What are the challenges the European Union faces today? What are its current problems and what might be potential remedies? Student Forum Maastricht 2013 tried to provide answers to these questions. By offering three working groups the topic was approached from different perspectives: European integration, external relations and economic policy. Supported by academic tutors the students discussed topical issues and exchanged their ideas on the future outlook of the Union.
The first working group, led by Dr. Carine Germond, focused on the process of European integration in the past and on the state of affairs today. By simulating an accession negotiation with a potential Member State the students were able to explore the difficulties and interests involved in such talks. The working group dealing with external relations, in particular the relationship between the EU and China, was assisted by Dr. Wenwen Shen. Reflecting on the insights provided by Dr. Shen the participants engaged in lively discussions about the evolution of this special partnership. The third working group under the guidance of Dr. Assem Dandashly dealt with the economic dimension of the challenges the EU faces. Special emphasis was put on the current financial crisis. The students learned about the background of the crisis and about different approaches to a possible solution.
Another challenge for the European Union was presented by Prof. Weiler in his lecture on the democratic deficit. In an illustrative way he shared his thoughts with the students and proposed his personal strategy for improving the connection between the EU and its citizens. In order to bring the participants of SFM 2013 closer to the Union a trip to Brussels was offered. Considered by many as the highlight of the week the trip enabled the students to spend one day at the heart of Europe. The programme in Brussels included a visit of the Economic and Social Committee. In a detailed lecture the students found out about the workings and functions of this institution, which is often underestimated in its importance for the Union. Following the lunch break the group was received by the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Ireland, which was holding the presidency of the Council of Ministers in the first half of 2013. A former UM European Studies Master student, now working in Brussels, introduced the group to his work at the Permanent Representation and the responsibilities of a country holding the presidency.
On the last day of the conference, the different working groups presented their conclusions and experiences of the week to the other participants. The official closing ceremony marked the end of SFM 2013. It has been a very insightful and enriching experience – both academically and socially – for its participants and the organising team from Concordantia.