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 (MEPs) Tanja Fajon and dr. 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, the introductory remark was given by prof. dr. Maja Bučar, head of CIR, who moderated the discussion. She emphasized that the basic idea of the Round Table was to debate the key challenges for the EU at the moment and the role of youth within the ever-changing dynamics at the EU level. Tanja Fajon argued that, over the 19 years of her active engagement in the EU politics as an MEP and a foreign correspondent, the EU has changed in terms of its unity, solidarity and cooperation. Furthermore, various crises, from the financial and fiscal to the moral crisis contributed to the rise of the far-right movements, political parties and populism. Her MEP colleague, dr. Milan Brglez, emphasized that the EU should focus more on environmental policies and that, in this context, the new Green Deal should be understood as a developmental breakthrough. Dr. Brglez argued that it was important to recognise the social dimension of the new Green Deal. 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 about communication shortcomings regarding the more complex benefits of the EU to the youth as it seemed that Erasmus scheme and visa-free travel regime were often perceived as the most tangible results of the EU membership. Tanja Fajon suggested that there were problems in communicating the EU policies, as the Brussels language was sometimes too complicated. She added that the Slovenian media often disregarded the more complex EU policies, which required significant level of expertise, and rather focused on more attractive results such as Schengen zone, Euro and Erasmus scheme. While sharing the assessment regarding the lack of proper communication of the EU policies, dr. Brglez focused more on the discrepancy between the attractive topics such as Erasmus schemes and the ‘taken for granted’ achievements such as the political and judicial dimension of human rights.
Before opening the floor for the discussion, dr. Maja Bučar encouraged both MEPs to expose some examples of how the Slovenian youth could engage in- and push the debates further in the political agenda, especially in the areas which are important for their future. While Tanja Fajon advocated finding the inspiration for engagement in the contemporary environmental protests and free access to the internet, dr. Milan Brglez backed the notion of political involvement of the youth by at least participating in the national and EU elections. In the later stages, they could also join different pressure and interest groups according to the MEP.
In the open debate with event participants, the deliberations on the EU were further externalized by adding the foreign policy dimension. The questions on the enlargement to the Western Balkans in general and North Macedonia and Albania in particular were posed. Also, the question of the security situation in BiH was 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.