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Summer 2013

Reimagining, Redesigning, Rethinking

Europe 2025 is a student initiative to reimagine, redesign and rethink Europe and the European Union. The project brings together public policy students from the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, the London School of Economics and Political Science and Sciences Po, Paris, with policy-makers from across Europe in an endeavour to infuse the debate on Europe with a fresh international perspective and bold political imagination. Collaborating in three international working groups, these students reviewed current debates and proposals for reforming Europe and reached out to hear from young Europeans about their ideas and hopes. On the occasion of the Paris Townhall organized by the Berggruen Institute on Governance, they presented three policy briefings on pressing issues facing Europe and European governance today. The following is a summary of their findings and proposals. You can find out more about the project and read the full reports at http://eu2025.wordpress.com/ or email euro pe2025@hertie-school.org.

 

WORKING GROUP 1

The Founding Narrative: Towards a new raison d’être of the European Union

Group members: Pauline Bozec (Sciences Po), Sahil Deo (Hertie School), Bob Feidt (Sciences Po), Christian Franz (Hertie School), Jakub Krupa (LSE), Pia Sophie Laube (LSE), Guillaume Lillig (Sciences Po), Max Osterheld (Hertie School), Benedict Ryan (LSE).

The following is our attempt at re-imagining the European narrative that resonates with the minds of young Europeans, based on face-to-face interviews and online polls we conducted. We attempted to find a more philosophical and value driven sense to people’s opinions than other surveys of this nature. We then devised four probable narratives, which had to compete in an online poll which was devised in order to find the one that best reflected what Europeans saw in their “ideal” EU. In total our surveys reached thousands of young Europeans in 10 languages across 35 countries.

Our Proposed Narrative: Europe. Land of Freedom. Land of Solidarity

What? | The Europe of the 20th century has risen to rebuild a peaceful continent of unprecedented prosperity. Its success has been built on two fundamental values: Freedom and Solidarity. Freedom in our own lives gives us the opportunity to pursue our dreams. Solidarity in our societies provides chances for everyone to rise up in the future. United in these values we can develop a 21st century Europe that goes beyond its current achievements and limitations.

Why? | Some people say Europeans should stop being together, or that nation states are better alone. But where is the vision of these proposals? How will Germany sustain its wealth in future with an ageing population? How will Spain recover from its employment crisis? How will Poland—or any state—voice its opinion on global negotiations on climate change? There is no national answer to these questions. The questions exceed the power of single nations. But as a united Europe we can turn today’s threats into tomorrow’s opportunities. Solidarity among Europeans can bridge this gap between present costs and future benefits and enable us to retain our freedom to live the life we want and to realize our dreams.

How? | Solidarity requires trust between people. Trust requires open dialogue and sometimes hard discussions. Therefore, we need a true European democracy to make solidarity possible and sustainable. Trust cannot be imposed but must be created through a democratic discourse and strong representatives on a European level.

Consequences: Implementing the Narrative | A narrative is only powerful if it resonates with the people. Our narrative proclaims a united Europe as a land of freedom and solidarity. We have outlined two sets of policies that could help to disseminate this narrative. The first set of policies gives examples of substantial reforms based on these values. The second set aims to foster Europe-wide values of freedom and solidarity via symbols.

Policies

1. European Unemployment Insurance: As a first (and cautious) step towards regular solidarity at a material level we propose the introduction of a European-wide payment system of basic unemployment benefits. The system will cover basic needs of people who lost their jobs for a fixed period of time and will expire after that. These benefits will only represent a minimum payment and can be increased by each country individually. However, the European funds will only cover the basic payment for a fixed period. Obviously, this system does not aim to transfer wealth from one country to another for a long period. It rather represents a stabilizing mechanism in crises and gives Europeans the chance to gain experiences with pooling their resources (Dullien & Fichtner 2012).

2. European Seed Capital Fund: Some opportunities in the future lie in pooling Europe’s resources to have more clout to transform Europe’s potential into strengths. Therefore, we propose a European-wide seed money fund that gives entrepreneurs who come to Europe the chance to realize their ideas.

3. European School Projects: Understanding different ways of European thinking is essential for a future Europe of solidarity and freedom. Therefore, we propose an obligatory year of exchange for all young school teachers. By doing so, we aim to give teachers (in their role as multipliers) broader experiences in terms of education styles and European mentalities.

Symbols

Euro Bills: The Euro as the currency of 15 member states of the European Union has become an important European symbol, especially for observers from outside of Europe. The current bills display bridges that carry a symbolic meaning but do not provoke emotion. We propose a redesign of the Euro bills adding the essence of the narrative: Europe is the land of Freedom and Solidarity; examples would be the Fall of the Berlin Wall, as well as people from the best of European history.

 

Working Group II

Redesigning Europe: Towards A New European Union

Group members: Lindsay Aqui (LSE), Mickael Deprez (Sciences Po), Carmen Hoya Quecedo (LSE), Yumeko Hyugaji (LSE), Julia Kropeit (Hertie School), Hui Ma (Sciences Po), Dennis Mwaura (Hertie School) and Felix Sanchez Broco (Sciences Po) *Academic Supervisor: Dr. Lloyd Gruber.

Proposal to Implement the Direct Election of the European
Commission President

The democratic design of the EU institutions does not allow the EU to respond quickly and effectively to what the citizens want. Our own polling indicates that 48% of EU citizens polled believe that it should be the EU’s citizens that decide on the President of the European Commission:

Having identified lack of responsiveness as the core problem facing the EU, we propose the direct election of the Commission President through compulsory voting and the strengthening the mandate of the Commission President to allow the President to better represent citizens’ voices and tackle problems more efficiently. The proposal is four-fold:

1. Candidate Nomination Procedure

Stage 1: Candidates are nominated by their own national parliaments by at least 30% of the vote to offer national parliaments a certain amount of control, and to ensure minimal capability requirements.

Stage 2: Candidates move on to primaries in the EP (6–10 in number selected by the first round, and 2 by the second round), thus appealing to the broader European constituency and mobilizing parties on the European level. The two candidates will then move on to direct suffrage by the EU citizens.

2. Election and Compulsory Voting Procedure

The elections will be run on a “one-citizen one-vote” principle after a transition period which will use weighted voting. Votes are allocated to member states in proportion to their seats in the EP. Compulsory voting will be applied as a means to inject political legitimacy, and to prevent disenfranchisement of the socially disadvantaged. It does not intrude too much into citizens’ freedom, as voters are allowed to cast a blank vote.

3. Ratification Procedure

After elections, the President-elect should be subject to confirmation by the European Council, in order to allow the national governments as represented by the European Council to have a say. The European Council as a body must certify the election, unless there is unanimous dissent, which is defined as 26 out of 27 member states voting “no” (leaving out the country of the chosen candidate). Next, if the President-elect is not ratified, Europe goes back to the first round of primaries at the EP level.

4. Selection of Commission Team

A Commission President elected by the people needs a supportive environment in which prioritized matters can proceed efficiently. It is proposed that:

• Each member state has one Commissioner

• The President has a free hand to choose 5 commissioners, including the High Representative.

• The rest of the commissioners are proposed by member states.

Feasibility and Conclusion

Based on statistics about spending in European elections, it is estimated that a reasonable cost for the presidential elections is €0.05–€10 per registered voter. As most actors (including members states and EU institutions) do not have too much to lose or can get something in return for compensation, the political resistance is not insurmountable. In terms of public opinion, through improved communication avenues to communicate political programs of the Presidential candidates, citizens can make well-informed decisions. Finally, analysis of necessary treaty changes suggests that most changes can be made within a decade. In conclusion, this proposal has the potential to tackle the issue of lack of responsiveness by making the President of the Commission able to act on the will of the citizens he/she represents and able to tackle the issues of highest priority.

 

Working Group III

Governance Innovations—Towards better Governance in Europe

Christian Freudlsperger (Sciences Po), Annika Gatzemeier (Hertie School), Thaïs Gaymard´(LSE), Dominik Golle (Hertie School), Bertrand L’Huillier (LSE), Krystel Montpetit (Sciences Po), Miriam Tardell (Sciences Po), Julia Terlinchamp (LSE).

The Seven-Pack: Young Europeans’ Proposals for Citizens’ Inclusion

The objective of our paper is to increase the legitimacy of the EU through a twofold strategy of increasing transparency and improving civic involvement by answering the question: Which governance innovations are realistically able to be implemented within a three-year time span in order to increase legitimacy in the EU?

We propose a two-fold strategy to help foster transparency and encourage civic involvement in the EU by introducing a ´seven-pack of governance innovations. Only a ´citizen-friendly information policy that enables citizens to take on a proactive role can bridge the existing information gap. The first and necessary step is to provide European citizens with intelligible and accessible information. (Part I). The second step is to design various tools to give citizens the opportunity and incentives to become more involved to bridge the current democratic deficit of the European Union (Part II).

The ´seven-pack focuses on measures able to be implemented within a three-year timeframe, offering European decision-makers a roadmap to navigate through and help resolve the civic aspects of the current crisis. The distinctive power of these policy recommendations rests on the innovative but realistic views of young Europeans, including comments from the young Europeans surveyed as part of this paper’s background research. The proposals put forth in the paper are as follows:

Part I. Improving Transparency and Information: Better Use of New Technologies

1. A Google-like site for European and National Regulations (EuroRegulation.eu): This proposal (1) Consolidates all European and national legislation, citizens’ initiatives and news on one central website. The legal jargon would be translated in layman’s terms; (2) Provides an opportunity to comment on proposed rules with deadlines and guidelines for commenting, along with a forum enabling citizens to exchange ideas, provide tips, etc.; (3) Designs a strong search engine that classifies information in terms of “How to?” This website should be the reference point to get information for any activities that require interaction with the state and/or the European Union.

2. Raising awareness about Open Government Data (OGD) initiatives in the EU: The EU should revisit and further strengthen its commitment to OGD and raise awareness for existing initiatives and portals. OGD is a tool for the public to interact with the government, to gain insight into their concerns as well as open up processes to public scrutiny. It is public sector administrative data that the government makes publicly available without any limitation to its use, re-use and redistribution by anyone. In 2009, the EU stated its commitment to make all non-sensitive data public. Despite this commitment, the feedback obtained from this paper’s surveyed citizens reveals that awareness of existing initiatives is low, while interest in OGD as a tool for increasing transparency and accountability of European policymaking is high. Therefore, an extensive public campaign to inform the public is needed so that citizens feel inclined to make use of the information provided.

Part II. Improving Civic Involvement: Wider Participation and Better Representation

3. Creating an interactive online platform for the 2014 MEP elections: An online platform would create synergies between people involved in the promotion of the EU in the 2014 elections. It is a tool that would enable anyone with Internet access to participate and get involved. For example, such a campaign could be aimed at energizing and organizing supporters geared towards citizens supporting either a federative pro-European message or a charismatic leader running for the Euro­pean Commission Presidency (cf. proposal 6).

4. Reinventing the European Citizens’ Initiative: The ECI holds the potential of improving representation in the EU by becoming more visible and establishing more direct contact between citizens and institutions. It should be reformatted in order to live up to its potential through the set-up of a user-friendly platform supporting the campaign’s efforts and collection of signatures. The external and open-source set-up of a user-friendly OCS, linked to or incorporated into our proposal of a main EU 2014 campaigning site (cf. proposal 3) is therefore necessary.

5. Establishing a Citizens Reference Panel: High abstention rates in European elections and low salience of EU issues in national politics suggest citizens are not very interested in learning about EU policies. Since many see EU policies as being formulated in Brussels, this proposal recommends a means of improving the connection between the EU and local policymaking. A Citizen Reference Panel, in which participants would be selected at random and briefed to discuss issues with the wider community in public meetings, should be established.

6. Campaigns for 2014 Commission Presidential candidates: This proposal suggests (1) That national audio-visual regulating agencies shall ensure that the frontrunners’ background and manifestos are publicly, sufficiently and equally advertised; (2) Continuing the communication efforts until the practice is formalized: the idea would be to incite MEPs to summon a convention in 2015 that would initiate the creation of a pan-European constituency electing 25 MEPs from an open transnational list.

7. Fostering dialogue between national parliaments: A bi-weekly meeting where European policymakers would be answerable to national MPs will be set up. This would primarily target commissioners, MEPs and civil servants who hold key positions in the policy fields discussed. This could act as an improved Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs with a more frequent regularity and an enhanced focus on pressing issues. There could be a rotating agenda-­setting power, with each house of each national parliament having one opportunity a year to select its topic of interest.

All these proposals stress the critical need to empower EU citizens in order to decrease the democratic deficit within the Union. They are meant to serve as incremental steps since further measures need to be taken to improve the situation in the long run. Only complementing these short-term proposals with long-term measures will ensure their sustainability and degree of implementable efficacy.