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Foreword With so many challenges facing Europe today, it’s a myth to suppose that its citizens are somehow disinterested in politics. Indeed, Debating Europe shows they are hungry to interrogate their politicians on all the big issues. The idea behind Debating Europe is a simple one: we want to connect European citizens and politicians together in an online debate. From the start we’ve taken a ‘bottom-up’ approach with the citizens very much in the driving seat of the debate, asking the questions they want answered and putting forward their opinions for the politicians to react.It’s also been a high-level debate, with (among others) two Prime Ministers, ten EU Commissioners, twenty national ministers, and Herman Van Rompuy, the EU Council President, taking part. And it has been a European debate, not just a national one; citizens and policy-makers from every country in the EU have joined in. Our thanks to the European Parliament, Microsoft and Gallup for supporting Debating Europe. With 53 MEPs taking part from across the political spectrum (including the leaders of the largest political groups) the support of the Parliament has helped to ensure a successful and lively pan-European political debate.
Giles Merritt, Secretary General, Friends of Europe
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Geert Cami, Co-Founder and Director, Friends of Europe
Table of contents
Debating Europe Snapshot Report 2012 Authors: Bruno and Emily Waterfield Publisher: Geert Cami Editor: Joe Litobarski Publication coordinators: Alessandra Baldissin and Amy Moran Design & Layout: Kramik Graphic Design Year of publication: 2012
Disclaimer This report offers an independent analysis of the Debating Europe project for which only the authors and Debating Europe can take full responsibility. The views expressed in this report by individuals are personal opinions and not necessarily the views of the organisation they represent, nor of Debating Europe, its members or partners. Reproduction in whole or in part is permitted, providing that full attribution is made to Debating Europe and to the source(s) in question, and provided that any such reproduction, whether in full or in part, is not sold unless incorporated in other works.
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Debating Europe, Changing Europe Amid the dramatic period the EU is going through – the endless negotiations, the complex and non-exhaustive fixes which have been proposed for the eurozone – there is one development which is, to my eyes, unambiguously positive: citizens are pushing politicians at all levels to communicate in a much clearer and frank manner about their position on Europe. And not simply about the grand picture; they want to see the details.
Martin Schulz President of the European Parliament
The eurozone crisis certainly is one big chunk of the explanation for this renewed interest. EU leaders cannot go back to their home country and state: “Europe made me do it” as happened before. The contours of each country’s negotiating position and possible solutions have been put under the spotlight – whether we are looking at growth enhancing measures, at the Fiscal Compact, at rules on financial supervision, the reinforcement of the single market, the Multiannual Financial Framework or the Schengen Treaty. More and more these topics are under the lens of the media, and it is not just a matter for Brussels connoisseurs. More and more, the debate has shifted from the fault-line of “more vs less Europe”, to an increasingly informed exchange on what kind of EU we want. A concurrent element in this increase in transparency and dialectic has been the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. It is sufficient to think on the vote over the SWIFT agreement or the entry into force of the European Citizens’ Initiative; just recently, I held a lively internet chat with citizens about the vote the Parliament will hold on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, and this was followed with great interest. As the crisis unfolds at a European level, we have a duty to provide solutions and communicate them in an ever more engaging and creative way so as to hear the concerns of citizens and explain the measures taken. A policy which is better communicated will ultimately be both more legitimate and better enforced. That is why I welcome the successful Debating Europe initiative launched by Friends of Europe and Europe’s World. It has the double merit of engaging an expert and young audience and prompting politicians and leaders to think critically about a number of complex questions. As leader of Europe’s only democratically elected institution I cannot but welcome this forum, the transparent and direct exchange of questions, ideas and, ultimately, solutions.
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Overview Since its launch in 2011, Debating Europe has interviewed more than 320 policymakers and experts from across the political spectrum. This includes 53 MEPs, 20 national ministers and state secretaries, 19 national MPs, 10 EU Commissioners, 2 Prime Ministers and the current President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy. Each agreed to answer some of the 2000 comments sent in to us from citizens online, including from a growing community of some 30,000 people following us on Facebook and Twitter. Brussels is not Europe, and Debating Europe has from the start focused on an audience outside the usual ‘Brussels bubble’. Whilst 71% of our readers logged on from a European country, 30% of our audience came from Western Europe (France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Benelux Countries), 23% from Northern Europe (Scandinavia, the UK and the Baltic states), 10% from Southern Europe (Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and the Balkans) and 8% from Eastern Europe.
Debating Europe has also had the good fortune to launch at a time when many of the new technologies we used have really come of age: online video, social media and some of the other tools we used (such as Skype for long-distance video interviews) are no longer merely the domain of a small circle of tech enthusiasts. We have been able to connect high-level political leaders with citizens in a way that is new and interactive. Conducting an online video interview with the Danish trade minister through her iPad was just one example of the innovative ways we were able to use the tools available to us. Due to the sheer number of topics covered by Debating Europe, we have split the debate into five ‘channels’, each dealing with a broad subject area and including a live event as well as interviews with relevant policy-makers and experts. This report represents a snapshot of the whole project, presenting some of the most interesting debates in each channel in order to offer a flavour of the project as a whole.
Adam Nyman Publication Director, Europe’s World
Joe Litobarski Editor, Debating Europe
Unsurprisingly, in the midst of a serious sovereign debt and banking crisis, and with a growing number of European countries now back in recession, “Growth Europe” has been the most popular topic of debate. “Future Europe”, examining the future constitutional direction of the European Union, is a close second. There was, of course, much we were unable to fit into this report, and you can visit Debating Europe (www.debatingeurope.eu) to see more and to take part in the debate yourself.
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If you want to read more check out our online report at www.debatingeurope.eu/2012report
Austerity versus growth?
But the problem is EU-wide, 23 out of 27 countries – including Germany, Europe’s largest and most successful export economy – are in excessive deficit procedure, meaning they have agreed to austerity and structural economic reforms programmes to cut levels of debt in line with the targets set in the Stability and Growth Pact, itself based on the Maastricht Treaty. In the period of economic downturn, following the 2008 financial crisis that overloaded many national budgets with bank bailouts or burst property or other asset bubbles, most of the EU is taking the austerity medicine even if the bitterest pills are being swallowed in Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain. While the austerity issue is at its most acute in southern Europe, where debt is higher and economic productivity lower, it is a genuinely European question for policymakers as Debating Europe showed. The austerity debate is on course to becoming the defining political issue between left and right, pro and anti-Europe, during European elections in 2014. During a series of events, debates and interviews organised by
Over the last two years, the eurozone crisis and the threat of debt contagion (as financial markets flee from or push up the cost of investment or “spreads” on government bonds) has had its sharpest expression in the so-called PIIGS – Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain. Since spring 2010 three eurozone countries, Greece, Ireland and Portugal have been driven by sovereign debt crises into unprecedented EU-IMF programmes of measures to provide aid in return for cutting high levels of public debt, to put their finances back into balance and to set their economies back on the path to growth.
Many of the hottest topics – austerity versus growth, a proposed financial transaction tax and the question of Eurobonds – will be at the heart of the European election campaign in 2014, as the EU political parties and groups already begin to stake out their ground through the Debating Europe forum and beyond. Whether it is commissioners or discussion board commentators, ministers or MEPs, central bankers or bloggers, the controversies and issues surrounding the economic future – Growth Europe – are at centre of the European debate.
Europe is facing its worst economic crisis since 1945, the biggest political challenge in the EU’s history. In 1992 the Maastricht Treaty gave the European Union its name and created the Euro. By the end of the same year, the EU’s single market was established. Twenty years later, Debating Europe participants have grappled with issues that have posed an existential threat to the eurozone, the EU and the functioning of its single market, setting the Union’s political agenda for the next 20 years.
Looking beyond the eurozone crisis
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Debating Europe, key policy talking points and issues emerged within broader ‘for and against’ themes of the austerity question. One of the liveliest debates on the platform has been, since the beginning of the project, the question of whether an austerity-led recovery is really possible. On March 27, 2012, Debating Europe, along with Euronews and EU40, hosted a live debate in the European Parliament between Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg and the chairman of the Eurogroup of finance ministers and Jean-Claude Trichet, former president of the European Central Bank and chairman of the Bruegel think-tank. The debate was livestreamed online and questions from Debating Europe were put to the panellists. Alison, a commenter from the UK, argued that a response based purely on austerity was counter-productive:
The people should come first but they are the ones suffering and making cuts to live on less than they are able to – and there is no allowance for growth for Europe to get out of this mess. They’ll be back to square one in a year to two years.”
Jean-Claude Juncker responded to these comments:
This is a classic question that the political and economic world both have to deal with. I doubt there’s any real alternative to consolidating our public finances. Now, we may have been a little bit off in our instruments, and I think that in just a few years we’ve lost the consolidation that we had built up over the last few years, but I continue to believe that budgetary consolidation on its own cannot be the right response to the recession we’re going through. We have to organise a virtuous circle between public finance and growth in Europe, and I’d like to target particularly the countries that are currently weakened.”
FOR Greece Leaving the Euro Greece will never be able to pay back its debts. The so-called EU bailouts are to preserve financial stability for Germany and other creditors and are not in the interests of Greece or its people. The crisis is a result of a currency union that coupled rich, productive economies, such as Germany’s, to poor, backward ones, such as Greece, and is structurally flawed. 8 | Snapshot Report 2012
Clearly membership of the eurozone is too difficult for Greece and consideration must be given to allow Greece (and others) the possibility of leaving the eurozone, giving them the flexibility of devaluing.” Gordon
Jean-Claude Trichet took an even stricter line:
When you’ve lost confidence, when households have no trust, when businesses have no trust, when savers have no trust, then the best way to find growth and jobs is to recreate confidence. And how can we do that if not to come back to strategies and policies that will stay on track in the medium- to-long term? We talk of ‘austerity’, but even after the measures that have been taken, by-andlarge, we still have an economy that continues to spend more than it earns.”
This prompted Mike from the UK to respond:
There seems to be an imperative to restore confidence in financial institutions. In fact, what leaders seem to want is blind faith in these institutions, impervious to their failings. Has the pursuit of financial stability under these terms become the new religion?”
One major response to the debt and economic crisis has been the fiscal compact or Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union. Signed by 25 EU countries, excepting Britain and the Czech Republic, the treaty hardwires fiscal ceilings, a ‘golden rule’ and ‘debt brake’, into the higher law of all eurozone countries. It has sparked debate with many Socialists arguing that it is too dominated by austerity policy. Hannes Swoboda MEP, leader of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, was asked in a video comment sent in by Protesilaos from Greece whether the fiscal compact would work: “given that the current crisis… is also about private banks and the situation in the real economy, and there is nothing in the treaty about these two aspects.”
AGAINST Greece Leaving the Euro Greece can make it and the EU wants to help it. If Greece was to leave, by defaulting on its debts, it could spark a 1930s spiral leading to a crash. Such an economic event would see debt contagion spread across the eurozone and on to the global economy. The demise of Euro would wreak havoc way beyond Europe, there is no alternative to it.
The eurozone is not a café one can go in and out from at any time. The financial and political consequences are beyond imagination. The euro, dear Gordon, is an irreversible achievement.” Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council
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Staking out the political ground for the centre-left over the treaty, Swoboda criticised the “extreme austerity” written into it:
Austerity measures won’t bring people out of the crisis. It’s like giving poison to a man or woman who is sick. If you give people lower incomes, salaries, pensions, minimum wages, then they have less money to spend and less income from consumption activities. This leads to a higher deficit and higher taxes. That’s the situation in Greece right now.” Craig from the US argued that the current austerity-led approach is trapping Europe in a vicious cycle: “The policy of half-hearted ECB/Council bailouts has thus far led to recession and concurrently lower revenue/worse debt-to-GDP ratios.” This was met with enthusiastic agreement from Nicolas Schmit, Luxembourg’s Socialist Minister of Labour and Employment:
The Spanish case is a good example: even the conservative Spanish government has not been able to go as far as recommended. The more cuts are made, the bigger the problem the debt burden becomes. We have really to develop a policy of investment, a policy of growth, taking seriously into account the problem of unemployment, especially among young people.” During many debates, the unpopular nature of austerity measures and their origin within unelected EU institutions has been a source of controversy. When members of the Spanish Los Indignados protest movement marched on Brussels, Debating Europe took the opportunity to speak to some of the protestors about their concerns
FOR Austerity There will be no economic recovery unless EU countries get their finances in order. Attempts by a country to spend its way out of recession will only increase inflation and the debt burden, driving up borrowing costs and threatening financial contagion as global markets react, jeopardising the other countries. Taxpayers in Germany, Finland, Austria or the Netherlands should not have to pay for debts run up by others. Compounding moral hazard, the budget decisions of one country, such as Italy or Spain, can have huge implications on market confidence, for the financial stability of everyone. In the Economic and Monetary Union, that means austerity to bring public finances into line with rules agreed by all 10 | Snapshot Report 2012
as the basis for a common currency, the Euro. Austerity and economic reforms will leave European economies more competitive and able to hold their own
in a globalised economy transformed by the emerging countries of China, India and Latin America.
“It is something that was long due. Unfortunately, it comes in a very harsh way – but you must remember that even before the crisis there were concerns. At that time, decision makers thought they had ten years to prepare for an aging population. Now, with the economic slowdown because of the crisis, we have lost, in many countries, those ten years. Reforms have to be pushed faster than what was planned. It had to happen anyway, but now it has to happen faster.” Peter Praet, the Belgian chief economist of the European Central Bank
in a video interview. One protestor expressed his frustration with the recent Spanish constitutional amendment that placed a debt limit on the national budget:
In Spain we had now a change in the constitution, and they didn’t even dare to ask the citizens. They just changed it. They agreed altogether they were going to change the constitution. Something so important, they just decided in a couple of weeks that that’s going to be done.” Pushing back at this criticism, Peter Praet, the Belgian chief economist of the European Central Bank, argued that the fiscal compact needed to put spending questions beyond politics. Democracy, he argued, had failed to prevent the creation of a debt burden for future generations – those as yet unborn, who have no vote:
If you look at sovereign debt, checks and balances in our democracies have not performed sufficiently well. Future generations are not sufficiently defended in our current system. They cannot vote. Many difficult challenges can be pushed into the future in the form of debt. We saw weaknesses due to ineffective public governance and market failures… ” Some commentators strongly agreed with Mr. Praet. Leonardo, for example, argued that:
Politics has taught people an unsustainable idea of what is reasonable (both in magnitude of requests and time of realisation); politics is able to ride this discontent but unwilling to tell the truth. You can talk as much as you like about democracy, banks, rules and so on, but the first thing to do is admit the basic truth: [we have] come the end of the continuous stealing [from] future generations.”
AGAINST Austerity Europe’s economic crisis and recession was primarily caused by problems in the financial sector, not by state spending. In the recession that has followed the credit crunch, austerity policies only feed a destructive, downward spiral as stimulus is withdrawn from the economy. By pushing down consumer demand and cutting public spending at a time when banks are deleveraging or recapitalising, growth is squeezed or killed off. European governments need to restructure their economies to make them more competitive but without choking off the flow of money to generate higher growth rates that are needed, in the long term, to restore balance to finances. Austerity may be the economic orthodoxy
but the EU needs to show flexibility including Keynesian stimulus to kick
start economies with public spending. Europe needs a Marshall Plan.
“Until now, all the countries who gave money to Greece have been earning money. The general impression of the public, because of politicians being dishonest, is that the bail-out money is being given to the Greek government. The truth, however, is that the bail-outs are going straight back out of the country and into the pockets of investors. The poor are paying to the rich.” Hannes Swoboda, leader of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament
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Another commenter, going by the username ‘Scary Devil Monastery’, felt decisionmaking was being insulated from electorates:
The EU today has managed to undercut the impact of the electorate in such a way that de facto some 90-95% of every executive decisions actually lies on a conglomeration of unelected civil servants, in one form or another.”
However, echoing the same arguments as Peter Praet, Ivan Mikloš, the Finance Minister of Slovakia, insisted that even as a member of an elected government he was happy to give up fiscal sovereignty to the EU via the fiscal compact or increased European Commission ‘six-pack’ powers to police national budgets. In fact, he argued, EU spending rules should be imposed automatically, without prior agreement from European finance ministers.
No, I’m not nervous. In fact, I welcome stricter rules. But I have one precondition: they have to be automatic rules. If a country is not enacting responsible policies, then enforcement of the rules shouldn’t be subject to majority voting. If there is any doubt about the strength of the rules, then they will not function correctly. However, if implemented properly then they should create limitations on the populist approach of unsustainable government spending.”
A financial transaction tax?
A Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) has been proposed by the European Commission as a means of redressing the grievance felt by many Europeans against the banking sector for causing the crisis. José Manuel Barroso, the Commission President, has argued for the FTT as means for the financial sector to pay a “fair-share” of the costs of fixing Europe’s economic problems. Others, agreeing that regulation is needed to prevent a repeat of the sub-prime crisis, have warned that the EU risks losing financial centres in London, Frankfurt and Paris if it unilaterally imposes a European tax without going down a global route agreed by the G20.
FOR the Financial Transaction Tax European societies – and voters – are paying a high price for the crisis while, all agree, the financial sector got off lightly. A very modest tax, just 0.1 per cent on equity and 0.01 per cent on derivative transactions could net governments €55 billion a year at a time when cash has never been so badly needed.
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The question is not about cutting or not cutting, or cutting more or cutting less. The question is: who caused this crisis? I think most of us agree today, from left to right, that the crisis did not come because governments were too big. The crisis came due to a financial market which grew out of control, and a financial bubble – the worst one we have had since the Second World War.” Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, former Prime Minister of Denmark and former president of the Party of European Socialists
Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, the former Prime Minister of Denmark and former president of the Party of European Socialists, passionately supported the FTT as
Burden sharing for those that caused the crisis… A true European tax which can function and will contribute in an effective way to ensure that it’s not only ordinary people who pay and it’s not only the public sector which pays, but it is truly the financial sector – who caused this crisis – who should pay.”
Patrick, a commenter from Ireland who considers himself a socialist, responded critically to Rasmussen’s argument:
An FTT is far too much of a wishy-washy answer and probably a waste of time [Sweden] had such taxes; all that happened there was that those taxes were passed on to the user/consumer. They even detailed them in customer statements in an effort to embarrass the government/political parties… and it worked, those taxes became an election issue and were eventually abolished.”
Joining the debate, Jim O’Neill, the Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, argued that, at a time when the eurozone was trying to restore market confidence, introducing an FTT would have the opposite effect:
I’m afraid to say, I think [an FTT is] quite naive. Speculation is not necessarily a bad thing. Speculators can be right as well as wrong, and I think in this instance we could do with a few more speculators. The policy-makers are scaring market participants with this sort of talk and contributing to the sense of uncertainty.”
AGAINST the Financial Transaction Tax Europe’s economies would be in even deeper trouble if the financial sector moved to Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, New York or Zurich. Britain, with the lion’s share of high-volume financial transactions in the City of London, would be discriminated against. An FTT will be passed onto consumers, it will lead to higher costs for pension funds (for pensioners), cause one million job losses and reduce growth by 3.5 per cent.
It’s not banks who pay it, it’s the citizenry. We will almost certainly end up paying more than the tax will actually raise. It’s an absolutely terrible tax except for one unfortunate point. The politicians will tell us that it’s the banks being taxed and we’ll often believe them even as they pick our own pockets for that money. Bad economics and great politics. No wonder politicians love the idea.” Tim, UK blogger
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Joseph Daul, leader of the European People’s Party in the Parliament, told us:
Financial supervision has to be improved, as well as the general framework within which financial institutions can operate. This has to happen in a co-ordinated manner with the most important financial places in the rest of the world, especially with the US. A free market economy doesn’t mean everyone is totally free to do whatever he or she wants. A sound framework is necessary. Without such a framework market forces can’t achieve optimal results.”
The question of Eurobonds cuts to the chase of debates on how the EU should respond to the current economic and debt crisis. Should the EU merely uphold the existing Maastricht Treaty rules underpinning the euro or look beyond them to deeper forms of Union and alternatives to the current austerity policies? Paul, a Debating Europe commenter from the UK, argued that Eurobonds could be used to underpin a European scheme “like the American led Marshall Plan, which helped reconstruct Europe after the Second World War”.
The real problem is that there is still no long term structure to rescuing the euro which requires some vision, a lot of courage and leadership – which unfortunately is lacking.”
Alexander Stubb, Finnish European Affairs minister, rejected the argument but conceded it was a debate for the future after austerity policies had corrected the current crisis:
Eurobonds would not be a solution to the current crisis. It’s something we need to reflect upon in the future, but only once strict and enforceable rules are in place to ensure budgetary discipline. Eurobonds should not be an incentive for bad public financial policy. First you must have strong rules in place.”
FOR Eurobonds The architects of the euro – way back in 1992 – created a monetary union without a fiscal union, a result of the necessary political compromises of the day. As well as austerity rules, the EU needs to be able to issue Eurobonds, as well as national government bonds, to pool debt burdens as well as across the eurozone. Eurobonds could be used to raise investment to drive growth. 14 | Snapshot Report 2012
If Europe has common problems then Europe has to have common solutions. [Eurobonds are] one of them and many others should follow.” Michael
Estonia’s Minister of Finance, Jürgen Ligi, also dismissed Eurobonds as a solution in the short-to-medium term, but likewise left it open as a future possibility:
The long-term solution is not to spend more than you earn. A common Eurobond is just dealing with symptoms and actually a government shouldn’t spend more than it earns, especially in aging societies. We should save, not borrow, and in the longrun it is the wrong attitude. Of course, I am not totally against this idea, because the EFSF and ESM are a step towards that, but it can’t be a permanent thing.” Michael, however, argued that member-states’ time is running out:
We have to move fast with the first issue of [Eurobonds] before Germany gets downgraded too. If that happens then I would not like to see the next scenario.”
But Frank Engel, a European People’s Party MEP from Luxembourg, thought that Eurobonds on their own were not a solution as they did not go far enough:
[Eurobonds] are instruments to complement or fill in a future European fiscal policy. We continue to live in the fallacy that nation-states can solve this crisis whilst still preserving separate fiscal frameworks. The solution to the crisis is to mutualise debt, but to ensure that finally the EU acquires an independent budget that is sufficient for managing a currency; a currency can function without a state, but never can a currency function without a budget of a significant size.”
Eurobonds create moral hazard, Greeks can run up debt risk that Germany, not Greece, must pay for. The EU would end up rewarding irresponsible fiscal behaviour and turning the cheap credit tap back on for southern Europe would just make things worse. Not only that but Eurobonds require EU treaty change – that means the risk of referendums.
One effect of the common currency zone was that the markets no longer had in mind the different economic situations in different countries. Therefore, we saw a convergence of interest rates for the member-states. Eurobonds would just go back to this initial mistake.” Thomas Silberhorn, Christian Democrat, CSU, member of the German Bundestag Snapshot Report 2012 | 15
If you want to read more check out our online report at www.debatingeurope.eu/2012report
To make its way successfully through the coming years and decades, the EU will have to decide how green it wants its growth to be.
In this sorry state of affairs, time spent thinking about recycling, renewable energy and efficient resource use starts to look like a luxury reserved only for the idle rich. But periods of crisis and international upheaval can also offer the best moments to change the way societies behave. Moving away from a reliance on imported fossil fuels and towards domestic energy production, or carving out a position as a world leader in the development of new clean technologies could be just the kind of fix Europe needs.
The EU is facing the worst economic and political crisis in its history. Across the Atlantic, Europeâ€™s powerful neighbour, the United States, is likewise struggling to deal with its own economic and social upheaval. Meanwhile economic progress in emerging economies such as China has been steadily changing the global landscape forever. On the world stage, Europe has lost its traditional leading role as a cultural and military powerhouse. At home, national governments are faced with millions of unemployed citizens enraged as the pensions and social security they were promised seems to be fading away.
Ensuring a sustainable Europe
Can the economy and the environment be friends?
Millions of people in Africa, Asia and Latin America have begun to emerge from generations of poverty. They look at the lifestyles enjoyed by citizens in the West with ambitious eyes. Raising everyone to a good level of health and comfort means finding resources to provide more food, more medicine, and more comfortable homes, as well as all the technological and transport benefits many of us take for granted. Making this possible at the same time as reducing emissions and pollution is a daunting task. Finding a way to grow that is at once green and generous seems downright impossible. Protesilaos, a Greek blogger, sent in a comment saying he was afraid the eurozone crisis would see short-sighted politicians: â€œmarginalizing the major challenges humanity will be facing in the upcoming years. A viable climate is much more important in the long-run than a functional monetary system.â€?
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The Danish Environment Minister, Ida Auken, agreed that it was wrong to allow the financial crisis to dominate the agenda completely: “We’re also facing a resource crisis,” she told Protesilaos, “and we must tackle the two at the same time.” Samo from Slovenia responded positively to the minister’s comments, adding on Facebook:
In my humble opinion, focusing our attention on a sustainable economy could not only end the eurozone crisis, but also make the EU the leading economy in the world.”
Peter from Belgium, however, sent in a video comment expressing his concern with this idea:
Sustainability is a catch-phrase or word that has been brought into life over the last couple of years, but nothing is really truly ‘sustainable’. The only progress that has been made neutralizes the world sustainability.”
Enrique from Spain, meanwhile, cautioned on Facebook that:
In a finite planet we cannot grow infinitely. In the face of growing scarcity of cheap resources (peak oil, gas, rare earths, etc.), we must change the way the economy operates to extend the useful life of all material elements through mandatory legislation.”
Jarosław Pietras, Director General of Climate Change, Environment and Health at the Council of the EU, responded:
It’s an important point that Enrique is making. But first one has to see that it’s not only green growth for wealthy people, it’s green growth globally. You’ve got countries that still need to grow.”
FOR a New Green Economic Paradigm A shift in favour of green growth is needed, because capitalism has failed to account for the environment. GDP should be about more than money, because research shows the wealthiest countries are not the happiest. Perhaps most 18 | Snapshot Report 2012
worrying of all, at the current rates of growth it has been estimated we will need two and a half Earths to meet our needs by 2050.
As well as looking for new ways to promote green growth, debaters drew attention to examples of how old EU laws have let us down. In the comments, Van Patten from the Netherlands said the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) was “an unmitigated disaster, on economic and environmental grounds.” Isabella Lövin, a Member of the European Parliament for the Swedish Green Party, agreed with him, calling the CFP “a disaster on an unimaginable scale.” Maria Damanaki (EU Commissioner for Fisheries) responded to Van Patten’s point in a video comment:
He’s referring to the past, I suppose. What I can say is that I recognise that we need a radical change. So, it’s obvious that our policy until now has not delivered, and we need to change our attitude because the sources from the sea are not unlimited.” Others were more positive. Ron, a blogger from Germany, was encouraged by the Commissioner’s response to a question he had sent in on Twitter: “In general, I’m quite satisfied with the answer by the Commissioner. Good initiative by Debating Europe.” However, he also warned that there was still plenty of uncertainty:
As an observer, I don’t see whether there will be any realistic changes in the policy that most think has failed, and [if there are], what these changes will be. The Commission’s proposals are on the table, but the debate in Parliament and Council still looks quite chaotic to me.” Protesilaos, meanwhile, said the Common Agricultural Policy was “a wasteful anachronism”. Olivier de Schutter, Professor of Law and Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, said the CAP was holding poor countries back from any form of growth and left them “addicted to food subsidies from the OECD countries.” He said green growth was about creating healthier food at the same time as coping with fewer resources. He told Enrique that:
Governments should subsidise the production of fruit and vegetables and penalise agricultural production that negatively affects the environment… [and] look at how we can reduce demand by focusing on increasing food protein”.
AGAINST a New Green Economic Paradigm No alternative to capitalism has proved itself workable, as the various tyrannical social models of the 20th century showed. No one has the right to deprive people in the
developing world of the health and wealth enjoyed by their rich neighbours.
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Galina from Bulgaria was highly critical of de Schutter’s suggestion, arguing that:
[The EU] should stop trying to regulate everything they get their hands on and most of all stop telling people how to live their lives on [every] level possible.”
Linda from the UK was also troubled by de Schutter’s response, but for different reasons:
I really hope that by the phrase ‘increasing food protein’ you are not referring to genetically modified food? This GM food is ruining agriculture and causing huge health problems in both people and animals.”
To which Liberal MEP Catherine Bearder responded:
I think we’re right to be cautious about genetically modified foods, but I don’t think the evidence there is that it’s making people unhealthy or poisoning people.”
Green MEP Bas Eickhout, meanwhile, added:
The direct link between GM food and health is still under investigation, so in that sense people who say ‘it is bad for health’ should maybe have a far more nuanced view. But what’s far more worrying is that it’s giving a monopoly position to the food industry as it takes over the whole market. If there’s one thing that should be decentralised, here and in the developing world, it is food production. Instead, we are talking about seven companies who own the majority of GM crops. Whether or not GM is directly bad for health, is is certainly damaging for biodiversity.”
What next for nuclear?
Ever since it was first used in the 1930s and 40s, nuclear power has inspired hope and fear in almost equal measures. In the early years of the 21st century, atomic power seemed to have come into its own. The possibility of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, without investing heavily in new technologies or relying on imported energy, led even some of the most committed high profile environmental activists to raise their voices in favour of nuclear. Then an earthquake and tsunami that wiped out a nuclear reactor in Fukushima, Japan, coupled with significant EU and national pressure for the development of renewable energy sources, led Germany to adopt a total nuclear phase out. Italy announced that it would build no new nuclear power. The European Commission, at the request of many governments, coordinated ‘stress tests’ on the safety of every operational nuclear reactor in the EU. The nuclear renaissance seemed to be over before it had really begun. 20 | Snapshot Report 2012
Dr. Patrick Moore has experienced both sides of the nuclear campaign. Now a strong supporter of atomic energy, Moore is also one of the original founders of environmental group Greenpeace. In March 2012, Debating Europe invited Dr. Patrick Moore to a live head-to-head debate with Jo Leinen, a Social Democrat MEP and former spokesperson for the German anti-nuclear movement. The event, which was streamed live online and involved questions from commenters being put to the two panellists, provoked a lively response from users online. Some commenters, such as Ivan from Bulgaria, were supportive of nuclear energy. Ivan sent in a comment from Facebook arguing that:
The cost to benefit analysis shows that atomic energy is still one of the best ways to provide energy. The risk of a catastrophe is present, as recent events show, but this should only help us realize what requirements are needed when we build/maintain such energy plants.” Michael from Switzerland, however, disagreed with Ivan’s assessment, arguing that:
The real energy (and monetary) costs for every energy source are largely unknown and depend to a large extend on who ‘counts’… Where will the uranium for European nuclear power plants come from?”
Dr. Moore’s response to Michael was that, unlike fossil fuels, nuclear power was in no danger of running out.
There is no shortage of uranium in the world… That is one of the reasons very few countries have embarked on large scale fast reactor programs where you would actually recycle the existing used nuclear fuel, which contains between 90% and 99% of the original energy still.” Michael, however, was unimpressed with Dr. Moore’s response:
Dr Moore’s answer shows that he [doesn’t know] the hard facts about uranium mining and resources… current projections of uranium mine production capacities could satisfy projected high-case world uranium requirements until the late 2020s. However, given the challenges and length of time associated with increasing production at existing mines and opening new mines, it is unlikely that all production increases will proceed as planned.”
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Bogdan from Romania sent in a video question wondering why more money wasn’t being invested in fusion technologies, to which Jo Leinen MEP responded:
I would not like to wait until 2050 to see whether fusion is an option or not. In these 40 years to 2050, for climate protection and other reasons, we have to do the job with everything we know we can do it with, and Europe has everything we need.” Dr. Moore argued that Debating Europe commenter Darek was wrong to call nuclear reactors “unsafe, macro regional water cooled monsters.” He said water cooled reactors had a “very safe record,” and that engineers now knew how to make much smaller reactors. Peter from Belgium, meanwhile, suggested that miniature nuclear reactors could be used to fuel public transport, drastically cutting emissions. Moore said this would be “a step too far”, and that using nuclear to charge batteries for electric cars would be a safer approach. On this point at least, most commenters seemed to agree. Axel thought nuclear-powered cars were “An unrealistic vision [from] the early 1950s, and I think nuclear technology isn´t safe enough for anything!” Whilst Panos from Greece added: “Imagine seeing [a neighbourhood youth] trying to kit-out and modify his nuclear powered car?!?” A Facebook poll before the live event asked users “Are you in favour of nuclear energy in Europe?” Of the 154 votes cast, 88 were against nuclear and remained unconvinced by all the arguments in favour. Indeed, many commenters were fiercely critical. Rui Miguel from Portugal, for example, warned against any policies that might lock Europe into the wrong technology:
The energy future of Europe is RENEWABLE. Period. Nuclear may have a place in Europe, but not center-stage; and Europe will pay dearly for bad energy decisions in the future, just like we are now paying for the bad energy decisions of the past.”
Portuguese MEP Maria Da Graça Carvalho, a member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, responded to this argument critically:
I think we cannot afford to reject any form of energy. We have to look at all the forms of energy and see what is most appropriate for each region and each country. All the forms of energy have advantages and disadvantages.”
FOR Nuclear Power Nuclear power is safe and getting safer. Reactors are developed to safety standards well above what is expected in any other sector. Even the meltdown of Fukushima, an old plant, resulted in no human fatalities. Nuclear power leads 22 | Snapshot Report 2012
to far lower greenhouse gas emissions than gas and coals, meaning that, until renewable energy is developed on a large commercial scale, nuclear offers the most efficient way to tackle climate change.
Philip Lowe, Director-General for Energy at the European Commission also pitched in with his reaction:
At the present time, renewables, particularly offshore wind, is substantially more expensive than nuclear. But the progress in bringing costs down for onshore wind and solar-voltaic have been very significant. We think that when you get into the next decade, onshore wind and solar will start looking quite competitive, and near to grid parity. I’d ask Rui Miguel to look at the various comparisons that were made: these issues are not simply about economics, they’re also about perceptions and tolerance of risk. This is why it’s natural there must be a national debate as we go along. Renewables are making progress, but I think nuclear is not going to disappear.” Some commenters, however, questioned the claims that nuclear energy was somehow less safe than other forms of energy. Mike from the UK, for example, argued that:
Nuclear is much safer and healthier than fossil fuels, especially when the plant facility is engineered correctly.”
Liberal MEP Fiona Hall strongly disagreed, however:
Nuclear is low carbon compared to fossil fuels, but it comes with a raft of problems. Part of it is the cost; we’ve always heard it will get cheaper, but it never has. The plants under construction at the moment are massively over-budget and over their original construction schedule. The industry at the moment is trying to get subsidies from the government, because it knows the figures don’t add up… We should be putting our investment in renewables instead, because nuclear is a distraction.”
Do we need a big bang approach to climate change?
Climate change policies are perhaps the most obvious sign of shifting EU priorities. Fifteen years ago, taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to steady global temperatures was a fringe occupation, the concern of environmental activists and school campaigns. But as economies blossomed, so did interest in weather
AGAINST Nuclear Power Opponents point out that Fukushima was just the latest in a line of nuclear meltdowns, following Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, showing that the technology cannot be considered safe. Even more dangerously, countries like Iran are using
technology linked to nuclear energy to build weapons, and need to be shown there is an alternative way to develop. The costs of building, operating and decommissioning a nuclear reactor are also unavoidably high. Snapshot Report 2012 | 23
patterns. News about unseasonable weather moved from the back sections to the front page of newspapers. Governments, and the European Commission, created climate change departments and officials to raise awareness of the problem. Then, as suddenly as it had emerged, attention moved on. Politicians realised that, rather than winning support, they risked losing votes by talking about reducing emissions rather than increasing employment. In a recession, there was not enough time to talk about everything, and climate change quietly slipped down the agenda. Norway’s former Minister for the Environment, Erik Solheim, stirred controversy on Debating Europe by making a comment arguing:
I think politicians have to be open and straight-talking on these matters. The number one problem when it comes to climate change negotiations is the Republican party of the United States of America. As long as the US, due to the efforts of the Republicans, are not able to come up with a considerate approach to climate change then there are limits to what the rest can do.” Mike, from the US, responded heatedly:
As a Republican voter, I urge my Republican congressman to defund any and all ‘climate change’ activities the federal government is currently engaged in… Just once, I’d like to see the Europeans lead on an issue. Let’s see them don the hair shirt and strangle their economies for a generation so we can lower the Earth’s temperature by .001°C. As for America, we’re broke and we have no more time for these childish environmental fantasies.” Other commenters from the US, however, were more sympathetic to the minister’s argument. Zach left a comment saying:
On the Republican party: yep, that’s exactly the case. This is our biggest hurdle as far as I can tell. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t others (like developing countries’ rapid growth and use of fossil fuels), but this is the biggest, and if it were addressed I think developing countries would do more as well.”
FOR Actions to Tackle Dramatic Climate Change Climate change puts millions of lives at risk, and threatens the future of whole regions of the globe. It therefore needs a response on the same scale. Turning attention away from climate change to address financial problems is a false economy, because the longer we take to act the bigger the problem will become. The last 50 years have seen emissions 24 | Snapshot Report 2012
rise to unimaginable levels, and the global trend shows no sign of slowing, as new economies emerge. To effectively address climate change, we must make a ‘big bang’ change to the way societies operate, before it is too late.
Dr Fatih Birol, Chief Economist of the International Energy Agency (IEA) cautiously sided with Zach, arguing that tackling climate change faced two huge obstacles:
When I look at the climate change issue… I see that almost half of all emissions are coming from just two countries: the US and China...Even though the other 191 members of the UN might come to agreement, if those two countries don’t move then it won’t change the picture much.” Some commenters, however, stressed a more individual approach. Maryanne argued that: “Of course we need a ‘big bang’, but we all need to start from the inside. If every one of us changed the way we think and act about our environment, that could influence the politics.” Others were far from convinced. Klem, for example, left a comment saying:
I agree with Mike, it is childish environmental fantasies and blaming the US Republican party is nothing more than bizarre scapegoating. In order to end this charade, we need the big hammer approach, the big proof that climate change is anthropogenic. We need irrefutable proof that the earths changing climate is caused by human activity, not nature.” Philippe Lamberts, an MEP for the Belgian Green Party, however, said: “The climate change we are witnessing today is a sign we are touching the physical limits of our world”. Samo questioned the timing of the changes needed:
It would be interesting to know how quickly the transition to renewables would take on a global scale…How long would it then take before we would be able to replace fossil fuels or nuclear with renewables?”
To which Dan Jørgensen MEP responded:
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said we need to reduce our emissions in developed countries by between 80 and 95% by 2050 if we are to avoid dangerous climate change… We need to get started, and we need to do it right now. The price of fossil fuels, especially oil, is rocketing. As fossil fuels become increasingly very expensive, the hope is that renewables will become cheaper by comparison.”
AGAINST Actions to Tackle Dramatic Climate Change If there were a cheap way to address climate change, it would have been done years ago, when governments had time and a budget for the issue. Taking measures to stabilise global temperatures and to reverse any damage already done would be a mammoth task, with a corresponding bill. Matters are further complicated by the fact that no one can know
what effect climate change will have over the next years and centuries. Speculative investments are hard to justify even in a healthy economy. Many observers in any case believe that the problem has been exaggerated, and that resources would be better spent addressing problems when and if they do emerge.
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If you want to read more check out our online report at www.debatingeurope.eu/2012report
Investment in Tech Europe creates five jobs for every two it might displace. It helps Europe’s vital small and medium sized enterprise sector double growth and exports. Investment in ICT brings growth in its wake. According to the European Commission, increasing broadband penetration by 10 per cent converts into 1 to 1.5 per cent growth in GDP.
Killing the spirit? Data protection and internet regulation
The internet has emerged as a major public space in the 21st century, formed outside traditional market forces and the realm of state intervention. Most people, including regulators and corporate interests, acknowledge the creative powers that the internet has unleashed as a free space where ideas, music and news is transmitted immediately to an audience of billions of people.
As ICT and the internet becomes pivotal to the future of Europe’s economic development so debates over its regulation have increasingly polarised politics at the EU level, where regulatory powers for trade, data protection and the single market reside. Many regulators and businesses argue that for the internet to realise its potential then intellectual property rights and the rule of law must be upheld. Others, in the world of blogging, social media and internet innovation fear that regulation represents a culture war that could kill off the creative spirit and free space opened up by the new technologies.
Europe’s digital internet economy is already bigger than Belgium’s national economy and is growing faster than the Chinese economy. It is forecast to be worth over five per cent of the EU’s GDP within a few years and, by 2016, online spending is predicted to account for over one retail euro in 10.
The internet and other digital technologies offer hundreds of millions of Europeans, both at home and at work, a glimpse of the future and a way out of the economic crisis into growth. Research and experience has shown that investment in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is among the most productive and innovative in the world.
Building an innovation union
As the internet has become a part of everyday life, a key means of social interaction for many younger people and a crucial place where consumers and businesses meet so Snapshot Report 2012 | 27
culture wars over its regulation have exploded outside the Brussels corridors onto the world-wide-web and beyond. During a debate on ‘how Europe can ensure a safe internet’, Patrick, a commenter from Ireland, argued that existing laws covered an online world where people freely chose themselves to publish information.
No-one should be attempting to regulate or control the internet but there are laws and, if broken, normal processes should apply. As for personal data, any data provided is totally voluntary.”
Plamen, a Debating Europe commentator from Bulgaria, added:
Any attempts at regulating the internet, no matter how well intentioned, will end up creating tools for oppression. The internet is a marketplace of ideas, so normal market regulations don’t translate as well as those applied on the commodity/stock/labour markets.”
Sophie in t’ Veld, a Dutch MEP for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe agreed:
What Plamen seems to be worried about is a concern that I share, in that governments are adopting regulations aimed at fighting child pornography and other illegal activities, but in doing so they create very strong powers to check legitimate activities – and those powers can be abused,” she said. “The point is that these new powers for governments are not being matched by new powers from citizens to control their governments. That goes right to the heart of democracy.”
FOR Data Protection Rules and Internet Regulation On an internet where billions of euros change hands digitally, consumers need protection for their credit card details and bank accounts. The internet is where people share their lives with friends and relatives on Facebook or Twitter. Their data needs to be protected from criminals, unscrupulous individuals or unwanted use by companies. Just as elsewhere, in both the social and consumer world, legislation is needed to protect citizens. The internet too is a social and 28 | Snapshot Report 2012
economic realm that must come under
the rule of law.
Regulating the internet should happen, but it should not affect the right to share everything. The internet is all about sharing. The most important fields that should be regulated are those concerning the call to violence, harassment or [threats] and also the existence of pornographic content.” George
But Angela Mills Wade, Executive Director of the European Publishers Council, objected to Plamen’s argument that enforcing the rule of law fundamentally contradicted freedom:
I think that criticism is unfounded. I think it’s sometimes quite offensive the way people use the defence of freedom of expression to criticise things which are actually there to uphold the law. Whose freedom are we talking about?”
Maria, a Portuguese commentator, agreed with her:
A secure internet is being able to talk with others without someone knowing what we are saying, it is to use my credit card without it being stolen.”
On Debating Europe controversy also surrounds the European Commission’s proposals for a “right to be forgotten”, allowing internet users to ensure that shameful pictures or other embarrassing online content is deleted from Facebook or other social networking websites. Nikolai, a commentator from Ukraine, said:
The ‘right to be forgotten’ is a complete nonsense when things can go ‘viral’ in a moment. Once it is out there it is out there. At some point I must take personal responsibility about what I write, where I write it and to whom I give my details and why.”
AGAINST Data Protection Rules and Internet Regulation
Regulation poses a danger to the internet as a free space where people can share ideas, or files, without supervision from state ‘nannies’. Technology itself, through encryption for example, can provide consumer security. Data protection regulation can become a cost burden for internet entrepreneurs, usually small businesses, or even a form of censorship. The ‘right to be forgotten’, to protect individuals from
material they published in the past or an old online trail, can conflict with the ‘right to remember’ and the freedom
of information internet.
I am an adult and do not need nannying by legislators who probably know far less than I do about the internet.” Nikolai
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During the debate Christopher Millard, Professor of Privacy and Information Law at Queen Mary at the University of London, agreed.
I think it gets very tricky if people are going to have the right to take down stuff that is actually historically accurate, because you were there, and you were in that picture and you were doing whatever it is you don’t like anymore. Now, of course there are exceptional cases where it’s necessary to change things, maybe because of inaccuracy, because of defamation, etc., etc., but we have lots of legal protections for lots of that already; I just don’t like the idea of a general right to be forgotten.” Alex, a blogger, made the case for more education, rather than regulation, to give internet users the skills to look after themselves online.
One can start with better computer-literacy classes for both youth and adults, like not to trust sites that ask for your personal/bank information in order to get a free car and that there aren’t Nigerian princes that randomly found you and want to give you 10 million pounds.”
Readers were overwhelmingly against any sort of online regulation, even if it was originally designed to protect their privacy. In Febuary 2012, Debating Europe asked our Facebook followers “Should the EU regulate the internet?”. The results were almost unanimous: 170 people voted “No”, whilst only 7 people voted in favour.
FOR ACTA ACTA will help countries work together to tackle more effectively large-scale intellectual property rights violations, it will not mean any changes to existing EU law. Europe is losing billions of euros every year through counterfeiting so protecting copyright means protecting jobs in the EU, consumer safety and secure products.
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I can see if people felt that this was actually going to be changing the law or establishing new laws, then perhaps some of the criticisms might be valid. But, actually, all it’s doing is establishing a common procedure for dealing with not just copyright but all sorts of IP infringements across countries.” Angela Mills Wade, Executive Director of the European Publishers Council
Internet wars: piracy and ACTA
The question of intellectual property or copyright is at the cutting edge of the internet culture wars over online regulation. Alison, a commenter from Ireland, said she could not understand how a policy discussion on preventing theft could be turned upside down into a controversy over the rights of people who were stealing:
The fears expressed are about people’s online privacy being lost. But by removing the stigma attached to stealing an artist’s work online, you are forcing artists to find other ways to make an income other than just producing good art... My sister worked full-time for 15 years as a gigging artist in the Republic of Ireland, set up her own record company and sold her own CDs at gigs. CD sales represented a huge proportion of her income. For every pirated copy of her music distributed online, that’s less income for her, no question, no debate.”
Christian Engström, a Swedish Pirate Party MEP, argued that trying to enforce copyright would compromise internet freedom without stopping people from sharing files.
The internet allows people to connect to each other – and there are a million ways you can do it. If you shut down file-sharing websites, then people can start sending music as email attachments to each other. If you want to monitor that, you will have to monitor people’s email. That would be an absolute infringement of people’s right to privacy.” The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has become one of the most controversial international treaties that the EU has ever signed. The multinational treaty aims to establish international standards for intellectual property rights enforcement, not just for the internet but also for counterfeit goods and generic medicines.
AGAINST ACTA ACTA will require internet service providers to carry out surveillance on their networks and to disclose the personal information of alleged infringers to corporations or copyright enforcers. ACTA was drafted by the US, it is undemocratic, MEPs were not involved in negotiations and the EU has signed without proper public consultation.
ACTA was negotiated in secret behind our backs and doesn’t serve the interests of the people of Europe but that of a few (mostly US) corporations.” Otto
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If ratified ACTA creates a framework outside the United Nations and World Trade Organisation. It was signed by the EU in January 2012 but now faces stiff opposition in the European Parliament and legal tests in the European Court of Justice. Catalin-Alexandru, a Romanian commentator argued that “ACTA was signed with no debate whatsoever” after confidential talks between EU and other diplomats without sufficient public scrutiny. Sergei Stanishev, the interim president of the Party of European Socialists (PES), agreed with him wholeheartedly:
“It’s a scandal the way the whole process was negotiated, behind closed doors, and this is not acceptable for the European Socialists. ACTA is wrong, both in the procedure and the way it was negotiated… [and] in content it is also wrong, because it gives huge extra rights to the big companies to oversee the internet.”
Pontus, a Debating Europe commentator, insisted that the intellect property rights of big corporations should not be able to override the privacy rights of internet users by creating new obligations on internet service providers to pursue piracy or disconnect access to people downloading files.
The integrity and fundamental right of a private life online of millions must outweigh the imaginary losses of four record companies.”
Stephen Navin, the Chief Executive of the Music Publishers Association, disagreed in a debate that has become one of the EU’s biggest policy questions.
Why should this business be destroyed because disconnecting access to a particular website is seen as wrong? You have to measure all of their suffering against somebody’s so-called rights. We need to be able to deal with this quickly.”
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Technology in 2050: the risks and the rewards On March 20, 2012, Debating Europe, along with our partner think-tank Friends of Europe, hosted a live event looking at some of the ways technology might affect Europe by the year 2050. Taking part in the debate were Professor Anne Glover, Chief Scientific Advisor to the European Commission President, and Dan Reed, Corporate Vice President of the Technology Group at Microsoft Research. It was a spirited debate, with questions coming in from users for the panellists and with the whole event livestreamed online. Early in the debate, Esther de Lange, a Dutch centre-right MEP, sent in a video question to the panellists:
Cyber attacks are an increasing threat in our society. Just this weekend, in the Netherlands, we saw an attack on our major news website and our main transport company. Are we, in the 21st century, prepared for these threats, or are we making ourselves more and more vulnerable to this tendency by using cloud computing?” Anne Glover was confident that many of the security challenges thrown up by new technologies will also have a technological solution:
Are we going to address [cybercrime] with the same thinking and the current technology that we have, or are we going to develop new technologies? That, for me, is both the beauty and the challenge of science, engineering and technology – it’s always moving forward… That’s our insurance policy for me. We keep on developing. The thinking never stops, so as the problems arise, we develop the solutions.” Dan Reed, echoing comments made by others on Debating Europe, added that it was important for individuals to take greater responsibility for their security online: “Empowering individuals to manage and protect their individual digital personas [is important]... Thinking about the mechanisms that allow individuals to encrypt and manage who has access to their information, and put the power to control those things not into the hand of large entities, but in the hands of individuals.” Bruno from Sweden, however, was sceptical whether or not these new technologies would truly empower individuals. He sent in a video comment arguing that:
The so-called ‘war on terror’ has offered critics of an open society a lot of new ways to limit our individual freedoms. My question to you is will the information technology development until 2050 be a counter-force to these anti-democratic trends, or will it help those people?”
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Dan Reed answered that:
Technology itself is neither good nor evil. I think if you look, though, at what’s happening in recent years - one of the really empowering notions of digital communications technology is the fact that individuals, even in places where we might view governments as repressive, have a global voice. And that is a huge change from a time when media were largely restricted to large entities or controlled by government.” He ended on a positive note: “The fact that individuals can transmit live video, share events in real-time on a global stage, is a powerful counter-force to many of the measures that would restrict information or allow governments to impose rules that we might find offensive.” Anne Glover added that, in a democratic system, voters do have ways to control governments:
People are fearful of government restricting freedoms, but also perhaps using data inappropriately. Not just governments: large commercial operations as well. And I suppose this might sound rather naive, but we have to remind ourselves that the reason that we have a government is because we vote for people and they’re in power. So if we don’t like what’s happening, one of the things that citizens have to take responsibility for is the government that they’ve elected... At the end of the day, we have to decide. It’s us that empower regulation, and I think we have to be quite vocal about it.” During the debate, Karel from Belgium sent in a question online, saying he was positive about the future of technology “as long as accessibility is considered and the digital gap does not further widen”. Before the debate, Dr. Antonyia Parvanova MEP had also sent in a comment on this issue:
It’s not only about access to the internet, but also how [citizens] use the technology and what do they understand from everything that’s available. How, from this mountain of information, can they find the right information for them? Especially for vulnerable groups like elderly people or people with disabilities or people with less knowledge of new technology?”
34 | Snapshot Report 2012
Dan Reed responded:
In terms of accessibility, the move to inexpensive computing opens real possibilities [of broadening] inclusion… the ability to support people with different physical challenges by different natural interfaces is a really empowering issue. It applies not only to people with those things that we would traditionally have called disabilities, but people with literacy challenges, including in the developing world.” In terms of the adoption of technology in the developing world, he added: “If you look at the uptake of mobile technology, for example, across Africa, it’s stunning the kinds of things that are happening. There are sometimes great opportunities to leapfrog generations of technology, and that is one of the things that’s currently happening in parts of Africa, both in terms of communication and some of its effects on commerce.”
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If you want to read more check out our online report at www.debatingeurope.eu/2012report
Ideas for a long-term vision
When the Lisbon Treaty was signed in December 2007, many European leaders stressed it would be the last word in EU treaties for a decade or more. That has changed. The debt crisis, the implementation of new EU powers under the Lisbon Treaty to police budgets and growing recognition that moves towards a fiscal union are necessary to save the eurozone, has put the Future Europe debate back at the top of the political agenda. Debating Europe participants have taken up issues and questions that have followed the EU’s growing role as guardian of the euro’s fiscal rules and new calls for “golden rules” or “debt brakes” that require treaty change.
The question of fiscal union, posed so sharply by the eurozone crisis, brings other Future Europe debates in its train. Debating Europe has got to grips with some of the most profound political issues concerning the future of the Union, including a European identity for EU citizens, referendums on new fiscal powers and the question of Europe’s boundaries as enlargement continues in the Balkans with the entry of Croatia in 2013. The controversies or issues that have engaged Debating Europe participants over the last year are going to loom large during European elections in 2014 and map the landscape for growing debate over the next phase of EU integration over the decade to come.
E-who? Towards a common European identity
At a time when millions of people are making sacrifices to save the euro, whether through austerity measures or publicly funded bailouts, a common European identity seems increasingly elusive. If Europe is to become more united at the level of Economic and Monetary Union then surely, many argue, shared notions or feelings of citizenship or identity will be necessary. Michael insisted that Europe has the wherewithal and the fundamentals to create a common identity.
[It] is obvious (to me at least) that Europe has to reform its identity… Europe has culture, Europe has civilization, Europe has history and finally Europe has what it takes to create the ideal social structure.”
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Leonard Orban, the Romanian Minister for European Affairs and former Commissioner for Multilingualism, agreed and highlighted divergent political interests rather than the diversity of Europe’s languages as the root of the problem.
I think yes, it is possible. I don’t think that the variety of languages in Europe creates division. The divisions are sometimes created by different stakeholders trying to promote their own agenda; an agenda which is not similar to the agenda of the EU. I do think it’s important to consolidate a kind of European citizenship... It’s time to have a vision of a United States of Europe – different, perhaps, from a United States of America – but we nevertheless need a consolidation of Europe. We need to be more united than we are today, to face the challenges ahead.”
I think it is utopian. In the present and I think in my life time I will not see a German or an Italian that would put on first place his identity as a European rather than his nationality.”
Many Debating Europe commentators urged a common European language. The favourites are English, spoken by many Europeans as a second language, and Esperanto, the international language invented by Dr Lejzer Zamenhof in 1887. Penelope, an
FOR A Common EU Identity
‘United in Diversity’ is the motto but that still means a vision of Europe requiring political leaders to look beyond narrow national interests to a wider European sphere, based on the achievements of cooperation. For a new, younger, post-nationalist generation, European identity is a lived experience.
38 | Snapshot Report 2012
I think a common European identity is possible if we consider my generation (I’m 21), as the first of European citizens. Most of us speak more than three languages and we know European countries well. We are aware of the role of European laws and we have already grown up with the EU as the most important political and institutional landmark of our society.” Matteo
Australian Esperanto speaker, argued that learning the rationally created tongue would be easier than picking up the language of Shakespeare.
I would estimate that for most Europeans who speak neither Esperanto nor English, that English would take between 10 and 100 times as long to learn.This is because English spelling is so idiosyncratic, the word-building is so irregular and the vocabulary is so excessive due to importation of synonyms. These are not crimes in themselves – I list them only to explain some of the reasons why English is a much heavier burden to add to a European who already has and wants to maintain at least one other language, than Esperanto is.” Mr Orban, a staunch defender of all Europe’s languages, disagreed.
We have many languages spoken in the EU, including hundreds of minority languages. Why should we invent a new language? I don’t think we should push for an artificial language as a common European lingua franca. And, ultimately, every language in Europe represents a people and a culture, and we cannot simply invent a new language without having a culture behind it. I said very clearly when I was Commissioner for Multilingualism, we have many languages spoken in Europe, why invent a new one?” But Oliver says:
“The question is not whether we have a single cultural identity – the question is whether in dealing with each other, we focus on what we have in common, or if we focus entirely of what distinguishes us from each other.”
AGAINST A Common EU Identity
The EU is not bringing a new common European identity into the world. In fact, the EU’s response to the crisis has sown the seeds of new resentments: between Germans and Greeks, ‘thrifty’ Northern Europe and the ‘profligate’ South. Divisions between eurozone and non-euro EU members have become institutionalised with the fiscal compact.
It is impossible. This could mean the beginning of the end of a country’s culture and civilization. Well, actually this is happening already with Germany restricting other states’ sovereignty pretending to be the ‘leader’ of the whole of the EU. This is terribly sad and outside the initial scope of the European Community.” Andreas
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A European education
One important building block of a European identity and an aspiration shared by almost every European is education. Riccardo Perissich, the Former Director General for Industry in the European Commission, highlighted the importance of enlarging EU programmes such as Erasmus that encourage people to study abroad – a scheme that he argued could be made compulsory.
It would certainly help to foster stronger ties. When I was a young person there was French pop music, Spanish pop music, Irish pop music, etc. Now there’s just pop music. All of that has been integrated in an effortless way through globalisation, so young people in particular are familiar with this global culture.”
Thanos from Greece agreed:
The Erasmus programme should be strengthened I agree. Leaving your home country to study abroad is a strengthening experience that more and more people should experience. Europe should protect education and increase its budget.”
The European Students’ Union expressed fears that public spending cuts in higher education, sometimes made under EU or eurozone excessive deficit programmes, threatened the future.
Tuition fees are going up majorly, creating wider gaps in education levels between the countries. This is not only threatening to the European identity and the feeling of European citizenship, but it is also causing major problems in the longer term... The EU should really urge member states to invest more and better in higher education and to unite in making sustainable plans for the future of higher education.” But Ruairi Quinn, Minister for Education and Skills in Ireland, a country under an EU-IMF austerity programme insisted that value for money comes “first and foremost”.
There is concern, for example, in my own country that the resources being used are used efficiently. The quality of education provision is currently uneven. So, extra resources in a time of austerity is an easy catch cry, but value for money is what’s really important.”
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Towards a true fiscal union?
Most people now agree that some kind of deeper fiscal union is necessary to overcome the structural defects that have hindered the eurozone’s efforts to tackle the debt crisis and compounded the EU’s economic woes. The issue has even united British critics of the EU with European Federalists who agree that a new fiscal union is needed to secure the euro’s future via true or completed Economic and Monetary Union. But the agreement also became a point of sharp divergence between the fiscal unionists and non-euro EU members, especially Britain, with its opt-out from membership of the single currency. Last December’s British ‘veto’ of an EU treaty on closer fiscal union, later joined by the Czech Republic, led to the emergence of a two-speed Europe and a non-EU fiscal compact between 25 member states. During the debate Protesilaos, a Greek blogger, argued that without fiscal union and an EU treasury the euro would become “history”. “A real fiscal union implies fiscal transfers, a surplus recycling mechanism, a unified banking sector, a treasury.” he said. Peter Lilley, a Eurosceptic British Conservative MP, agreed that fiscal union – without Britain, of course – was necessary to ensure eurozone survival.
It can’t stay where it is, that’s true; there has never been a single currency without powers to tax, spend, regulate, etc… The euro hasn’t got those powers, that’s why it’s in trouble.”
Some commenters wanted their countries to have no part in the move to such a fiscal union, however. Tim Worstall, a British blogger, felt that it was time for Britain to withdraw from the EU. “The very existence of the EU is a dangerous disaster and there’s certainly no reason at all that the UK should stay in it for a moment longer,” he said. Ossi from Finland, however, thought it would be a mistake to lose the UK: “We should absolutely keep UK within the EU. It makes no sense to create new barriers between UK and the rest of the EU.” His countryman, Finland’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Trade, Alex Stubb, wholeheartedly supported this viewpoint:
I fully agree. I think the UK needs to be an integral part of the European Union. The fact that the UK used its veto at the recent summit is only an extension of the policy the UK has been following since the Maastricht treaty. For a country like Finland, it’s important to have the UK remain a member.”
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Ivan Mikloš, Slovakia’s Finance Minister, also argued that the EU needed the UK and vice versa.
I think, for the UK, it is beneficial to be a member of the EU. But also for the others, it’s better that the UK is a part of the EU. However, the question of whether to join a fiscal union is the responsibility of each individual country. Meaning, it is legitimate that any country can say ‘no’. From my point of view, as an economist, new fiscal rules which are stricter will benefit everybody who joins. With the debt problem today, it is in everybody’s interest to push for tougher rules.” In some cases, Debating Europe commenters managed to accurately predict the course that events would take. Jason, an Irish blogger, left a comment arguing that any inter-governmental fiscal compact would be better outside the EU treaty framework:
As this treaty will be primarily about how national governments run their fiscal affairs, perhaps it should be outside EU law… This way, even if a country refuses to ratify it, the other countries can go ahead agreeing policies outside the EU which they then apply inside the EU as a group.” Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi of Malta, who took part in the negotiations, was highly critical of this idea:
Any treaty change should involve those countries both within the eurozone and outside the eurozone. It’s ridiculous to divide the EU into two blocs. For heaven’s sake, we’re living in modern times! It’s no use to lock ourselves into a corner like this.” However, following threats of a British veto during the negotiations, this is exactly what happened. The Fiscal Compact was signed outside of the EU framework by 25 European national leaders in March 2012, without the participation of the UK or the Czech Republic.
FOR Fiscal Union The debt crisis and ensuing recession has proved that monetary union cannot work without fiscal union. A supranational single currency married to national fiscal policies simply does not work. Fiscal union is the next, necessary step to the political union Europe needs to become a strong global competitor against economic rivals like the United States or China.
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We need a real economic government, supported by a strong and democratic institutional order, which will make working together easier and not, as is the case now, more difficult. The institutional development of the EU has been stopped short of its completion. And, like a vicious circle and as all federalists predicted, if the EU project does not go forward then it goes back: the less powers, cohesion and resources, the less relevance and capacity to act.” Monica Frassoni, CoPresident of the European Green Party
Referendums – democracy or demagoguery?
As the question of fiscal union and treaty change has come to the fore so has the issue of referendums. While the fiscal compact might not be a fully-fledged EU treaty, a popular Irish vote will still need a majority of Irish voters to back it, even if it can enter into force for the rest of the eurozone if Ireland says No. With so much change in the air and profound questions of fiscal sovereignty up for grabs, many commentators on Debating Europe, both for and against referendums, recognise that popular votes on the EU are back on the agenda. During the debate, user ‘Mandy and PJ’ on Facebook suggested that it was time for the EU to ask all its peoples to decide on whether to stay or go.
[Should the EU] seek to reinforce [its] mandate with European citizens by insisting that each nation hold a referendum as to whether to remain with the EU or leave? Forcing people to remain in a political system will only work for a short time.”
William Cash, British Conservative MP and the chairman of the UK parliament’s European Scrutiny Committee agreed.
I strongly advocate that we should have a referendum […] on two parts of the question: the first part is “should we leave the EU”, the other part is “should we renegotiate trade and political cooperation”. […] It’s absolutely essential that we go back to the people.”
AGAINST Fiscal Union
The euro has shown that one-size fitsall monetary policies have failed. Why should one-size fits-all fiscal policies be any different? Fiscal union means the end to national fiscal sovereignty, a profound political shift that most of Europe’s voters have yet to be convinced about. Britain and others are less convinced than Germany and France which has led to a two-speed, divided Europe via the fiscal compact.
Any treaty change should involve those countries both within the eurozone and outside the eurozone. It’s ridiculous to divide the EU into two blocs. For heaven’s sake, we’re living in modern times! It’s no use to lock ourselves into a corner like this.” Lawrence Gonzi, Prime Minister of Malta
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John Bruton, however, attacked the idea as contrary to parliamentary democracy.
The difficulty with referendums, or plebiscites […], is that the issue has to be reduced to an binary one “yes or no”, but in truth life is more complicated than that, most subjects are multiple choice questions where you have to ask sessions of different questions, and the glory of parliament is that it has the capacity, over time, to cope with complex issues. […] I’m not in favour of referendums, I don’t like them for these reasons.” Patrick, Mr Bruton’s countryman disagreed.
I think that I just heard him say that the people are too dumb to vote on major issues. I do hope that citizens in Ireland can hear this.”
Enlargement – has the EU passed its final frontier?
Has the EU stretched itself too thin with successive waves of enlargement, leaving the Union without coherent enough structures to tackle the problems, such the eurozone crisis, that it faces? Many have suggested that the enlargement process should be out on ice after Croatia joins on 1 July 2013. But what about the promises made to Turkey or Serbia? With all its current problems and shifting political debates, some have questioned whether the EU is still worth joining.
To put it simply: the EU today is a very different beast to the EU of three years ago, or in the UK since the last vote in 1975. There are some big power shifts going on and key questions of national sovereignty, especially over fiscal questions. The people must be asked by referendums, popular votes, if they consent – Yes or No – either to new treaties or to EU membership itself.
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It is absolutely essential that citizens insist on a referendum on whether to remain in the EU or not. Hopefully, the answer will be loud and clear, leave the EU.” Patrick
Nikolai argued that, during a period of internal flux, it might be better for prospective member-states to pause.
I would think that potential members will sit back and see what the EU is going to morph into before kicking down the door and formally requesting accession talks. What was attractive about the EU may no longer be attractive once the structural changes that are deemed necessary have occurred.”
Štefan Füle, the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, disagreed.
I strongly believe that suspending enlargement while the EU is evolving would benefit nobody. If you look at the history of the EU, you would realise that institutional changes have accompanied the EU throughout its history… The fact the EU is changing constantly is a reflection of its strengths… Would you rather join a club that can’t keep up with the world?” There was also a debate on whether neighbouring countries might find the prospect of EU membership less attractive because of the eurozone crisis. However, Serge Brammertz, Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, dismissed this idea:
It was quite clear during all of the discussions we’ve had that the economic advantages of EU membership are one of the main, if not the main reason, for Serbia and other countries to implement difficult political and economic reforms. The financial crisis has only accentuated this.”
Referendums are a demagogue’s dream that allow populists to dodge complex political issues and to scaremonger. EU countries are parliamentary democracies where representatives are mandated to make laws on behalf of the people. Questions to do with EU, a set of technical, legally complex institutions, are not best answered by simple Yes or No responses, just as the job of an elected government is more complicated than a popular vote on every legislative question.
EU membership is a technical matter, it must be evaluated by political and economic technicians, and has become the subject of referendums because politicians are not willing to fully expose the situation of the states [and] then take the necessary – consent-losing – decisions.” Leonardo
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Whilst Kori Udovički, a former Serbian politician and now UN Assistant SecretaryGeneral, UNDP Assistant Administrator and UNDP Regional Director for Europe, warned that disillusionment was beginning to set in:
Quite honestly, I am taken aback by the sense of hopelessness and disillusion that exist in each country in the former Yugoslavia. Even Croatia, which is about to become a member of the EU – is not exhibiting anything like the euphoria that one would expect. There is deep disenchantment… There is a sense that Europe is not likely to have time for us anytime soon. Europe, because of its crisis, might not be focusing on enlargement right now. All the candidates or aspiring member states are feeling that the conditions for EU accession might be becoming simply unattainable. Encouragement is something their populations need.” A controversial question was the issue of Turkish membership of the EU. Turkey is an EU candidate country, although membership negotiations in key areas are blocked by France and Cyprus. German and French leaders have publicly questioned whether EU membership is the right option for Turkey, a Muslim country with a fast growing population of over 80 million people. For some commenters, Turkey is a crucial strategic partner of the EU and a key Nato ally. EU membership has long been promised and Turkey has made many political reforms. Muhammed, for example, left a comment arguing:
Turkey is democratic because it decided to Europeanise. True, there’s still work to be done, but religious prejudice must never bar it from entering a diverse European family of nations. If Turks consider themselves a part of Europe, then why the hell shouldn’t the rest of the world just accept their decision?”
FOR EU Enlargement Enlargement has been the EU’s most successful policy. The prospect of membership has kept central and Eastern Europe on the path of democracy and peace during the transition that followed the end of the Soviet Union. Closing the door to the Balkans, Turkey and Ukraine threatens to destabilise the EU’s eastern flank and generate resentment if promises are broken.
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The Europe I am dreaming of has equal opportunities for prosperity, stability, employment and progress from Iceland to Ukraine, Portugal to Cyprus and Norway to Malta. All states will be equal and will have opportunities to develop and exploit their natural resources for the betterment of their people first, but [also] for the whole continent.” Christos
Likewise, Jovan was pragmatic about the possibility of Turkish membership:
There are people who don’t want Turkey to join under any circumstances and those who want it to join so badly that they pretend Turkey currently meets all the criteria right now even though its values are not European. I say if Turkey can meet the same criteria that is expected of any EU member, they are welcome.”
AGAINST EU Enlargement The EU is full. With 27 members it is already finding it difficult enough to function properly, without adding newcomers. Enlargement has broadened the EU but now, in the wake of the eurozone crisis, it is time to deepen the union, not least in the area of fiscal union. Many Europeans have had enough, especially when it comes to the idea of Turkey joining the EU.
Even though my best wish would be agree with Christos… I just cannot. I do believe that the EU has already gone too far… I do believe that the current crises… are thanks to the fact, at least to a certain degree, that in 2004 ten very different countries joined together. The EU was not ready for such an enlargement step. I think the ‘overstretched-vicious-cycle’ started at that point.” Virag Snapshot Report 2012 | 47
If you want to read more check out our online report at www.debatingeurope.eu/2012report
Europe in a new world order
The world is a “global village”, according to communications theorist Marshall McLuhan. The feeling that the world is smaller than it looks has only increased with the onset of globalisation, and the EU likes to pride itself on spreading shared values among its members and promoting democracy and human rights in the global village. But increased awareness comes with increased uncertainties. New world powers like China leave the EU unsure of its own position, whilst insecurities persist when faced with old powers like the US. Meanwhile modern immigration is on a scale no one was prepared for, least of all the immigrants. The global village does not always feel like a friendly place.
Immigration: is the EU up to it?
Recent years have seen Europe shaken by more than just by its own internal economic upheaval. Revolutionary shockwaves from regions far outside EU borders have reverberated across the 27 member states. Europe has been slow to respond, and the Arab Revolution at times seemed to pit European members against one another. Displaced African citizens headed for the coasts of Italy and Spain looking for shelter and, if they survived the crossing, began to move further into the Union. Northern countries watched in alarm, as their social systems, struggling to cope even with their own citizens in the midst of a severe sovereign debt crisis, looked set to come under even greater pressure. In many cases xenophobia and fear increased. In some countries EU freedom of movement agreements were suspended to slow the arrival of immigrants.
Europe was created out of a desire to increase peace and solidarity between nations. But immigration tests those ideals to their limit. Christos, a Greek commenter, started the debate by arguing that the EU faced both geographical and political barriers to a successful immigration policy. Although immigrants were likely to arrive on the south coasts of Europe:
“[They] do not want to stay in the poor South, they want to move on to the rich North… So why don’t the rich nations of Europe act as one with the states that are on the borders of the continent and assist them?”
The Prime Minister of Malta, Lawrence Gonzi, assured him that “progress has been registered compared with three or four years ago”. Above all, he said, immigration should not be seen as just a sign that something was wrong in the world. Snapshot Report 2012 | 49
Portuguese MEP Carlos Coelho also pitched in, adding a caveat:
Christos is right to call for more solidarity in the EU in order to tackle these issues. But all the member-states, including member-states in the South, should make clear there is a difference between asylum and immigration. We are not obliged to accept everybody immigrating in order to look for a job.”
Catia from Portugal, however, disagreed with the distinction and didn’t see a problem as long as “immigrants work and pay their taxes like the locals”, adding on Facebook that “we all have the right to reach out for a better life.” Referring to the Arab Spring more generally, Prime Minister Gonzi said: “We look very positively on these developments,” but warned that Europe could not just watch from the sidelines because:
The birth of democracy will not happen overnight. The uprisings themselves closed one chapter, and a new chapter is now opening. The challenge is giving birth to democracy whilst respecting the Arab culture; our responsibility is to contribute and support, not to impose our own models for democracy.”
Hungary’s Foreign Minister, János Martonyi, said the countries of the Arab Spring each had to be treated on their own terms. Comparing Syria with Libya, he said “From a moral perspective, there’s no difference. […] But, realistically, situations are different. Possibilities are different.”
FOR Tighter Immigration Controls The EU’s many countries cannot be expected to help immigrants from all other parts of the world. No single model can be used to handle successive waves of immigrants, who will all come from countries with different military, economic and historic landscapes. The eurozone crisis has increased security risks, as countries see their budgets stretched to meet all needs. Governments and their voters do not want 50 | Snapshot Report 2012
immigrants: Denmark and France suspended the Schengen agreement to stop unwanted settlers from crossing their borders, even though the immigrants in that case were from within newer EU member states.
Overseas aid – money for nothing?
East Africa is in the grip of its worst drought for over 60 years: the sort of humanitarian crisis that would, in healthier economic times, dominate front pages and fund-raising campaigns. In a today’s economic climate, few Europeans even know about it. Citizens have other priorities, and neither the budget nor the reputation of governments can afford to spend much on other struggling regions. Nonetheless, debates about overseas aid go on, with new policies and new targets. The EU maintains its development strategies, and continues its best efforts to uphold public interest and support for overseas aid. The world is changing, however, and overseas demands change with that. Paul Collier, Professor of Economics at the University of Oxford and author of The Bottom Billion, told Debating Europe that it was inevitable aid budgets would be trimmed in a recession, but argued that:
There’s so much more that Europe can do to help the poorest countries than just aid… This means looking at trade policy, looking at governance, rules and standards – these things don’t cost money, but they can be very effective.” However, Joerg, a commenter from Austria, was adamant that aid should not be cut:
I think we have a historic responsibility to help developing countries because of the exploitation during the period of colonization. Compared to our whole budget it’s really not much that we spend to help those countries. There are surely other areas where we could save some money in ‘bad times’… Personally I would even pay something like an ‘Aid Tax’. After all, Europe is still wealthy compared to most developing countries even in times of financial crisis.” Nikolai, meanwhile, wondered if development aid “should never take the form of cash incentives but always take the form of exporting energy and resource saving technology?”
AGAINST Tighter Immigration Controls Europe has a duty to promote freedom, security, and democracy. We cannot turn away people deprived of those advantages, who risk their lives to arrive on European shores. The EU is a varied and still-growing entity, pulling together nations with vastly different histories; we are flexible enough to adapt to the needs of people who arrive from diverse backgrounds. And the EU has proved it can
help its members with the challenges of coping with waves of immigration: when Malta, as an island state on the route to mainland Europe, found itself overwhelmed by hopeful immigrants, a new programme was established. Ten EU countries, along with the US, agreed to take illegal immigrants from Malta for resettlement.
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Jarosław Pietras, Director General of Climate Change, Environment and Health at the Council of the EU, responded:
I think the idea of technology transfers is a valid point, it should be done. But it cannot be offered without money as well. It somehow has to be financed – and it’s not always good if someone from outside selects all the technology to be transferred.” Rebeca Grynspan, Under-Secretary-General of the UN and Associate Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), also disagreed with Nikolai’s suggestion:
He’s right that green technology transfers are a big thing; you will struggle to shift to a sustainable development path if technology transfers are not brought into the equation. However, the idea that technology transfers might replace traditional development aid is more controversial. It should be seen as being complementary, rather than a substitute.” In April 24 2012, Debating Europe, along with our partner think-tank Friends of Europe, held an event looking at what can be done to encourage a peaceful transition to a postconflict society in Afghanistan. Sending in a question online, Christos wondered if Europe had placed too much emphasis on a military-based approach in Afghanistan and had neglected more important areas:
Education is a much better weapon to use than military strength… If we continue to pursue violence and support military action against the Taliban activities, then I am afraid that we just make some people martyrs… It only empowers their determination as they see that the ‘West’ is helping or supporting military activities on their soil.”
FOR Overseas Aid Europeans must remember that, even in a harsh economic downturn, Europe is rich when compared with the regions that need our aid. We also have a historic responsibility to protect overseas countries with which EU nations have been involved: we cannot abandon neighbours and former colonies simply because we have outgrown them. Overseas aid has to be upheld, and it has to be updated. It is not today a 52 | Snapshot Report 2012
case of subsidies and patronage; the most effective aid can come in the form of education programmes and appropriate trade policy. This sort of aid can also be much less of a strain on EU budgets than traditional hand-outs: we can afford to help others even in the worst of times.
Nasrine Gross, founder of the Roqia Center for Women’s Rights, Studies and Education in Afghanistan, reacted to his comment:
If we don’t have security for schools to be built and kept built, for girls to go to schools, for women to go to the doctor’s offices, then what good is it to have those other services? It’s true that, for the moment, most of the efforts are going towards security, towards the military, but do you know that we are winning militarily? What we haven’t done is to pay attention to building the political institutions that will support democratic processes in Afghanistan.”
AGAINST Overseas Aid ‘Overseas’ is too broad a concept to be workable in policy terms. The needs of Africa are completely different from the needs of India. The needs of Niger are different from the needs of Somalia. China is growing to the stage where it could soon not need external aid. In any case, historically, EU overseas policies have never been a triumph. In the case of
the Common Agricultural Policy, Europe has arguably made things worse abroad. Development aid from organisations like the International Monetary Fund has just pushed poor countries further into debt.
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China – whither the dragon?
China seemed to emerge as a modern colossus when Europe was looking the other way. The EU was negotiating and re-negotiating treaties while a new world power rose in the East. Today, with a population of 1.3 billion, China suddenly seems to be beating Europe at everything Europeans once thought they did best: research, technology, even sustainable development. Even when China is not (yet) doing things better than the West it is certainly doing them cheaper. Progress has not however all been in one direction. Chinese companies are investing in Europe, just as China provides new opportunities for EU firms. Carmen sent in a question on Twitter asking: “Should Europe feel vulnerable and threatened by China’s rapidly growing influence?”. Olusegun Obasanjo, a former President of Nigeria, responded that, in one area at least, Europe had nothing to worry about.
There’s no question whatsoever of China upstaging or replacing Europe... Now, my only philosophy, which I preach, is this: Europe, America, they are our friends, our partners and our allies. And we will keep old friends. But there’s nothing to stop us from making new friends.” Debating Europe commentator André said that, I’ve got the impression that the EU is not prepared for China’s rise just yet. It often addresses China either as an economic threat or as a human rights violator. To have truly fruitful cooperation with China, the EU should move away from its prejudices, try to understand Chinese culture better and interact with it.”
Martin Jacques, British academic and author of the book ‘When China Rules the World’, responded enthusiastically:
I want to say that I strongly identify with the sentiments from André. Essentially, until maybe now, the European Union has had a rather haughty attitude towards China. It’s looked down upon China. It thinks that Europe is the cradle of civilization, that China is possessed of little or none of this.”
FOR Fearing China’s Rise The only thing growing faster than China’s GDP is China’s military budget. Europe is right to be nervous: the 2.3 million-strong People’s Liberation Army will soon have weapons to match. A fast-growing economy does not oblige China to increase social or environmental standards, or to protect its workers. Without these constraints, China will always be able to undercut Europe, at great human and 54 | Snapshot Report 2012
ecological cost. Africa is already worryingly dependent on Chinese aid, and now EU countries like Greece and Portugal are beginning to follow the same route. Finally, despite its amazing progress over the last 30 years, China remains a long way from being able to call itself a democracy.
Tom Miller, Managing Editor of China Economic Quarterly and author of “China’s Urban Billion”, agreed:
I think Andre’s right in many respects. Often, there’s far too much emphasis from the West in general, not just from Europe, on human rights in China. Of course, this is a very important issue, and there’s no doubt that China treats a lot of people very, very badly. But, in the grander scheme of things, what’s happening in China economically and socially is more important.” Debating Europe carried out a poll on Facebook, asking readers “Should Europe fear the rise of China?”. The results saw 160 people vote “Yes, Europe should fear the rise of China” versus only 64 votes for “No”.
AGAINST Fearing China’s Rise China is keeping the whole world economy afloat today: it is now so huge that 7.5 per cent annual growth is seen as a slump. Just as European shoppers found themselves with less to spend and left historic industries struggling for survival, millions of Chinese people found they could afford and wanted to buy French wine and German cars. It is in China’s interest to maintain world peace. A return
to old divisions, or the creation of new friction, would threaten the health of a burgeoning economy and the happiness of its citizens. What is more, logic suggests that China will not always be cheaper for manufacturers than the US or EU: the Chinese economy will soon grow to a point where it operates on the same terms as today’s wealthy world powers. Snapshot Report 2012 | 55
From October 2011 to April 2012, Debating Europe held a series of live debates, streamed online, drawing on the most innovative and interesting suggestions emerging from the online discussions.
Future Europe: State of Europe TV debate October 13, 2011
“What would a collapse of the euro look like?” In October 2011, Debating Europe held a live headto-head
Conservative MP and chairman of the UK parliament’s European
former Irish prime minister and former EU ambassador.
Future Europe: European Parliament live debate January 11, 2012
“The European Parliament Presidential Debate” On 17 January 2012, MEPs elected a new president of the
Debating Europe, European Voice,
VoteWatch.eu, EU40 and Burson Marsteller held a public debate amongst the declared candidates.
Green Europe: nuclear energy live debate March 7, 2012
“One year after Fukushima: the future of nuclear energy in Europe” In March 2012, Debating Europe held a live head-tohead debate on the question of the future of nuclear energy in Europe. Taking part were Dr. Patrick Moore, Co-founder of Greenpeace and Co-Chair of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, and Jo Leinen MEP, Member and former Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on the Environment.
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Tech Europe: Europe’s tech revolution live debate March 20, 2012
“EU 2050: Europe’s tech revolution” In March 2012, Debating Europe, along with our partner think-tank Friends of Europe, hosted a live event looking at some of the ways technology might affect Europe by the year 2050. Taking part in the debate were Professor Anne Glover, Chief Scientific Advisor to the European Commission President, and Dan Reed, Corporate Vice President of the Technology Group at Microsoft Research. It was a spirited debate, with questions coming in from users for the panellists and with the whole event livestreamed online.
Growth Europe: eurozone crisis live debate March 27, 2012
“Lessons learned from the global economic crisis: Europe at a crossroad” In March 2012, Debating Europe, along with Euronews and EU40, hosted a live debate in the European Parliament
Minister of Luxembourg and the chairman of the Eurogroup
Trichet, former president of the European Central Bank and chairman of the Bruegel think-tank. The debate was livestreamed online and questions from Debating
Europe were put to the panellists.
Global Europe: Afghanistan policy insight debate April 24, 2012
“Investing in Afghanistan’s future”
In April 2012, Debating Europe, along with our partner think-tank Friends of Europe, held an event looking at what can be done to encourage a peaceful transition to a post-conflict society in Afghanistan. With Western forces due to pull out of Afghanistan in 2014, the issue of European policy towards Afghanistan is high on the foreign policy agenda. Taking part were Paul Smith, British Council Country Director in Afghanistan and Nasrine Gross, founder of the Roqia Center for Women’s Rights, Studies and Education in Afghanistan.
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If you want to read more check out our online report at www.debatingeurope.eu/2012report
Debating Europe has received coverage from a range of media organisations: from international and European press, to national and specialist media. We have also received attention from the blogosphere and on social media (including from policymakers we have interviewed, who often promote their interviews to their followers).
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If you want to read more check out our online report at www.debatingeurope.eu/2012report
Partners Founding partners
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