The Student Forum Maastricht (SFM) is an annual student conference held at the Maastricht University Campus in Brussels. Students from all over Europe come to discuss the EU and suggest policy proposals to solve various pressing issues. Each year, Debating Europe promotes their policy suggestions online so our readers can debate them (see here and here for previous Student Forum suggestions).

This year, the students formed four separate working groups, each focusing on a different policy area, in order to put together a series of proposals for the European Commission. You can read the full set of proposals here. What do YOU think about these 4 ideas?

PROPOSAL 1: Send every EU citizen a birthday card

This one sounds crazy. But hear it out. The working group suggests that the EU send a birthday card to each European when he or she reaches adulthood. This card should not only contain information about the next European elections but also include a travel voucher. The idea is that this voucher will allow young Europeans to experience the benefits of free movement. Read the full proposal here.

PROPOSAL 2: Start measuring the gender pay gap

Men are paid more than women for the same work. However, it is difficult to measure progress in closing this so-called “pay gap”, because wages are often confidential. The working group on gender equality suggests that data should be maade available internally within firms about the gender pay gap within each company.

In addition, the working group proposed a series of measures including mandatory paternity leave, data standards for measuring gender equality, and a certificate system to show which companies are “family friendly”. Read the full proposal here

PROPOSAL 3: Promote awareness and diagnosis of mental health issues

This working group was tasked with looking at issues of mental health. In particular, they were looking at mental health issues within highly vulnerable populations, such as refugees. However, many of they suggestions could be applied to the broader population.

Essentially, the would like to see efforts to promote greater awareness and diagnosis of mental health issues in the EU. This would include, for example, standardised tests for certain health diseases such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and the pooling of research data to measure the scale of the problem. Read the full proposal here

PROPOSAL 4: Help developing countries to help each other

The final working group was tasked with promoting South–South cooperation. As developing countries grow their economies, this working group argued that the EU should find ways to promote the exchange of resources, technology, and knowledge between developing countries. This would include creating legal frameworks to facilitate this cooperation, and promoting South-South cooperation internationally.

The working groups hope that it would boost the image of the EU as a development partner, and encourage developing countries to take up a larger responsibility of development efforts (ultimately reducing the share of European contribution). Read the full proposal here

Would these 4 ideas help rescue the European Union? Should every EU citizen receive a birthday card from the EU when her or she turns 18? Should wages be transparent, so the gender pay gap can be measured and closed? Should more be done to promote awareness of mental health issues? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Peter Kurdulija

64 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Joseph Stack

    The fact that the EU actually needs rescuing shows how much of a useless failure of an organisation it really is. Fails to deal with or resolve any of the issues its confronted with.

    • avatar
      Niccolò Giusti

      The scope for improvement is huge and the EU is now able to improve policies that single states fail to successfully deliver due the interconnectedness and transnational nature of issues. Sorry, it is known that brits struggle to see past their nose regarding all of that.

  2. avatar
    Miro Šarić

    EU needs big big reform, let us Youngs, with some help of Olds, reform it, for the people, not big business!

    • avatar

      That reform should be called “going back to democratic national independent and sovereign countries that we always were before this mess called EU came up and was imposed to 500 million european citizens”

  3. avatar
    Stefania Portici

    il progetto della salute mentale . L’Unione Europea è sbagliata , nociva e manda fuori di testa il popolo europeo che un giorno o l’altro va dalla Commissione europea e alla BCE ( non al Parlamento UE ) con i forconi ad infilarli. Finchè la testa è buona i popoli europei cercano di reagire con la testa ma l’UE continuando cosi manda in pazzia

  4. avatar
    Julia Hadjikyriacou

    When it comes to the massive task of rescuing the EU you should ask credible and highly experienced independent economists who have ethical human values as their key motivation.

  5. avatar
    Παυλος Χαραλαμπους

    eu needs desperately to be reformed from zero base .first of all those who hold the final decisions MUST BE ELECTED FROM THE PEOPLE !not same bankers or their pets. also we have to stop pretending that all are going great, no we are going full speed to hell

  6. avatar
    Noia Blackcat

    It seems to me that those ideas are just candies to give to the Europeans to keep them quiet, what EU needs is a real rinnovation plan because we can all see how things are going… and also EU should stop having class A and class B citizens… and start treating all European countries the same way applying the same rules.

  7. avatar
    Andrej Němec

    Smart ideas can definitely help. Stupid ideas can’t. And these 4 ideas are STUPID like many of the replies provided by readers. Please change the list and submit again the questions. Smart people will eventually answer to the smart questions.

  8. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    Is that the best The Student Forum Maastricht could come up with, birthday cards containing a bribe ?! lol

    No doubt they are all wanting to be the next unelected president of the European Politburo & with that kind of nonsense they will have a fighting chance… its no wonder the EU is in such a mess.

  9. avatar
    Jimi Sowa

    We are under is last stage of disintegration UE and nothing will help to avoid. Why debate about that? Build one European brown nation is utopia. This must lead into inevitable total disaster.

  10. avatar
    Vytautas Vėžys

    No, because this is bullshat and waste of taxpayers money:
    1. Traveler card is nonsense because young people don’t have money to “do things while traveling”. To experience culture of other country you should live there at least for a month. Like 5% of young citizens can let themselves such luxury.
    2. Gender pay gap doesn’t exist, better invest in Education and stop spreading nonsense internationally
    3. promote alertness… Another money laundry campaign. Invest in better health care systems to prevent deadly diseases, not theoretical “science”. What’s worse: woman suffering from PTSD cause someone insulted her on Twitter or child dying in hospital cause he was not vaccinated against flue cause parent’s can’t afford it?
    4.”to promote the exchange of resources, technology, and knowledge”. VeryDuckingThanks. Our country “shared” with rest of the Europe ~1mln (out of 3.5) young, educated, working citizens. In exchange we get regulations to take more immigrants. So how the hell thyis helps to keep EU together?

    • avatar

      I’m going to go ahead and propose structural reforms rather than gimmicks to make us feel happy or European. I would hope these could be agreed upon by traditional eursoceptics and disenchanted europhiles alike :

      1. Allow the European Parliament to propose legislation within the legal limits the nation-states give them in the treaties. Currently that’s the unelected Commission’s job.
      2. Have the COREPER and other intergovernmental councils that are not security-related recorded or minuted (admittedly this is Varoufakis’s idea I nicked.
      3. Make English the official working language of the Union. It already is in effect. Problem is because the French are so precious about their language, we don’t want to admit it. The result is that education systems in countries such as Spain have churned out a grand total of 22% of English speakers. That means all those kids your age who are unemployed have more chance of finding work in Latin America for a job than in our ”Single Market”. All kids coming out of school should be bi-or trilingual : their mother-tongue, English, and either their other national language or another world language.
      4. If you want to help the third world, liberalise agriculture instead of subsidising overrated Polish and French industries.

  11. avatar

    Cute ideas but not to the essence of the problem.

  12. avatar
    Michael O'Dwyer Connolly

    What a bunch of nonsense. We’re taking millions of migrants a year and our economies are on the brink of collapse and one of your solutions is to try and fix the gender pay gap?! Which doesn’t even exist in the first place!

  13. avatar
    Olivier Dutreil

    Thèse four issues are gives an idea about the gap between Europe and peoples…youngs are not représentative of peoples dont work and dont pay tax

  14. avatar
    Zbigniew Jankowski

    Great suplementary ideas .. but first EU needs to restructure it’s main 3 main pillars for proper functioning of democracy. Currently all are contorted.

  15. avatar
    Rácz Tivadar

    By all respect for the young people: none of these ideas would work, as the eu was a dead birth, long time before troubles occurred. The eu could only be rescued by turning back to the ewr and a lose union of free fatherland. Because no one believes, there is also no rescue, as the actual eu is only a poor copy of a tumbling us, with recycled national politicians in the deeply disconsidered parliament to Brussels.

  16. avatar
    Nikolas Lodakis

    Before you go to the 4 ideas you should ask yourselves the question ” Is today’s Europe Democratic is it EU a Democracy Union” If the answer is yes you should proceed if the answer is No you should re evaluate.

  17. avatar
    José Bessa da Silva

    Are you bloody serious? I just can not believe you posted this “ideas”. A “birthday” card? Is that going to help those 18 year old kids having a better prospect of finding a job after the university in Portugal? A wage gap measure? Is that going to help with the fact that rather than “sexism”, most of that gap is due to neo-capitalist aproach where pregnant women are a burden, an aproach that the EU is so keen to keep? The diagnosis of “mental health issues? Is that what you thing of us that know how useless and imoral is the European Union? And a “South-South” cooperation? You mean the southern european countries paying to northern african countries to stop immigrants from going to northern european countries? You must thing we are all idots. Stop wasting our money in useless “youth” nonsenses and wasting our time with the moronic ideas you chose out of it!

  18. avatar
    Caluean Silviu

    First of all the EU does not need rescue. There are problems and ways of doing things that need to be changed. A very important one is how the young people view life, work, creating things, startups. We in Europe dont have projects that support innovation, there is no culture of doing this. Governments should have partnerships with private capital that goes towards investing in things, anything. Doesnt matter how crazy it seems. There is too much rigidity in allocating funds for startups. You cannot expect a young person to know what to do with ideas where to go, how to negotiate etc. There needs too be a simplification of procedures that allow ideas to be implemented and taken on the market.

  19. avatar
    Yordan Vasilev

    I think, that South-South cooperation and investments by North will keep the European Union.

  20. avatar
    Σαντυ Μπαλμπαγάδη

    Birthday cards?Only?Nameday cards?Why not?What is your problem with our names?Is it because we are Orthodox?Is it because we are small made?Well if you would like to know…….”expensive perfumes are put in small bottles”.Who cares about hunger in the EE, about the luck of jobs for young people……….The birthday card solves everything.Can it be used for waxing too?It’s summer and you know the Brazilian bikini has issues.Cut the drugs.

  21. avatar

    If you think these 4 ideas will solve any of the core problems of EU… than you must be another EU propagandist trying to keep us busy with nonsense… Not gonna happen sirs….. the people of Europe have opened their eyes, and the EU has only one place: its self dug grave.

  22. avatar

    how do thes proposals “save” the EU? they are (almost) all nice ideas but do not tackle the issues at heart with the EU; no democratic legitimacy, no democratic accountability and no sense of identity

  23. avatar
    Chris Pavlides

    Dear Debate, that’s kids stuff. The problem is lack of true leadership fulfilled by north dominance. Germany aimed leadership in any segment. Congratulations! What about Europe? 40 years they try to build smth remarkable by braking not synthesis and balance of power. On top they use wrong people. Who spend too much to deliver weak results and now in stead of say SORRY and go home they BURN all current MOST competitive human generations. Sad.

  24. avatar
    Danny Boy

    Birthday cards to everyone???, in the name of god I despair.However I do agree with the free travel vouchers being given out,but give them to the fifty percent of Greek and Spanish young people currently unemployed so they can travel to America where they just might find a job.

  25. avatar

    no organisation on the planet is perfect, but if any changes need to be made to the EUthehey can only be made from inside, if we leave we will have no influence on any regulationws directives etc, we would be left tmaking rude signs from the touchline that would be a total waste of time,if we remain we can leave later if we decide to, but if we leave we’ve had it they wouldn’t let us back
    I suspect

    boris sees leaving would give him ay into number 10

  26. avatar

    Oh dear, it’s just nice to hear idealistic youngsters promoting their generation ideas. I wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings, I will skip this one. However, is good to know there are optimistic people on Titanic.

  27. avatar

    Strange and naive ideas! No wonder that the EU establishment is facing more and more resistance from member states populations, its legitimacy is crumbling fast.

  28. avatar
    Wendy Harris

    The EU is killing democracy and steering member states towards far-right fascism. It cannot be saved but must be recognised as the monster it has become and slain.

  29. avatar
    Andrej Němec

    The European Union is the only valid alternative to a long period of decadence, intestinal wars and divide among people that would only cause multinational corporations to earn even more. When a bottom up movement of enlightened citizens (just like this forum) will take conscience of its responsibilities and will ultimately make the EU function for the sake of everyone, things will go well. But this requires a collective effort from politicians, from EU institutions and from normal citizens just like you all.

  30. avatar
    Christoforos Panagis

    Hah! You are either stupid, or do not trust the average citizen. All Europe needs is to return to and enhance its cornerstone – “Liberté, égalité, fraternité, solidarité”

  31. avatar
    Paul X

    No1…. Ok, send travel vouchers to all those in the UK coming of age so they can climb aboard highly polluting aircraft and fly to Europe, how perverse is that considering how “Green” the EU wants to be? …(or will UK vouchers only be valid for sailing ships?)

    No 2… There can be pay gaps between men doing the same job in the same company that is why pay details is confidential. Essentially when you accept a job you sign a contract for the pay the company offers you, if you suspect you are not being paid your worth then do not accept the job

    No 3. Why the reference to refugees?…there are plenty of indigenous populations with people suffering mental health issues that need serious research and funding why are people in euro-dreamland so ignorant of what the real priorities should be?

    No 4..As the second largest contributor of International Aid the UK has been leading the way in helping countries to help themselves. This is despite the suicidal tendencies of the EU who want to solve the worlds problems by inviting the world to come and live in Europe

  32. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar


    Methinks the student groups have been taking too much ‘spice’.

  33. avatar
    catherine benning

    I was looking through the daily papers today and came across this reference to a plan called the Coudenhove-Kalergi. Apparently it was devised by the EU some time ago. I found it an put it here as I wonder if others think it is already in progress and that indeed there was such a plan.

    • avatar

      Catherine, I took the time to read your link. I’m a bit shocked to be honest, by the fact it ‘may’ even exist. Perhaps that’s what our PM alluded to when he mentioned a third world war, what will happen if they get it wrong or people say no.

  34. avatar
    Anti EU citizen

    LOL.With these “intelectucals” It’s no wonder that the EU is falling apart!
    Tear down the EU!!! Holland wants out!!!

    • avatar
      Anti EU citizen

      Over my dead body!No Way!The people don’t want that!We want our national states back!

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Krystian Krawczyk
      Cuckoo! Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

    • avatar

      This forum is full of, let’s say, ‘Eurosceptics’. I consider myself a Eurosceptic because of the lack of citizens representation in nowadays EU. But instead of destroying beneficial European cooperation, let’s fight for a democratic European Federation that respects national identities! United in diversity.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      The EU cannot be reformed if the coward and the cu#t nations (AKA France and Germany) dominate its direction.

      The UK has tried too often with little success to democratise the EU – it’s time the EU collapsed and an EU 2.0 with a fairer, better Northern-EU emphasis rose from the ashes.

  35. avatar

    ‘Wonderif’ – you wish to save the EU and reform it then you need to look at
    the bigger picture – corruption:

    The undemocratic governance. We do not directly elect top ministers and they are unaccountable and we cannot vote them off. Indeed, would it be correct to suggest that some of the top EU governors presided over the unethical tax evasion schemes in Europe?

    Unelectable commisioners put out to pasture. In the UK these are ex MP’s and ministers who have failed to be re-elected (rejected by the electorate) and put out to pasture.

    Unsigned accounts for 17 yrs.

    The accounts whistleblower Marta Andreasen. She advised that money was haemorrhaging inappropriately and was fired (by a rejected ex UK prime minister?)

    The ‘Strasbourg Circus’ that costs millions to satisfy the French and subsidise Strasbourg.

    No one appears to know the legal position – it is so complicated and open to debate.

    Whilst the concept of the EU was good, it was sold to the UK in the seventies as a lie, in that it was nothing to do with trade but a political maneuver.

    Fundamental reform is required for it to succeed.

  36. avatar
    George Yiannitsiotis

    Thank you! You made my day! Let’s explain how you did it:
    Quite a nice idea. However, instead of a travel voucher, Greeks would prefer debt relief instead so to be able not to feel debt-slaves of the Troica
    Prop. 2:
    Gender gap in Salaries? What about jobs? In order to have a salary, one needs a job. 26% of Greeks don’t have a job (more than 50% young) and gender inequality is obvious in unemployment first.
    What a waste of money in the eyes of people deprived of basic health care due to the all-out assault of the ECB-EU-IMF gang against the Greek NHS (the greedy banks first; people/slaves shall wait death)
    Help developing countries? What a joke for a “Union” that can’t help its own periphery; instead the “EU” exumes all assets from the periphery to the greedy financial establishment of the center.

    Great tall stories making us smile in the bitter times of Europe

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      @ Mark:

      Thank you for ypour reply. It shocked me also. Which was why I added here on this page. It was put up previously on another thread, but, it went past as if it was not read at all.

      I feel as you. Great concern.

  37. avatar
    EU reform- proactive

    This SFM student debate “product” is an example & manifestation of how not to spend taxpayer money- which does not grow on trees- by discussing something that remains non-viable, senseless, worthless, elusive, impossible & ridiculous.

    Maybe just desperate measures, using the concept of EU nothingness to save for the 1st April!

  38. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    Congratulatios EU

  39. avatar
    Chris Brown

    These would be like putting a small bandage on the forehead of a personwith a compound fracture of their leg.
    Totally missing the size, location and type of the problem.

    To get the Europe we’d like to have, I think it would be better to start again with friendly nations talking to each other.
    Trying to re-shape, reform or restore the EU? No. It’s too far gone.

  40. avatar

    Who wrote these proposals?
    Children in 1st grade ???

    1. Stop with the austerity nonsense. It does not work and it never did !

    2. Fund a HUGE modernization plan of Europe – fast rail, electric green plants, solar plants reforestation and automation of factories all over Europe.
    We need to pour TREMENDOUS resources to achieve greatness.

    3. Funds from #2 should go to automate and help COOPERATIVES of workers only!
    Not PRIVATE businesses.
    Not big concerns, they can handle themselves.

    no more hiring the Romanian SLAVES to work in France or Britain.

    5. Make ILLEGAL all capital flight from the EU without the EXPRESS accept of the WORKERS.
    To prevent rich assholes from fleeing to tax havens.

    6. Harmonize TAXES accros the EU to prevent this IDIOTIC race to the bottom to attract investment.

    7. EVERY BODY OF THE EU must be DIRECTLY BE ELECTED by the people!
    And European elections must be made KNOWN through the media. AL EU media should be FORCED to allocate 30 minutes every day to this event during the European elections.

    8. Stop subsidizing oil and gas.
    Without it, it will become LESS efficient over time.

    These are the MAI ONES that if implemented would ease the economic burden. And with it pull down euroscepticism.
    Nobody cares about immigrants if they have enough for themselves still.
    Everyone does when they starve.

    People are uninformed. They are angry and the EU is the most “visible” edifice they can storm.

  41. avatar
    Gyorgy Gajdos

    1) We need to have a common army, first for border control in southern Europe but also for regional policing. 100 thousand troops would do for start. Even less, 70 thousand would also be a good start. 15 thousand would be capable to control the southern borders. The rest would be enough amongst small combattants. (Russia for instance sent only about 5 thousand troops to Syria and it helped Assad)

    2)We need a common, simple economic policy framework. Today in Hungary you’d need about 7000 Euros as minimum start capital by law for a limited liability company while in some countries it is only 1Euro. Such basic, low level laws should be across Europe, preferably the 1 Euro version.

    We’d need to pursue further integration by leaving out doubter/mole/underminer countries (e.g UK) into a lesser status of membership as opposed to endlessly trying to appease them.

  42. avatar

    Lol endlessly trying to appease them, we are the only one of the big three that is fighting for reform. What do you really think you will get without us, instead of berating us you should’ve supported us instead of being subservient to french and german power. I live in France their system is very broken and they are the main instigators of the terrible beaurocracy that exists in the EU and ask a Frenchman from their private sector and they will probably agree with every word I have said.
    These ideas are a complete joke! How any of this rubbish is going to save the EU is beyond me. I actually cannot believe they are even a subject of this debate.
    If the EU think nonsense like this can save them then I am completley lost for words

  43. avatar

    1. Every school should be taught in English…This has always been a European language and is now the international business language.My children went to school in France and were all completly fluent at a young age but they still speak English in the home so you lose nothing. The French will hate this and won’t let it happen even though English is made up of 60% French words.
    2. No new countries admitted until all existing countries are net contributers, lets sort out what we have first before we add to it.
    3. New countries to be admitted one at a time, all other countries invest into that country until it is a net contributer.
    4. Representative democracy plus direct democracy.
    5. Wholesale clear up of red tape and beaurocracy in general.
    6. CAF reformed
    7. One parliament for god sake, two is a complete joke
    I could go on but I have to work now

  44. avatar
    Chen Ting Kao

    European Union needs to find a new sense of purpose and a vision that can inspire. This is the only way it can survive. One of European Union’s greatest political problem is energy dependence on Russia. If you can empower a supranational political entity to bind all members of EU to work towards transforming the economy of the entire Union into a carbon free economy, and focus the energy, and creativity of the entire population towards that purpose, then European Union can survive unburdened by dependence on Russian energy, and can serve as model for the rest of the world on what a pollution free market capitalist economy look like.

    • avatar

      ” a pollution free market capitalist economy look like”

      It doesn’t look like anything because it can’t exist.

  45. avatar

    Daren, the French do not want to be the cultural slaves of the USA. European culture is much wider and much richer than the so-called Anglo-saxon culture.
    The EU’s slogan is “United in diversity”. Why should we trade off our diversity for a standardisation that is sheer mediocrity.
    This is one of the reasons why the British left.

  46. avatar

    PROPOSAL 1: Send every EU citizen a birthday card is a very good idea. Showing care in details is a way to grow the sense of belonging.

  47. avatar

    PROPOSAL 2 is talking about the gender pay gap. Would like to know whether female and male nurses paid differently? Female driver and male driver? Are they paid differently? If not, I think the so-called gender gap is too vague and it is not about gender but pay and there is not even a real gap.

  48. avatar

    PROPOSAL 3: Promote awareness and diagnosis of mental health issues. What is the use of just aware of mental health issues but blind to issues leading to these issues? As elections are all designed to radicalize people, divide the union, promoting conflicts, mounting mental health issues is unavoidable. It is better to promote awareness of politicians using populism to radicalize the union for they might actually have health issues.

  49. avatar

    Rescue the EU cannot rely on controlling freedom of expression and dictating what the EU citizen can hear.

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