Turku 2013 Regional Session of EYP Finland Preparation Kit for Delegates
European Youth Parliament Finland – EYP-Finland ry Uudenmaankatu 15 A 5, 00120 Helsinki http://www.eypfinland.org – firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome words Dear delegates, You will all soon embark on a journey full of new experiences with the European Youth Parliament. For a vast majority of you, it will be the first EYP experience. You will do many things you have never done before. You will also do things you have done before, but in a way you would have never considered possible. For you to enjoy it as much as possible, I will now share some tips I bet you will find useful. First of all, come with an open mind. When it comes to new experiences, there is nothing more important. Secondly, participate in all the activities, even the optional ones. It will give you a better chance to meet more people, regardless of where they are from. Third, do open several links you chairpersons have provided you with in the topic overviews. It will ensure that you do not feel lost during committee discussions. The theme of the session Europe of Changes reflects the power we, as the youth, possess. I believe we will use it wisely, whether for European or local matters, getting involved with our communities. I know you will improve academically. I know you will improve your English. I know you will improve your interpersonal skills. I can only hope the session we attend will inspire you to go on a journey, whether the EYP way or any other way. Richard Janoušek President Turku 2013 ---
European Youth Parliament (EYP) The European Youth Parliament represents a non-partisan and independent educational project which is tailored specifically to the needs of the young European citizen. European Youth Parliament Finland, established in 2011, is the National Committee of the EYP in Finland. The EYP encourages independent thinking and initiative in young people and facilitates the learning of crucial social and professional skills. Since its inauguration, many tens of thousands of young people have taken part in Regional, National and International Sessions, formed friendships and made international contacts across and beyond borders. The EYP has thus made a vital contribution towards uniting Europe. Today the EYP is one of the largest European platforms for political debate, intercultural encounters, political educational work and the exchange of ideas among young people in Europe. The EYP consists of a network of 36 European associations in which thousands of young people are active in a voluntary capacity. The EYP is a programme of the Schwarzkopf Foundation.
European Youth Parliament Finland – EYP-Finland ry Uudenmaankatu 15 A 5, 00120 Helsinki http://www.eypfinland.org – email@example.com
European Union (EU) The European Union is an economic and political union of 28 Member States. The EU was established by the Treaty of Maastricht in 1993 upon the foundations of the European Communities. With over 500 million inhabitants, the EU generated an estimated 21% of the PPP gross world product in 2009. The EU has developed a single market through a standardised system of laws which apply in all Member States, and ensures the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital, including the abolition of passport controls within the Schengen area. It enacts legislation in justice and home affairs, and maintains common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development. Seventeen Member States have adopted a common currency, the euro. With a view to its relations with the wider world, the EU has developed a limited role in foreign and defence policy through the Common Foreign and Security Policy. Permanent diplomatic missions have been established around the world and the EU is represented at the United Nations, the WTO, the G8 and the G-20. The EU operates through a hybrid system of supranationalism and intergovernmentalism. In certain areas, decisions are taken by independent institutions, while in others, they are made through negotiation between Member States. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community formed by six countries in the 1950s. Since then, it has grown in size through enlargement, and in power through the addition of policy areas to its remit. The last amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU came into force in 2009 and was the Lisbon Treaty. The institutions of the European Union The European Council is responsible for defining the general political direction and priorities of the EU. It comprises the heads of state or government of EU Member States, along with its President (currently Herman Van Rompuy from Belgium) and the President of the Commission. The Council of the European Union (commonly referred to as the Council of Ministers) is the institution in the legislature of the EU representing the governments of member states, the other legislative body being the European Parliament. The exact membership depends upon the topic: for example, when discussing agricultural policy the Council is formed by the 28 national ministers whose portfolio includes this policy area. The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the EU. Together with the Council, it forms the bicameral legislative branch of the EU. The Parliament is composed of 766 MEPs. The current president is Martin Schulz from Germany. The European Commission is the executive body of the EU. It is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union’s treaties and the general day-to-day running of the Union. The Commission operates as a cabinet government, with 28 Commissioners. The current President is José Manuel Durão Barroso from Portugal. Other important institutions of the EU include the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Central Bank. The EU also has several agencies and other institutions.
European Youth Parliament Finland – EYP-Finland ry Uudenmaankatu 15 A 5, 00120 Helsinki http://www.eypfinland.org – firstname.lastname@example.org
Committee topics 1. Committee on Constitutional Affairs – AFCO Chairpersons: Ciara Robinson (UK), Aino Laine (FI) The democratic deficit: in the 2009 elections of the European Parliament almost three quarters (71%) of voters aged 18–24 abstained from voting. How best should the EU fix its democratic deficit and restore the enthusiasm of its youth for the European project? 2. Committee on Foreign Affairs – AFET Chairpersons: Ilari Vanamo (FI), Nicole Goetz (CH) Islamist regime or military junta? in the aftermath of the violent military coup in Egypt the suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters is threatening to divide the country in two. How should the EU work to ensure stability in Egypt while holding on to its values of democracy and human rights? 3. Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development – AGRI Chairpersons: Hanna Haavisto (FI), Gustaf Westin (SE) Feeding the continent: with the Common Agriculture Policy representing a half of the EU’s budget, should the EU continue subsidising agriculture in its Member States or rely on other measures or areas of the globe in securing its food supply? 4. Committee on Employment and Social Affairs I – EMPL I Chairpersons: Anna Morokhovska (DE), Erasmus Häggblom (FI) The challenge of dramatically high youth unemployment rates: How should European governments best offer opportunities to those aged 16–24 to ensure that the current generation of European youth does not become irreversibly excluded from the labour market? 5. Committee on Employment and Social Affairs II – EMPL II Chairpersons: Rebecca Kiiski (FI), Peter Pölzleithner (AT) The ageing population: with fragile pension systems, talks of labour shortage and increasing demand for health care services, how should the European governments best prepare for the coming era of an ageing continent, and what role should the EU play in it?
6. Committee on International Trade – INTA Chairpersons: Nikolas Rawlins (FI), Juuli Salonen (FI) Exporting for growth: with small and medium size enterprises building the backbone of the EU economy, how can the EU further promote the internationalization of SMEs in order to help them access international trading markets? 7. Committee on Industry, Research and Energy – ITRE Chairperson: Christopher Proctor (FI) The post-Fukushima Europe: with the challenge of balancing environmental sustainability, security and the need for cheap energy, what role should nuclear energy play in the EU Member States’ energy strategies? 8. Committee on Regional Development – REGI Chairpersons: Lotta Moisala (FI), Thomas Goujat-Gouttequillet (FR) Building the periphery: mechanisms such as the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund play an important role in developing the peripheral areas of Europe, but they are also costly. Keeping in mind that metropolitan areas are the primary motors of growth, how should the EU best support its peripheral areas to suit the needs of their population?
1. Committee on Constitutional Affairs – AFCO Chairpersons: Ciara Robinson (UK), Aino Laine (FI) The democratic deficit: in the 2009 elections of the European Parliament almost three quarters (71%) of voters aged 18–24 abstained from voting. How best should the EU fix its democratic deficit and restore the enthusiasm of its youth for the European project? Overview Young people are the future of Europe. However, the European youth face a multitude of problems on an unprecedented scale. The economic crisis, youth unemployment, global warming and international conflicts are some of the many critical issues that need to be addressed. In 2009, a meagre 29% of the 43 million eligible actually voted; 4% less than the previous election in 2004. It is imperative that this does not continue. Voter turnout must increase so that young people are equipped with the necessary political tools to tackle the aforementioned issues. However, as voter apathy, political disillusionment and indifference continue to grow, so does the democratic deficit. Due to a lack of engagement, political institutions and policy makers are even less representative of and less accountable to the younger generation. Yet, much of this disillusionment can be attributed to mistrust in European politics and lack of transparent information. How can young people be expected to participate in European politics when its very institutions or actions are not always representative or accountable? Furthermore, young voters’ ability to influence policy is expected to decrease over the next decade due to the overwhelming demographic share of the ageing population in Europe. This is particularly prevalent when politicians aim to win votes by catering their policies towards the elderly who now represent a large voting bloc. For example, despite youth unemployment reaching as much as 50% in certain areas, austerity measures can often target the young. This is evident in the United Kingdom where an increase in university fees has been combined with cuts in welfare benefits and jobseekers allowance. This shift in the balance of political power towards the elderly is something that needs to be addressed. Whilst the issues of an ageing population are important, a balance should be achieved where the rights and wishes of both the young and old are recognised. Many young Europeans have made reference to a lack of political awareness as the reason behind their reluctance to get involved. It remains uncertain whether it is the responsibility of the individual, national governments or the European Union to educate young people on political matters. Further questions have been raised regarding the means by which young people can become politically active. The use of social media, online platforms and e-democracy are methods that have been highlighted as more appealing and increasingly effective in our digital era. However, these still remain relatively unexploited by older politicians. This does not mean using simple media campaigns but creating new and innovative ways in which citizens can vote, discuss and deliberate on a variety of policies. There are programmes already in place to encourage more participation in the political process including the Youth in Action Programme, increased emphasis on evidence-based policy making, the 2013 Year of the Citizens and other initiatives like the European Youth Week. However, a lot more could still be done to engage young voters. It must be asked, what can be done to engage young Europeans? Whose responsibility is it to do so? How can the EU tackle its democratic deficit? How can the EU restore trust in its policy-making? How can we adapt democracy to a digital era? And how can we balance political representation between Europe’s disillusioned youth and ageing population to ensure fair and effective democratic representation?
Keywords Democratic deficit, voter apathy, e-democracy, evidence-based policy making, youth political participation, European ageing population, political accountability, politically representative, citizenship, political awareness Links for further research 1. Introductory material An extremely useful overview on the perception, behaviour and participation of young people in European politics The official European Commission website on youth participation with a short background on their key policies 2. Official sources An in depth document on youth participation and policy making. Sections 2.3 and 4.2 are particularly relevant and useful European Year of the Citizens document: In particular, sections 2.5 and 2.6 discuss the Commission’s aims of increasing transparency and accessibility of information for all Website for the European Knowledge Centre for Youth Policy as an example of more accessible information for young Europeans Facts on participation from the European Commission European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional life The Commission’s website for the Youth in Action programme Website for 2013 European Year of the Citizens European Youth Week website. 3. Newspaper articles and other materials The Road to E-democracy’ an article on e-democracy, how it works and how it doesn’t work An interesting article by an LSE blogger on how young Europeans choose to participate in politics
2. Committee on Foreign Affairs – AFET Chairpersons: Ilari Vanamo (FI), Nicole Goetz (CH) Islamist regime or military junta? in the aftermath of the violent military coup in Egypt the suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters is threatening to divide the country in two. How should the EU work to ensure stability in Egypt while holding on to its values of democracy and human rights? Topic overview Mohammed Morsi was elected president of Egypt in June 2012, after Hosni Mubarak was stripped from power in early 2011 Morsi was the first ever democratically elected president in Egypt, and he was a known Islamist. Not long into President Morsi’s rule, he attempted to attain what essentially was ultimate political power over decisions made in Egypt. On the 22nd of November 2012 Morsi issued the often-criticised Constitutional Declaration as his second change of the constitution, which would essentially make him the supreme ruler of Egypt. In reaction to Morsi’s Constitutional Declaration, opposition leaders contacted the army and started discussing ways of ousting Morsi from power. As the opposition leaders and the army continued planning, the population of Egypt grew more dissatisfied with their lives, causing the people of Egypt to form the Tamarod movement on the 28th of April 2013. The Tamarod movement was essentially a grass roots movement to remove President Morsi from power. In a relatively short period of time, from its formation to late June, the Tamarod claimed to have collected up to 20 million votes supporting the removal of Morsi from power. The main reasons for the troubling events of the summer in Egypt were Morsi’s crushing way of ruling his country, various diplomatic issues and the institution of Sharia law in Egypt. The last caused the largest public uprising in Egypt, due to the different religious backgrounds of its people, and the dishonest ways in which the ruling party used to institute said law. Non-Islamist members of the constitutional committee were outraged by the establishment of Sharia law, and withdrew from the committee. The EU itself has denounced all acts of violence from all parties, including the current rulers of Egypt, the opposition and Pro-Morsi protesters. The representatives of the EU have stated that the EU will not retract most of their aid programs to Egypt, although it has approved of suspending all export licenses for weapons and goods that could negatively affect the wellbeing of the people of Egypt. It has become apparent that the international community cannot let Egypt derail itself with its infighting into a situation similar to Syria, Iran, or Iraq. As a part of the international community at large, how can, if at all, the EU fulfil its important role in securing a democratic future for Egypt and its people? And should it? How can a balance between different beliefs be found while the principles of democracy are secured? And most importantly, what means can the EU use in order to help Egypt in its struggle to find peace and stability? Keywords Tamarod, Muslim Brotherhood, Freedom and Justice Party, Mohammed Morsi, 2012-13 Protests, Egyptian coup d’etat
Links for further research 1. Introductory material Information on the Egyptian protests of 2012 and 2013. Information on the removal of President Morsi. 2. Official sources The European Union’s own informative webpage. The Council of the European Union’s take on Egypt. 3. Newspaper articles and other materials The Guardian’s catalogue of newspaper articles considering Egypt Remarks from the EU high representative regarding Egypt Articles from ABC News concerning Egypt
3. Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development – AGRI Chairpersons: Hanna Haavisto (FI), Gustaf Westin (SE) Feeding the continent: with the Common Agriculture Policy representing a half of the EU’s budget, should the EU continue subsidising agriculture in its Member States or rely on other measures or areas of the globe in securing its food supply? Overview According to the CAP overview by the European Commission: “Launched in 1962, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a partnership between agriculture and society, between Europe and its farmers. Its main aims are: To improve agricultural productivity, so that consumers have a stable supply of affordable food. To ensure that EU farmers can make a reasonable living.” The CAP has always required a large portion of the EU budget, around 70 % at its peak in the 1970’s and around 40 % today, causing debate about whether it is a sound policy to spend so much money on. The CAP is an exceptional policy in the EU, as it is managed more centrally at European level than other policies and is funded by the EU instead of by the Member States themselves. Financing of the CAP consists of two funds: European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) providing farmers with direct payments, and European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) financing rural development programmes in the Member States. The CAP is described to have three dimensions and it is comprised of a number of mechanisms. The first dimension is market support. First of all, import levies are applied to specific imports, along with import quotas to restrict the amount imported. An internal intervention price is a way for the EU to intervene and buy goods to raise the price to the intervention level, in case the market price falls below the intervention level. The second dimension is income support. There are the direct subsidies to farmers, securing their standards of living. Currently the old system with payments based on the crop in production is being phased out in favour of a flat-rate payment based on the area of land in cultivation. Furthermore, there are production quotas and “set-aside” payments (farmers receive payments in exchange for not using up parts of their land) to prevent the overproduction of certain goods. The third dimension, rural development, focuses on development programmes of the countryside addressing the challenges and specific needs of rural areas. There are around 14 million farmers in Europe, Proponents of the CAP claim that the policy provides EU citizens with a stable supply of affordable and safe high-quality food. The policy also aims to promote environmentally-friendly farming methods and to create new and more effective ways to produce food. One main point in subsidising farmers, along with securing their income, is to maintain a lively rural economy and development, preventing abandonment of the countryside. Some say that without the CAP, Europe would have to rely on fluctuating and uncertain food imports from other parts of the world. However, the EU is already the world’s biggest importer of food products from developing countries. According to statistics by the European Commission, the EU imports around 60 billion euros worth of farm products every year, more than the other five major importers combined. The EU also helps the developing countries to sell their agricultural products within the EU by granting preferential access to its market. However, the EU is still being accused of protectionism in regards to its agriculture. Opponents of the CAP argue that the EU is giving unfair treatment to its own farmers while disadvantaging farmers in other countries. For example, subsidising exports of agricultural products to the rest of the world might create problems for non-EU farmers, as the subsidised EU products pose tough competition. Many advocates of free trade state that free trade would be profitable for everyone, as the EU would not have to pay the large costs for the CAP, and we would contribute to global rural development by purchasing food from other parts of the world. Other challenges of the CAP in the future are clear. One of the biggest problems will be the ageing farmers; 30% of the
farmers in the EU are over 65 years old, whilst only 6% are under 35. The changing economic situation and quite unpredictable requirements of the citizens need to be met also in the future. Effectiveness, innovations, greener farming and fair deals are to be concerned. How can we deal with those? The policy is already being reshaped, and waiting to be launched. Are the benefits of the CAP worth its cost? Should the money currently spent on CAP be used to improve our competitiveness in other sectors instead? Is dependence of countries outside Europe a key for a secure and stable food supply? Is it even possible to grow the current import levels? What tools do we need for tomorrow’s CAP? How can we ensure the viability of our countryside? Keywords Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), CAP towards 2020, import-export, intervention price, protectionism, free trade Links for further research 1. Introductory material The EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP), overview by the European Commission The CAP and the agriculture in Europe, frequently asked questions 2. Official sources European Commission, Agriculture and Rural Development European Parliament, Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development 3. Newspaper articles and other materials Arguments for and against the CAP. International aspects of agricultural policy – Background document for the advisory group
4. Committee on Employment and Social Affairs I – EMPL I Chairpersons: Anna Morokhovska (DE), Erasmus Häggblom (FI) The challenge of dramatically high youth unemployment rates: How should European governments best offer opportunities to those aged 16–24 to ensure that the current generation of European youth does not become irreversibly excluded from the labour market? Overview Following the financial crisis of 2008, the European economy has proven to be frail and troubled. This is particularly true for its labour market. Indeed, the unemployment rate of the EU was 10.5 % in 2012 – the highest it has been in the 21st century. The impact of the financial crisis is seen even more clearly in youth unemployment: the average youth unemployment in the EU was 22.8 % in 2012. This illustrates how difficult it can be for the youth to integrate themselves into the labour market. Additionally, it is important to note that unemployment rates are derived from those actively seeking employment, not simply those without employment. Thus, those not seeking employments, such as students, will not be represented in employment statistics. Since one of the major issues with the integration of youth into the labour market is the youth getting permanently excluded from the labour market, this suggests even more significant issues than those illustrated by unemployment rates. Beyond the issues clear in the EU as a whole, the discrepancies between the various youth unemployment rates Europe is alarming. In 2012, while the youth unemployment rate was a wholly manageable 8.1 % in Germany, it was a crippling 55.3 % in Greece. This discrepancy poses even more of an issue than the average youth unemployment in Europe, since it provides a view into the stagnation of a specific economy. Of particular concern is that persistent youth unemployment has the potential to become structural rather than frictional unemployment, creating a systematic inability for an economy to rebuild. Thus, it is clear that Member States must reduce their youth unemployment rates. However, accomplishing this is not simple. For instance, there is disagreement as to how a government should operate within an economy. On one hand, a laissez-faire approach to government involvement would allow the market to function naturally and perhaps more efficiently. On the other hand, it can also be argued that a policy of governmental intervention would allow for the government to target and fix specific issues. This fundamental divide in opinion demonstrates the wide range of approaches that can be taken in reducing unemployment. Beyond this debate, it is neither clear-cut whether solving youth unemployment can be achieved through the same means as overall unemployment. For example, one of the major factors for reducing unemployment is the attractiveness of workers to employers – with young people often being seen as less desirable workers due to factors such their relative lack of work experience. Thus, the impact of governmental action on other strata may be higher – and the issue of youth unemployment would not be solved. This suggests that youth-specific measures are necessary, which has been taken into account by the EU. Indeed, in June 2013, EU leaders settled on a Youth Employment Initiative worth 8 billion euros. The Initiative looks to support young people not in education, employment or training, with a particular focus on regions with a youth unemployment rate of over 25 %. This combines with the older Youth Opportunities Initiative, which combats youth unemployment chiefly through utilising the European Social Fund (ESF). This layered approach brings forward the idea of differing needs between EU nations. For example, it is clear that, at the moment, more needs to be done for the Greek economy than the German one. This case illustrates the impact of the cyclical nature of state economics; at certain points, an economy may be in a boom, while at others, it will be in recession. While the prior case would require policies that avoid recession, the latter would need to focus on combatting it – if such policies are possible or desirable at all. Since it can be argued that the EU is not yet truly a single market, the respective economic situations of individual nations will influence necessary policy.
This kind of discrepancy poses one more question: can floundering European nations find economic strength through emulating their more successful counterparts, or is it necessary for them to find their own, more situationally applicable model? Following this line of thought, can the EU look towards a common European labour policy in the interest of reducing youth unemployment rates? Should it provide Member States with support in implementing their own policies? Should it simply step away from the labour policies of individual nations? What approach should Member States themselves look to take in avoiding the creation of a ”lost generation” in European history? Keywords Keynesianism, classical economics, aggregate demand, nominal and real wages, stimulation, structural unemployment, frictional unemployment, the youth employment initiative, social exclusion Links for further research 1. Introductory material Definition of Keynesian economics Introduction to the Youth Opportunities Initiative Introduction to the European Social Fund Introduction to the Youth Employment Initiative 2. Official sources Statistics on unemployment by Europa 3. Newspaper articles and other materials Article on Germany and France in the EU economy A view on solving youth unemployment Article on the measures taken by the EU to solve youth unemployment Article on the origins of the unemployment crisis Hayek vs Keynes Rap Anthem
5. Committee on Employment and Social Affairs II – EMPL II Chairpersons: Rebecca Kiiski (FI), Peter Pölzleithner (AT) The ageing population: with fragile pension systems, talks of labour shortage and increasing demand for health care services, how should the European governments best prepare for the coming era of an ageing continent, and what role should the EU play in it? Overview Throughout the 21st century, Europe is experiencing a major demographic change, requiring the EU to take action. The generation known as baby boomers is now slowly starting to move into retirement. With ever sinking birth rates, the working population is constantly decreasing. Not only is the number of retirees in Europe higher than ever before, the average life-expectancy has reached an all time peak. As the elderly population keeps rising, the demand for health care services is increasing in equal proportion. By the year 2040 Europe should see an estimated increase of 8% in pensioners, causing a shift to an older average age. This prediction reflects the current demographic changes happening in Europe. During the 1950’s the European continent saw more children born than ever before - this was the generation known as baby boomers. However, the situation today looks rather different. These baby boomers have now gradually reached the stage of retirement and are now leaving the labour market. Simultaneously, a lower number of people are entering the workforce thus altering the balance of the labour market. Furthermore there has been a decrease in birth rates from 2.1 to 1.5 throughout the last 50 years. These factors are now creating an alarming situation within Europe´s population. In the year 2010, there were 4 workers supporting each pensioner but by the year 2040, this ratio is likely to be only 2 workers per pensioner. Should the EU member states raise the retirement age despite the likely negative public reaction? Due to the increasing number of retirees, the pension systems need to be taken into consideration as well. In general there are three different pillars within pensions systems today: the public compulsory pillar, the private pensions pillar, and personal saving schemes. It is important to realise that not every member state uses all three pillars. Nevertheless, most pension systems are based on the active working population financing these pension claims, hence this aforementioned demographic shift could cause a strong negative effect on these systems. With the increased number of pensioners, Europe is now experiencing a high demand for health care services. Facing this increase and change in population, the amount of long-term illnesses usually connected with old age, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have also increased. The care for elderly is also often perceived as an unappealing career, causing a lack of workers in the field. Which particular incentives should be introduced to make this sector more appealing to workers? These factors have brought Europe to the verge of unprecedented changes, necessitating adaptation and reaction from the EU. Keeping all these difficulties in mind, what should the EU and its Member States do to cope with the changes ahead? Which measures should be taken to rebalance the labour markets, strengthen the European healthcare sector and the pensions systems, whilst still ensure pensioners are able to enjoy their well-deserved retirement? Keywords Demographic change, age dependency ratio, the working population, pensionable age, health care services, baby boomers, intergenerational equity, pension systems
Links for further research 1. Introductory material The Wikipedia article on pension systems in Europe and the world A video introducing the pension system and situation in Europe Introducing the pension systems in all EU Member States 2. Official sources A summary of an act by the European Commission titled “the demographic future of Europe” A work concerning Europe’s demographic change and discussing possible solutions A brief summary of the pension systems currently used in the EU 3. Newspaper articles and other materials An article dealing with Europe’s demographic change and its implication on the labour market An article on the “ageing population time bomb” by the Irish Examiner An article on the reshaping of the labour markets An article summarizing the current situation on Europe´s health care sector An article on a “Pension Plan” by the French government, which did not bring the desired results and was confronted with a lot of criticism from the public
6. Committee on International Trade – INTA Chairpersons: Nikolas Rawlins (FI), Juuli Salonen (FI) Exporting for growth: with small and medium size enterprises building the backbone of the EU economy, how can the EU further promote the internationalization of SMEs in order to help them access international trading markets? Overview The more than 20 million SMEs in the EU represent 99% of businesses, and many consider them to be the key driver for economic growth, innovation, employment and social integration. Some again claim that SMEs represent the basis of economic development, thus perceiving them as an essential source of jobs which create entrepreneurial spirit and innovation in the EU and are thus crucial for fostering competitiveness and employment. On the 1st of January 2005, the European Commission defined the SMEs as:“Enterprises which employ fewer than 250 persons and which have an annual turnover not exceeding 50 million euro, and/or an annual balance sheet total not exceeding 43 million euro.” This definition was considered to represent a major step towards an improved business environment for SMEs since 1996 when the recommendation for establishing a first common SME definition was adopted by the Commission. It aims at promoting entrepreneurship, investments and growth and was widely applied throughout the EU in order to take account of economic developments. Many believe that in a single market with no internal frontiers, it is essential that measures in favour of SMEs are based on a common definition to improve their consistency and effectiveness, and to limit distortions of competition. This is all the more necessary given the extensive interaction between national and EU measures to help SMEs in areas such as regional development and research funding.” This definition is also the result of broad consultations with the stakeholders involved with SMEs, which proves that listening to SMEs is a key factor towards the successful implementation of the Lisbon goals. Naturally, SMEs are far more flexible and responsive than large enterprises to frequent changes that occur in the contemporary global environment. On the other hand, a smaller scale is not always an advantage. It can present large obstacles in accessing lucrative markets, favorable banking credit lines, as well as large investments in their growth and development. According to these statements it would seem that governments would have to take up their role in creating an economic environment which will serve the development of SMEs. In addition, many believe that accessing international markets is essential for the growth and expansion of SMEs and hence the EU economy. But is the EU here to guarantee the survival of the SMEs? The role of the EU here is pivotal due to the fact that decisions on SMEs will affect the economy of every member state, since SMEs provide two out of three of the private sector jobs in the EU and contribute to more than half of the total value-added created by businesses in the EU and are therefore called the true back-bone of the economy, being primarily responsible for wealth and economic growth. One could argue that this would lead to paternalistic cognition of the government’s role and consequently have the EU take a similar grip over its economic fate as in China or other centrally planned economies. The most frequent problems of SMEs are usually generic: lack of financial assets, small possibility of technology transfer, lack of capacity for permanent development of products and services, small possibility of internationalization of business operations, lack of quality management, inadequate administrative regulations or limited purchasing power. However, it is vastly acknowledged that SMEs numerous advantages are equally balanced by their numerous disadvantages. The European Commission already aims to promote successful entrepreneurship and improve the business environment for SMEs, to allow them to realize their full potential in today’s global economy. It works on broad policy issues affecting entrepreneurship and SMEs across Europe. It also assists SMEs through networks and business support measures. It
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helps existing and potential entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, giving special attention to women entrepreneurs, artisans and social economy enterprises. However, SMEs are increasingly being turned away from traditional forms of borrowing because many banks are struggling to meet new and burdensome financial regulations as the recovery from the financial crisis continues. Nevertheless, today it is more obvious than ever that without strong SMEs it is practically impossible to achieve a solid economic position internationally. Because of their distinct entrepreneurial role, they represent a solid base for the expediting of a full scale economy of a country, attracting direct foreign investments, the decrease of unemployment rate, an increase in GDP and in exporting activities. Whilst maintaining our economy in the current environment is essential, realistically the EU has no other option, but to support its growing SME base. The question lies in how. Do the priorities of recovering the EU economy clash with supporting their SMEs and helping them gain access to international markets? Or should the governments let the free market do its work, directing SMEs to venture capitalists and other lenders? Keywords The European small business portal, The Small business act for Europe, promoting entrepreneurship, accessing global markets, networking, Eurozone, SMEs, development problems Links for further research 1. Introductory material Wikipedia article on SMEs The Official SME site for US The Lisbon Strategy 2. Official sources Enterprise and Industry, SMEs What is an SME Common problems of SMEs 3. Newspaper articles and other materials The Challenges of being an SME
7. Committee on dustry, Research and Energy – ITRE Chairperson: Christopher Proctor (FI) The post-Fukushima Europe: with the challenge of balancing environmental sustainability, security and the need for cheap energy, what role should nuclear energy play in the EU Member States’ energy strategies? Overview Nuclear power: a cheap and efficient way to produce energy and help the EU become more independent in the energy market, or a hazardous risk not worth taking? Currently the EU draws 28.5 % of its energy from nuclear power, making it almost one third of all of the energy and the biggest source with 132 operational nuclear power reactors in the EU and 14 out of the 28 member states using nuclear energy for power generation. Nuclear power is a cost efficient and stable way to produce energy but it presents a set of serious problems. After the Fukushima disaster nuclear power has become a high priority topic and the opinions of EU member states vary from Germany shutting down many of its power plants and vowing to shut down the rest by 2022, to France producing 76 % of its electricity using nuclear energy. At the moment, Member States are largely responsible for supplying their own energy demands, a strategy which is less competitive and productive than the proposed EU-wide energy market which is supposed to be completed by 2014 and which would make the EU’s energy market much more integrated. Governments are afraid terrorists will abuse the presence of power plants and cause destruction similar to the Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters. This in itself is already a serious threat but for some the more concrete and worrisome issue is the radioactive, unrecyclable and indisposable nuclear waste. The only method currently available to take care of the waste is to store it indefinitely in secure facilities, which is an unsatisfying solution at best as there is the danger of leakage and the responsibility to tend for the waste will be left to future generations until a better way of dealing with the radioactive waste is found. Nuclear waste comes as a byproduct from nuclear fission, currently the only viable and efficient nuclear reaction being used to produce energy. However another alternative to nuclear fission is in development known as nuclear fusion, which could possibly be significantly more ef¬fective and efficient than nuclear fission without producing any form on radioactive waste. Research into this field is being run by the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), with plans to build a fusion reactor in the south of France. Although nuclear fusion sounds promising and would eradicate the problem with nuclear waste completely, it is not yet viable to use for energy production. It seems that with all the issues nuclear fission causes, the right thing to do would be to phase it out entirely and concentrate on other energy sources, but are the alternatives viable? The EU strives to be as energy independent as possible, hoping not to have to rely so much on countries such as Russia, which is one of the main oil and gas sellers to Europe and phasing nuclear energy out would mean that the EU would be more dependent than ever. Another alternative is green energy such as solar, wind and hydroelectric power but they are not yet developed far enough to provide a satisfying amount of energy to the EU, currently contributing only 18% of the EU’s energy production. So with conflicting pros and cons to nuclear power, how should the EU proceed in pursuit of cheap, sustainable and efficient energy whilst caring for the risks that come with nuclear power? Keywords Nuclear Fission, Nuclear Fusion, Renewable Energy, European Environmental Agency (EEA), ITER, Nuclear waste
Links for further research 1. Introductory material Wikipedia article on renewable energy in the EU Wikipedia article on nuclear fission power Fusion for Energy’s brochure on Nuclear Fusion 2. Official sources Energy: What do we want to achieve? Nuclear energy in the EU European Commission’s Internal Energy Market communication European Energy 2020 Strategy 3. Newspaper articles and other materials The Guardian on Fukushima New Scientist’s special report: The Fallout from Fukushima
8. Committee on Regional Development – REGI Chairperson: Lotta Moisala (FI), Thomas Goujat-Gouttequillet (FR) Building the periphery: mechanisms such as the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund play an important role in developing the peripheral areas of Europe, but they are also costly. Keeping in mind that metropolitan areas are the primary motors of growth, how should the EU best support its peripheral areas to suit the needs of their population? Overview With 28 Member States and countless smaller regions governed on a lower level, the different areas of the EU exhibit vast differences in terms of employment, economic growth and development. The highly productive and prosperous metropolitan areas located in the northwestern part of Europe constitute the so-called center while the peripheral areas, often situated in the more recent, less-developed Member States, constitute the periphery. As stated in its different treaties, the EU aims at reducing this gap, both for solidarity and economic purposes (i.e. to support its common market and currency). Over the recent years, this goal has been pursued through the Cohesion Policy, an investment policy with three main objectives: convergence, regional competitiveness and employment and European territorial cooperation as part of the Europe 2020 Strategy. The Cohesion Policy is implemented through the Cohesion Fund and the Structural Funds (the latter made of the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund) and has achieved results such as creating over 1 million jobs and 800 000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the last ten years, as well as transportation and health infrastructures. Yet, the budget of 347 billion Euros allocated to these funds for the period of 2007-2013, accounting for more than a third of the total EU budget for that time period, places into question the extent of their success and the sense in maintaining them – especially in times of necessary cuts in public spending. Moreover, the allocation and monitoring of the funds raise several issues. The first of these is that of defining the right purpose for each country receiving a grant, as some may use it to solve short-term economic difficulties, with the absorption of the fund being the government’s priority. An illustration of that is Poland, which received vast amounts of funding after entering the EU but has not yet proven successful in terms of regional development. It has also been argued by some that the fund allocation might not be based solely on the country’s real needs but their ability to lobby. Questions such as whether prosperous countries should be funded at all have therefore been thrown in the air. The second issue is the question of how to direct the fund towards its designated targets with, for example, Romania being unable to use the funds properly due to issues of corruption. Another similar case is that of Croatia, which absorbed all pre-accession funds and has now been guaranteed a new funding of 450 million euros. Whether regions of new Member States should become dependent on this funding is one of the key questions. Supporting the peripheral areas of the EU could therefore potentially be achieved through reconsidering the already existing funds in order to maximize their impact while lowering their total cost. Commissioner Andor has stated that “the European Social Fund has a vital role to play to make Europe more competitive and prosperous because it helps to enhance our greatest asset: our people and in particular young people”. How else could this be achieved? Are the funds efficient enough to keep them with increased evaluation or should they simply be discontinued? What other tools and policies could the EU use to fulfill its cohesion objective without neglecting the centers, which remain the main areas for opportunities?
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Keywords Centre/periphery, EU Cohesion Policy, Cohesion Fund, Structural Funds, European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), European Social Fund (ESF), Europe 2020 Strategy Links for further research 1. Introductory material General information on the Regional Policy of the European Union General information on Structural Funds and Cohesion Fund 2. Official sources EU Regional Policy EU Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 Europe 2020 Strategy 3. Newspaper articles and other materials Map of central and peripheral regions in the EU divided into three groups in terms of an index of accesibility The history and today of the territorial cohesion Blogs post on allocation of EU structural funding Blog post on allocation of EU structural funding
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