Debating Europe wants to give students the chance to question policymakers, debate with fellow students from other European countries, and learn more about the work of the EU.
To achieve this goal, we are working closely with schools and colleges across each EU member state to launch a series of student-led online debates.
Our seventh debate is a “special guest” debate, with students from outside of the EU. As US-EU relations are in the news at the moment, with the upcoming negotiation of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), we thought it might be interesting to get an outside perspective on the EU. So, we took some video questions from students from the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington, taught by Tony Lockett, a European Union Fellow.
1. Does the rise of extreme right-wing parties represent a failure of EU policy?
Our first question came from Shane, who wanted to ask European politicians how they thought the rise of ultra right-wing parties such as Golden Dawn would shape the future of Europe. Does the recent relative success of such parties represent a failure of, or a threat to, EU policy?
We began by taking this question to Karin Kadenbach, an Austrian social democrat MEP.
Next, we took Shane’s question to Daniel Cohn-Bendit, French MEP and co-president of The Greens–European Free Alliance in the European Parliament. How would he respond?
Well, it’s a failure of policy in general. It’s a failure both of EU policy and of national policy. We are confronted with a financial crisis, an ecological crisis and a political crisis, and in some countries people have been left completely disoriented. Often, people react to a crisis by going to the extremes and to the far-right. We saw it in Germany in the 1930s, and in France. But this phenomena of going to the far-right is not unique to Europe; you also have it today in the US with the Tea Party movement.
Finally, we put this question to Morten Løkkegaard, a liberal MEP from Denmark. Is the rise of far-right parties a failure of EU policy?
I wouldn’t say it’s a result of EU policy. A growing number of voters are skipping the traditional parties and going for the far-right or the far-left. They are abandoning the political centre as a response to the most severe economic crises we have seen in Europe since the Second World War. But this crisis was not caused by the EU, it is a global crisis.
Maybe it hit Europe a bit harder because member states had failed to reform their economies in preparation. However, regardless of how it came about, the result is that the legitimacy of the European project is in danger. We didn’t, in due time, manage to create a feeling of ownership of the EU project among citizens. In the good times, Europe was more concerned with expanding the EU and taking on new members. What politicians failed to do was to take on board citizens and ask them what they thought. When the crisis hit hard, people of course asked: ‘What is the EU and why didn’t anyone ask me?’
2. Should the EU be taught in primary school?
Next up, we had a question sent in from Hanne wanting to know if European politicians thought that school curricula in Europe could be standardised, with the EU taught as a subject at primary school in order to promote a greater sense of European unity. We took this question to Mary Honeyball, a British social democrat MEP with the Labour Party.
3. How can the EU take human rights and security considerations into account while working with neighbouring countries?
Finally, we had a question from Sophie, who asked about human rights and how they can be taken into consideration when the EU works with neighbouring countries on energy projects like the Nabucco gas pipeline. We asked Justas Vincas Paleckis, an MEP with the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania whose work focuses particularly on EU relations with Russia and Eastern Partnership countries, to respond.
What do YOU think? Is the rise of extreme right-wing parties a failure of the EU? Should the EU be taught in primary school? And how can the EU take human rights and security considerations into account when working with neighbouring countries? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.