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Europe and the World
The European Union has established a number of institutions, including the Office of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, that allow it to speak with a unified voice in important international institutions such as the United Nations or the G8 summits. Combining the strength of some of the world’s leading economic powerhouses with the unparalleled access to developed markets in the EU and EEA states, it is widely regarded as one of the world’s superpowers.
However, to what extent is it possible for Europe to have a shared opinion on international affairs? The 27 members have been divided on questions such as the war on Iraq, the status of Kosovo or the Palestinian bid for UN membership. In light of the recent consensus on the military intervention of Libya, the question is whether Europe’s nation-states have a uniform set of international policy goals and pursue them together rather than separately.
Also, the previous century saw a superpower rise not only on the strength of its economy but also the might of its military forces. Students will examine whether or not Europe should pursue to project hard power in order to solidify its place in the new multipolar world order.
From the Debatabase
- THBT the EU should lift its ban on member states selling arms to China
- THW grant the EU a permanent seat on the UN Security Council
- THW abolish the single European currency
- THW abolish agricultural subsidies
- TH favours a common EU foreign policy
- THBT the EU should offer a closer partnership with Mediterranean countries
- THB European NATO member governments should significantly reduce their armed forces
- THW make the European Parliament the sovereign law-making body of Eurozone states
Society and Culture
One of the main objectives of the European integration process is the creation of a European identity. To which extent has Europe succeeded to overcome its turbulent past and reach the point where commonalities across borders overcome national differences?
The question though is whether or not Europe should even strive to achieve that common cultural identity. Groups, either national or regional, fear that the European project threatens their traditional way of life, their values and their ability to continue as a distinct group.
On the other side, there are many who argue that those values come in conflict with the social progress that European nations have achieved in the past century, or that those differences are what lead to conflict and bloodshed.
The two may coincide; Scotland is moving towards independence on the basis of its differences with England, Wales and Northern Ireland – but European integration is at the heart of the pro-independence movement.
Debate@Europe participants will examine the ability of Europe to build that common identity and whether we should strive for it in the first place.
From the Debatabase
- THW dissolve the Schengen Agreement
- THB Europe still needs a constitution
- THBT Federal States are better than unitary nations
- THW hold a referendum on any new EU treaty
- THBT nationalism can be a force for good
- THBT Britain should join the Euro currency
- THBT the EU should adopt a single working language through which to operate
- THW make lessons in a foreign language compulsory for school pupils
The Arab Spring saw thousands of people abandon their homes and try to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach the European Union to avoid the violent conflict in their areas. The Italian island of Lambadeusa was at the centre of this flight, with iconic images of the local community helping refugees in makeshift camps being broadcast around the world.
However, there was intense political debate about whether or not these people had a right to come to Europe in the first place. Other states pressure the ones on Europe’s external borders, such as Italy, Spain and Greece, to tighten their controls on illegal immigration. The Evros river, the easternmost land border of the European Union, sits now next to a security fence designed to keep immigrants out.
Europe has a long and proud tradition of multiculturalism that is now facing increased opposition, not only from far-right fringe groups but also from leading politicians who call for a review of the way their states guard their borders. The question is whether Europe can continue being welcome to migrants and still achieve the social cohesion necessary for its continued prosperity, or if it should further close its borders to those that seek to be part of it.
From the Debatabase
- THW grant illegal immigrants an amnesty
- THBT nations of the world should increase protection of the economic and social rights of migrants
- THBT all states should immediately ratify the UN Convention on the right of migrant workers and their families
- THW repatriate all illegal immigrants
- THBT citizenship should be offered to all children born in the country
Solidarity in Europe
The financial crisis has made the widening economic gap between the rich and the poor within individual European societies and across the European Union as visible as ever. The policy responses include austerity measures that try and limit government spending, but also minimize the amount of support that the less well-off communities can receive.
Also, in a number of places there are social groups that are rejected by the majority, evident through the expulsion of Roma communities from France or the increase in xenophobic attacks on minorities across the EU. The crisis has given far-right populists the opportunity to blame the financial misgivings of their states on the presence of immigrants, gaining seats in parliament and, more worryingly, government cabinet seats.
Should Europe aim to achieve a uniform standard of living across its member states to ameliorate those differences across EU countries, or should it try and limit government spending across the board, aiming for a long-term economic recovery with consequences for those in need today? How can Europe counter the populist arguments and help minorities in Europe be accepted by the majorities in their societies? Students will examine these questions and work with their peers from other countries to find the answers.
From the Debatabase
- THW embrace multiculturalism
- THBT self-determination of peoples is a human right
- THW introduce a Tobin tax
- THBT European governments should impose austerity to eliminate their deficits
- THW ban religious symbols in public buildings
- THW criminalise blasphemy
- THBT religious beliefs should override government laws
- THW ban government employees from joining extremist political parties
- THW subsidise poor communities
- THBT Europe should weaken its austerity measures to guarantee its citizens greater social support.
- THW boycott Euro 2012 unless Yulia Timoshenko is released from prison
- THBT Greek far-right political party "Golden Dawn" should be expelled from parliament and banned from participating in future elections
- THBT Greece should default on its debt and return to the Drachma
‘Old’ and ‘New’ Europe
The Iron Curtain was the border of Europe up until the fall of Communism and the advent of the new republics in the East. Europe responded to this by expanding from 12 to 27 countries, a most of which are post-communist states.
There are two areas that Europe hasn’t managed to complete the expansion process however. The Western Balkans are still largely outside the EU club, with Macedonia and Serbia standing as candidates despite the name dispute with Greece and the debate on Kosovo’s legal status.
On the other hand, Turkey has been a candidate for decades without achieving any significant progress towards membership. Its bid is complicated by the fact that it is a country that would soon be the largest in Europe by population and, unlike all other member states, is predominantly Muslim.
How can Europe address the question of integrating ‘New’ Europe into its structures? Where should Europe set its borders, at a time where countries like Georgia and Armenia see the European flag as a symbol of democratization and hope? Can Turkey ever become a member of the European Union, breaking the current opposition to it on the levels of EU states and societies?
From the Debatabase
- THBT Britain should give up its EU rebate
- THBT Norway and Switzerland should apply to join the EU
- THW let Turkey join the EU
- THW hold a referendum on UK membership in the EU
- THB in a federal Europe
Themes and Subjects
Find out more about the themes and subjects that Debate@Europe participants explored, researched and debated on.