#EYE2018 : Participating in the European Youth Event

Barbara Zak

On the 1st and 2nd of June 2018, the third edition of the European Youth Event (EYE2018) occurred in the Strasbourg’s seat of the European Parliament (EP). Around 8,000 young Europeans came to the event to discuss ideas for a better European Union (EU), meet MEPs and develop their knowledge about the functioning of this institution, but above all to meet other young people from all over the EU and their ambitions, passions and projects. I participated in this year’s edition in order to have my own personal experience of this event.

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Photo: Barbara Zak

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Photo: Barbara Zak

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Photo: Barbara Zak

The core of the event consisted in the activities that each of the participants chooses to take part in. As for me, the most impressive one was the discussion with Antonio Tajani in the hemicycle where participants could directly ask the President of the European Parliament questions about already selected topics. It utterly felt as if we were in the shoes of the MEPs. Other activities that I joined were the fictional trial of the EU that was accused of having a democratic deficit (roles of the participants were divided between judges, prosecution, defence and jury), organised by the Paris-based think tank Argo ; a political rap battle between London-based rappers that represented the socialist, liberal, green and conservative parties of the EP ; and a conference about the Brexit negotiations and their impact.

 

 

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Workshop „Europe on Trial ! Who’s to blame for the break-up?”. Credits : Argo think tank

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Photo: Barbara Zak

 

It could be felt from this event that young European citizens are very much attached to the EU as they believe it helps them in various fields such as studying abroad (with the programme Erasmus+), in their search for a job or with the freedom of movement of people, goods, services and capital.

The major focus of this edition was on the 2019 European Parliament elections, meaning that the EU encouraged the participants to vote at these elections. The EYE2018 seems to be a very good initiative to promote and thus increase the turnout of young European citizens at these elections as they are more inclined to spread the word about it to their fellow young European citizens.

 

 

 

Below you can find some impressions written by other participants of the EYE2018.

Zoé from Copenhagen

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Photo: Anaïs Cathala

During the EYE, I experienced a concentration of passionate and driven people, creating an inspiring atmosphere for me to extend my personal limits. Talking in front of a large audience in the hemicycle, a fraction of the European youth, was an experience that I will not forget. Overall, the EYE inspired me to further become active in youth groups and involve myself in activities that aim at strengthening the influence of the European youth.

 

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Photo : Maria Joanico

 

 

Maria from Lisbon

EYE was my first direct contact with the European Union. It had a vibrant atmosphere and the activities I participated in were very insightful – not only for understanding European youth’s ideas and thoughts nowadays, but also to understand EU problems and its benefits as well. It was a good and rewarding experience to participate in helping to build a better future for all of us.

 

 

 

 

Felix from Kufstein

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Photo : Felix Buchauer

Many consider the European Union to have alienated with its people due to a lack of communication. The EYE offers a possibility for younger people to overcome this feeling and really embrace the EU. Lots and lots of discussions, presentations and talks allow not only to gain a lot of information about the EU, but also to get into contact with a lot people also involved in the topic. Overall it really is a great chance to broaden one’s horizon and to understand that the EU is not just a complicated superstructure, but our present and our future, we can shape it, we just have to get involved!

 

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Photo: Barbara Zak

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Photo: Barbara Zak

In addition, our group also visited the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg where we met with a legal expert who explained us the functioning of the Court.

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Photo: Barbara Zak

 

 

 

 

Last but not least, the city of Strasbourg is truly lovely with its timber framing houses, the river Ill in la Petite France historic quarter, and not to forget the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Strasbourg!

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Photo: Barbara Zak

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Photo: Barbara Zak

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Photo: Barbara Zak

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Photo: Barbara Zak
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Photo: Barbara Zak

The official site of the EYE2018 :

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/european-youth-event/en/home.html

EYE on Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/ep_eye/

Here you can find the coverage of the EYE2016 by fellow writers of the EUROpens blog :

https://europensblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/european-youth-event-2016-1/

https://europensblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/european-youth-event-2016-2/

 

 

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Commission starts rule of law debate

Agnieszka S.

It seems that Poland’s actions are perceived as negative in the eyes of the Western European Member States. This time however, the case is much more serious than a missing flag. In the face of the recent developmental changes that the government of Poland had introduced, the European Commission has expressed its concerns regarding whether those changes operate in accordance with the Rule of Law or not. Since the Commission’s task is to ensure the respect of the European Union law along with safeguarding the fundamental values of the Union, some steps had to be taken in order to clarify this situation.

EC

Polish Constitutional Tribunal and the media case

The first issue is related to the composition of the Polish Constitutional Court. The European Union has started to work on that matter on the 23rd of December 2015, when Mr Timmermans wrote a request to have further information about the different Constitutional Tribunal judgements of the Polish Government. On the same day the Polish Government had requested a legal assessment from the Venice Commission (a body of the Council of Europe through which independent experts of constitutional law give advisory opinions that are not binding) as it was proposed in the letter of Mr Timmermans. However without waiting for the answer, the Polish Government began to finish the legislative process. The statement of the Polish Government concerning this matter is very simple – they are trying to clean up the mess that the previous governing party has made. Changes that were made in the Polish Constitutional Court are a fight of gaining power in this area, but what is worth considering is the fact that when the previous government in Poland was acting in the same way, nobody was interested in that and no one wanted to take a closer look on the case. However, it does not justify the actions taken by PiS because as a new governing party, they should try to rule the country in a better way than the previous one. (read more here)

The second topic of this significant attention of the EU is related to the legal changes on the Public Service Broadcasters. In another letter received by the Polish Government on the 30th of December 2015 in which, along with asking for more details on the situation, Vice-President Timmermans asked if the EU law and the need to promote media pluralism were taken into account while preparing those changes. Poland answered by denying the possible disadvantageous impact on the media pluralism claiming and that in other Member States the situation is very similar and no one is judging them for it. (read more)

Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission (EPA/PATRICK SEEGER)

Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission (EPA/PATRICK SEEGER)

The EU has a strong interest in safeguarding and strengthening the rule of law across the Union. However, in order to take some actions, there must be some suspicions about the defect on a system that prevents the country from a well-functioning legal system. Then it has to collect some data – evidences of breaching the law, it was done in a debate that took place on the 13th of January 2016, the main officials responsible for the presentation of the EU’s point of view were: responsible for the framework of the rule of law – First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and two Commissioners – Věra Jourová responsible for justice and Günther Oettinger responsible for media policy. The debate ended with the decision of the Commission to initiate the monitoring procedure of the rule of law in Poland. Next step was the dialogue with the Member State that took place on the 19th of January 2016 in the European Parliament, where the actual Prime Minister of Poland Beata Szydło had to defend the arguments of the Polish Government concerning two mentioned cases. PM Szydło put a lot of effort to convince everyone that Poland is a democratic country and indicated that:

“our history has taught us that our Polish issues should be settle in our Polish home. Because whenever they were fixed for us by others, we ended up very badly”.

The forthcoming steps that European Commission can take are giving recommendations to Poland. In the case of ignoring Commission’s recommendations for changes by the EU member, the very last step would be to put specific sanctions on Poland. Though, voting by unanimity would have to be used in such a case.

Polish PM Beata Szydło (AP/EPA)

Polish PM Beata Szydło (AP/EPA)

Some may think that the EU should not interfere with Poland’s matters. While the whole Europe is shaken and full of fears in regard of what is happening in one of its countries, the EU should always keep the Rule of Law as a main principle. Everyone can agree that Poland has some obligations to fulfil not only as a Member State of European Union but most of all as a civilized democratic country in Europe. They should always put the Rule of Law as a main principle. Although what strikes me the most in this situation is not actually the question of a breach of law but the media influence and their actual input in the whole situation. For the past few months, in Polish newspapers, news on the television or radio we could hear more and more negative statements and criticism about the governing party, even though they have just started their cadence. It seems that the other party is mad following its loss. Unfortunately for them democracy assumes in itself that the majority has welcome PiS as the winning party. Reputation is something that each of us is building up for years and it is a real shame that Poland is losing its standing in the international arena. Thanks to the media, now everyone is scared away from Poland.

References:

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-16-62_en.htm

http://www.tvn24.pl/wiadomosci-z-kraju,3/beata-szydlo-w-trakcie-debaty-w-parlamencie-europejskim,612106.html

Cultural dimension of the European integration

Emil Wojtaluk

Have you ever thought about the comprehensive analysis of political culture inside EU institutions and the cultural policy of the EU as such? The aim of last week’s conference held at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin was to answer these dilemmas.

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The conference was co-organized by the Polish Society of European Studies

“Political Culture in the European Parliament”

First of all, we have to realize that political culture can be understood as a sphere of influence, the way how politicians gain its power and then how they maintain it.

From the point of view of “neutralization of ideology” we may distinguish two examples referring to this term. First is the initial assumption of the founding fathers of the European Union, where the main goal was the economic integration, which indeed is true if we look at powers of the European Parliament. At that time they were significantly limited and the institution itself had only little influence on decision-making process.

The other example is that inside the EP, each political group gets some position because of the rule of consensus and geographical balance – where there is no competition, unlike national politics.

Another thing is the way of making decisions, where there is no fight for influence on decision-making. When the European Commission proposes legislation, the matter is then governed by the so called shadow rapporteur, who is responsible for particular project. He/she collects opinions, negotiates the draft with the EP and the Council and prepares the project for voting. Rapporteurs give opinion on a project carrying about presenting the view of their own political group, which does not look so transparent.

As a word of conclusion, we should not look at the decision-making process in the EU from the perspective of national politics.

 “Political Culture in the Council of the EU”  

This time it is not about understanding political culture as a formal way of making decisions (legal procedures), but more as a real life model we observe.

Again we have two approaches. According to first the representatives of member states in the Council (both administration and at ministerial level) act by a logic of consequences – meaning what consequences of their choices will be the best from the point of view of their own country. The second approach is about the logic of appropriateness (as a consequence of socialization processes ) so the way of behavior expected by the others.

There are three functions of the Council according to political science – negotiable, representative, and social. Through all of these, the most important one is negotiable function where everyone expects something in return. To be more precise it is again divided into three types of reciprocity: specific reciprocity – concerns specific case which is during negotiation process, in short term perspective; institutional reciprocity –e.g. when each member state has its presidency on rotational basis; diffusional reciprocity – when one member state makes concessions in specific case, remembered by others and repeated in the future.

Another issue is voting by consensus, named as “shadow of the vote”, – where no voting occurs, but it is still taken into account. According to the author we have many negative consequences of consensual voting, which are: 1) inefficiency – because negotiation process is being extended until no one is against; 2) lack of transparency since it’s difficult to define member states’ preferences; 3) inequality of particular member states (it’s hard to assess the influence of each country); 4) uneven impact – larger countries have greater influence while smaller countries have smaller impact.

Finally, the type of culture in the Council can be described as “intercultural”.

The article is based on a conference entitled “Cultural dimension of the European integration” held at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (Poland) on 9-10 November 2015. Especially based on the lectures of Marta Witkowska, PhD (The University of Warsaw) and Piotr Tosiek, PhD (Marie-Curie Skłodowska University).

I am the European Ombudsman – how can I help?

Magdalena Styrnik

It is a common knowledge that being  a citizen of the EU’s  or any kind of legal person with a registered office in the EU may cause some problems. The complicated structure of the institutions which should be in service to all of us, may sometimes create situations exceeding our ability to solve them.In such a case European Ombudsman can support us.

Current European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reily( Source: www.ombudsman.europa.eu)

Current European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reily (Source: http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu)

The history

Ombudsman is an institution created in Sweden in 1809. At that time, it’s obligation was a simple control of administration’s activity. In 20th century many European countries appointed their public advocate (for example Finland, Denmark and Poland) as an independent office, separated from the judiciary and administration.

The European Ombudsman was established by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.  The first one elected by Parliament in 1995, was Jacob Söderman of Finland, the next one, elected in 2003 was Nikiforos Diamanduros of Greece and currently (from 2013) Emily O’ Reily of Ireland is in charge.

Basic task of the Ombudsman is to hold EU administration to account by investigating complaints. Important issue, that we have to remember about, is that these complaints only should concern the EU administration, not national, regional or local ones even if it’s connected with EU matters.

Legal basis of election and activity of European Ombudsman

Source: lubinextra.pl

Source: lubinextra.pl

According to art. 228 of The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) the Ombudsman is elected by European Parliament (EP), right after each election of EP for the duration of its term of office and can by elected again. The Ombudsman can be dismissed by the Court of Justice at the request of EP under particular circumstances named in para. 2 of the same article.

Although Ombudsman is completely independent while performing its duties, which means that he cannot seek for any instructions, for example from the government and that he should not be engaged in any other occupation during his term of office, he has to submit an annual report to EP.

European Ombudsman may conduct inquiries in two different ways : on his own initiative or on the basis of complaints submitted directly to him or through a Member of EP. If the Ombudsman decides that any case is a maladministration, he gives an institution in question, or any other named in art. 228 of TFEU three months’ period to inform about its standpoint. The next step is  sending Ombudsman’s report to both EP and institution concerned. Person who filed  the  complaint is also informed of the outcome of the inquiries.

It’s also worth to note that the Ombudsman is not on his own in fulfilling obligations. Together with European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions, European Ombudsman forms the European Network of Ombudsmen.

Need help? Make a complaint to European Ombudsman

Basing on art. 20 para. 2 point d of TFEU, citizens of the EU have a right to apply to the Ombudsman. That right is also confirmed by art. 24 of TFEU.

If you happen to perform this right you should be aware of many important issues:

1)      The Ombudsman may find maladministration if an institution fails to respect fundamental rights, legal rules or principles, or the principles of good administration, which means that the ECJ acting in its judicial capacity, falls outside Ombudsman’ s mandate

2)      Complaints shall cover for example : administrative irregularities, unfairness, discrimination, abuse of power, failure to reply, refusal of information and unnecessary delay

3)      You do not have to bepersonally affected by the EU’s institution wrongdoing to make a complaint

4)   Time is also very important- you should submit your complaint within two years of becoming aware of the facts on which your complaint is based, after having first contacted the EU institution concerned to help you.

5)   If you only speak or write in your native language, don’t worry. You can submit your complaint (by e-mail or post) in any of the 23 official languages of the EU.

Even though EU is not inexperienced organization any more, its institutions may still make some mistakes that can affect our fundamental rights. If so, the most important matter is not to be afraid of making a complaint and performing our right to petition. You can find further information here: http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu.

If you still hesitate, please remember current Ombudsman’s, E. O’Reilly motto : “My ambition is to support the EU institutions in becoming more effective, transparent and accountable by strategically increasing the visibility and impact of the work of the European Ombudsman”.

In view of May elections: European Parliament explained

Emil Wojtaluk

European Parliament, Brussels ©EUROpens BLOG

European Parliament, Brussels ©EUROpens BLOG

The European Parliament elections are getting closer and closer, so that’s why it is good to ask yourself a questions what really is the European Parliament and how it works. Although I won’t go into details like the history of this institution because you can find relevant information in the Internet on your own. The goal is to provide you with the most important facts and figures and present the topic in a different way.

A brief insight

The European Parliament is the only body within the European Union which is directly elected by the citizens of the EU. It debates the proposals from the Commission and can amend them. Together with the Council of Ministers adopts EU laws. EP lays in the so called legislative triangle along with the European Commission and the Council of the EU(Council of Ministers). The most important task of this institution is legislation. Since the adoption of Lisbon Treaty it is also allowed to initiate law drafts directly, which makes democratic process more transparent. Another task is connected with EU budget adoption, but it has to be just partially agreed to the Commission. What is more, the overall control of EU activities is also one of its duties. If you ask about headquarters of the European Parliament the official seat is Strasbourg(France) but is has two other places to work: Brussels(Belgium) and Luxembourg. Plenary sessions take place in Strasbourg 12 times per year, additional 

plenary sessions and committee meetings are held in Brussels. A short description of its essence would be that EP represents the people of the EU whose employees(MEP’s) are directly elected by EU citizens. But how they get elected? The answer comes next… 

Our editorial board in the European Parliament (Brussels 2014) ©EUROpens BLOG

Members of the European Parliament – those who we’ll vote for

The abbreviation MEP stands for Member of the European Parliament, that is the full name, in some member states shortened to “eurodeputy” or other similar terms. How it looks like when it comes to the elections? Well, in each member state national parties appoints their own candidates but there could be also not affiliated candidates – it means such a candidate doesn’t represent any of political parties. It gets more complicated in the European Parliament where national parties decide what political group they will join out of 7 (e.g. European Peoples Party or Greens). The elections itself are held every 5 years. How do we know how many members there can be? Currently, after Croatian accession we have 766 MEP’s but this number has to be decreased due to changes introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, which are as follows:

  • Maximum number of MEP’s will be 750 + its President(without the right to vote)

  • Maximum number of MEP’s from one country: 96

  • Minimal number of MEP’s from one country which is 6

Due to those changes 12 countries will lose 1 deputy, except for Germany which will lose 3 seats and the number of its MEP’s will be reduced from 99 to 96.

But how is it so that one country has more MEP’s than another? It is up to each Member State how the voting procedures will look like, except rules like proportional representation, direct universal suffrage and degressive proportionality. The last one means that the more population a member state has, the more seats it will get as a result of the elections. For instance, Germany is the most populous state in the EU so it will get 96 (maximum) seats, while Malta will get 6 of them because it’s the smallest state in population.

Money, money, money…

Inside the EP ©EUROpens BLOG

One of the most frequently asked questions is how much an MEP earn? The rules are clearly specified from 2005 in the Statute for Members of the European Parliament. The amount of the MEP’s salary is set at 38,5% of the basic salary of a judge at the Court of Justice of the EU. Currently it is 6 250€ after tax + general expenditure allowance (e.g. office management costs) set at 4 299€. Additionally, every deputy gets special diet 305€/daily when in official business like a plenary session of the Parliament, the Commission or political group meeting. Let’s assume there was 10 meetings like this and as a result MEP will get 3 050€. There are also annual travel allowances for bearing the costs of transport at maximum 4 243€ per year.

Staff arrangements costs that can be connected with hiring assistants also exists. MEP’s has a right to chose its staff(except family members) but the EP pays them, non of these money goes directly to MEP’s. It is fixed at 21 209€ per month.

Let’s vote!

 ©EUROpens BLOG

©EUROpens BLOG

European Parliament gets more and more importance in EU institutional system and not voting at all weakens its possibilities and decrease its potential. Abandoning your right to vote will not lead to change and as a result the mandates will go to wrong, less qualified people. Do you want to be represented by someone who do not know any foreign language or do not know how to act properly, thinking only about his money? I guess no. So be smart and go to the European Parliament Elections (22-25 May), use your right to vote this month. Remember, if you do not vote, you don’t have any right to complain!

Read more:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/content/20130308STO06280/html/How-many-MEPs-will-each-country-get-after-European-Parliament-elections-in-2014

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+REPORT+A7-2013-0041+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/aboutparliament/en/0081ddfaa4/MEPs.html