EU workforce.” One of the most perverse things about the current crisis is that, although unemployment is sky-high, there are certain sectors (such as the ICT sector) that are unable to find enough skilled manpower. Is the education system failing our young people? We’ll be kicking things off with a panel discussion on this topic (with Androulla Vassiliou, EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism & Youth).
13:08 - Tuesday 7 May
And that’s all folks! Thanks for following the debate, and we’ll be posting some follow-up interviews soon!
13:06 - Tuesday 7 May
John F. Ryan is now talking about the impact of the economic crisis on vaccination programmes in Europe. He highlights an instance when supplies in Greece were running out, and an emergency donation from Norway was arranged to meet demand.
Ryan also says that, though prevention can indeed have benefits in the short-term, the results always seem to be “just beyond the next election”.
13:00 - Tuesday 7 May
The next video contribution is from Dr Marc Sprenger, Director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). He says this has been the longest influenza season since the ECDC was established in 2005.
He also says that vaccination is much more effective than the old “coughing into your elbow” technique, and he is concerned that so few healthcare professionals advocate vaccination to their patients (and to themselves).
12:56 - Tuesday 7 May
Now a couple of video contributions to the debate, first from Roberto Bertollini, Chief Scientist and WHO Representative to the European Union. He points out that only 3% of healthcare budgets are currently dedicated to prevention, and he argues that it’s not true that prevention only produces results in “decades”. In fact, he believes it’s the only way to ensure that healthcare systems are sustainable in Europe.
12:50 - Tuesday 7 May
The panel is now suggesting that hospital directors and policy-makers set a positive public example by having themselves vaccinated live on the internet.
Debating Europe would be happy to livestream such an event. And the Debating Europe commenter who submits the best question to us on this issue will get to administer the injection.
12:43 - Tuesday 7 May
John F. Ryan is speaking again, saying that the Commission will soon be publishing a report that identifies which countries are going “backwards” in terms of vaccinations. He hopes this will be a “peer-pressure” report, that will embarrass Health Ministers in the countries that are falling behind, and encourage them to redouble their efforts.
12:41 - Tuesday 7 May
Another comment from the audience, arguing that we are now “paying the price” of the “anti-vaccination” scares several years ago, including inaccurate reporting by national media.
12:39 - Tuesday 7 May
Some questions from the audience now, including a commenter reminding the panel that there are other areas (including encouraging physical activity through walking and cycling) that could also have a positive impact on public health in Europe.
12:36 - Tuesday 7 May
Giles Merritt is speaking again, asking why more vaccinations aren’t being conducted when the individual cost of a vaccination is “about the price of a coffee”.
Question for debate: Would the economy of Europe benefit more from all 500 million citizens being offered free vaccinations, or through a simultaneous caffeine boost through subsidised coffee?
12:32 - Tuesday 7 May
Smallpox was declared eradicated by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1979, following vaccination campaigns in the 19th and 20th centuries. This year, 2013, might be the first year with less than 100 cases of Polio reported globally, and it could eventually follow smallpox into the history books.
However, the increase in the number of vaccinations being carried out has recently halted, and there have even been some decreases in certain countries.
12:28 - Tuesday 7 May
The panel is arguing that the economic impact of sickness can be huge, both in terms of the increased pressure on the health system, but also in terms of “days lost” in the economy.
12:26 - Tuesday 7 May
Do too many people in Europe think of communicable disease as being a problem of the past? With the ready availability of antibiotics, is there a feeling that the “bad old days” (when, for example, an influenza pandemic in 1918 killed between 3-5 percent of the world’s population) are now over?
12:19 - Tuesday 7 May
Why do people in Europe seem so reluctant to have themselves and their children vaccinated? Is it because the benefit is of vaccination is “invisible” compared to exercise and healthy diets? Is there a way to make vaccination “fun” and a pleasant experience? And is there enough public awareness that they are needed?
12:16 - Tuesday 7 May
The UK recently saw an outbreak of the measles virus in Wales, which affected over 1000 people. As many as 50’000 people in Wales may remain unvaccinated despite a drive from the British government, possibly due to a public health scare caused by research (now discredited) linking the MMR vaccine to autism in children.
12:10 - Tuesday 7 May
John F. Ryan, acting Director of Public Health at the European Commission, now has the floor. You can also read Ryan’s comments from our recent post asking how we can encourage healthier lifestyles in Europe.
12:09 - Tuesday 7 May
And here we go! The debate has begun, and Giles Merritt, the Secretary General of Friends of Europe, is introducing the discussion. He wonders why the takeup of preventive vaccination is so low in Europe.
15:35 - Saturday 4 May
Viviane Reding finishes her remarks by saying she will “continue fighting for a political Europe, and those who want a stronger Europe are those who will ultimately win the day.”
And, that’s all folks! We’re be following up this liveblog next week with some further discussion and debate about some of the tricky issues raised, so stay tuned for more.
15:30 - Saturday 4 May
Reding is now giving her closing remarks. She says that, next week, the Commission will be revealing 12 proposals to improve the lives of European citizens.
She also says that there is much confusion over whether the EU or national governments have competency in different policy areas. Apparently, people write regularly to Viviane Reding asking her for help in all sorts of areas – including divorces. Viviane Reding as a pan-European agony aunt?
She also makes another point: people don’t seem to care which institutions have competency over which areas, they just care that things get done.
15:25 - Saturday 4 May
Viviane Reding tells a young bearded man in the audience: “What my generation is doing is laying the foundations so that your generation can later actually build a strong political Europe.”
Are these inspirational words for the younger generation? Or is this just kicking the can down the road until somebody else has to deal with it?
15:21 - Saturday 4 May
The problem of pan-European democracy is now being discussed. The key problem is: how do you “shift the mindset” so that parties campaign along European political lines, rather than just national lines?
Is such a thing even possible? Or is this perhaps being a bit optimistic?
15:18 - Saturday 4 May
Marc Tarabella MEP has the microphone again. He says: “I really support Viviane Reding, I would like HER to be the next Commission President, but I don’t think she has much chance. I think a German will get in.”
Could Tarabella possibly be referring to the current President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz?
15:12 - Saturday 4 May
A very apologetic young man saying the EU is a ‘big joke’.
He says: “It’s a joke to pretend that people in the European Parliament pretend they actually get along”.
Nobody knows, according to this questioner, what the policies are of the different political parties and groups in the European Parliament.
15:10 - Saturday 4 May
Interesting that so many people voted “Yes” for something as loosely defined as “political union” in Europe. What does “political union” actually mean?
15:09 - Saturday 4 May
And an overwhelming 91% voted “Yes” (though the moderator admits “I suspect that’s not representative”).
Even the one audience member they could find who voted “No” says: (“I think ‘Yes’, but I voted “No” anyway, because we are not familiar enough with the Members of the European Parliament).
15:07 - Saturday 4 May
More funky techno music, which means it’s time for another vote:
“Do you want a stronger political union?”
15:06 - Saturday 4 May
Apparently, some Europeans currently have no right to vote anywhere: not in their country of origin (because they left too long ago), nor in their country of residence. Reding says: “We’re going to get rid of all that, to make it easier for citizens” (presumably, she means getting rid of the red tape, not getting rid of voting).
15:01 - Saturday 4 May
Now we’re moving on to the final question of the debate: looking at the future of the EU, and the future of democracy in Europe.
15:00 - Saturday 4 May
The point is now being made that many of the things frustrating citizens (austerity, taxation, etc.) are actually competences of the national governments, not of the European Union. Does it therefore mean that citizens are “clearly” calling for more competencies for the European Union?
14:58 - Saturday 4 May
A woman from the audience has complained that it takes too long to conclude a court case in Belgium, and Viviane Reding should work to reduce the time it takes. Reding’s response is that, when looking at Europe as a whole, Belgium is actually average in terms of how long a court case takes. It can take 10 times longer in Portugal, Malta, Cyprus, or Italy.
So, don’t worry, it could be worse?
14:55 - Saturday 4 May
Reding argues that, prior to the Lisbon treaty, legal rights were a purely national competency. Now, however, the right to have a lawyer, right to interpretation, right to be informed why you are being put in prison, etc., are all part of European legislation.
However, Reding that whether justice for all actually works in practice is another question.
14:53 - Saturday 4 May
A question from the audience, from a woman who works as a court interpreter. She says that she knows first-hand, because of her work, that not all people have equal rights in Europe, so she asks Viviane Reding what can be done about this.
14:52 - Saturday 4 May
The discussion has, again, turned to shared “values” in Europe – such as democracy, human rights and so on. Is it possible to build a Union on values alone, or is more needed?
14:51 - Saturday 4 May
Viviane Reding talking about the political decision to expand Europe to include post-Soviet countries after the fall of the USSR, so citizens of these countries are now citizens of the EU. She argues that, for political reasons, there may be attempts to restrict the right to travel and work for, for example, Romanians or Bulgarians (a hot topic at the moment), but she would resist any attempts to restrict rights based on nationality.
14:40 - Saturday 4 May
An MEP, Marc Tarabella, has been given the microphone, and has let slip that MEPs are currently “speed dating” citizens at the European Parliament. Presumably this is some sort of democracy thing?
14:37 - Saturday 4 May
Another vote is underway: ‘Will you be voting in the European election in 2014?’
Belgium has compulsory voting laws, so, theoretically, the vote should be 100% “Yes”… but a sneaky 4% say they will be ignoring the law.
14:32 - Saturday 4 May
Funky techno music is playing, which means a vote is now underway.
The audience is asking: “Will Europe come out of the crisis stronger?”
57% vote “Yes” – which is a clear majority, but not quite as emphatic a “Yes” as the earlier vote for solidarity in Europe.
14:31 - Saturday 4 May
Reding is now saying that, per capita, her own country of Luxembourg is actually paying more than Germany for the bail-outs (or ‘solidarity funds’) – and yet there is no public debate in Luxembourg about whether they are paying too much.
14:28 - Saturday 4 May
The next question is about whether ‘solidarity’ should mean everybody paying the same levels of taxation in Europe. Again, Reding responds by reminding the audience that taxation is not an EU competency, and there is little the Commission can do about levels of taxation in Europe.
Again, it is the Member State governments that actually hold the purse strings.
14:26 - Saturday 4 May
Reding now responds to the comments, saying, first of all, that ‘Europe did not cause this crisis.”
Instead, it was caused by certain countries or financial actors behaving irresponsibly. But was the crisis exacerbated by (as some of our commenters here on Debating Europe have argued) having a shared currency – the euro – without a shared fiscal policy?
Reding also makes the point that the EU doesn’t have the sort of budget that is needed to implement policies of fiscal stimulus (nor does the European Central Bank currently have the mandate to just print money, unless the treaties are rewritten). The “purse strings” are controlled by the governments of the Member States.
14:20 - Saturday 4 May
A similar question from the next questioner: “We’re only being offered one single solution: austerity.”
14:19 - Saturday 4 May
Interesting question from the audience: “How can we really talk about ‘solidarity’ if we continue the policies of austerity, without a European growth plan?”
14:18 - Saturday 4 May
Using their space-age voting gizmos, the audience has been asked “Does Europe mean solidarity between the Member States?”
Remarkably, 80% of the audience voted “Yes”.
14:17 - Saturday 4 May
Should the Commission President be directly elected, like in the US or France? Or should it rather be along the lines of a parliamentary system, as in the UK? Or perhaps the Commission should be abolished altogether? Let us know what you think!
14:15 - Saturday 4 May
Reding is now talking about the future of democracy in the European Union, including the possibility of people (eventually) directly electing the President of the European Commission. This is exactly one of the 5 ideas we discussed last week.
14:10 - Saturday 4 May
And now Viviane Reding has the floor, starting things by explaining that these debates are being held across Europe as a way to listen to the comments, criticism and ideas of ordinary citizens.
14:05 - Saturday 4 May
Picqué has finished his introductory remarks, saying he has every confidence in Europe, but to inspire that confidence you need to calmly debate the choices available to you as a society. This event is just one small part of that wider debate.
14:01 - Saturday 4 May
Charles Picqué says we all agree we need “more Europe” – but the question is exactly what variety of “more Europe” we want.
But are we really so certain that we DO all want “more Europe”? As Picqué readily admits, the audience in the room today probably isn’t totally representative of the majority of European citizens. Do most Europeans really want “more Europe”, or do they just want “less crisis”?
13:57 - Saturday 4 May
A short talk now by Charles Picqué, Minister-President of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region, explaining that “Brussels” is not the same thing as the “European Union” (a public service announcement I’m sure he has to deliver regularly) and also warming up the audience for Viviane Reding.
13:49 - Saturday 4 May
I wonder if the live interpretors know we can hear them breathing so heavily into the microphones, and (or so it sounds) pouring each other a sneaky whiskey?
13:47 - Saturday 4 May
And we’re off! The audience will be voting on various questions during the course of the night, so they’ve all been given futuristic voting devices so they can participate live. The moderators are just explaining how these gizmos work, as well as the headsets for interpretation.
The moderator warns the audience: “Don’t take the headsets home with you! They won’t work outside of this hall, so you won’t have nabbed yourself a universal translator.”
13:44 - Saturday 4 May
Today’s event is taking place in La Tentation a popular music and dance venue in Brussels. Friday night is disco night. Saturday: a debate on the future of Europe.
13:36 - Saturday 4 May
The EU Commission is on the road this year, touring the Member States for the European Year of Citizens 2013. There will be a series of “Citizens’ Dialogues” taking place in towns and cities all across Europe, and you can check the schedule for upcoming town hall meetings here.
13:30 - Saturday 4 May
Looks like the room is filling up ready for the debate to start. Slightly cheesy, elevator music playing, so we must be almost ready.
16:35 - Monday 18 March
And that’s all folks!
Gianni Pittella and Anna Maria Darmanin repeat their offer to help organise a European Citizens’ Initiative, but only if enough people contact them and show support for the idea.
16:25 - Monday 18 March
Gianni Pittella now has the mic, and says he will try to put forwards a resolution in the European Parliament based on the 5 Ideas. He also hints that he wants to turn the 5 Ideas into a book (with pictures, apparently!).
Finally, he suggests turning the 5 Ideas into a European Citizens’ Initiative, seeking one million signatures from across the EU.
16:15 - Monday 18 March
Anna Maria Darmanin now summing up, accepting that implementing a European constitution would be a “challenge”. Most people in the room apparently do support the adoption of a European constitution (but do most young people in Europe?) – and this was also a point that came up several times in the online debate we held earlier.
16:03 - Monday 18 March
A good point from an audience member from Denmark:
“The EU is complex, and doesn’t lend itself very easy to TV… When people come home after work, they don’t put on Euronews. They put on the news that is most salient to them. They put on their national news.”
16:01 - Monday 18 March
An interesting point was made by Marcel, one of our readers, on the idea of a European broadcasting channel:
“You can set it up, but you cannot make people watch it. And undoubtedly, the French would demand half the broadcasts to be done in French. Good luck at getting people from Italy, Austria or Finland to watch that.”
Someone from the audience is making a similar point: “I don’t think you can do it in so many languages… What works in France won’t work in Greece, won’t work in Sweden and elsewhere”
15:49 - Monday 18 March
And this brings us to the fifth idea: EUROPEAN PUBLIC SPHERE
According to Eurobarometer, television is by far the leading source of information for many Europeans (7 out of 10 EU citizens state that they keep informed mainly through it, according to a survey published in 2012); therefore the European Union should support the creation of a European public broadcasting company.
15:47 - Monday 18 March
Tough comment from someone from the audience: “I really think this idea is a dream… most people don’t speak four languages”
The discussion so far has focused on what young people (or, at least, the young people surveyed) would like to see. However, are these ideas all practical? Are they economially viable? And would they have political support from the majority of the European population (not just young people)?
15:37 - Monday 18 March
Someone from the audience makes an excellent point: sending someone to four different universities isn’t going to be affordable for everyone.
15:34 - Monday 18 March
The next idea is now being discussed: EDUCATION
“Setting up a European Degree Programme: four-year course; four universities; four European countries. To be combined with the further development of distance learning and virtual universities and the establishment of EU ambassadors in all faculties of all EU universities: students who would help other students to stay informed about their rights, opportunities for mobility, employment and scholarships offered by the European Union.”
15:33 - Monday 18 March
A South African member of the audience is now offering a perspective from outside of Europe. He says he is all for “Unity in Diversity” (which is the motto of the EU) but that it’s important to recognise that the majority of states should avoid shoving their values onto the minority.
A good things he likes the EU’s motto, because the South African motto is !ke e: /xarra //ke (“Unity in Diversity” in the /Xam language)!
15:27 - Monday 18 March
This is a controversial idea. If these rights are harmonised across Europe, then these rights would have to be decided jointly at the EU level. This means that Ireland (where abortion is illegal according to the constitution) could find itself overruled by other countries. Does this respect the principle of subsidiarity?
15:23 - Monday 18 March
The next idea: RIGHTS
Standardisation of human, social, civil, political and economic rights in the EU. Any right conferred by a Member State of the Union must be automatically extended to the citizens of all Member States. This would avoid some rights becoming the privileges of those who can afford to pay for them.
15:22 - Monday 18 March
Anna Maria Darmanin was just asked a question in the middle of Tweeting something. Thankfully, she put her phone down to respond. The challenges of technology!
15:15 - Monday 18 March
Someone from the audience is now raising the issue of unpaid internships, which she says are exploitative. A second member from the audience then responds that many traineeships in Brussels are paid more than a lawyer in Greece at the moment, and that the real scandal is “unpaid employment” in Europe.
15:12 - Monday 18 March
The discussion has now turned to minimum wages and tax breaks for young people. However, we earlier had a fairly brutal comment sent in from Marcel, who argues that the only employment opportunities for young people in the future will be low paying service industry jobs. Marcel cites increased competition from developing countries and the disappearence of industrial jobs as the reason.
Would a European public employment service be enough, then, to improve employment? Or are there more fundamental challenges behind the rise in unemployment in Europe?
15:07 - Monday 18 March
This brings us to idea 2: EMPLOYMENT
“Put in place a European public employment service. Intended not only to facilitate the matching of job-seekers and employers, but designed to guide the choices of young people in their search for a job, to suggest education or vocational training solutions that are able to serve the needs of the labour market.”
15:06 - Monday 18 March
Gianni Pittella blaming “three or four countries from the North of Europe” for threatening the budget of the Erasmus programme. He says that the budget for Erasmus should, in fact, be increased and the programme should be extended to anybody aged 16 to 32.
You can read our debate on this topic here.
15:01 - Monday 18 March
The discussion has moved to questions of a new EU constitution, but it’s worth considering whether these discussions are politically realistic. The last attempt at an EU constitution was, after all, shot down by popular referendums by the French and Dutch in 2005.
14:59 - Monday 18 March
Excellent comment from the audience just now, wondering whether it is politically possible to agree to a new European constitution whilst there is so much public anger over the debt crisis: “I don’t think it’s possible for the people to agree on a constitution”
14:57 - Monday 18 March
We also had a comment from Jean, who wondered whether a presidential model (closer to the US system) or a parliamentary model would be more appropriate for Europe:
“These are indeed 5 ideas I like to share. With a little ‘nuance’ regarding election of the EU president. For me, there is no clear difference of democratic impact between direct elections and election by the Parliament.”
14:54 - Monday 18 March
We had an interesting comment sent in from a reader called Marco on this idea, questioning whether an elected president would really be enough to constitute a “political union”:
“I don’t understand what the relation between a ‘true’ European political union and having a president of the EU is.”
14:51 - Monday 18 March
The first idea is now being debated: Democracy
The creation of a true European political union. This process entails the establishment of a President of the European Union, to be directly elected by all EU citizens.
14:51 - Monday 18 March
Gianni Pittella says young people don’t like Europe today and, he confesses, he doesn’t like it either. Specifically, he doesn’t like a Europe of austerity which is run by bankers.
Pittella is, of course, from the socialist group in the European Parliament. This raises an interesting question: should we expect young Europeans to all share similar fundamental beliefs and values? Or perhaps some young Europeans will be more conservative, some more liberal, some more eurosceptic and some more pro-European?
14:47 - Monday 18 March
Interesting to see discussions about UK membership of the EU making its way into today’s discussion. Do young students in the UK want to feel more European?
And a good point by the moderator, who also wanted to hear what young people in Spain, Italy and other countries think.
14:45 - Monday 18 March
Now Anna Maria Darmanin, Vice-President of the European Economic and Social Committee, is introducing her part in the project. She says it she realised it was difficult for her and Gianni Pittella, First Vice-President of the European Parliament, to understand exactly what young people are thinking because they are of a “relative age”.
14:42 - Monday 18 March
And we’re starting! The current speaker is introducing the project, and explaining that “5 Ideas for a Younger Europe” is about ideas from the “so-called lost generation” – not just from politicians.
14:35 - Monday 18 March
Looks like we’re a bit delayed, but hopefully things should be kicking off shortly!
13:17 - Monday 18 March
The livefeed should begin around 14h30 CET. You can read the five ideas in more detail (and join the debate) in our previous post here.
09:54 - Wednesday 23 January
And, that’s all folks!
09:53 - Wednesday 23 January
Cameron asked how he will feel if his legacy is being the Prime Minister who takes Britain out of the EU. He says his legacy should be as the Prime Minister who confronted the issue of British membership of the EU (as well as the Prime Minister who confronted the issue of Scottish membership of the UK).
09:51 - Wednesday 23 January
Cameron is asked if the renegotiation is unsuccessful, will he campaign against EU membership? He says he is optimistic that it will be successful.
He is then asked if this would be a “deal-breaker” in any coalition agreement. Cameron responds: “If I am Prime Minister, there will be a referendum”
09:49 - Wednesday 23 January
Now Cameron is taking questions from the press. He argues that there will likely be treaty change by 2017, because there have already been two treaty changes in the last couple of years and the eurozone crisis makes it neccessary. He says he has had a number of conversations with European partners in recent weeks, and he feels there is an understanding of his position (though, obviously, there will be some “tough debates” to come).
Nothing is “off the table” in terms of specific policies to be renegotiated.
09:44 - Wednesday 23 January
Cameron says the EU should be willing to cooperate with the UK’s position, because “it is hard to argue that the EU would not be greatly diminished by the UK’s departure.”
09:42 - Wednesday 23 January
So, apparently, the referendum campaign for British membership of the EU begins today.
09:39 - Wednesday 23 January
And the magic words “In / Out referendum” have been said! It will apparently be in the first half of the next parliament (assuming Cameron is still in power).
09:34 - Wednesday 23 January
Now we get to the “red meat” of the speech. Cameron argues that a referendum now would be a false choice. But by 2017…?
09:33 - Wednesday 23 January
David Cameron has now set out his three challenges for the EU, as well as his five principles for setting things straight. Now he turns to how this specifically affects the UK. This is interesting, because it implies that the whole first half of his speech was aimed at Europe as a whole.
09:29 - Wednesday 23 January
In his speech, David Cameron is very careful not to position himself as being anti-European. His main arguement is that the changes he want are for the EU as a whole.
09:28 - Wednesday 23 January
Cameron arguing that power should flow back and forth between the EU and national governments.
09:23 - Wednesday 23 January
Cameron now criticising the EU for having too many institutions, before, in the very next sentence, going on to argue that there should be a new “Single Market Council”. Possibly a fair point, but perhaps not the best juxtaposition.
09:21 - Wednesday 23 January
Cameron is now positioning himself as the new Copernicus of Europe – a “heretic who has a point”. But does Europe revolve around the UK, or does the UK revolve around Europe?
09:19 - Wednesday 23 January
David Cameron is expected to offer an “In / Out” referendum in 2017. What happens if he fails to win a majority, though? This could make the 2015 UK General Election a sort of “referendum on the referendum”.
09:16 - Wednesday 23 January
Cameron says he is giving this speech today because “he wants the European Union to be a success”.
09:15 - Wednesday 23 January
Now Cameron makes it to his “three challenges for Europe”. It looks like the speech hasn’t been fundamentally rewritten since the “pre-briefings” were sent out to the press last week.
09:15 - Wednesday 23 January
Cameron says he is not an “isolationist” and that he wants a better deal for all of Europe.
09:14 - Wednesday 23 January
The speech has started (and you can watch it live here)
09:07 - Wednesday 23 January
The speech should be starting soon (though, given the history of today’s speech, anything could happen). The big news (already briefed to the press) will apparently be that an “In / Out” referendum will be offered in 2017, should the Conservatives win the next election.
19:01 - Thursday 3 January
Well, that’s all folks! We won’t be liveblogging the Grand Final tonight, but you can watch it tonight here at 20:00 (Berlin time).
19:00 - Thursday 3 January
A potentially more substantive argument now coming from the Opposition, but it was given hardly any time at all: could the Government’s utopian vision of a borderless world lead to a backlash of anti-foreigner extremism?
18:52 - Thursday 3 January
A slightly odd argument coming from the Opposition, which is now saying that the Government might be trying to “trap immigrants for cheap labour with a false belief that their vote will count.”
18:49 - Thursday 3 January
Something that hasn’t come up during the debate is that the motion only says that “specific seats” should be created in parliament for foreigners. It doesn’t say how many seats should be created. From the Government’s perspective, this could have perhaps been useful to counter the “parachuting army of vote tourists” argument that I alluded to below (there could have been a constitutional limit to the number of seats allocated).
On the other hand, the Opposition didn’t seem very interested in the “parachuting voter” argument, so I suppose it was uneccessary.
18:45 - Thursday 3 January
Brilliantly, the Government has completely set the terms of the debate in their favour, and are now arguing the details. It’s fascinating to watch, because (on paper) the Government seemed to have a crushingly difficult position to argue.
18:39 - Thursday 3 January
And it seems to be working! The Opposition is actually engaging with the Government’s position on its own terms, now arguing that giving foreigners the vote would “disincentivize naturalisation” because, logically, why would foreigners bother getting citizenship if they already have all the rights by remaining foreign nationals?
A better argument was their earlier one: should we therefore be giving tourists the vote? What would stop invading armies just parachuting in and voting to grant themselves large swathes of territory?
18:33 - Thursday 3 January
The Government might have hit a winning strategy. By making their argument so radical and so completely bonkers (abolish immigration and national borders) they can claim a sort of “post-nationalist” utopian moral highground, thereby completely wrong-footing their opponents (who were, presumably, expecting a more down-to-earth argument).
18:30 - Thursday 3 January
The current speaker is arguing VERY passionately. But did he mis-speak when he argued that the government is currently spending a “s**tload of money”? Even if he did, he didn’t miss a beat, and recovered very well.
18:28 - Thursday 3 January
The Government is coming out with all guns blazing: “Foreigners are inherently different from ethnic minorities who are citizens… A Bangladeshi immigrant, as opposed to naturalised British citizen of Bangladeshi origin, do not have the right to vote.”
The current speaker is arguing passionately and well. However, the Opposition’s counter-argument is a good one: should a tourist also be given the vote?
18:24 - Thursday 3 January
Did the last speaker just tear down the opposing team’s flag? That would certainly be a fairly undiplomatic debating tactic.
18:19 - Thursday 3 January
The Opposition is coming back with a strong rebuttal:
“When I went to Australia for 8 months, I also didn’t get the chance to vote in their elections, and I think that’s right.”
18:17 - Thursday 3 January
An interesting (but controversial) position from the Government, arguing that foreigners are currently marginalised because they have no power and because there is uncertainty about whether they will stay or not. They believe that it would be best to remove that uncertainty, by making it clear they will all have the right to stay forever. They seem to be arguing to abolish immigration controls.
This is a radical position, indeed. In the real world, it would be a brave politician indeed that would take such a stance. However, this might just pull the rug out from under the Opposition. Let’s see how they respond.
18:11 - Thursday 3 January
Scratch that, the Government are now defining the term “foreigner” (though they’re also taking a risky gamble). They argue that the Opposition is presenting a false dichotomy by saying that the alternative to giving foreigners a reserved seat in parliament is to give them a vote like all other citizens.
Instead, the Government is arguing that “foreigner” includes ANYBODY who enters the country from another country. The Government speaker argues that foreigners shouldn’t have to wait 10 years for citizenship before they get the vote, but they should rather get a vote the moment they step foot in the country. This is a bold position to take, but it could wrong-foot the Opposition, who might now have to revise their arguments.
18:07 - Thursday 3 January
The Government intervenes, saying: “The current situation denies foreigners representation at all. How would this motion be worse than that?”
The Opposition speaker dismisses this quite well, arguing that we DO currently see “foreign” representation in many multi-ethnic democracies (that term – “foreigner” – still hasn’t been properly defined).
18:05 - Thursday 3 January
Very powerful argument from the Opposition now, arguing that seperating the electorate along ethnic lines could hinder integration.
18:01 - Thursday 3 January
Neither team has spent much time defining the terms in their opening statements. Are “foreigners” the same thing as “immigrants”? Are we talking about foreign-born citizens?
17:59 - Thursday 3 January
Interesting argument from the government: if we give foreigners the vote, “we can finally see them as human beings” and recognise their existence.
17:56 - Thursday 3 January
The Government is arguing that foreigners are often placed in a vulnerable position, with limited access to state protection, so they need representation to ensure their rights are protected.
17:55 - Thursday 3 January
An interesting motion from a European perspective with, for example, a large Russian community in Estonia. The question is, of course, why should foreigners have seats reserved in parliament for them (as opposed to simply being granted voting rights)?
17:52 - Thursday 3 January
The motion for debate:
This house believes that representative democracies with large numbers of foreigners living in their territory (on temporary or permanent basis) should create specific seats to represent them in parliament.
17:50 - Thursday 3 January
And here come the teams!
Opening Government: Leiden A
Opening Opposition: Leiden C
Closing Government: BRAC Bangladesh A
Closing Opposition: Raphael Recanati International School A
17:31 - Thursday 3 January
And now it looks like the ESL final is about to begin – the livestream is up.
16:33 - Thursday 3 January
An interesting line from the Government, arguing that the US is imposing its cultural model on the world: “Do we all want to be Americans?”
The Opposition’s reply is perhaps not the most convincing: “No, they are not imposing their model on us. But we have the opportunity to copy them and improve ourselves.”
16:27 - Thursday 3 January
The man wearing the cloak is back, saying:
The US is a bit like a cop, stopping a riot. In fact, the US is something more than a cop. It’s like batman. Thank you America, for giving us this reference that we are all able to understand.
As far as I’m concerned, this debate has a clear winner.
16:26 - Thursday 3 January
The Government is now arguing that:
“Having more than one economic superpower can defend against failure [of the economic system]… Just imagine what the 2008 crisis would look like today if there was no China to bail people out.”
16:19 - Thursday 3 January
The Opposition is also picking up on the “free trade” argument, saying that the US is helping millions lift themselves out of poverty by promoting free trade and innovation around the world. But this argument is something of a false dichotomy: the US is not the only country promoting free trade in the world, and all the other countries in the world are not automatically against free trade.
16:14 - Thursday 3 January
This must be the quote of the match:
“We see ‘hegemony’ essentially as a synonym for success.”
The other team is just jealous!
16:13 - Thursday 3 January
Is the current speaker wearing a cloak? That must win him some points.
16:12 - Thursday 3 January
The Opposition is now summing up, arguing that the Government has not argued convincingly that a multipolar world order would be more peaceful and stable than a unipolar world.
16:11 - Thursday 3 January
The Government is now arguing that free trade is very bad for developing countries, and because the US pushes free trade internationally it should therefore be replaced. Again, however, the motion was not about whether or not free trade is good or bad. It could be a risky move to introduce new elements to their argument.
16:04 - Thursday 3 January
The Government is finally defining the alternative to US hegemon on their own terms, rather than accepting the Opposition’s definition of a Russia-China led world.
16:00 - Thursday 3 January
The Opposition is now using a very old argument that dates back at least to Dante’s De Monarchia in the 14th Century:
If we don’t have a superpower, then all states are effectively in conflict to become this superpower.
It’s an interesting line, and the Government don’t seem to have much of a counter-argument against it yet.
15:57 - Thursday 3 January
The Opposition is now picking up on the Government’s point that a dictatorship is “not so bad”:
“They brought up the example of Saudi Arabia, which is, in our view, a counter-example, because when the people tried to tell the government of Saudi Arabia what they thought during the Arab Spring, they actively suppressed them.”
It seems to me that the Government has fallen into a trap. Why are they defending dictatorships? This was never the motion of the debate. The Opposition team has very skillfully framed the debate as a conflict between a democratic US system, versus a Russia-China run system of dictatorships.
15:52 - Thursday 3 January
The Opposition has come in with a smart intervention: would a multipolar world not just be a case of swapping a single “world superpower” with several competing “regional superpowers”. Why, asks the Opposition, would having these regional superpowers throw their weight around at a regional level be any better than a superpower intervening overseas?
A second question, which the Opposition team doesn’t seem to have picked up on yet, is whether or not a multipolar world is really inherently more stable than a unipolar world order.
15:49 - Thursday 3 January
The Government Team is going with the argument that people living under dictatorships are not always “in a bad situation” because at least they have stability.
15:44 - Thursday 3 January
And now the Opposition is using the “Democratic peace theory”, first put forward by Kant in his essay on “Perpetual Peace”. Their interpretation of the theory is as follows: the US is much better than the alternative (a multi-polar world order) because the US is a democracy, and is thus less likely to invade other countries.
The opposing team seem to be letting them get away with this framing of the debate (i.e. the alternative to a unipolar US world order is a Russia-China world order) without complaint. Let’s see if they pick up on it in their response.
15:41 - Thursday 3 January
And here comes the Opposition’s first speaker. He accepts that there are problems with US hegemony, but argues that the alternative would be far worse: a world order run by countries such as Russia or China.
Now he has to explain why a Sino-Russian world would be so bad… And he’s apparently using Syria as an example. If Russia and China had run the world, he argues, then we wouldn’t have intervened in Syria. Which seems a bit odd, really, as the US hasn’t (last time I checked) intervened in Syria either.
15:38 - Thursday 3 January
The basic argument of the Government Team seems to be that, in a unipolar world, rest of the world will grow frustrated with the actions of the superpower as it throws its weight around and intervenes unilaterally, and this will eventually destabilise world politics.
However, would a multipolar world order really be more peaceful? Historically, multipolar political systems (say, for example, Europe in the Middle Ages) have also been violent and bloodthirsty.
15:33 - Thursday 3 January
The Prime Minister is obviously trying to fit as many words into his alloted time slot as possible, though perhaps at the expense of clarity.
15:32 - Thursday 3 January
The “Prime Minister” is now taking the floor for the Government team. He opens with the argument that a unipolar world system is very harmful for the stability of the international world order.
15:30 - Thursday 3 January
The Chair is now opening the debate, on the motion:
“This house welcomes the decline of the United States as the sole global super power.”
Big round of applause.
15:28 - Thursday 3 January
And the teams have found the bridge! The EFL final teams are apparently as follows:
Opening Government: Tokyo A
Opening Opposition: ALU Freiburg A
Closing Government: Bucharest A
Closing Opposition: Porto A
15:24 - Thursday 3 January
Apparently, one of the teams is delayed because they got lost trying to find a bridge. The audio quality isn’t great, but that seemed to be the jist of it.
15:16 - Thursday 3 January
Some more teams have been announced. The judges have announced that tonight’s Grand Final teams will be: Monash B, Otago A, Sydney B, Auckland A.
15:13 - Thursday 3 January
Whilst we enjoy our musical interlude (which, because the audio quality is a bit ropey on the livestream, sounds a bit like a calypso rendition) let’s take a quick look at the teams that have been announced so far in today’s finals.
Raphael Recanati International School (RRIS) and Leiden were both in the finals last year for the European Universities Debating Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, so expectations are high.
15:09 - Thursday 3 January
Our host for today is now introducing the event, wearing a particularly natty looking bow-tie. Just before that, the judges had announced the ESL final teams would be Leiden A and C, BRAC Bangladesh and Raphael Recanati International School In Israel.
15:03 - Thursday 3 January
And the livestream is now up!
14:43 - Thursday 3 January
The final times have apparently been pushed back 30 minutes, with the EFL final now scheduled for 15:00, the ESL final for 17:30 and the Grand Final for 20:00.
— Tim Richter (@Tim_Richter) January 3, 2013
14:20 - Monday 10 December
And now the ceremony is concluding, with the bells ringing out Ode to Joy (the official anthem of the EU) as the dignitaries make their exit.
14:14 - Monday 10 December
President Barroso finishes his part of the acceptance speech with a twist on the examples set by Van Rompuy and Jagland, limiting his concluding sentence to a brief “thank you” in only two languages: English and Norwegian.
14:09 - Monday 10 December
Norway an interesting venue for today’s event, given that the country is, of course, not a member-state of the European Union.
14:06 - Monday 10 December
Barroso calls the current situation in Syria a “stain on the world’s conscience” and says the world has a duty to address it (though he stops short of advocating any direct intervention).
14:05 - Monday 10 December
Barroso says he supports Jean Monnet’s “federalist and cosmopolitan vision” for Europe. Following his “State of the Union” speech earlier this year, Barroso has been positioning himself as a champion for an eventual “Federation of Nation States” in Europe, something that would have been taboo before the current crisis.
14:00 - Monday 10 December
José Manuel Barroso now going over many of the same points as both Van Rompuy and Thorbjørn Jagland. Were this “two-part” speech being delivered by a single person, the audience could be forgiven for wondering if the speaker had perhaps misplaced his notes.
13:56 - Monday 10 December
Van Rompuy ends the “first part” of today’s two-part acceptance speech with a trick borrowed from Thorbjørn Jagland, with a couple of words in each of the EU’s working languages: German, French and English.
Next up is European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, with part two of the speech.
13:53 - Monday 10 December
An impassioned speech from President Van Rompuy today. He argues that we should be motivated:
[By] sheer necessity. But there is more that guides us. The will to remain masters of our own destinies… And, in a way, speaking to us through the centuries, the idea of Europa itself.
13:48 - Monday 10 December
Wry smiles from European leaders as Van Rompuy argues that: “The Union has perfected the art of compromise.“
13:45 - Monday 10 December
President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, is now speaking. He is delivering the “first chapter” of a single, two-part speech. The EU has, once again, employed a very specific interpretation of the rules in order to reach a compromise.
13:40 - Monday 10 December
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti is sitting in the audience at the prize ceremony today. Prime Minister Monti will likely be keeping an eye on the clock to make sure the ceremony ends punctually, as Italy’s borrowing costs jumped sharply earlier today on the news that Monti will soon be resigning. Monti had little choice, as the party of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi last week withdrew support from his government.
13:33 - Monday 10 December
Thorbjørn Jagland finishes his speech with a few words in several European languages. I can’t vouch for his pronunciation, but it was a brave move considering that every country in the EU is represented in the hall today.
13:30 - Monday 10 December
Jagland calling for citizens not to turn against the European Union:
The way out of the difficulties is not to dismantle the European institutions… We are not gathered here in the belief that the European Union is perfect. We are gathered here in the belief that Europeans must solve problems together. For that purpose we need institutions that can guarantee compromises.
13:26 - Monday 10 December
Jagland now citing the example of the collapse of Yugoslavia and the wars that followed. Interestingly, he doesn’t seem to be arguing that European integration helped much during the conflicts of the 1990s (NATO intervention is widely considered to have been much more decisive), however, he argues that EU involvement in preventing another conflict in the region is vital.
13:22 - Monday 10 December
Thorbjørn Jagland now pointing out that the awarding of the prize to the EU does not rest solely on the prevention of another war between Germany and France. The transition of Eastern European countries from Soviet satellites into democracies is also, Jagland argues, worthy of recognition.
If they were left to themselves, nobody could be certain how things would turn out. Because history has taught us that freedom comes at a price… The difference is very marked between what happened after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and what is happening now in the Arab countries.
This was “the greatest act of solidarity ever on the European continent” and could not have come about without the EU.
13:18 - Monday 10 December
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande sitting side by side and nodding along as Thorbjørn Jagland runs through the history of the founding of European Coal and Steel Community. Big applause as Jagland points out the (hardly subtle) symbolism of this.
Would Germany and France really have declared war on one another without the ECSC? Or was it the presence of Soviet and American troops (and the fear of nuclear annihilation) that kept the peace in Europe during the Cold War? Should the Nobel Prize have gone to Oppenheimer?
13:10 - Monday 10 December
Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe and Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, is now delivering his opening of speech. He says that the prize should: “Give the message to Europe that peace [in Europe] must not be taken as a given, we have to struggle for it everyday.“
13:06 - Monday 10 December
If you’re wondering why the entire population of Europe isn’t allowed to attend the ceremony in person:
1) We wouldn’t fit in the hall (we might crush the chrysanthemums)
2) An open competition was held ahead of the ceremony to select four young Europeans, who have been given equal status alongside the politicians and will be receiving the prize on behalf of the people of Europe. It’s not immediately clear whether they will also be divvying up the 8 million Swedish Krona between them.
12:59 - Monday 10 December
And here come the various European Prime Ministers and Presidents, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande. British Prime Minister David Cameron is conspicuous in his absence, having sent the (decidedly more EU-friendly) Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, to represent Britain.
12:56 - Monday 10 December
Three Presidents will be representing the European Union today: Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council; José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission; and Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament. How will they handle the tricky issue of protocol? Which President will take precedence? And will there be a photograph of the event with all three men holding the prize aloft at the same time, like the UEFA cup?
12:53 - Monday 10 December
The ceremony is beginning now. The announcer starts off by acknowledging (in a somewhat understated fashion) the controversy that the prize has generated: “There have been discussions around this prize, as there have been around many prizes before.”
She then goes on to explain that the hall is decorated with chrysanthemums. They do look nice.
14:34 - Wednesday 7 November
And that’s all, folks!
Apologies if you experienced any technical issues – we will have the full video uploaded onto the site as soon as it’s ready.
14:12 - Wednesday 7 November
Here’s the response:
“Why don’t I become Prime Minister of Spain? Because nobody would vote for me. [*Cue laughter from the audience*] The real answer is because I don’t want to be Prime Minister of Spain… for me it is more important to be President of Catalonia than President of the Central Government of Spain.”
14:00 - Wednesday 7 November
Artur Mas is now taking questions from the audience, including one from a questioner from Brittany asking “Why don’t you try to become President of Spain, instead of starting your own [independent state]?”
13:57 - Wednesday 7 November
A Polish MEP now speaking, saying that Artur Mas’ response to Iturriaga “brushes over” just how difficult it might be for Catalonia to negotiate entry into the EU.
13:56 - Wednesday 7 November
He adds: “If Catalonia is a net contributor [to the EU budget], why would the EU take the decision to leave us out? It would not be very logical.”
Is it wise, though, to assume that the EU will always behave logically?
13:53 - Wednesday 7 November
Mas is now responding to the question from Iturriaga about whether Catalonia will automatically become a member of the EU or whether it will have to sign up again to the EU (with Spain having a veto over this process).
He reminds his audience that “this has been a very rapid process, and we don’t have all the answers now” but that what’s important is that “there’s a firm commitment to ask Catalans about their future, and this will happen in the next four years.”
So, essentially, his answer is: “Let’s take things one step at a time.”
13:49 - Wednesday 7 November
Artur Mas is now answering the question from Kasia. His argument is that, if we see a United States of Europe, then Catalonia could be one of these states in a federal structure without problems. If the EU does not move towards greater federalism, then he believes Catalonia should have the same powers as other countries of similar size: e.g. Austria or Finland.
This seems to be a long-term vision, though, and Kasia’s question was about the problems that might be thrown up now, in the short-term, with the eurozone in a crisis.
13:46 - Wednesday 7 November
Ok, so Artur Mas is now answering some of the questions we’ve picked from Debating Europe. Here are the four we’ve put to him:
Kasia: “I can understand the Catalans’ wish for independence… however I think this will cause yet more problems for Spain, Europe and the Eurozone. [Instead of full independence, Catalonia should] encourage a looser federal structure.”
Iturriaga: “The European Commission has already pointed out that any state seceding from an EU member will NOT remain within the EU and would be forced to go through the entire membership process (which requires the approval of all member states, including Spain).”
Raquel: “Obviously, a nicer solution than Catalan independence would be a United Europe NOT based on nation-states.”
Anton: “If the response from Madrid had been along the lines [of dialogue and compromise], Catalonia would have probably have been satisfied with some sort of federation… Now it’s too late: people have made their minds, the middle classes have already decided, and most people just want independence.”
13:26 - Wednesday 7 November
Artur Mas is spelling out his future vision for a federal EU. He says that “Europe is too big and too diverse not to be federal” and that “We can talk of the need to build a United States of Europe… [and] this new, much more federal European reality must be built on the basis of those nations which [have] a clearly defined history, language and culture.”
He’s very clear about his vision for Catalonia within this Europe: “We want our own state within an interdependent and federal European Union.”
13:20 - Wednesday 7 November
We’re having a couple of technical problems with the page taking too long to load. If you have any issues, then the livestream is also embedded on the front page of Friends of Europe‘s website here.
Artur Mas is just giving his opening remarks now. He begins by arguing that:
“I am the President of an old nation of Europe, a nation that, within the 9th century, lay within the boundaries of Charlemagne’s Europe… The roots of the Catalan people have always been European, since then – more than 1000 years ago. [So we are] an old nation that would like to be one more player taking part in the construction of this shared project.”
13:08 - Wednesday 7 November
Ok, looks like we’re about to begin. Artur Mas is sat down and Giles Merritt, the President of Friends of Europe, is just introducing him.
12:58 - Wednesday 7 November
The debate is about to start, so let’s quickly take a quick look back at this post on Catalonia’s future from last month. We had over 100 comments sent in, and a quick (completely unscientific) review suggests that roughly half of the commenters support some form of independent future for Catalonia, whilst around one quarter were against and another quarter were undecided.
Interestingly, nobody (in our debate, at least) was against a referendum on independence in principle, but several people believed it would be constitutionally impossible.
12:21 - Wednesday 7 November
The interview will be starting at 13h00 Brussels time (GMT +1). In the meantime, keep sending in your questions on Twitter, Facebook and here on the website!
12:30 - Wednesday 12 September
It looks like the live-stream is now off, so I guess that’s all folks! Thanks for following.
Now: all eyes turn to the Dutch elections (where the eurosceptic parties seem to be behind in the latest polls) and the news that the German Constitutional Court has approved the bail-outs as constitutional.
12:20 - Wednesday 12 September
As euroblogger Ronny Patz has pointed out previously, Mr Barroso’s speeches tend to be much more lively when he’s speaking off the cuff and without notes in front of him. His response to MEPs today is an example of that.
12:18 - Wednesday 12 September
Barroso shows his frustration with eurosceptics in the Parliament with an attack on Nigel Farage for being unable to get a single MP elected at the national level. He calls for “pro-European forces” to put aside their differences and avoid “wasting too much energy” on attacking each other.
12:11 - Wednesday 12 September
President Barroso defending the Single Currency:
No, it was not the euro [that caused the crisis]. Britain is putting more money than any other member into propping up its banks.
What happened to avoiding European politics as a “boxing match”?
12:07 - Wednesday 12 September
The text from President Barroso’s speech today is now online here.
12:05 - Wednesday 12 September
President Barroso is now responding to his critics. He argues that he has support “at least from the most relevant pro-European forces” in the European Parliament.
He then hits back at Verhofstadt and Cohn-Bendit’s criticism by arguing that he has put forward a vision that balances “realism” with “ambition”, and that “ambitions without results are simply good intentions”.
He also echoes Andrew Duff by saying he “hopes we don’t engage in semantic discussions”.
11:50 - Wednesday 12 September
11:35 - Wednesday 12 September
Interesting point made by Peter Spiegel, the FT’s Brussels bureau chief, about Barroso’s use of the F-Word:
The former Portuguese prime minister eventually became a British-backed candidate for the post after the Franco-German candidate, former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, was rejected by London because he was considered too federalist. In other words, Barroso got the job largely because he WASN’T a federalist…
In other words, Barroso’s sudden embrace of federalism – even in a limited capacity – is a marked shift for him, and one that signals a big battle ahead during what inevitably will be a major rewrite of EU treaties that could wreak havoc across Europe’s political scene.
11:26 - Wednesday 12 September
British Liberal Democrat MEP Andrew Duff now gently rebuffing his group leader, Guy Verhofstadt, and saying we should work towards federalism generally and shouldn’t get bogged down in “semantics”.
11:24 - Wednesday 12 September
Broadly speaking, there are three sets of opinion on display this morning as to the best way out of the crisis. There are those following President Barroso’s lead and calling for “step by step” progress towards a “Federation of Nation-States”; there are those (like Cohn-Bendit and Verhofstadt) who argue that this doesn’t go far enough and we need a “Post-National Federation”; and, finally, there are those voices (largely, though not exclusively, coming from the UK) that believe we need to abandon the euro and return to a Europe of Nations. Tellingly, nobody seems to be defending the status-quo as sustainable.
How clear is the distinction between these viewpoints to the average European citizen? Are we likely to see, as President Barroso calls for, a genuine European debate take place on these issues before the European elections in 2014?
11:14 - Wednesday 12 September
President Barroso has just been congratulated for his “Very professional speech.”
Is that a compliment?
11:10 - Wednesday 12 September
Looking at the commentary on Twitter, the highlight of this year’s State of the Union Address from Barroso seems to be:
Let’s not be afraid of the word: we will need to move towards a federation of nation states
And, so far, the highlight from the debate has been the spat between Daniel Cohn-Bendit and William Legge, 10th Earl of Dartmouth.
11:03 - Wednesday 12 September
Cheeky comment from journalist Georgi Gotev on Twitter just now:
Garielle Zimmer of the United Left (GUE/NGL) makes such a boring speech that I cannot find anything quotable.
10:57 - Wednesday 12 September
Is there a clear distinction between a “Post-National Federation” and a “Federation of Nation-States”, and do European citizens really want either of them? This might be an interesting question for a future debate.
10:52 - Wednesday 12 September
Nigel Farage calls Barroso’s vision for a “Federation of Nation-States” an “emerging, creeping euro-dictatorship”, and argues that:
The only good news from today is that you’ve helped to bring that referendum just a little bit closer.
The debate is turning out to be much more lively than Barroso’s State of Europe itself.
10:49 - Wednesday 12 September
Nigel Farage, co-chair of the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group, points out that the UK left the ERM 20 years ago this week, but that the lesson of this move has been lost because of “fanaticism”.
10:42 - Wednesday 12 September
Martin Callanan, Chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists group now attacking President Barroso’s speech and calling for some countries to leave the euro as the only way to end the crisis.
10:39 - Wednesday 12 September
Cohn-Bendit is asked a question by William Legge, 10th Earl of Dartmouth, an MEP with the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP):
Why can’t you understand that federalism, European regulations and the wasteful, wasted European budgets are no cure for the European disease, they are the cause of the European disease?
Cohn-Bendit responds in English:
Why can’t you understand that in 30 years none of the European member-states, neither the UK nor the Germany, will be part of the G8. Can’t you, Mr Earl, understand the modern world?
10:30 - Wednesday 12 September
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, co-president of the green group in the European Parliament, is now talking. A summary of the blame-game so far:
Barroso blames the member-states
Verhoefstadt blames the member-states and Barroso
Cohn-Bendit blames everybody
10:22 - Wednesday 12 September
Barroso has been blaming member-states for the crisis, whilst Verhofstadt is now laying some of the blame firmly on Barroso’s doorstep for not being assertive enough.
10:21 - Wednesday 12 September
Verhofstadt warns that the action from Draghi will only buy us 5 or 6 months before the crisis returns. He believes that Barroso’s “step by step” approach towards a federation of nation-states is not enough (and he’s not even satisfied with the ultimate destination).
10:18 - Wednesday 12 September
Liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt has his turn to speak now. You would think he would support Barroso’s call for a “federation of nation-states” (seeing as he’s been calling for federalism for many years now).
However, he is scathing in his criticism, arguing that a “federation of nation-states” is what we have already. Instead, Verhofstadt believes:
We need a post-national future for Europe… A federal union of European citizens
10:15 - Wednesday 12 September
Swoboda agrees with Barroso that there needs to be a new treaty:
After the elections, we can have a convention. The convention can take a decision on a constitution for Europe.
Are we going to see a repeat lengthy and protracted process that eventually led to the Lisbon Treaty (and satisfied few)?
10:10 - Wednesday 12 September
Shots of the parliament chamber show a fair number of empty seats at the State of the Union address today. That might explain the slightly subdued applause today. Perhaps it’s a wee bit early in the morning?
10:07 - Wednesday 12 September
Glowing praise of European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi coming from Swoboda:
The only institution that has done anything to stop the crisis has been the ECB. If we hadn’t had the ECB, we would be in far deeper trouble than we are now. If we hadn’t had the person in charge that we do, the disaster in Europe would be far greater.
10:05 - Wednesday 12 September
Now Hannes Swoboda, President of the group of the centre-left Socialists and Democrats, is talking. He thanks Barroso for a “very good speech”, but argues that the current set of policies is “making the poor poorer”.
10:02 - Wednesday 12 September
Joseph Daul agrees with Barroso’s vision, doesn’t go quite as far as breaking the taboo and calling directly for a “Federal Union”. Instead, he’s in favour of “More Europe”.
10:00 - Wednesday 12 September
Joseph Daul now arguing that:
Some member-states would really like to see the euro go under, but I wouldn’t like to give them this pleasure.
Does this count as one of Barroso’s “boxing events“?
09:54 - Wednesday 12 September
Now the political leaders in the European Parliament are talking. Chairman of the centre-right EPP group, Joseph Daul, is now thanking President Barroso for his speech and also agreeing with his “realistic” vision.
09:52 - Wednesday 12 September
And the speech is over.
Barroso’s vision is for European integration to proceed “step by step… with a federation as a horizon for Europe.”
President Barroso has adopted a fairly calm method of address this morning, but the parts of this speech delivered with the most passion have been:
a) When he has been criticising member-states
b) At the very end, when he delivered a genuinely impassioned (though occasionally slightly fumbled) argument that federalism is a realistic and achievable goal, and rather it is the current path that is unrealistic
09:46 - Wednesday 12 September
Barroso is setting up the 2014 elections as a defining debate for the EU, saying:
We must use the 2014 election to mobilise all pro-European forces.
09:44 - Wednesday 12 September
Much of the content of this address has been said before, but Barroso’s call for a federal union is being put very strongly here:
The present European Union must be evolve. Let’s not be afraid of the words… Creating this federation of nation-states will ultimately require a new treaty.
Barroso promising that a “true European debate” will take place before the 2014 elections, with the Commission setting out its blueprint for treaty change and a federal EU ahead of the vote.
09:41 - Wednesday 12 September
Oh no you didn’t! Barroso uses the ‘F’ word!
Today, I call for a federation of nation states, not a superstate.
09:39 - Wednesday 12 September
Barroso now making reference to “worrying developments” in the democracy of some member-states (though he doesn’t mention Romania by name, for example). Argues that the Commission should be more active in preventing this trend.
09:36 - Wednesday 12 September
Barroso saying that:
I would like to see the development of a European public space.
And making an appeal to European thinkers and “men and women of culture” to join this debate, and calling for European political parties.
09:32 - Wednesday 12 September
Barroso now calling for a full fiscal union as the only way to finally end the eurozone crisis. But arguing that:
We do not need to separate or create new institutions.
09:30 - Wednesday 12 September
President Barroso comes out in strong support of ECB President Mario Draghi’s move towards ‘unlimited’ bond buying. Gets the biggest applause of the morning, but even that didn’t exactly bring the house down.
09:29 - Wednesday 12 September
Some reaction to the speech from political parties and groups in the European Parliament.
From the centre-left Socialists:
“@Hannes_Swoboda: Barrosos speech is good. But we need more solidarity and social responsibility in Europe and more democratic structures.”
— S&D Group (@TheProgressives) September 12, 2012
And the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR):
Barroso started #soteu calling 4 new direction 4 EU but so far it"s more of the same: Social Market economy, bigger EU budget, FTT etc
— ECR Group (@ecrgroup) September 12, 2012
09:24 - Wednesday 12 September
Some fairly negative commentary of the speech happening on Twitter at the moment:
Blaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh @BarrosoEU #SOTEU I don’t think I’ve heard anything new so far.
— Jon Worth (@jonworth) September 12, 2012
Last sentence summary of the first 10 minutes of the #SOTEU. Sponsored by Empty Phrase Enterprises.
— Ronny Patz (@ronpatz) September 12, 2012
— Eurocentric (@EuropeanCitizen) September 12, 2012
09:21 - Wednesday 12 September
Quick summary of the speech so far:
European governments have been making the crisis worse because they haven’t understood globalisation, and we need political and economic union to overcome these challenges.
Only scattered applause to this message from the Parliament thus far.
09:16 - Wednesday 12 September
Barroso arguing that member-states have not understood globalisation, and arguing that “even the biggest European countries run the risk of irrelevance”
This is also turning out to be a speech fiercely critical of the behaviour of member-states:
Absolute loyalty is the minimum you demand from your fellow crew members
09:12 - Wednesday 12 September
Barroso putting the boot in to the European Council for their crisis management. He admits the EU has not made progress in addressing the crisis, and argues it is because “Time and again, we have allowed doubts to spread.”
He argues that EU member-state governments have been obsessed with point-scoring:
It’s not acceptable to treat these European meetings as if they were boxing events.
09:09 - Wednesday 12 September
President Barroso now beginning his address.
It’s an honour to stand before you and deliver this third state of the union address at a time when Europe is in crisis.
This is, perhaps, something of a ‘double-edged’ honour (at least, when it comes to Europe being in crisis).
09:07 - Wednesday 12 September
And, we’re off! European Parliament President Martin Schulz is giving his introduction. With elections in the Netherlands (where ‘Europe’ has been a big campaign issue) and the German Constitutional Court due to rule on the legality of the bail-outs, he’s right to say that the world’s media are watching Europe at the moment.
20:02 - Friday 10 August
And that’s all, folks! The results will be published on idebate.org as soon as they are announced.
My 2 cents: The “For” team struggled to explain why religious groups should be treated differently to other interest groups (such as trade unions and big business). They made a valiant effort to argue that religious groups are somehow “uniquely” powerful, but it didn’t quite stick. They were fighting an uphill struggle, though, with the “Against” team having the natural advantage of defending the status quo.
It’s a tough one to call, but my feeling is that the “Against” team have clinched it.
19:52 - Friday 10 August
Some very inventive arguments on display tonight! The “Against” team has been turning the “protecting minorites” argument (which the “For” team didn’t make enough of, in my opinion) against their opponents. They argue that “the church is a crucial part of the ‘get out the vote’ campaign” amongst minority groups, particularly amongst individuals that have a lower socio-economic status.
19:47 - Friday 10 August
Really good one-liners coming from both sides tonight:
“The word of God is not susceptible to democracy.”
“They say: ‘Religious groups have huge power’ which, as far as we can see, means: ‘A lot of people agree with them’.”
19:45 - Friday 10 August
The “For” team are now talking specifically about the influence of religious groups on the Republican party. Again, though, why did a candidate from a minority religious group win the primaries?
19:44 - Friday 10 August
The “For” team are still focusing on the argument that religious organisations have unique power compared to other organisations (such as trade unions or big business). This seems (to me, at least) to be a shaky argument.
The seperation of church and state argument, which seemed a bit more promising, has apparently been abandoned.
19:41 - Friday 10 August
The “For” team are still focusing on the enormous influence of the church in the US. Nobody has yet picked up on the example of the Republican primaries, however. Rick Santorum, who was the chosen candidate of several highly influential religious leaders, nonetheless lost the primary to Mitt Romney, a candidate from a minority religious group.
Are religious organisations really the most influential group in politics? And if they’re not, why should they be banned in particular?
19:38 - Friday 10 August
The “Against” team are now taking an interesting line of argument, based on the practical effects of such a ban. They argue that religious groups are going to exist whether or not they are banned from participating in the electoral process, and cutting them off from access to peaceful democratic processes might risk radicalising them. An interesting argument, but this seems to undermine their earlier line that religious groups should not be characterised as extremist.
19:30 - Friday 10 August
Good come back from “Against” team. Religions are not “violently cooercive” as the “For” team has implied.
19:30 - Friday 10 August
The “For” team are now tackling the question of “Why descriminate against religious groups” head on. Why are religious groups different to trade unions? Because, according to the “For” team, religious organisations have a captive audience every Sunday, and are able to use the threat of hellfire and eternal damnation to force their followers to vote a certain way.
The trouble seems to be that other organisations DO have built-in audiences (zealous supporters of communism or libertarianism, or whatever other ideology). These ideologies also, arguably, have their secular equivalents of heaven and hell.
19:21 - Friday 10 August
Good points from the “Against” team (who, as the team arguing for the status quo, have a bit of an advantage). They’ve also finally picked up on the church and state argument, but don’t seem to have tackled it directly. Instead, they’re focusing on freedom of association, which is a valid point – but it’s not the one that was put forward by the “For” team. What about the protection of minority rights?
19:18 - Friday 10 August
That was a zinger from the “Against” team: “It is not true that people simply blindly believe what their church tells them.” So, within religious organisations there are still debates about opinions and belief.
19:15 - Friday 10 August
Here comes the rebuttal. The “Against” team are, again, hammering home the point that ALL interest groups influence their supporters. So, why should religion be different? Let’s see how they deal with the point about church and state.
19:13 - Friday 10 August
The “For” team still don’t seem to be making the case for why religion should be treated differently to other interest groups. They are arguing that “[Democracy] must be a meaningful choice, and the choice is more meaningful as it becomes more independent… It’s not clear why you need the church to tell you what you should do when you’ve weighed all your other views.”
But the media also influences choice. Should Fox News be banned from reporting on an election because they sway opinion?
Ah, but now they’re making the “church and state” arguement, which could be a much more convincing line of argument. They argue that religious influence in elections in the US is “overwhelmingly from Christian groups.” So, there are reasons to ban religious organisations from involvement in the electoral process in order to protect religious minorities and to preserve the division between church and state.
19:07 - Friday 10 August
The “For” team is arguing that this is a debate about “specific, powerful institutions using very powerful means” to undermine the electoral process. This is problematic, because there are LOTS of powerful institutions affecting elections. Big business, for example? Why are churches being singled out?
19:05 - Friday 10 August
This seems to be crux of the issue: there are all sorts of interest groups in society. What is the reason for choosing to exclude religious groups, but not others? The “For” team will really have to prove they’ve got an answer to this. They’ve begun to do this with an argument about the “seperation between church and state”, but they’ll have to really tackle it head on.
19:02 - Friday 10 August
The “Against” team is now picking up on the “irrefutable” claim by the other team. They’re arguing that some people also have “blind faith” in other systems, for example, capitalism or communism.
19:00 - Friday 10 August
The “Against” team is arguing that the “For” team’s argument would only appeal to the “lefties in the room!”
Hope there aren’t any lefties amongst the panel of judges! ;-)
18:59 - Friday 10 August
The “Against” team is now speaking. As expected, they’re focusing on the question of why religious groups should be descriminated against in particular.
18:58 - Friday 10 August
And we’re off!
The “For” team goes first. The difficulty for them will be arguing that religious groups can be banned from involvement in the electoral process, whereas all other groups are still allowed to participate. The problem, of course, is on what grounds is this distinction being made? The “For” team has decided to argue that religion “cannot be disproved analytically”, which seems like a shaky reason for a ban.
18:43 - Friday 10 August
So, the “English as a First Language” final is now under way, and the motion has been announced as: “This house would amend the United States constitution to prohibit any involvement by religious organisations in the electoral process.”
17:13 - Friday 10 August
And that’s all folks! Let’s see what the judges think.
17:03 - Friday 10 August
Interesting to see how the various speakers deal with Points of Interest (PoI). The methods range from a polite “No thank you”, to a dismissive flapping of the hands, to the short but brutal: “Sit down!”
17:01 - Friday 10 August
Both teams are batting South Africa backwards and forwards as an example. Will be interesting to see what the judges think.
17:00 - Friday 10 August
Good point from the “Against Rejecting Amnesties” team about justice: “Amnesty is not immunity from prosecution. It is taking people guilty of crimes, and withholding punishment for the purposes of reconciliation“
16:57 - Friday 10 August
That sneaky argument from the “For Rejecting Amnesties” team has come up again. They’re arguing that even if all amnesties currently in place were retrospectively overturned, then that doesn’t mean that future amensties wouldn’t be effective. This is, apparently, because there is always a “local, credible perspective that this amnesty will not be overruled in the future.” Because we are not a local power but some kind of omnipotent international government (in this fantasy scenario) we can revoke all amnesties without undermining the credibility of future amnesties.
Not sure about the logic on this one, but the opposing team hasn’t picked up on it.
16:49 - Friday 10 August
Quick summary of the two arguments:
FOR REJECTING AMNESTIES: It’s the principled stance and it’s better for the long-term stability of the country.
AGAINST REJECTING AMNESTIES: It’s the realistic, pragmatic stance and it’s better for ending violence that is happening right now.
16:38 - Friday 10 August
A very sneaky argument coming from Leiden: even if we removed existing amnesties, it doesn’t necessarily mean we would have to stop granting amnesties in future. Which seems to undermine the argument that removing amnesties is “undermining the principles of society.”
16:36 - Friday 10 August
An interesting spin from RRIS on the argument that denying amnesties puts a dictator’s back to the wall and merely prolongs the violence. If you refuse amnesties, then they argue that you offer a dictator either “certain death” (by stepping down) or “probable death” (by fighting on), whereas adding amnesties adds the option of “certain life”. Interesting argument, but Bashar al-Assad doesn’t seem to share this perspective.
16:31 - Friday 10 August
RRIS argues that Leiden should be ashamed of supporting the removal of amnesties. Which seems a bit harsh, seeing as the teams couldn’t choose what they were arguing.
Then they turn to the Prisoner’s Dilemma to support their argument, which is a novel philosophical turn of argument.
16:27 - Friday 10 August
Oh no you didn’t! RRIS come out shooting by arguing that Leiden has been lying to the audience over how effective amnesties can be. Then they turn to a rebuttle of Leiden’s South African point: “This is not a question of hate. This is a question of the socio-economic situation. A lack of education and hope. This is why people turn to crime.”
16:24 - Friday 10 August
Leiden: picking up again on the South African example: “you did have truth and reconciliation courts, but because those courts did not take action they created a narrative amongst South African blacks that justice was denied”. This, Leiden argues, undermines the long-term stability of the country.
16:19 - Friday 10 August
Leiden now have the floor again. Making the point that amnesty for stability is a short-term fix, whilst prosecutions are ultimately necessary to ensure the long-term stability of a country.
16:15 - Friday 10 August
RRIS now developing their main argument further: “after the dictator is removed, all stakeholders need to form a country together. One needs to be able to, as painful as it is, forgive.”
A good point… but isn’t the example of Yugoslavia a counterpoint? Rather than forming a country together, we saw the country break apart.
16:13 - Friday 10 August
Now Raphael Recanati International School (RRIS) are asking “What are crimes?”, which seems (to me, at least) to be a bit of a dead end.
16:12 - Friday 10 August
Raphael Recanati International School (RRIS) now has the floor, and immediately they are citing South Africa as an example of reconciliation. One of the main reasons amnesties are given, as RRIS argues, is to stop violence. They bring up the example of Syria under Assad, and the importance of offering a “way out” for dictators without “pushing their backs against the wall”.
16:10 - Friday 10 August
Another interesting argument from Leuven: amnesties fracture national unity because they suggest that not all groups within a society are equal in the eyes of the law. Removing amnesties will remind people that “We all suffered.”
16:08 - Friday 10 August
Interesting argument from Leuven’s team: amnesties damage communities because they deny justice. They then use the example of South Africa (whilst many would cite the Truth and Reconciliation Committees as an example of restorative justice)
16:01 - Friday 10 August
Interesting choice of topic. On the one hand, host country Serbia has been pursuing Serbian perpetrators of war crimes during the Yugoslav wars and sending them to the International Criminal Court in the Hague for prosecution. On the other hand, countries like South Africa have set up Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRCs) that have offered amnesty to members of the old regime. In addition, there are the more recent examples from the Arab Spring: where the prosecution of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak follows a completely different approach to the experience of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for stepping down from office.
15:49 - Friday 10 August
And the motion has been announced: “This house would retrospectively remove all amnesties granted to those who committed crimes as part of oppressive regimes.”
15:46 - Friday 10 August
The finals are getting under way now. The teams have only been told what subject they’ll be debating 7 minutes ago, so they’ll be frantically preparing their cases right now. Previous motions debated in this competition have included: “The ECB should unconditionally buy significant amounts of government debt from struggling Eurozone countries” and “Allow anyone to take up residence in any country, provided that they will not be an economic burden on that country.”
Perhaps controversially, given the venue for this year’s championships (Serbia), one of the motions was: “Republika Srpska should secede from Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
15:29 - Friday 10 August
Looks like things are running a little behind schedule, but the hall seems bustling.