Debating Europe wants to give students the chance to question policymakers, debate with fellow students from other European countries, and learn more about the work of the EU. To achieve this goal, we are working closely with schools and colleges across each EU member state to launch a series of student-led online debates. You can read our previous debates with students from other European countries here. Our eleventh debate is with students from the Ekonomska i upravna škola Osijek, Croatia. We took their questions to Maria Da Graça Carvalho, a Portuguese MEP who sits with the Centre-Right in the European Parliament, Saïd El Khadraoui, a Belgian MEP with the Social Democrats and Traian Ungureanu, a Romanian Centre-Right MEP. Take a look at their answers below, and see if they help give you a better idea who you want to vote for in our Debating Europe Vote 2014!
1. How can the EU better help small businesses?
We had a video question from Zdenka asking what the EU can do to better promote small businesses. We covered a similar topic in our post yesterday, but this time we approached Saïd El Khadraoui, a Belgian MEP with the Social Democrats, to see what he had to say: To get an alternative perspective, we also spoke to Maria Da Graça Carvalho, a Portuguese MEP who sits with the Centre-Right European People’s Party in the European Parliament. She was clear that she believes heavy taxes and strict labour laws are an impediment for small businesses:
One way to support small business is to push forward that MS do the necessary structural reforms. It’s even more important than financial support. It’s important to do financial support, and we have through Horizon 2020, through COSME, through regional funds we can support small businesses. But, more important than this financial support that comes from Europe is that the MS do the nec. reforms that are friendly for business, in terms of taxes, in terms of cutting red-tape and burueacracy, in terms of labour laws, in terms of IP – intellectual property – so that there is legislation and framework conditios that are friendly for business to be set up and grow. If we have a system that is unfriendly with very heavy taxes, with very strict labour laws, with a very expensive patent system, it’s very difficult to compete in the global world. So, there are two ways that Europe needs to work – one is to create push the member states to do the necessary reforms to be more business friendly and the second is through our European budget to help to fund research and innovation and small start-ups and young entrepreneurs.
2. Can Member States choose to leave to the EU?
Next, we had a question sent in from Katarina, who wanted to know whether Member States were able to leave the EU: We put this question to Traian Ungureanu, a Romanian MEP with the Centre-Right in the European Parliament. He explained that Member States are free to leave, but this is not a question that concerns most of them:
I would say this is the so-called “British question”, because nobody contemplates this sort of question with the exception of Britain. So, everything we know about this question comes from the British experience. I think that, indeed, a Member State can leave the Union. What would be the consequences? This is still something that is being debated. Nobody can imagine what the consequences of this would be. Some say probably no consequence, others are inclined to see this as a move towards complete doom. But, for me, the problem is not whether a Member State can or will leave the EU, I think the whole question is in what measure can Europe be large enough for all the Member States? I don’t think the British debate is being pursued in earnest, I think again this is political football and there is no such question in reality. I can’t imagine the circumstances in which a Member State would indeed propose to leave the union.