Topics for the Young Königswinter Conference 2014

What kind of EU do we want? – Has the EU become too rigid and distant from its citizens and need some substantial reforms or do we just need to undertake some corrections?

The elections for the European Parliament will just have taken place and a new EU-Commission will have to be put in place. The growing anti-European sentiments in many EU countries will have found its expression in the outcome of the elections. The Parliament is likely to become more multifaceted and the political process in the EU more difficult. But the challenges our countries and the EU will have to face will not be less. The economic crisis in many countries and the Euro crisis have not been fully resolved. Solidarity and cohesion are at stake. Can we, can our countries, solve our problems on our own?

A majority of Germans and many Brits differ in their approach to the further development of the EU: either a more politically and financially integrated EU – at least in the Euro zone – or an EU limited to economic integration and a repatriation of some EU competences under national sovereignty. What should be the future direction?

Europe´s weight will be in relative decline in a globalized world with more international players and competitors. This can already be felt today. Can our countries look after their interests in the future and punch their full weight, in political, economic and security terms, on their own or only collectively through an EU with more political cohesion and responsibilities?

1. How should we best cope with political and social tensions in Europe?

  1. What are the reasons for the anti-EU sentiment in many countries? Is ‘austerity’ mainly to blame or are the causes wider than that?
  2. How have the institutions of the EU performed? Which have proved effective and which weak?
  3. Is there general agreement that the case for reforming parts of the EU is strong?
  4. How can the selection of the President of the Commission and the choice of the commissioners improve the standing of the EU? How could we win more public support?
  5. Do we need more subsidiarity rule in the EU or should more powers be given to the new Commission?
  6. How can the democratic control in the EU be improved?
  7. How did the Euro crisis and the public discontent about the European institutions affect the elections to the European Parliament? How strong will be the faction that seeks to stop or reverse European integration and how will they effect the work and the political weight of the European Parliament?
  8. Will the election results have a serious impact on policy in Brussels and will it result in more intergovernmental decision making?
  9. Will the election result affect domestic politics in the UK and Germany?
  10. Citizens across Europe are worried about immigration from East European member countries and some parties exploit these concerns. What implications does the debate have in the UK and Germany and for the freedom of movement of workers in the EU? What can be done to allay concerns of ordinary people about immigration?
  11. How well is the EU coping with the steady increase of the number of immigrants from its neighbourhood, in particular from Africa? Should there be a clearer distinction between asylum seekers and economic migrants? Do we need more burden-sharing among EU countries?

2. Have the economic and the financial crises in the EU been overcome?

  1. Is the German economy as strong as it seems? How real is the British recovery? Will growth in both be substantial and will it help other EU members to recover?
  2. How can the significant economic disparities within the Euro zone be overcome? To what extent are transnational redistribution mechanisms between more or less affluent EU member states necessary in order to ensure the long-term survival of the present Euro zone? Germany and the UK have consistently been net contributers to the EU budget. Is this a reasonable sharing of the burden?
  3. Are there limits for German taxpayers´ solidarity with other EU member states?
  4. Is austerity alone the right approach to dealing with the heavy burden of debt of many countries and for how long will the public in the indebted countries tolerate such policies?
  5. Is stable growth in Europe´s South possible and do we need a new Marshall plan and who should finance it?
  6. Do Germany and the UK have a shared interest in seeing the struggling economies of the EU and the stabilization of the Euro succeed, in view of the fact that UK´s trade with other EU countries makes up for about 50% of the British foreign trade?
  7. Is there a European strategy to cope with the enormous unemployment rates in some EU member states, in particular the youth unemployment or is it a problem for the individual countries alone?
  8. Are social payments sustainable in our shrinking and ageing societies?
  9. How much EU-wide regulation of the financial sector (i.e. banking union) is necessary and politically possible? Does it matter if they are introduced in the Euro zone alone?
  10. What are the chances of a free trade agreement between the EU and the US? Why should there be reservations in the EU as an agreement might create many new jobs on both sides?

3. Is the EU, is Europe, a 21st century power and player in the world?

  1. The EU has failed to make much of a mark on world politics, why?
  2. What role has the EU played in the Ukrainian crisis? What lessons can be learned?
  3. Will the role and the weight of our countries depend, in the globalized world, on more common policies and more political integration or can they go it successfully alone or in “coalitions of the willing”?
  4. Do we need to engage in a stronger common EU foreign policy? If so, how might it be organised?
  5. What should the EU´s priority be with regard to its neighbourhood policies as the neighbourhood becomes more dangerous? Do Germany and the UK have a similar agenda?
  6. How can one evaluate the EU´s role in regard to Syria? Did the EU exhaust its means to solve the conflict? What constrains the EU in being more pro-active?
  7. Is European common defence a concept without substance at a time of declining defence budgets and reduced armed forces? What needs to be done?
  8. How did the NSA actions affect the relations between the EU and the US? How can trust be regained? Are the activities of the NSA debated differently in Germany and the UK? Do we need a no-spy treaty within the EU and between the EU and the US?
  9. A free trade agreement between the EU and US might take several years to negotiate and to ratify. Are there more immediate steps that could be taken to bring the EU and the US closer together?