Issuu on Google+

CHANGES publication of the 20th National Selection Conference of EYP-Europolis Belgium


Index 3

Brought to you by

Presidential Welcome

Myrto Apostolidou Zamzam Elmi Storm Gibbons Olivier Lanoo Lorenzo Leuenberger Rebecca Smith Felicitas Strauch Nele Van der Aerschot Waltter Suominen Aida Grishaj

4-7 European Institutions for Dummies 8-9 Money, Money, Money 10 - 11 Caught Red-handed (LIBE I) 12 - 13 You are a Racist Too. (LIBE II) 14 - 15

Editorial Back in 1815, it took nearly a week for the news that Bonaparte had been defeated in the Waterloo battle to reach England. 200 years on, all sort of news, not necessarily limited to the important ones, is one click away. It is of no relevance whether the event is taking place in Brussels, Cairo, Pyongyang or Antarctica. The news will be online in a few seconds. This is only one example of change, maybe of one of the most important changes our societies have known: the speed information is spread. The information revolution of our age has had many advantages. Yet again, it is not always easy to find reliable, accurate and free information in the online jungle. That is why, we, the press team, are here. To keep you updated and to help you throughout this new experience, be it through opinionated writings, informative articles, different insights on specific matters or other journalistic means. We are aiming to provide academic guidance and to answer many of your numerous questions in the three issues we will be publishing. In this first issue, you will find additional information on your topics and on the functioning of the EU as a whole, information which might prove helpful in the upcoming days. It is highly likely that we will not change the world in this session. But changing the world is only one form of changes. In the European Youth Parliament (EYP) we have the power to influence the perceptions and ideas of others, to have an impact on people willing to listen to what we have to say and most importantly, we, ourselves can learn and grow. Be curious, interested and brace the changes. Yours, Aida Grishaj and Waltter Suominen The Editors

Parental Leave or Stay? (EMPL) 16 Populism or Direct Democracy? (AFCO II) 17 With Little Help from the Media Team... 18 - 19 Time to Open the Polls (AFCO III) 20 - 21 Compulsory Voting - A Good Idea? (AFCO I) 22 - 23 Sex in a Box (FEMM) 24 - 25 On Dark Waters (DROI) 26 - 27 Federalism and Non-Federalism in the European Union

Changes, publication of the 20th National Selection Conferences of EYP-Europolis Belgium


The Presidential Words

Dear delegates, No one ever knows the biggest day of our lives is going to be the biggest. There are those days we foresee as unique that end up being ordinary, and then there are those days we do not know what to expect from that turn out to be exceptional. The upcoming session might be a total mystery for you now and I cannot predict what each and every one of you is imagining. However, I can promise everyone that these days will be extraordinary. I am using this word for a reason because ‘extraordinary’ means different things to different people and that is exactly what the European Youth Parliament (EYP) is all about - embracing those differences, all you need to do is find your niche here. This session will give you many opportunities to challenge yourself. You will get a chance to get to know new people and learn how to effectively work in team. Eurovillage will provide you with a chance to get a taste of different European cultures and cuisines. Most importantly, you will get to express your own opinion on a long list of current political, economic and social issues of the EU. Making sure your opinion is voiced and heard is vital for a fruitful day of committee work, but also extremely important for the General Assembly. Therefore, I invite you, dear participants of the 20th National Selection Conference of EYP-Europolis Belgium to open up to everything that this session and the people have to offer you and truly make the most of it. Make everyone see that you have confidence in confidence alone and most importantly in yourself. Let’s make those days one of the ‘big days’ of our month, year, life. Yours, Luca Olumets The President

Issue 1

3


Changes, publication of the 20th National Selection Conferences of EYP-Europolis Belgium


European Institutions For Dummies The functioning of the EU and all its institutions is not easy to comprehend. Many institutions heavily rely upon each other to perform their tasks, making European legislative procedure, especially, very complex. What is more, the names of many institutions are confusing as well, sounding very alike. Institution mix-ups can easily be made, causing the swift falling apart of seemingly great points and causing chuckles from the chairs. A general oversight can help a great deal and what a coincidence?! There’s one in this paper. In this article.

Text: Storm Gibbons and Zamzam Elmi Picture: Š European Union 2013 - European Parliament

Issue 1

5


The European Parliament (EP) As many of you may know, the European elections are coming up in May. Some of you even may be able to vote and thereby, take part in the second biggest democratic exercise in the world. Approximately 400 million EU citizens will be able to vote on who should fill the 751 seats, which are allocated based on the population of each Member State, in the European Parliament. The EP is the only EU institution, where the people directly elect its 751 members including the president, currently Martin Schulz. However, at the last European elections the turnout was only 43% of all Europeans entitled to a vote and therefore, the results may not be entirely representative of European public opinion. From July onwards the chosen ones will take their seat for a lengthy 5-year period and gain the fancy title of Member of the European Parliament (MEP). Furthermore, the MEP’s are organised into six different parliamentary groups and the non-inscrits, members that aren’t attached to any parliamentary group. The largest parliamentary groups are the European People’s Party, and the Socialists and Democrats. This incredibly diverse group of people’s first task is to elect the president of the European Commission. More importantly, over the course of the next 5 years they will be collectively responsible for the course of European policies over the next 5 years, albeit by a majority voting system. The EP has the power to reject, approve or propose amendments to legislation proposed by the European Commission, again by vote. Moreover, the EP supervises the commissioners and may replace them in the case of any wrongdoing.

The European Commission (EC) The European Commission refers to both the College of Commissioners and the civil servants below them. The College of Commissioners consists of 28 Commissioners, one per Member State, including the president, currently José Manuel Barroso. Each Commissioner serves a term of five years. Each national government appoints a Commissioner, which has to be approved by the European Parliament by vote. The European Council then nominates the President of the European Commission, which the European Parliament once again must confirm by vote. The President is commonly seen as the most powerful officeholder in the EU, as he determines the Commission’s policy agenda and is responsible for all the legislation the Commission proposes to the EP. Furthermore, the president allocates each commissioner to a different department, known as a Directorate-General. The Commissioners are each responsible for their respective Directorates-General, which cover different policy areas, such as Employment, Agriculture, etc. They are headed by directors-general and consist of civil servants, specialised in their respective fields. These Directorates-General propose legislation to their Commissioner, which may then take this proposal to the College of Commissioners. Thereafter, the College deliberates – usually by consensus, but they may take a vote at the

request of a Commissioner –, which may result in proposing legislation to the European Parliament

The European Council The European Council consists of all 28 Member States’ Heads of State and the President of the European Commission. The presidency used to rotate between Member States every six months, but this changed after the Treaty of Lisbon came into force on 1 December 2009. The European Council now appoints a full-time president for a period of 2.5 years by vote. A double majority is needed for both the appointment and removal of a President. The European Council defines the direction and the priorities of the EU. Its decisions are binding and heavily influence future policy-making, but it’s important to note that the European Council does not exercise legislative functions. The European Council meets 4 times a year, but may hold a special meeting if the President deems this necessary, often in times of crisis. Moreover, nominates the President of the EC, appoints the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and appoints President of the European Central Bank.

European Court of Justice (ECJ) The European Court of Justice ensures that EU law is interpreted and applied in the same way in every Member State, and outranks any Member States’ supreme court. The ECJ consists of 28 judges, one per Member State, and 9 Advocates-General, who publicly deliver impartial legal opinions on each case. All judges and Advocates-General are nominated by their respective national governments and hold their position for six years. The European Court of Justice’s ruling is binding and it hears cases all-year round, with usually only a handful of judges present at each case, as it has to be an exceptional case for all judges to be present. The ECJ usually deals with cases such as the failure of a Member State to fulfil treaty obligations, cases that a national supreme court could not handle. Furthermore, the ECJ reviews laws that EU bodies have passed.

Council of Ministers (CoMin) The Council of Ministers, also known as the Council of the European Union and the EU Council, is where Member States’ ministers meet to discuss laws and policies within their field. The Council of Ministers does not consist of a fixed number of members, as each Member State sends the minister responsible for one of the nine distinct councils, (e.g. home affairs, external relations, transportation, etc.) being discussed. Together with the European Parliament they may vote in favour or against adopting laws, with the EC

Changes, publication of the 20th National Selection Conferences of EYP-Europolis Belgium


needing both a majority in the EP and CoMin to have their laws adopted. The presidency of the Council of Ministers rotates over six month periods between Member States. For example, if Belgium holds the presidency of the CoMin, Belgium’s minister on transportation must chair the transportation Council meeting.

Council of Europe (CoE) First and foremost, the Council of Europe is not the same as the European Council or the Council of the European Union, although the names all seem very alike. The Council of Europe is the continent’s leading human rights organisation and although the Council of Europe is not an EU institution, it does affect all of its Member States. The Council of Europe consists of all European countries, except Kazakhstan, Belarus and Vatican City. Its 47 Member States have all signed the European Convention on Human Rights, which is based on the protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Consequently, the death penalty cannot be adopted in Member States of the Council and Member States troubled with corruption, troubled by terrorism or inadequate legal systems get lots of help from the Council of Europe to overcome this. Furthermore, the Council of Europe promotes human rights by running campaigns on matters such as child protection, online hate speech and the rights of the Roma. They

Issue 1

hold international conventions addressing similar matters as well. Individuals can also bring cases to the Strasbourg Court if they feel their human rights been infringed by a legislative institution in their respective Member State.

European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) The European Court of Human Rights oversees the implementation and enforcement of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which was composed by the Council of Europe. The Convention obligates Member States that have signed the agreement to guarantee various civil and political freedoms, such as freedom of expression, religion and the right to a fair trial. The ECtHR, once again, is not an EU institution, but does affect its Member States.

7


Money, Money, Money

Changes, publication of the 20th National Selection Conferences of EYP-Europolis Belgium


The ECB plays a key role in controlling the European economy. Its main goal is to maintain price stability and to keep inflation under 2%. When people talk about the Euro-crisis they often forget that there is a crucial difference between the Eurozone and the European Union. Whereas the European Union consists of 28 countries, the Eurozone includes all those member states of the European Union that have adopted the Euro as their currency. With Latvia having joined the group on 1 January 2014, there are at the moment 18 members of the Eurozone, which are Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. By using the same currency, Eurozone countries are forced to cooperate a lot closer than the other Member States of the EU, especially with regards to their economic and fiscal policies. In order to enable this cooperation, the member states have created the so-called ‘Eurogroup’, which is a working group that consists of all finance ministers within the euro-area who meet monthly and coordinate their common policies and discuss which steps have to be taken to guarantee financial stability in the euro-area. On the next higher level, the political leaders of Eurozone member states meet at so-called ‘Euro Summits’ where the strategic direction of the common economic and fiscal policies is determined. This is the place where all important decisions are made. There is of course also the necessity to coordinate economic and fiscal policies within the whole EU, this takes place in the Council of the European Union. There, those measures are decided upon, that aim to preserve economic stability while boosting growth and jobs in the EU. This happens in most of the cases by deepening the

Issue 1

single market. Monetary policy decisions are taken by the European Central Bank (ECB). Its main task is to maintain the euro’s purchasing power and in combination to that, price stability. The ECB considers itself on a mission on safeguarding the value of the euro. They seek the highest level of integrity, competence, efficiency and transparency One of the most important instruments of the ECB in achieving price stability is their interest policy. The ECB controls the interest rate at which banks can loan money from them. When the ECB decides to lower the interest rate, the banks will do the same to their clients, namely companies and households. Their respective investments and consumption will rise, which will stimulate the economy. The ECB will lower the interest rate when the economy is in a slump. If they raise their interest rate, the banks will raise theirs as well which will reduce spending. This will slow down the economy, which might seem like an odd thing to do. But in reality, it is not. The economy functions quite similar to an engine. An engine can have a higher or lower number of revolutions than needed, which can make it overheated. The economy works in a similar way. For the past couple of years, the ECB has been almost continuously lowering the interest rate. There have many discussions on how to improve the European economic situation. One of the most controversial instruments to achieve this would be Eurobonds. A problem for some European countries - mainly the ones in crisis: Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain. In which the case has been that their status on the financial markets has resulted in financial incredibility. This has lead

to very high interest rates, especially compared to certain northern countries such as Germany or Finland, who are regarded as safe havens. This difference of interest rate increases the macroeconomic imbalances within the Eurozone, which threaten the existence of our common currency. Eurobonds could solve this problem. Eurobonds would replace the current 28 government bonds of the Member States. A government bond is a loan, which the government issues so it can fund its investments. Companies and households can subscribe to this loan in exchange for a fixed interest. The Eurobond would be one big European bond, which would be the average of all the Member States’ interest rates. This would reduce the macroeconomic gap, which has been threatening the Eurozone for four years now.

Text: Olivier Lanoo & Felicitas Strauch Picture: Waltter Suominen

9


Caught Red-handed

Have you ever wondered what a conversation on mass surveillance programmes between the Belgian Prime Minister, Elio Di Rupo , and HM, The King of the Belgians Phellipe would sound like? Storm Gibbons gives us some clues “You better watch what you say on the phone, Phillipe”, said Elio rather sternly after having spoken far more casually to his majesty beforehand, ”The NSA have been at it again.” Philippe answered shakily, “What are you talking about, Elio?! Am I in danger?” Elio rested him assure, “Of course not, Philippe! Didn’t you hear about the Americans tapping Merkel’s phone?! They’ve been doing similar things for a while now and have been gathering loads of information on everyone and everything. Their spying on foreign politicians and citizens has been all over the news. Philippe breathed a sigh of relief. “Well, good thing I am neither an American citizen nor a foreign threat… I’ve got nothing to hide!” Elio, was perplexed by the naivety of the newly crowned king and, from this point on, knew that he would have a lot more explaining to do. “Philippe, although you may have nothing to

hide, there are always things which can be used against you”. He had a quick look around and whispered, “I’m sure your wife wouldn’t want to see the texts you have been sending to the maid… You wouldn’t want your country to find out about that now would you?” Philippe’s expression suddenly changed and he cried out, “By the beard of Zeus! How do you know that?!”. “O come on, Philippe”, answered Elio smirking subtly. “We can trace most information from electronic devices. Not only the content, but also where it was sent from, at what time and who received the information. We call it ‘metadata’. Actually, this metadata is often just as useful as the content, as it helps us draw very specific profiles of people or organisations. But, don’t worry. We wiped the information off your telephone straight away as a safety measure. You’re welcome.” Philippe, however, had no intention of thanking Elio. “You’re giving me the impression that we’re just as bad

as the NSA”, Philippe said, “Don’t tell me we are spying on our citizens as well?” Philippe took one look at Elio and immediately knew the answer to his question. Phillipe was furious. Elio, well aware of this, spoke before Philippe could start his seemingly inevitable preach “You must realise that secret services are there to ensure nations’ security, and continuously seek, find and track any suspicious behaviour. Many organisations, companies and individuals are well aware of how our primary targeting mechanisms work and have become increasingly capable of bypassing these, by for example speaking in secret codes or by not writing ‘bomb’, ‘Al Qaida’ or ‘I’m a suicide bomber’ in traceable conversations. Therefore, we cannot seek suspicious behaviour in metadata of suspects alone. Tracking the metadata of regular citizens as well can lead to us finding many new suspects, whose activities would have slipped under the radar. Philippe remained unconvinced

Changes, publication of the 20th National Selection Conferences of EYP-Europolis Belgium


“We can trace most information from electronic devices. Not only the content, but also where it was sent from, at what time and who received the information” and responded passionately, “Citizens have a right to privacy and that right is being violated on a mass scale, because an incredibly small group may have slipped under the radar. Instead of focusing on improving existing legitimate systems to make sure that this happens no longer, governments are showing a clear lack of respect to both its citizens and its nations’ democratic principles.” Elio chuckled,” If our citizens really cared about their privacy, they would have researched online privacy and secured their information more actively. Yet, counter surveillance movements are incredibly strong. There are strong crypto systems out there that can be relied on and even secret services have great trouble with cracking, such as services that combine Tor and PGP. However, the endpoint security many people use and believe to be safe is relatively easy for secret services to breach.

Issue 1

“We cannot seek suspicious behaviour in metadata of suspects alone.” Philippe chuckled and said, “Elio, you are such a politician”, after which he became more serious, “Why would citizens have to actively secure privacy, when they know of no danger to it? Many citizens are obviously unaware that governments are violating the right to privacy of their nations’ citizens’, because, well, its secret services operate secretly... For all we know, EU Member States national governments are harvesting communications on each other’s citizens, storing these for an indefinite period of time. It seems national priority of security over privacy has lead to international insecurity!

Text: Storm Gibbons Picture: Waltter Suominen

11


You Are a Racist Too. “Racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and, hopefully, we shall overcome.” – Rosa Sparks.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.” Everyone knows these lines. It might seem odd, but his children still live in a nation and in a world were people are judged by their race, belief or sexuality. However, racism, rather than an individual fault, can also be something natural for us. It can be argued that racism is a normal survival mechanism for the human nature. Competing with people different from us used to be normal in the past. People used to group in clans to collect food and protect themselves from other tribes. This may sound like a long time ago. But even today, people still compete with people different from us, no longer in tribes though. Ever heard anyone say “those immigrants steal our jobs”? Well, that is basically the same competition, a more sophisticated fight for food. Nowadays, especially in Eu-

rope and the US, racism does not have the extremely violent form it had in Europe in the 40s or the US until the 60s. However, far right parties have created a long tradition in promoting racist rhetoric. The Vlaams Beland (Flemish Interest) for instance is a Belgian party that has often been accused of racism. That’s why the party was also forced to change its name in 2004 after allegations of racism. This party, other nationalistic and far right parties alike, is to me like a group of bullies, obsessed with power and believing that some people should rule over others.. Some researchers indicate that the very fact of having power makes people feel good about themselves. And this party has a history of bullying , going back to the 80’s. They believe that immigrants should be deported and go further by comparing them to flies. In their last campaign they were handing out whisks to ’kill the flies’. The party just spreads hatred and discrimination and use their best weapon: hate.

But by now we should know that, no matter what you look like, believe in or what language you speak, we are all equal. And that is one of our fundamental rights here in Europe, at least in theory.

“However, racism, rather than an individual fault, can also be something natural for us.” The Golden Dawn party in Greece is another example of far right parties, which also changed its name to National Dawn Party recently (just like the Belgian party in 2004) because they were banned from the elections after a stabbing in September, for which members of this party were held responsible. A left-winged rapper got killed and the Greek parliament stopped the grants for the Golden Dawn. But

Changes, publication of the 20th National Selection Conferences of EYP-Europolis Belgium


this was just one out of many cases. Golden Dawn members have been known to bar immigrants from churches and kick immigrant children out of playgrounds. The party now, has 7% of the votes and is the fifth largest party in Greece. And this only because immigrants ‘cause’ their problems and that’s why they want to ‘pure’ society. Last, but not least, Racism is proven to be something taught. Jane Elliot, a former schoolteacher, proved this by doing the brown eyesblue eyes experiment. She told the children in her group who had brown eyes were better than blue eyes because brown eyes were supposed to be more intelligent than the ones with blue eyes. The ‘superior’ children became arrogant and bossy towards their ‘inferior’

Issue 1

classmates. Also the grades of the superior group improved and the others became timid and tasks they could easily have done before became suddenly insolvable. What Elliot did was simply teaching her children what racism is. Later on, Elliot did this experiment with around many students over twenty years in America. Latest test showed that all of those students are significantly less racist then other people their age. Elliot used a stupid example, but made her point loud and clear; racism based on something is silly. The main point of this article is that racism might indeed be something natural for our human nature nonetheless it lives within us, it does not justify its manifestation. I also have a dream; that one day people

will realise they are no longer part of a clan, that they left the tribes thousands of years ago and that in modern ages and civilised societies, as we like to call ourselves, all people should be equal and that we cause our own problems.

“Racism might indeed be something natural for our human nature nonetheless it lives within us, it does not justify its manifestation”

Text: Nele Van der Aerschot

13


Paternal Leave or Stay? Today, most of the families in Europe have to cope with the increasing conflict between their family and work life. The participation of female workers in the labour market has undergone seismic shifts in the last 50 years. This is due to a range of improvements that made the labour market more attractive for all the different social groups. Nevertheless, the year of 2014 has been declared as the year of “Reconciling Work and Family Life”, which indicates that there is still much left to do. Women, as well as men in some cases, currently accommodate family life by working reduced hours or through paid absences from the workplace. The latter is called a paid parental leave and is a government-funded entitlement paid to selected working mothers/ fathers and adoptive parents as soon as they take parental leave from their job to take care of their new-born or adopted child. At the moment, the period of paid parental leave varies greatly among Member States. The mothers mostly receive between 14 and 22 weeks, and new fathers between a few days up to three months. As a result, women have both lower attachment to formal labour force and therefore, when employed, a higher tendency to have part-time jobs. Recent survey evidence found that around 80 per cent of professional women felt that they would need to downsize their career ambitions in order to be able to start a family. The question now arises if paid paternal leave has the potential to improve the current situation. A major attained goal of paid parental leave arrangements is to improve mothers’ labour market prospects. It does not matter whether enhancing greater lifetime labour participation and full-time jobs, increasing wages, or improving the quality of their jobs achieves this.

While the focus of discussion on the issue of single parents in the labour market mainly concerns women, parental leave arrangements may equally affect the experiences of fathers. This is due to the fact that they can qualify for and take parental leave as well. Even if they do not profit from it, their labour market behaviour may be influenced by the consequences of paid parental leave on family income or the participation of their partners in the labour market.

“Around 80 per cent of professional women felt that they would need to downsize their career ambitions in order to be able to start a family.” Impact on labour market extends beyond parents too. An example would be that paid leave might affect all wage rates of employees, and prompt discrimination against women of reproductive age, regardless of their actual fertility intentions, because employers might fear the possibility of them wanting to have children in the future. Why should it be viewed as a solution to this problem then?

Changes, publication of the 20th National Selection Conferences of EYP-Europolis Belgium


Research has shown that paid parental leave is more likely to keep people in the labour force over a longer time. Paid parental leave schemes may increase the possibility that women remain with their current employer, avoiding the costs and troubles of looking for a new job and allowing the employee to gain a wage premium for skills specific to their original employer. For women who receive only partial pay or no pay the financial hardship is set; they will have to dip into savings or put off paying bills, while some even have to go on public assistance to get through. In times when gender roles are losing their significance, a vast majority of men have also expressed the need to spend more time with their children and split parenting evenly with their partner. If fathers were to take more off work after the birth of their children, their children will benefit. Fathers who take two or more weeks off after the birth of their child are more likely to be actively involved in the infants’ direct care,

Issue 1

and chances are that they will be much more committed and competent in their children’s lives. There is yet little evidence on both advantages and disadvantages of paid paternal leave to be found, but so far, benefits outweigh risks for both men and women. The fact that paid parental leave varies greatly in length and conditions among Member States suggests that it is still a long way to go. However, a reasonable judgment suggests that a paid paternal leave scheme of about 18 weeks would promote lifetime labour force engagement, while decreasing actual work undertaken in the period right after childbirth.

Text: Lorenzo Leuenberger

15


Populism or Direct Democracy? With a million votes in twelve months, the European Citizen’s Initiative appears to be rather demanding as a policy-making tool for ordinary citizens. Here is a look into the attributes of the ECI and its feasibility. In 2009, the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) was introduced by the Lisbon Treaty as a new way of directly involving citizens in European decision-making. By granting the people a chance to shape the European debate and the development of its legislation, the European Union has moved into an unpredictable arena of participatory democracy. Is the ECI truly beneficial for the EU and its citizens or could it become a channel for populist causes? A successful ECI has to have one million votes from EU citizens within 12 months. The initiative does not require signatures from all 27 Member States, but it must fill a minimum number in seven different countries, for example 16,500 in Belgium and 74,250 in Germany. These campaigns must be arranged by a ‘citizens’ committee’ with at least seven members, from which each are from a different member state. Initiatives can only cover policy areas for which the Commission has power to act upon. Also, the Commission is not obligated to act in accordance to an initiative, however it must respond within 3 months of submission. Critics have warned that the ECI is unmanageable and will become a new alternative for powerful lobbies to influence EU policy-making. Pol-

itician Billy Timmins called the initiative “highly abstract and populist”. Could an ordinary citizen start up an ECI and get such a massive turnout, or are we just kidding ourselves?

“Could an ordinary citizen start up an ECI and get such a massive turnout, or are we just kidding ourselves?” As stated, the ECI needs one million votes, which requires a great effort from the citizens’ committee. Despite our similarity of living within Europe, citizens of the EU may not have the same priorities. An issue that is important in Eastern Europe may not be an issue in Western Europe or vise versa. This could make it difficult for the committee to gather enough interest in the ECI within the time limit. Gathering one million signatures within a year seems difficult enough, but consider the legal systems within the EU. They are far from being uniform. Member States’ systems differ so that one state may have an easier time gathering signatures than another. Twelve months could be

too short a time-frame for an ECI to gather enough signatures since potential signatories might simply be uninterested in the issue. Seeing that the overall turnout in the European Parliament elections has fallen steadily from 62 percent in 1962 to 43 percent in 2009, what makes one think citizens would be interested now? The ECI seems like it is here to stay. We already have elected representatives in the European Parliament who represent the interests of the people, however from the outside the ECI looks like a genuine step towards a participatory democracy, so ensuring that the ECI stays firmly in the hands of ordinary citizens and make them value the opportunity to directly influence policy-making is of vital importance.

“The ECI looks like a genuine step towards a participatory democracy”

Text: Zamzam Elmi

Changes, publication of the 20th National Selection Conferences of EYP-Europolis Belgium


With a Little Help From the Media Team‌ ‌ You will find your way through the unknown. As delegates, the world of the European Youth Parliament (EYP) can be rather impervious. That is why we would like to offer you some sort of EYP-dictionary, where we will try to explain a few aspects of EYP and who is behind this session, so that hopefully you understand our roles in the session better. The Organising Team The Organising Team lays the foundations for every EYP session. Their work starts many months before the beginning of the session, They are responsible for putting the session together, starting from food to venues and logistics. Within the Organising Team, different functions are attributed to different organisers in order to maximize efficiency. It is their duty to ensure a smooth ongoing of the session. The Organising Team plays a fundamental role in the success of the event.

The Chairs Team The Chairs serve as the primary facilitators and guides of the different committees in a session. Their work starts a few months before the session with the academic preparations. The President and the three Vice-Presidents of the session are in charge of ensuring the academic quality of the academic preparation booklet, which consists of the topic overviews, an in-depth explanation and analysis of the topics.

The Media Team The function of the Media Team is to make every session unforgettable as well as to open up the session to a broader audience. Each journalist, under the guidance of the two Editors, is responsible for one committee. They will provide a wealth of material, including written issues, pictures and videos. The outcome of the products of the Media Team can usually be found on the respective Facebook page during as well as after the session. Text: Nele Van der Aerschot

& Lorenzo Leuenberger Issue 1

17


Time to open the polls An active citizen is defined by the Oxford dictionary as a person who actively takes responsibility and initiative in areas of public concern. Although this definition leaves plenty of room for debate, exercising one’s political rights is an essential part of this. This can be done by means of voting, expressing one’s criticism on society or standing for election. This is crucial to the active citizenship of all people who actively engage in society. Many teenagers take part in the labour market and thus pay taxes as well, still they often are hardly involved in the decision-making process. Every child in Europe holds the right to education, which is usually organised by the government. It seems like the rational thing to do is to engage them in ongoing educational reforms but this is a rarity. So hasn’t the time come to grant youngster more political rights. Scientia Potentia Est

The Austrian Experiment

I met up with three of my classmates in a local coffee house during our lunch break. I wanted to ask them about their views on teenagers and politics. I had chosen them because of their lack of interest in politics and was interested in what they had to say. So I lured them into a coffeehouse, promising them candy- I realise that sounds a bit strange- to interview them. But as it turned out, it wasn’t a great investment of either my time or candy. Their lack of political interest –and knowledge for that matter- held them back from forming an opinion on the subject. This made me realise that education holds a vital key in involving young people in politics.

Austria lowered its voting age in 2007 from 18 to 16. Using Austrian survey data provides us a unique and substantiated view on the effect of a measure like this in a Western country. The key questions about this survey data are whether the turnout of 16 and 17 years old differs from the turnout of young adults and whether they vote in a different way. By this I mean whether they go to the polls less informed or less motivated than others. Researchers found that turnout amongst 16 and 17 year old was lower than amongst 18 to 21 year old, but this can’t be reduced to a lacking ability or insufficient motivation. The political interest of both groups is the same, the knowledge of the older group is slightly higher. A possible explanation for the lower turnout could be that the threshold for teenagers to the ballot-boxes is higher. The Austrian statistics for education and demographics show that the Austrian teenager is quite average compared to other European teenagers. This suggests that it is possible to generalise from the Austrian experiment. Critics of lowering the voting age often use the maturity of teenagers as an argument. “They are not mature enough”, “What do they know about the world?” And “They’re too naïve” are frequently used phrases to justify that argument. But would you not rather be naïve than cynical? I would. Those who believe that young people with a fresh view on current affairs shouldn’t be granted the right to vote because merely they’re “naïve”, are cynical.

Belgian versus European In Belgium there is compulsory poll attendance, meaning that you’re obliged to go to the polls. For young people, there might be a risk of being too influenced by their environment in their voting behaviour. This is a risk that exists for all ages of course but when you’re young, you’re more susceptible to this. Especially parents often tend to influence their children- consciously or not. Therefore, as a Belgian, I don’t think compulsory poll attendance and lowering the voting age are compatible. The Brazilians have come up with a solution for this, they give 16 years old the opportunity to vote and when they turn 18, it becomes mandatory. As a European however, I can only praise the Austrians and Maltese for lowering the voting age. They realised that if young people are burdened with so many responsibilities, it’s only fair to grant them the same rights as adults.

“Education holds a vital key in involving young people in politics.” Text: Olivier Lanoo

Changes, publication of the 20th National Selection Conferences of EYP-Europolis Belgium


YES NO YES NO NO YES YES NO VOTE NO YES YES NO YES YES NO NO

Issue 1

19


Compulsory voting – a good idea? Why does turnout matter? That is the basic question one has to deal with when discussing compulsory voting. Is it important enough to justify interfering into the private sphere of the citizens by forcing them to vote? The European Union is a large project, one that was founded to guarantee peace and economic benefits in Europe. But nowadays, the mission of the EU is by no means limited to keeping and promoting peace in Europe. It claims to be one of the world’s most important democratic unity, it honours human rights and values.. If countries wish to be part of this union they need to fulfil strict criteria, these are called the Copenhagen-Criteria. It is said, that if the EU would apply for membership, it would not be accepted because there is a significant deficit concerning the implementation of the Copenhagen-Criteria, especially with regards to democracy. These high demands that the Union sets towards aspiring countries need to be fulfilled by it in the first place, if the EU does not want to lose its credibility. Only 43% of all EU-citizens voted in the last elections for the European Parliament. Can it be considered mainly as the EU’s fault that this results in a lacking of democratic legitimation? Another question that needs to be asked is to what extent should

the opinion of those who are not interested, those who do not vote be considered. Citizens and politicians are divided in regards to this question: some emphasise that respecting personal freedoms and the private sphere of the citizens is what counts the most, whereas others claim that compulsory voting will serve the democracy and improve the functioning of the EU.

“There is a significant deficit concerning the implementation of the Copenhagen-Criteria, especially with regards to democracy.” The first group claims that forcing people to vote infringes their personal freedoms and that it is against the concept of liberalism. They state that if people are forced to give their opinion, that would no longer be a pure opinion. In these circumstances, many could turn the frustra-

tion caused by the compulsory voting into an act of rebellion by voting in favour of democracy-hostile parties. Others go further by arguing that those not interested do not deserve their interests to be considered, that there should not be any effort made to involve them. However, the source of this indifference is often the lack of information and knowledge on the functioning of the EU, which can be too complicated to grasp for European voters. In many cases, the citizens neither understand the electoral process, nor the functioning of the European institutions or the work of the EU as a whole. Making citizens vote without understanding what is being voted on. How could that ever guarantee democratic legitimation? Those favouring democratic legitimation of the EU argue that if one does not make citizens aware of the Union’s issues, they never will. They do admit that the best alternative would be if people started voting and being interested in the EU based on their own initiative. But since that seems not likely to happen, that in contrast participation in

Changes, publication of the 20th National Selection Conferences of EYP-Europolis Belgium


European elections is dropping from year to year, then we have to do something about it.. If we once break the apathy of the European citizens, they could start seeing a sense in engaging themselves, which could devalue compulsory voting at some point in the future The whole system of the European Union does not work if it is not legitimated and only a strong turnout will serve as an appropriate legitimation. If people do not

Issue 1

go voting out of their own motivation, we need to help them find their motivation. By making them vote, they would have to deal with the topics and policies.

Text: Felicitas Strauch Picture: Michael Fleshman

21


Sex in a Box The oldest of works of literature, the epic of Gilgamesh, begins with a prostitute. Enkidu, a human who grew up in the wilderness, becomes civilised after seven days with her. Prostitution is often dubbed the oldest of trades; it will doubtfully disappear anytime soon. Prostitution bothers many people, for many different reasons – the way it portrays sex, the way it portrays women, its relation to human trafficking, to name a few. However, most of these can be separated from prostitution itself. This article explores the different aspects of prostitution, and how legalisation will affect them.

“What’s the most surprising place you’ve had sex?” “A shed” The sheds set up in Zurich, more commonly referred to as “sex boxes”, are indeed surprising. They have an alarm button, emergency exit, safe-sex reminders, and nearby social workers. Although prostitution is fully legalised in Switzerland, the city has made it illegal to solicit on the streets, relocating the sex trade to this compound in the suburbs. Its construction cost two million Euros to Zurich taxpayers, who approved it in a referendum. Its proponents argue that it serves the purpose of protecting the women working as prostitutes, as otherwise they often are in highly dangerous situations. However, they also speculate that the popular support comes rather from wanting to keep the thriving sex trade out of sight, from where it was in the centre of town. This example brings up the many aspects of prostitution, the different interwoven strands mak-

ing it a “problem”. What bothers some is the practice of prostitution itself, of women “selling their bodies”. And yet again, is selling one’s body for sex wrong? Is using one’s body for profit, more broadly, wrong? Or is sex special, because it is an act of intimacy, in which bodily integrity can so easily be violated? For others, moving these women to the outskirts of a city, where men can drive by and pick the one they desire from the strip of sidewalk where they are positioned, is an unacceptable objectification. The underlying concern is one of gender equality, and in particular the disproportionate objectification of women versus men. Wouldn’t legalising prostitution legitimise this objectification, set down in law that women are sexual objects? Moving prostitutes out of the centre of town has another effect as well. Although it is legalised, it does not mean that it is socially accepted. Prostitutes still are marginalised and cannot operate freely; they are restricted within particular bounds. Are these bounds

protecting or constricting them? Legalisation can be highly hypocritical, when it reflects the desire for the state to reap high taxes rather than real social acceptance. What is most worrying about these sheds is not that they exist, but that they have attributes that are absent everywhere else: the multiple and apparent measures to protect the sex workers themselves. This is especially alarming because such a high number of sex workers have not voluntarily chosen that profession, but are victims of human trafficking. People object most often not to prostitution itself, but to people being forced into prostitution. This is the most concerning problem, but also the hardest to address, as it relates to a much bigger problem: organised crime. This is why prostitutes should be protected, no matter what the attitude towards sex or gender equality is. If one is already forced against one’s will to perform sexual acts, and is already under the complete coercion of pimps, then one should not also be afraid of state prosecution.

Changes, publication of the 20th National Selection Conferences of EYP-Europolis Belgium


“What bothers some is the practice of prostitution itself, of women “selling their bodies”. And yet again, is selling one’s body for sex wrong” Although fully legalised prostitution allows to regulate the industry and protect its workers, it is not a solution without any drawbacks. Some argue that it increases the size of the sex industry, which regrettably provides an attractive outlet for human trafficking. Some legalisation is excessive: the

Issue 1

fees are so high in Amsterdam that some prostitutes prefer the illegal route where they can earn more. Although the Nordic model of criminalising the client is promising, having decreased the amount of prostitution while protecting the workers, it is unsatisfactory because it creates an incentive to push it back underground, to illegal circles where prostitutes are unlikely to get protection. There are multiple negative aspects of prostitution, and making it illegal will probably not have a significant impact on any of them. Resources would be better spent on increasing gender equality, decreasing the objectification of women in the media and advertising, changing attitudes so prostitutes aren’t stigmatised, and breaking networks of organised

crime. Let people have sex, and pay for it if they wish, but only if whom they pay has chosen to earn their life that way.

“What’s the most surprising place you’ve had sex?” “A shed”

Text: Rebecca Smith Picture: Annmarie Kiiskinen

23


On Dark Waters The boat of the Greek presidency of the council of the EU capsized too soon. Only a few days after Greece took over the presidency of the EU, a tragic incident occurred: On January 20th, 12 people died in an attempt to reach the Greek shore. They were illegal immigrants attempting to reach the promised land, Europe. Eight of them were children under 12 years old. Amongst the sixteen survivors there was only one woman and an infant. A father lost his four children and his wife in the Aegean Sea. They all were refugees from Syria and Afghanistan and the first witnesses claimed that their vessel’s machine broke down, they were shouting for help but all the coastguard did, was towing them back to Turkey’s territorial waters. Even after the ship wrecked, the coastguards refused to offer help

and didn’t allow them to climb on their boat. The Greek government claims that the testimonials were changed afterwards, and that the “push-back” trial never happened. Yet again, this is a government whose shipping minister stated that the Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muinieks and the Greek opposition are trying to “create a political issue out of the tragedy” and that the incident has been treated as an object of “silly exploitation”. “Nobody wants us to open the doors for the immigrants”, he said. A similar tragedy happened in Lampedusa, Italy last October, the only difference between the two cases being the regretful attitude of the Italian authorities. It is estimated that over the last

two decades more than 20.000 people drowned or went missing in an effort to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Africa or Asia towards Europe. Many European politicians claim that immigrants constitute a problem for local authorities. However, if governments truly wish to solve this problem, they should start by tackling its underlying causes. Why are there any illegal immigrants in the first place? Partially the reasons could be related to the fact that people want to live decent and safe lives and this is rather difficult in war regions and in areas where poverty, lack of freedom, violation of human rights and natural disasters, often caused by foreign “investment” companies, con-

Changes, publication of the 20th National Selection Conferences of EYP-Europolis Belgium


“However, if governments truly wish to solve this problem, they should start by tackling its underlying causes.” stitute the everyday life. Europe is to some extent responsible for the situation. They offer substantial support in countries where imbalances are extreme, but on the contrary, quite often take advantage of the existing circumstances for their own benefit. Europe’s prosperity is not strictly based upon its own strengths. Being one of the most privileged areas in the world, Europe takes much from problematic regions and gives very little. Consequently, it does not show adequate determination to tackle the problem. Despite the highly problematic situation, European governments mainly focus on building electric fences and strengthening the guard of borders. This is neither a long-term solution to the problem, nor

Issue 1

a legitimate or moral method. It should be the right of the individual to immigrate in areas where one can live safely and earn a living. This is a political obligation: offering asylum to the ones in need. However, the procedures of granting asylums are long, complicated and vary across the EU. That is why many immigrants are forced to cross the borders illegally, while often risking their lives. Europe should consider in a more considerate way the severe pressure that the countries in the external borders of the EU, especially in the Mediterranean region, endure. Solidarity is meant to be a true value for the EU. Too bad they pass legislation opposing the very fundamental ideals of the Union, such as the Dublin

II regulation, which forbids the promotion of illegal immigrants to other European countries. This has resulted to their concentration in reception countries, usually cited in the edges of Europe, the “gates” of illegal immigration.

Text: Myrto Apostolidou Picture: Konstantin Leonov

25


Federalism & Non-Federalism in the European Union You have probably heard of federalist or anti-federalist movements. This article will attempt to explain what each means, which principles they are based upon, how they are expressed in institutional structure, and the directions in which they wish to push the EU. So that when someone stands up in General Assembly and denounces a federalist conspiracy, you’ll know what they mean. A federation is a country consisting of a group of individual states that have control over their own affairs but are controlled by a central government for national decisions

It has two distinctive traits: - Vertical separation of power - Integration of different states while preserving a certain degree of autonomy

Philosophical underpinnings The difference between federalists and non-federalists can be boiled down to the interpretation of sovereignty, and value given to it:

Federalism

Non-Federalism

Member States have to forgo part of their sovereignty and pass it on to the EU

Member States maintain their sovereignty, they value self-determination

Federalism and Democracy

Federalism and non-federalism attempts to make the EU more democratic in opposite ways:

The key issue regarding democracy at the EU level is that European politicians do not have sufficient power compared to national politicians, for giving direct commands legitimately and effectively. There are relatively few professional European-level politicians – eurocrats – and they dispose of far less resources than the rulers of member states. They devote most of their efforts to giving commands to these national rules who remain directly responsible for actual governance.

Federalism

There is a need for transnational politicians who can represent transnational interests. A European fedNon- Federalism eration is necessary for parliamentary democracy to The EU’s democratic deficit is democratically justiflourish in the EU. fied, in order to preserve national sovereignty and thus democracy at a national level. National interests are more important than transnational interests. Changes, publication of the 20th National Selection Conferences of EYP-Europolis Belgium


Current Legal state of the EU It is somewhat federalist ...

- EU treaties allocate jurisdiction to its two levels of government, the national governments and the central administration - In case of jurisdictional overlap authority is shared, while community law is superior to the national law. - Legislation passes based on the principle of majority while the opinion of the minorities is not only heard, but also protected. - The European Court of Justice adjudicates conflicts between the European institutions and the Member States. - The EU holds a directly elected and proportional parliament.

... not really Text: Myrto Apostolidou & Rebecca Smith

- The member states preserve the exclusive right to amend the constitutive treaties of the Union, while a treaty can be enforced if and only if every single member state agrees on it - There is no fiscal federalism, with the EU estranged from the competence to directly acquire revenue from the taxation of citizens and directly distribute funds to citizens and institutions

-> The EU constitutes a Sui generis (of its own kind), a phenomenal supranational organization, making its first appearance in history.

Current allegiances

Federalists Tendencies

Non-Federalists Tendencies

Belgium, Germany. European Federalist Party

Czech Republic, United Kingdom. European Conservatives and Reformist Group

Thoughts on an (unlikely) federal future History tends to prove wrong most predictions, even the most meticulously prepared. We can’t really know what the future of the EU will be like. All we can do is create a hypothesis with a logical framework based on data.

Federal Europe The EU will be the greatest superpower. It will be run by one president elected directly by the European citizens. The parliament would be constituted of one chamber representing the citizens and another chamber representing the states

Issue 1

Non-Federal Europe There will be competition among states, each other them attempting to exploit the others. National states are free to determine their own fate with the conservation of their national sovereignty and under the influence of their national identity, but then they are more vulnerable in the large scale globalised world.

27



Changes - Issue One