Banner_Finnish-SchoolDebating Europe wants to give students the chance to question policymakers, debate with fellow students from other European countries, and learn more about the work of the EU.

To achieve this goal, we are working closely with schools and colleges across each EU member state to launch a series of student-led online debates. You can read our previous debates with students from Romania,GreeceDenmarkBulgariaSweden,SpainBelgiumItalyMalta and our special-guest debate with students from the USA.

Our tenth debate is with students from the Katedralskolan i Åbo Gymnasium, Turku, Finland. We took their questions to Reinhard Bütikofer, co-spokesperson for the   European Greens and Philippe de Backer, a Belgian   liberal democrat MEP.

1. Does the EU consider itself a successor to the Roman empire?

We started with a question from Molly, who wanted to know if the EU considered itself to be a successor to the Roman Empire. Certainly, the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, has said in the past that he likes to “compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empire. We have the dimension of empire.”

However, Barroso also believes that, unlike the Roman Empire of old, the EU is a “non-imperial empire” that emphasises peaceful co-operation rather than force. It’s worth pointing out, though, that Barroso’s reference to “empire” generated a fair amount of raised eyebrows at the time… and it is not a comparison he has brought up since.

Still, we asked Belgian liberal MEP Philippe de Backer how he would respond:

2. How much does lobbying have an impact on the decisions of MEPs?

Next we had a question from Magnus asking what was the impact on lobbying on decisions taken by MEPs in the European Parliament. First, we put this question to Reinhard Bütikofer, a German MEP and the co-spokersperson for the European Greens:

YAKUMO DIGITAL CAMERAIt depends on which MEP you’re talking about. However, we know there have been examples where MEPs did the bidding of individual companies or industrial sectors. I remember that, two or three years ago, I saw a so-called “grey paper” where a major German company had put in writing the amendments they wanted to have voted in committee. And I just waited until the vote came up, and then it was interesting to see which MEPs had offered exactly the language that the company had proposed to them without acknowledging or making transparent that they were doing the bidding of this particular company. So, there is indeed a problem. And I think there should be new rules to make the whole business more transparent and to push back against lobbyists.

For example, I publish on my website regularly a complete list of lobbyists I have been talking to and I have been having appointments with, so voters and people who want to check on what I do can go there and have a look and see who I talk to and, if they want to, ask questions.

We also put the same question to Philippe de Backer to see how we would respond:

3. Should the EU help finance start-ups?

Finally, we had a question from Jonas, asking whether the EU should follow the lead of the US and provide greater support for start-up companies. Would that help encourage a European “Silicon valley”?

Vote 2014

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

19 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think? Does the EU consider itself a successor to the Roman Empire of old? What is the impact of lobbying on decisions made by MEPs in the European Parliament? And should the EU provide greater financial support to start-ups? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below.

  1. avatar
    George Danieldsg

    Lobbying is no t a democratic way to produce policies.E.U. must have A SINGLE OFFICE to accept every suggestion,claim or whatever from individuals or organizations OPEN and to answer publicly and continiously NOT THE PRESENT LABYRINTH OF VARIOUS DEPARTMENTS WHICH HIDE EVERYTHING.

  2. avatar

    Aha, the Roman Empire “after a couple of decades disappeared” ?! Daunting what little knowledge MEPs seem to have about Europe’s history. No wonder that the EP is unable to recognize the continents interests.

    The EU a successor of the Roman Empire? Indeed, to many hopeful Europeans it might appear so. However, a closer look into its day to day policies reveals rather a kind of protectorate administration serving powerful global interest groups from financial conglomerates via transnational NGOs to US government. The latter is traitorously visible in all the agreements and treaties the Commission has negotiated so far with the USA (GALILEO, SWIFT, Save Harbour etc.).

    Europe needs strong nations with strong and capable governments who cooperate internationally and not a “non-imperial empire” with a self-serving and confused bureaucracy.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      Well said!

  3. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    A Europa não se pode transformar num império romano a Europa é competitiva e têm uma excelente balança de empresas industrias e lideres mundiais em varios sectores e com uma populção qualificada Europa precisa é de nações fortes com governos fortes e que cooperam internacionalmente o problema da Europa é politico e não é económico

  4. avatar
    catherine benning

    I know little about Finland and it’s education system, so cannot really make a comment on how it is performing. However our newspapers tell us it’s top in performance throughout Europe

    This picture you put up of its students looks like and really nice group of people. If all UK schools looked as healthy, intelligent and clean as this few do, we would be very fortunate indeed.

  5. avatar
    Marie Strati

    Some people claim that lobbying is an efficient way to engage people in the decision making process. However, I would like to ask what kind of people are they engaged in lobbying activities and if they represent the mass of the general public.

  6. avatar
    Debby Teusink

    “the Roman empire lastest only for a few decades..”, realy? Since the founding of Rome in 753 BC untill the fall of Constantinople in 1453, 2206 years went by…2.2 millennia!!!!
    I would hope the EU is as successfull as the Roman Empire, but I fear it’s not although I consider myself “civis Romanum sum”.

    • avatar

      Roman kingdom, Roman Republic, Roman Empire, split west-east, brief reunification, renewed split, fall of the western Empire… the eastern Empire in its last few hundreds of years was quite small indeed.

      And permanent war was a hallmark of Rome.

  7. avatar
    Sara Goldberger

    The problem isn?t lobbying, the problem is lobbying that isn?t transparent. Like in the European Commission.

  8. avatar
    Johann Savalle

    Lobbying is and has always be a part of politics, and it has usually a strong impact, how is it done and by who is it done, is what make it good or evil.

  9. avatar
    Jamshed Poonawalla

    What about some kind of new rule, that only the elected members of the chambered professions, like architects, lawyers, tax-advisors, medical doctors, pharmacists (not just chamber of commerce) are allowed do be lobbyists on EU-levels?

  10. avatar
    Henri Erti

    Lobbying is as essential to private sector as labour unions are for the working class. We need to treat these as equals.

  11. avatar
    Vicente Silva Tavares

    When the financial crisis started, Barroso started a commission to advise on solutions. Who were the guys? All senior members of major banks, including Goldman Sachs. Words for what?

  12. avatar
    Marie Strati

    financing start-ups is definately one way to boost growth and employability. however, the solution for combating unemployment is to provide citizens with the necessary skill training in order to develop marketable competences.

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