The Centre of International Relations (CIR) and the Trans European Policy Studies Association (TEPSA) organized a Round Table with the Members of the European Parliament (MEP) Tanja Fajon and Milan Brglez on the Challenges in the European Union and the Role of Youth. The event took place on 11 November 2019 from 17.30 to 19.00 at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia and was attended by 174 participants.
First, introductory remark was given by Maja Bučar, head of CIR, who moderated the discussion. She emphasized that the basic idea of the Round Table is to debate what are the key challenges for the EU currently and what is the role of youth within the ever-changing dynamics on the EU level. Tanja Fajon, argued that, during the time of her active engagement in the EU politics as member of Parliament for past 19 years, the EU has changed in terms of its unity, solidarity and cooperation. Furthermore, various crises, from the financial, fiscal, to moral crisis contributed to the rise of the far-right movements, political parties and populism. Her MEP colleague, Milan Brglez, emphasized that the EU should focus more on environmental policies and in this context, the new Green Deal should be understood as developmental breakthrough. It is important to recognise the social dimension of the new Green Deal, argued Milan Brglez. At the same time, the EP is faced with the new reality, driven by strong national interests, which hinders the effectiveness of the decision-making process on the level of the EU.
The MEPs were invited to comment on the thesis that we have shortcomings when communicating of the more complex benefits of the EU to the youth as it seems like that Erasmus scheme and visa-free travel regime are often perceived as the most tangible results of the membership. Tanja Fajon, reflected on the thesis and further elaborated that we have problems when we communicate the EU policies, as the Brussels language is sometimes too complicated. The Slovenian media often disregards the more complex EU policies, which require significant level of expertise and focus on more attractive results such as Schengen zone, Euro and Erasmus scheme. While sharing the above initial assessment of lack of proper communication of the EU policies, Milan Brglez focused more on the discrepancy between the attractive topics such as Erasmus schemes and ‘taken for granted’ achievements such as the political and judicial dimension of human rights. Before opening the floor for the discussion, Maja Bučar encouraged both MEPs to expose some examples of how the Slovenian youth could mobilize themselves in order to push the debates further in the political agenda, especially in the areas which are important for their future. If Tanja Fajon, advocated for finding the inspiration for engagement in the contemporary environmental protests and free access to the internet, Milan Brglez backed the notion of political involvement of the youth by at least participating in the national and EU elections. In later stages, they can join different pressure and interest groups.
In the open debate, the present deliberations on the EU level were further externalized by adding the foreign policy dimension. The questions on the enlargement to the Western Balkans in general and North Macedonia, Albania in particular were posed. Also, the security situation in BiH specifically were raised. The dynamic debate was further coupled by the questions on the future of sub-regional blocks within the EU, EU cohesion funds and Innovation policy, where EU is facing global competition from big powers such as China and the U.S. The participants tried to stay on the positive side by arguing that they hope that the substantive debates on the EU level will prevail over the ever-present technical debates.