Free Trade Agreements
The controversy of Free Trade Agreements (FTA) has sparked many discussions among both the EU’s decision-makers and its public. The European Commission states that “our openness to others, and their openness to us” is a crucial factor for Europe’s competitiveness. Critics, however, stress that the flipside of seemingly risk-free FTAs needs to be considered carefully. For example, the possible EU-US FTA has sparked much controversy. Considerable economic gains for the EU have to be balanced against the danger of being submitted to a flood of goods not fulfilling EU standards, mostly concerning health and safety regulations. FTAs are a widely discussed topic. Are they a unquestionable future goal for the EU? Or are they a questionable future investment sold to the people as a guarantee for wealth and prosperity, while actually undermining large parts of what the EU has achieved in forms of consumer protection?
European Neighborhood Policy
to be announced
Climate change and sustainable development
Having started with its environmental policies in the early 1970s, the European Union has progressed in its efforts to counter climate change ever since and today is considered to be one of the most advanced actors in this field. The reason for its erection was to tackle the possibility of trade barriers due to different environmental standards and cross –border pollution. Thus, in its beginnings it was a tool to build the single market with. Only with the Single European Act in 1986 did climate change and sustainable development find a true footing in EU legislature. Nowadays, environmental policy involves and is shaped by all of the three main European institutions. The Commission has the sole right of initiative, while the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament in the ‘ordinary legislative procedure’ decide on the final outcome. However, the environmental policy process involves several interests groups, mostly company and NGO lobby groups. First used as a tool to help shape the single market, EU policies today seem to some extend rather be hurting in achieving the former. Additionally, this gives way to the discussion whether some of the 500+ policy papers that have been adopted so far are effective or not. In the international perspective the European Union nevertheless stands at the forefront of counteracting climate change and achieving the “green” aspect of sustainable development. The European Union has signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1998, the launch of the ECCP in 2000 as well as the pledge to cut down on its emissions by 20% until the year 2020.
This working group invites you to explore some of the latest efforts the European Union has done in the field of environmental policy to tackle arguably two of the biggest problems of the 21st century, climate change and sustainable development.
“Europe’s future prosperity depends on its young people”. This sentence can be found in the introduction of the EU “Youth on the Move”, which is a comprehensive package of policy initiatives on education and employment for young Europeans. It is part of the Europe 2020 strategy to create sustainable, smart and inclusive growth. However, this prosperous future is endangered by the financial crisis and its economic consequences for the EU member states and its citizens.
100 million young people live in the EU and 20 million of these are at the risk of poverty. The young generation was hit hardest by the economic recession we experienced in the last couple of years. Pictures of frustrated young protesters from all over Europe have become a regular part of the daily news coverage. In many EU member states youth unemployment is much higher than the average unemployment. In some countries, such as Greece, it hits record marks of 60%. Many politicians speak already of a “lost generation”. If the EU and its member states won’t find quick policy solutions, it sure will be.
Frustration and anger against our political system spreads amongst this generation. To give the young people new opportunities and a future in the EU labour market the EU and the member states needs to find quick and good policy solutions. By 2020, it is estimated that 35% of jobs will require high-level qualification. At the same time are universities and schools faced with financial cutbacks. Brain drain to the Northern countries of the EU is already taken place. Thus, the question many unsolved question arise: Is this just a problem of the South? What can the EU do? What can other EU countries do to support them?
Migration has always been a hotly debated topic among the citizens of modern nation states. The European Union itself is no exception to this. Due to the catastrophe in Lampedusa, this topic is now more widely discussed than ever. The classic questions that are discussed are, as always, related to the demographic situation in Europe, growth and other economic benefits, and ethical considerations. The unique structure of the European Union, however, adds several other facets to the topic. Should every country be only responsible for its own borders? Should there be financial aid for those countries that border other non-European Union countries? Is it possible to reach an agreement on a common policy towards migration? Can and should the European Union devise more concise plans to aid African nations?
All these questions can be asked concerning the Migration Policies of the European Union. To find answers to these questions many voices need to be heard and many aspects discussed. It is important to consider the economic effects, the cost for maintaining refugee camps and monitoring the borders, and the question whether migrants can help to maintain economic growth in the European Union. The public opinion plays an important role. There are dangers of social unrest from whatever side. Opinions of different member states differ. An ideal solution is not only beneficial for they few but instead is beneficial for the many.