In the EU We (Mis)Trust: on the road to the European elections - an account of the debate

On 10 April 2014, in collaboration with De Balie, we organised a public debate about the EU and its future titled: “In the EU We (Mis)Trust: on the road to the European elections”. This debate was part of the New Pact for Europe project, that examines the challenges Europe is facing today, and the strategic choices that need to be made.

The event was live-streamed on De Balie’s website and generated considerable debate on Twitter, making #NewPactEurope trending third in the Netherlands that evening. A selection of cartoons from our Drawing Citizenship open call has also been shown on screens. Mark Snijder has written a summary of the debate which is now also available to watch on De Balie TV

Lennart Booij, George Pagoulatos and the cartoon EuroHope by Zurum in the background. ©Jan Boeve

Lennart Booij, George Pagoulatos and the cartoon EuroHope by Zurum in the background. ©Jan Boeve

Main topic of the discussion was the growing mistrust of the EU among Europeans. Many citizens perceive the EU as being too distant and too bureaucratic. As Dutch citizens prepare to cast their vote for the European Parliament on 22 May 2014, the debate could not be have been more timely. At a moment in history when mistrust among citizens goes far deeper than the economic crisis, we have discussed the future of the EU. The speakers proposed different scenarios: should we go back to the basics, undo the mistakes of the past? Dismantle the euro? Should we leap forward towards a fully-fledged political and economic Union? Or should we focus on finding new ways to involve citizens in the continent’s future? The public and panelists contributed to the discussion offering their views on immigration, EU borders, how Europe is perceived in the rest of the world and on the social and economical differences within Europe.

The programme featured two keynotes speeches:

The first one by George Pagoulatos, Professor European Politics and Economy, Athens University of Economics & Business; Member of the Governing Board, ELIAMEP, Athens, who presented the five strategic options of the New Pact for Europe,

George Pagoulatos ©Jan Boeve

George Pagoulatos ©Jan Boeve

Followed by Philippe Legrain, writer and former economic advisor to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, and Head of the Analysis team of the Bureau of European Policy Advisors (BEPA), who gave a very positive and hopeful vision on the future of Europe (read his speech)

Philippe Legrain ©Jan Boeve

Philippe Legrain ©Jan Boeve

Other panelists included:

  • Jet de Ranitz, President of the Executive Board, Amsterdam School of the Arts and Chair of Kunsten ‘92, Dutch association for arts, culture and heritage
  • Bas Eickhout, GroenLinks candidate in the European elections and Vice Group Leader of the Group of the Greens, European Parliament
  • Gerben Jan Gerbrandy, Candidate for the social liberal party D66 and Member of the European Parliament for the ALDE group
  • Dirk Gotink, CDA candidate in the European elections and Policy Officer at the European Parliament
  • Kati Piri, PvdA candidate in the European elections and Programme Manager South-Caucasus and Moldova, NIMD (Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy)
  • Eric Smaling, SP candidate in the European elections and Member of the Parliament

Ivan Krastev, chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, and permanent fellow at the IWM Institute of Human Sciences in Vienna, was scheduled to be in Amsterdam but couldn’t attend because of his involvement in the negotiations between the EU and Ukraine. He was able to join the conversation via Skype from Moscow.

The debate was moderated by Lennart Booij, co-founder of BKB, The Campaign Agency, Amsterdam.

Lennart Booij and the panelists ©Jan Boeve

Lennart Booij and the panelists ©Jan Boeve

Members of the audience were also invited to participate, which they did widely asking questions to the panelists and reacting to the debate on Twitter.

The cartoon Euro elections by Ramses Morals Izquierdo shown on screen during the debate ©Jan Boeve

The cartoon Euro elections by Ramses Morals Izquierdo shown on screen during the debate ©Jan Boeve

There was also a large interest in the topic in the Dutch and international media:

  • Interview with Ivan Krastev on European democracy and how to save the EU in NRC
  • "Former Advisor attacks European Commission over Austerity": interview with Philippe Legrain in the Financial Times
  • Towards the European elections, nine Dutch Members of the European Parliament share their insights, Bas Eickhout, among others, in Trouw.
  • Profile on Ivan Krastev and the role of social media in current democracies by Yvonne Zonderop, 
  • An article also appeared in Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool, in its section ‘Het laatste woord’, Debat in de stad, Twijfels over een gedroomde Europese lente, Saturday 12 April 2014. (print only).