Louis Michel State Minister and MEP
POSITION PAPER ON THE
Project lead by Bàlint Gyévai, International Officer FEL
RESPONSIBLE PUBLISHER : Cédric Pierre Avenue de la Toison d’Or, 84 - 86 1060 Brussels
GRAPHIC DESIGN : Daphné Algrain
CREDIT : Translation : Colingua Traduction - Integrated Business Solutions sprl
TEXT : Fédération des Étudiants Libéraux - Bàlint Gyévai, International Officer FEL
1. HISTORICAL CONTEXT
17 19 22 25 27 30 32 37 41 43 45
2. SOCIAL ASPECTS 3. EDUCATION 4. ECONOMIC ASPECTS 5. TRADE AGREEMENTS 6. ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT 7. AGRICULTURE 8. SECURITY
9. MIGRATORY FLOWS 10. FIGHT AGAINST POPULISM AND FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 11. MEDIA CONCLUSIONâ€‰: DEEPER INTEGRATION
Foreword of Louis Michel
Europe is the brightest political idea of the 20th century. It has its roots in the unwavering will of a few men and women who, after the war, decided to pool large parts of the sovereignty of their countries. They were sure that peace and security would bring growth and prosperity to European citizens, scarred by years of war, hate and torment. These Founding Fathers fought to erase borders, transform dictatorships into democracies and turn Europe into a law-based community Talking about Europe, integration and our common future has become harder against a context of mounting Euroscepticism, Brexit, a retreat into nationalism and the multiple crises we are facing. It is our duty to reject this fatalism and bring back excitement about the future and the desire to do more. Raising the drawbridge is not a solution. « Nationalism is war », said François Mitterrand. We need to resolve these tensions, stand firm against any push to water down our values, defeat the tyranny of populism and make sure all citizens understand that we are building their Europe —that our prime concern is safeguarding our social model in a globalised world where Europe will be left on the sidelines if it fails to do its homework. Czech philosopher Jan Patocka was right when he said that political life is being « permanently on the move ». A democracy without a demos will wither and die. Europe can only overcome its deep crises by gaining the support of its citizens, listening to them and having a strong, political Commission. Europe cannot survive without solidarity, strengthened social protection measures, a complete EMU, a public investment policy, a digital market, a European defence industry, a true European migration policy and enforcing compliance of ethical rules by the world of finance. Too often we forget to point out that the cost of non-Europe has been estimated at about 1.597 trillion euros a year, equal to 12% of the European Union’s current GDP. Integrating the various policies would be enough to drum up support for Europe. Europe means free movement (of people, goods, services and capital), which is the envy of the whole world; it means an unparalleled lawbased community above national law; it means respecting the rule of law and democratic values; it means freedoms guaranteed by the European Charter of Fundamental Rights; it means the world’s leading commercial power, respected all over the globe; it means a market 4
with 500 million consumers —20% of the world’s economy. Europe also means reciprocal recognition of diplomas and the Erasmus programme, a true success story that gives thousands of young people the opportunity to complete part of their training in another European university, as well as a unique experience to get to know Europe and other people. The European Union is much more than an international organisation with remote institutions. It is much more than an economic project. It is a project based on living together and a convergence of values. We need to protect and build upon these assets. Europe is not perfect, history has lots of ups-and-downs and the system has its fair share of flaws. These are difficult times, but this is no reason to accept the status quo and even less of a reason to give ground to Euroscepticism. We are at a turning point. We need to make a choice! Let’s dare to infuse our dreams of the future with ambition. Let’s fight for a positive view —we have gone too far down the road of success, we have made too many dreams come true to stop now. I support the idea of a « differentiated Europe » or a « two-speed Europe », which means an ever closer union within specific areas. I support a Europe that does not aim to exclude, but to include in the long term those Member States that choose to. It falls upon us to build this new, modern world. The European project can only survive if it is able to renew itself! Jeremy Rifkin once wrote : « We used to say that the American Dream is worth dying for. The new European Dream is worth living for. » As we get ready to negotiate the post-Cotonou Agreement with the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), let’s dare to set out our political ambition to be joint protagonists of the «world of tomorrow». Europe must remain a global power. With an ACP group representing 40% of all United Nations member states, we can defend the world we want to leave to future generations. Young people in Europe play a crucial role, and I would go as far as to say that our future depends partly on their aspirations. Political renewal depends essentially on an active, creative, committed, dynamic and courageous youth, which we should support because it holds vast potential for our society and economy. 5
I am therefore delighted with FEL’s position paper on the European Union, which does a great job of summing up the European Union’s sphere of action and presenting the benefits it brings us. It makes for good reading for anyone who wants to find out more about Europe. Therefore, I cannot help but be pleased that the conclusion of this document matches a long-held conviction of mine: Europe is not the problem. Europe is the solution. I wish to conclude by quoting Simone de Beauvoir, whose thoughts are particularly relevant today and are worth pondering upon : «The present is not a potential past, it is the time for choice and action.»
Europe, now more than ever !
Louis Michel Minister of State Member of the European Parliament and co-chair of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly
Before engaging in a compelling and thought-provoking overview of the labyrinthine European affairs, these few lines will help you in understanding the underlying context of this publication. The European Union now impacts our day-to-day lives as students and, first and foremost, as European citizens. This position paper is a basic requirement for a politically committed youth federation like FEL. Setting out our own, highly specific vision of the future of the European project we belong to is crucial to tackling the challenges of the 21st century. Writing this position paper is also an opportunity for us liberals to promote our values of tolerance and openness to others. The free movement of people and freedom to enjoy our rights are the core principles of the European project. These freedoms have come under relentless attack by the nationalist and extremist movements gathering steam throughout the Union. It is not a second too soon for young people from liberal or other backgrounds to throw their weight behind a more united and integrated Europe which works for its 500 million citizens and mobilizes its full potential. We wrote this position paper precisely because this objective is still far away. Just like the Founding Fathers, who dreamed not of Brexit but of seeing the United States of Europe come into being, our liberal youth federation supports initiatives to drive the European project forward on a path towards closer integration among our countries. Dear student friends, the journey ahead is still long, but every small step we take brings us a little closer to our destination. Long live Europe and long live our beautiful Union! Never forget that we, as students, are the Europe of the future and everything is still to play forâ€Ś I am counting on us !
I wish a pleasant reading to all,
BĂ lint GyĂŠvai International Officer FEL
In the globalised world we live in today, the various movements and interactions among states increasingly take place at the supranational level. Belgium is part of a bigger whole which helps us rise to the challenges of the 21st century. This whole is none other than the European Union (EU). The Federation of Liberal Students wants to set out its positions on European issues and develop a vision for Belgium as part of a strong European Union with increased powers. This position paper puts forward our vision for an ambitious and more integrated European Union. Our vision is structured around several themes. We will first provide a brief historical overview of the European Union to put it in context. We will then analyse its constituent parts and recommend solutions to better serve the needs of society. The issues discussed here include social aspects, education, economic aspects, trade agreements, energy and the environment, agriculture, security, migratory flows, the fight against populism and for human rights and, finally, the media in the EU. Last but not least, we will conclude this position paper with what we see as the ideal solution to meet the numerous challenges faced by a European Union which is struggling and in dire need of a shot in the arm.
The European Union is a rather recent project whose origins lie in the aftermath of World War II. The idea behind integration was to prevent further strife between the two major continental powers —Germany and France— and tie their futures together in a lasting peace. In other words, it is a project anchored in peace and solidarity which capitalises on economic instruments to foster friendly ties among states. The Member States set up a free trade area for coal and steel (key sectors of the German and French economies, respectively) as the first step in this direction. The European Union therefore embodies an area of freedom thanks to which we, as Europeans, can blossom without fear of our neighbours and work together with them instead.
Several elements make up the EU :
HERITAGE Our countries share a significant heritage : wars, exchanges, bonds and strong relationships. These experiences tie our destinies together and give rise to the European spirit which defines our current identity.
GEOGRAPHY The importance of this factor should not be underestimated. It binds our futures together. European solidarity is rooted to a certain extent in a common territorial allegiance which turns this area of freedom into « a European area ».
1/â€‰HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
INSTITUTIONS European decision-making is centred around an institutional triangle consisting of the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament. Legislative initiative rests with the European Commission, as well as the Council, the Parliament and, since the adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009, European citizens. Most legislative acts are adopted jointly by the Council and Parliament.
CULTURE AND SOCIETY Despite the wide range of languages and traditions, it is undeniable that a European culture based on a common heritage and the many shared values enshrined in the various treaties has taken root in the consciousness of European citizens. Enlightenment values such as multiculturalism, accepting others for what they are and respecting fundamental rights and freedoms are the core tenets we can rally around.
INSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT Treaty of Romeâ€‰: EEC (European Economic Community) + Euratom (European Atomic Energy Community) established with six founding members
Marshall Plan to help Europe recover from the war
ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community) established with six founding membersâ€‰: Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands
Single European Act Foundation for further expansion and the single market, reserving certain powers to the European level for the first time.
Its initial objectives are economic and focus on protecting the Four Freedoms (goods, services, persons and capital).
1979 First election election to the European Parliament
1992 Treaty of Maastricht Implementation of the monetary union and creation of the European Union
1/â€‰HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
Treaty of Nice Institutional reforms ahead of the expansion
Signing of the Treaty of Schengen
Treaty of Amsterdam Institutional reforms laying the groundwork for the eastern expansion
2002 Introduction of the euro
Rejection of the European Constitution
2009 Treaty of Lisbon Definition of competences and consolidation of core values
Six founding countries : Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands
German reunification and integration
Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia
1951 1973 1981 1986 1990 1995 2004 2007 2013 Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom
Spain and Portugal
Austria, Finland and Sweden
Bulgaria and Romania
CONSTRUCTION … FEL wants to emphasise that the European project is a unique process which integrates states to consolidate their solidarity, strength and union in diversity. The project has reached an unprecedented scale and points towards convergence federalism. Although it can be compared with the United States, there are numerous differences, such as the context in which these polities were created and the historical events they went through. We should not be afraid of recognising that the European project is sui generis —a political and legal structure which is unique in its aims and the institutions it uses to pursue them. These objectives are the direct result of the historical episodes which identify and define us as Europeans. Our cultural and language differences, together with our resources and unity, are a solid asset which enables us to compete on the international scene and thrive in the world of the 21st century. 1
This position paper does not conduct a detailed comparison between the United States of America and the European Union to avoid straying from its core subject.
As explained earlier, the European project started off as a peace project based on cooperation among its Member States in the fields of diplomacy and economy. A country and its citizens can only prosper if the economy is strong. The living standards of European citizens have risen substantially since the European Economic Community was established. Unfortunately, the purely social aspects of government policy remain the preserve of states. The European Union lacks a common social security scheme, common wage scales and genuinely harmonised laws in this field, which leaves the door wide open to abuse. FEL has a series of proposals to help strengthen the ties which bind Member States and foster true solidarity :
Harmonising social standards to set a common benchmark which enables citizens of the Union to reap the benefits of EU membership even if they are in another Member State.
Implementing a European dividend consisting of a universal allowance paid at the European level. Each European citizen
would receive an unconditional basic income. Politicians are looking into the concept after its financing was proven to be feasible and several trial runs at the local level were successful. We have no doubt that a European dividend would rekindle the European spirit among citizens thanks to its direct positive impact on their day-to-day lives.
Complementing the previous proposal with a commitment to fighting social dumping. Safeguards for all workers in the European
market can only be effective if they are implemented at the European level. A race to the bottom which degrades the rights and freedoms due to different social systems and labour conditions in different Member States is simply unacceptable. The European Union needs a broad perspective to tackle this problem effectively and for the common good.
Finally, European firepower must be deployed against tax evasion —common standards are absolutely necessary to mitigate the social
impact of these widespread practices. National regulations vary enormously from one state to the next and are therefore ill-equipped to prevent such distortions.
Education is gradually being harmonised at the European level as a result of the Bologna Process, which began in 1999 and was enhanced in 2010 thanks to intergovernmental cooperation among 47 European countries working in the framework of the European Higher Education Area. However, there remain major disparities and obstacles to mobility within and between the various national educational systems. We therefore believe the answer also lies at the European level. The time has come to invest more in the future of our students and children.
FEL supports :
Strengthening the ERASMUS programme at the European level, unlocking extra funds to
Strengthening the link between the labour market and academia to integrate young
people and help them find secure jobs on the European labour market. It goes without saying that harmonised legislation is needed to establish common standards and facilitate mobility on the labour market. A traineeship scheme to assist entry into this vast pan-European market also needs to be developed.
share the wealth of knowledge available in our countries. One possibility would be to launch networks offering traineeships and summer academies organised jointly by the academic institutions of different countries.
Increasing professional and academic exchanges among the various Member States to
E ME TH M G RA IN G D O N PR PA US EX SM
who may otherwise lack the necessary means.
Expanding the ERASMUS programme to cover more students, as well as young people
ER TR AS EN M GT U S HE PR N O IN G G R AM TH M E E
increase opportunities for students who take part in this unique experience.
A European orientation pathway to guide people who have just arrived in our Union. This
would require all Member States to offer an orientation pathway to newcomers. It is only logical to teach the shared values of the European Union to new European citizens. We believe that our new fellow citizens can integrate more easily if they are aware of Europe’s core values, including freedom of expression, freedom of movement, gender equality and human rights. Country-specific elements would obviously be left to the discretion of Member States.
Furthermore, and along with the launch of a European orientation pathway, we call for the
reinforcement of classes about the EU during compulsory schooling. People who are taught about the European Union during primary education are few and far between. It is a key ingredient in the creation of a European identity, without which the concept of a European demos will be bereft of legitimacy.
4/ ECONOMIC ASPECTS
There is no doubt that economic and financial interests contributed to the inception and integration of the European project. The investment has paid off handsomely, with the 28 Member States of the European Union making up one of the world’s leading economies. The EU’s GDP stood at €13,920.541 bn in 2014, rivalling with the United States’ (€17,968 bn) and China’s (€11,385 bn). FEL believes that the continent can do even better by achieving « ever closer union among the peoples of Europe », as stated in Article 1 of the Treaty on European Union, which set up the single market as the latest step in the evolution of the common market.
E 17 968 bn E 13 920, 541 bn
E 11 385 bn
We therefore call for :
The formation of a fiscal union, taking over a sphere of competence which has hitherto been reserved almost exclusively to national institutions despite its key role in maintaining the right conditions for a strong European economy. On the one hand, the European budget 23
(which currently stands at just 1% of European GDP) should be increased in line with the number of European policies requiring greater support. We see no alternative to an increase in national contributions or the establishment of own resources. On the other hand, the Union should be granted certain taxation powers in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity to enable it to work more effectively within its sphere of competence, including agriculture and cohesion policies.
The next step would be creating a European treasury which, following the numerous economic crises, could federalise Member States’
debt and thereby reduce the economic burden on the various countries. This would boost cooperation and solidarity. However, such a scheme can only work if all Member States meet debt requirements. Bonds would be bought via the European Central Bank, following the example of the United States.
Setting up a political authority behind the single currency. We believe previous crises, particularly in Greece, have dispelled any doubts about the importance of doing this. A Eurozone parliament should also be set up —its hasty construction has left the Eurozone full of gaping holes. The answer is a political union to support the common currency, failing which the euro cannot succeed.
Harmonising European legislation on economic matters. As explained earlier, this is a crucial step towards strengthening the
European economy and preventing negative developments. Aside from the social costs of the status quo, it is crucial to fight tax evasion. The subsidiarity principle makes European institutions our best bet in this area. It is imperative to prevent certain companies from getting sweetheart deals in certain Member States as a result of diverging regulations.
We would like to highlight the benefits of economic integration across the continent. Substantial financial transfers among Member States have long helped new members catch up with more developed countries, closing income gaps thanks to harmonised economic policies. This has enabled Member States to converge economically and helped set up competitive economic structures in most of them. This joint undertaking generates a windfall for countries and investors alike. We also want to emphasise the importance of European funds, which drive innovation and development in a great deal of regions despite an insufficient budget. It is also worth noting that a stronger economy gives us greater clout at the international negotiating table. It is therefore in our common interest to deepen the economic union to consolidate our place in the globalised world and be able to compete on the international markets. The EU’s exchanges represent 20% of world imports and exports, but we can —and must— do even better.
See 2. Social aspects
In response to the rise in bilateral negotiations between the European Union and third states whose commercial importance is crucial to the EU, FEL wants to make clear its position on these new debates which combine political arguments, political and trade interests, and passion. We believe that rejecting these trade agreements would be calamitous for the European Union. All global powers are currently negotiating trade agreements to facilitate exchanges among them. Failing to take part in this process would inflict catastrophic damage on the European economy by leaving the European Union on the sidelines of the new trade landscape. Furthermore, we believe that the sole objective of the European Commission, which acts on behalf of more than 500 million people, is to defend their interests. Its experience is an invaluable asset. We would also like to highlight that the European Commission was granted a negotiating mandate in this field by the Member States as a whole. This means that the European Commission is just the negotiating institution, while national governments and the European Parliament â€”representing all European citizensâ€” alone retain the power to accept or reject a trade agreement. Finally, we would like to emphasise that trade agreements should never trample on our social and environmental standards or human rights.
Energy and environment
There are two interwoven issues which will play a decisive role in the future of our planet. One of them is the energy we need to live and carry out our activities. The other one is our environment. Climate change affects each and every one of us. A European perspective of these two issues is necessary. Climate change and energy resources do not stop at borders. Living sustainably on our planet requires shared responsibility and coordinated actions. We believe that the European Union must achieve a greater degree of independence from external energy resources. The Ukrainian crisis and ensuing Russian sanctions were a painful reminder of why the EU, now more than ever, needs to reduce its energy dependence, especially on Russian gas. Over a longer horizon, it should also strive to reduce its dependence on other sources and tap the potential and resources available on our territory. These resources are currently underexploited. We should therefore sustain existing efforts and boost our current degree of independence. European Commissioner Ĺ efcovic has presented a project whose end goal is the establishment of an Energy Union. Countries must work together in regional blocks to enhance their capabilities in this area. FEL is delighted with this ambition and fully supports the Commissionerâ€™s work. Similarly, it is important to create an energy union which bolsters security of supply by interconnecting networks to the benefit of all European citizens. Furthermore, a well-organised and beefed-up energy union could also give rise to specialisation in the various polities. The potential of each region could be tapped to meet the energy requirements of European citizens. Increased efficiency would save time and money. In the fight against global warming, we need a strong Union which will resolutely push attitudes and behaviours in the right direction to make our voice heard on the international scene. A common position is fundamental to show our commitment and credibility. As said earlier, pollution and natural disasters do not stop at borders. Our responsibility for the future of the world hinges on a European environmental policy. Finally, there is no escaping the fact that we Europeans need to pool or, at the very least, interconnect our resources to meet our climate objectives and tighten our environmental standards. European institutions again seem best-equipped to deal with energy 28
matters. States cannot succeed on their own without stepping up European cooperation significantly. FEL believes this would increase the potential for innovation and finding solutions in the short —with opportunities such as nuclear power— and long term —with greener energy sources.
EU-28 gross inland consumption (as 3 % of total Mtoe) in 2012
Crude oil and petroleum products 33,8%
Natural gas 23,4%
Solid fuels 17,5%
Revewables 11% Waste, non-ren. 0,8%
European Commission, Commission staff working document : Trends ans Developments in European Energy Markets 2014, Brussels, 2014
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was the first integrated policy of what was then the European Economic Community, which was established in 1962 —a mere five years after the Treaty of Rome— as a key milestone in the construction of Europe. The policy was set up at the European level because the European population depended on agriculture for 25% of its economy, so the sector required a great deal of innovation, financing and protection from external markets. It has taken the lion’s share of the European budget ever since it came into force. State intervention, particularly subsidies, plays a key role. A constellation of problems soon became apparent, leading to the adoption of several reforms in an attempt to tackle the difficulties faced by the European Union. FEL believes that the CAP completely distorts the market due to the way it is set up. Constantly pumping subsidies under a system of arbitrary quotas will not foster a proper dynamic in this key market. Prices should reflect production to a higher degree, rewarding innovation, diversification and quality. We are not calling for the CAP or subsidies to be abolished, but for a new perspective which reorganises the allocation of funding for subsidies. We all know that agriculture plays a crucial role and is a sui generis sector which requires a specific approach and real protection at the European level. The lack of vision which has plagued this project from the beginning is shameful. We do not know where we are heading or what the aims of our common policy are. This is obvious from the lack of control and —the elephant in the room— the difficulty of monitoring subsidies to prevent their frequent misuse at the local level. There is great potential in more specific markets such as organic products. Developing niche markets looks like a sensible course of action. Finally, we regret the lack of innovation and technological research in this field at the European level, which puts us at a great disadvantage compared with other parts of the world. We need to exchange more and do more. Our innovative liberal vision has the potential to breathe new life into the CAP. It is worth noting that FEL defended these positions at a LYMEC Congress, leading to an important resolution on the issue.
Protecting their citizens is one of the governmental functions of states and one of their main raisons d’être. However, in light of recent developments such as the appalling terrorist attacks which have hit Europe since the turn of the century, we believe that the European level should take on a greater role in the security of European citizens to help them thrive while safeguarding their individual liberties. FEL therefore calls for a greater commitment and specific solutions at the European level, starting with the creation of a true European army, followed by the fight against terrorism and, finally, implementation of the Schengen Agreement.
• A COMMON EUROPEAN ARMY We call for the creation of a single European army. There is no escaping the fact that the world of today presents numerous and varied threats (terrorism, war, xenophobia, isolationism…), with tensions running very high with some of our neighbours (e.g. Russia). Measures to protect citizens will only be effective if they are run at a higher level. In other words, only a federal European vision can guarantee our security. The first step should be enhanced regional cooperation (e.g. the Benelux with Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, or the Visegrad Group with Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic). Their long-term objective should be a common defence policy. We need to eliminate redundant security programmes. Such measures would streamline administration and make decision-making clearer while bringing down costs, particularly in military procurement. As a result, a common army would offer an opportunity and significantly lower costs in the long term. The internal specialisation of our various action units would also improve. Encouraging each country to specialise in its strongest domain would augment European power by rationalising the division of tasks. Once again, we could capitalise on our internal assets to increase our efficiency and regain major player status on the international scene of the 21st century. Further progress is also necessary in budget pooling, research cooperation and information sharing and strategic communications. 33
Finally, a common vision needs to be spelled out before creating a European army. A single representative for foreign affairs in charge of the common armed forces would enable the EU to truly speak with one voice. This would be a major milestone because it would require a European agreement setting out the rules for deploying armed forces. The two go hand-in-hand. As for NATO, in order to avoid unnecessary duplication, FEL calls for a common European army which works together with the United States and other Atlanticist powers without becoming dependent on them. Multiple obstacles have to be overcome before reaching this stage, but achieving military independence is crucial. However, NATO has already brought about many advances which would support the construction of our armed forces, such as common structures, operational capabilities and information sharing.
• FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM The fight against terrorism is clearly becoming more and more challenging. We saw the damage caused by the terrorist massacres in Paris in 2015 and Brussels in March 2016. States cannot tackle these problems on their own. Beefed-up preventive measures are needed to prevent further attacks. FEL believes that the solution lies at the European level. We need to work together to establish a coordinated policy to fight terrorism. It would offer several advantages :
We would all rally around European values such as democracy, peace and liberty. Terrorists try to undermine these values by sowing terror in our societies.
We would earn greater international recognition and legitimacy in the fight against terrorism. We would wield greater
clout in international negotiations. Europe would go back to being a major player instead of watching from the sidelines security negotiations which have so far mostly been reserved to global powers (Russia and the United States).
We would achieve more thanks to a structure which facilitates intelligence sharing and, whenever necessary, helps us identify terrorists entering the Union via a Member State before they can strike.
A European intelligence service is another piece of the puzzle. We know about Interpol, but fewer people have heard of Europol. Member States, however, seem unwilling to place intelligence powers in the hands of such a structure. FEL therefore supports boosting Europol’s powers and budget. The result would be something resembling a European CIA and strengthen Europe’s hand in the fight against terrorism. 35
• SCHENGEN AGREEMENT The Schengen Agreement was signed in 1995 by the founding members of the European Union and has since grown to cover most of the Union (22 countries). The Agreement has become a cornerstone of the European project. It promotes the free movement of goods and people by eliminating internal borders in Europe. The recent issues plaguing the European Union and a trend towards identitarian closure among certain people have called the Agreement into question. In spite of this, FEL wants to put Schengen back at the heart of the European spirit and emphasise the need to safeguard our fundamental liberties. We believe there are no reasons to question Schengen or close the European Union’s internal borders. Schengen is part of the solution, not the problem, because it has boosted cooperation among the Member States in various fields. We should build on the initiative to pursue deeper European federalism. However, Member States should monitor individuals on their territories.
FEL HIGHLIGHTS : The importance of information sharing among the various stakeholders. The importance of a new approach based on the creation of a European police corps (boosting Europol’s powers and budget) and a European intelligence service to protect the peaceful and free territory of our Union. We believe that progress in this direction is the best way to safeguard and build upon our openness, liberties and responsibilities.
The Syrian crisis has put the European Union and other territories under significant migratory pressure since it began. The emergency, soon labelled a «migrant crisis», has laid bare the individualism of Member States, which are busier building walls on their borders than working together. There are many priorities in this area. A proper response can only come from a common European position. The States’ charade has to stop. The time has come to reconsider our actions and duties towards people arriving in Europe. FEL believes that several improvements are needed to tackle migratory flows :
First, Schengen should be strengthened, not watered down. The European Union has to make its internal cooperation more efficient. The EU should only have external borders, and they should be monitored by a European corps instead of border states alone4.
Second, the European Union needs to boost solidarity among states in support of front-line countries such as Greece, Italy and Hungary. These countries should receive more financial support. However, FEL also wants increased transparency in the management of allocated funds. A European monitoring scheme should be set up to oversee spending, particularly in the most sensitive cases.
FEL emphasises the need to follow international law and respect people accommodated on our territory. Walls, barbed wire and soldiers are no way to receive these people.
Third, the EU has no choice but to address the lack of information. On the one hand, information concerning refugees who have just arrived here and, for obvious reasons, are unaware of the rules and system under which they are going to live. Innovation can help: for example, refugees can use a Hungarian application developed by an SME. This smartphone app helps them find out more about the main rules in force in the various countries, as well as entry points and the options available to them. On the other hand, information concerning Member State nationals, who are often unaware of the facts on the ground. We must avoid prejudices which are becoming widespread and lead to unfounded fears and hate. 38
See 8. Security
Fourth, the Dublin III Regulation sets out the criteria and legal mechanisms used to determine which Member State is responsible for
examining an application for international protection submitted in a given Member State by a third-country national or a stateless person. This system has proved its limitations and runs counter to European solidarity and the spirit behind our values. The Regulation allows countries to send refugees back to the first country where they registered. This increases the burden on those countries on the geographic front line of the crisis and gives rise to a cruel situation in which people who are fleeing war and are in dire need of stability are sent back and forth.
Fifth, FEL calls for the creation of a European asylum agency with the understanding that refugees who reach a Member State will
be considered European refugees and, therefore, receive European support. This would make it easier to process residence permits and check the causes of departure. The system would be faster and more effective.
The quota system should be more ambitious and respected by Member States. Certain national governments are not open to refugees and offer only lukewarm support during negotiations. FEL calls for a radical change which promotes an open-minded vision and the acceptance of others.
FEL also regrets the dearth of enforcement mechanisms with penalties for Member States which fail to follow fundamental values during
the crisis. Hungary, which has just passed a law allowing law-enforcement personnel to open fire on refugees who have entered Hungarian territory illegally, is an unfortunate example. In the same line, we should adopt a long-term view and increase the cohesion of our societies with a European orientation pathway. As explained earlier5 , we suggest forcing Member States to set up these pathways to familiarise new arrivals with our shared values and thereby facilitate their integration.
Finally, we must acknowledge the failure of European diplomacy, which only manifests through the scarcely known, barely
legitimate figure of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the head of the European External Action Service (EEAS) who meets with other leaders. Unfortunately, the EU seldom gets a seat at the negotiating table where big global issues are discussed. FEL regrets this situation and calls upon our leaders to give European institutions greater leeway. Member States should give up that part of their sovereign powers which they can no longer exert effectively.
FEL strongly condemns the shameful political exploitation of terrorist attacks and the racist, homophobic and simplistic discourse which blames the very people who came to our shores to flee terrorism. Such a link must be ruled out. We reject the malicious soundbites spread on social networks, sometimes even by our representatives.
See 3. Education
Fight against populism and for human rights
We need to acknowledge the striking rise of extreme politics in Europe, where an increasing number of movements and parties openly espouse values at odds with the liberties and human rights we support. Our shared liberal and European values are under fire in several Member States while the European Union watches from the sidelines. FEL believes that defending the values enshrined in our treaties is an integral part of the European project. It is not just a question of credibility and humanism â€”it is also about a European consciousness and identity. Therefore, sanctions should be deployed against countries which undermine our fundamental values. The actions of the current Polish and Hungarian governments are but two examples. We must realise that the rise of nationalism and the proliferation of populist, hateful thought can only be countered by the very same European project which brought us peace. We have a moral duty to urge European institutions to safeguard it. As a result, we believe that greater powers should be granted to the European Parliament and a new chamber representing European regions which would take the place of the current Council of Ministers â€”which still defends sovereign interests. The structure of the European Union would to a certain extent mimic the German federal model, with the Bundestag and Bundesrat. Rebuilding institutions and sovereign structures whose legitimacy is recognised by all European citizens is crucial to curbing the rise of radical euroscepticism. The gap between European institutions and the people they represent needs to be narrowed by rethinking democracy from a European sovereignty perspective.
FEL recognises the fundamental importance of developing tools to ease communication with citizens. Media play a pivotal rule in the world of today. We therefore regret the widespread bias in reports which has given rise to ÂŤBrussels bashingÂť in national media and left a mark on citizens, who are often exploited for strictly national political interests. In light of this situation, in order to prevent the fragmentation of information along national fault lines, the time has come to develop and carve a larger niche for pan-European media. We believe that providing an alternative to national public media would be a key milestone in giving European citizens the open, varied information they deserve. The idea is to support private pan-European media such as VoxEurop or EurActiv as well as public European projects. We therefore support the creation of a pan-European media project covering the entire European Union and broadcasting in all its official languages. It should be more independent than Euronews and Politico, which depend on external groups to a great degree.
Conclusionâ€‰: deeper integration
The Federation of Liberal Students calls for radical change in this position paper on the European Union. We want a quantum leap in European integration. The reasons set out in this position paper make it an absolute necessity. The current structure of the European Union has reached the end of the road. Although the Brexit referendum sent a seismic shock through the EU, we believe it also offers a unique opportunity to rethink the Union. Let us take seize it to make improvements such as harmonising social standards and establishing a common benchmark for all citizens, creating a fiscal union, setting up a European treasury, launching an energy union, establishing a true common European army, coming up with a European approach to migration, setting up a European border corps and launching a true pan-European media project which tells us more about our neighbours. We know that our vision is idealistic, but we are confident that it is the only way we can adapt and contribute to the changes the 21st century will bring instead of trying to block them. Our liberal values take on their full meaning in a Europe which is strong on the international scene and turns its internal variety into an asset. We are wholeheartedly and definitely ÂŤUnited in diversityÂť. Instead of repeating the mistakes of the past and ending up on the wrong side of history, we need to measure the benefits of our project and capitalise on these advantages to influence the course of events during the 21st century. This necessary and positive aspiration is the beating heart of our position paper.
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