Future of Europe


The topic for the 4th debate is:

Opposition parties should participate in civil society protests each time they have common goals.

In this debate Team EngagEU 2 (Affirmative) will face Team EngagEU 1 (negative).

The 1st debater of the affirmative team has 24 hours to post the 1st speech of the debate. Even if the speech is posted before the 24 hours expire, the 1st negative speakers’ 24 hours of preparation time will begin when the initial time expires.

Before posting please consult Guildelines and the Online Debate Guide.

Good luck to both teams!


I thank both teams for this debate.

This has been a very difficult debate to adjudicate, but after careful consideration I believe that the winner, by a small margin, is Team EngagEU 2.

As an observation, I will say that I felt both teams went a bit too far in terms of labeling and portrayal of their adversaries. This issue never went too far and I don’t want to dwell on it, but as a rule of thumb, refrain from using labels or commenting on the skills or work of your opponents. Let the argumentation speak for itself, because there is nothing to gain by calling anyone out for being “incapable of following our unambiguous line of argument”, or to remark that it’s “always a sign of a team losing the argument when it starts to use inappropriate language for debating”. Let the judge decide what was or was not appropriate or inappropriate and what arguments were persuasive.

I felt both first speeches from the two teams started the debate pretty well, barring some unexplained ideas or some misinterpretations, but I also felt that these ideas were not significantly expanded upon in the 2nd half of the debate.

To sum up the perspective of both teams, proposition believes that it’s the duty of opposition parties to align with civil society protests, when their goals align, and that this alignment makes the problem/issue more visible in society, result in more awareness and discourse on said problem. Opposition believes that this type of association between parties and the civil society can “pollute” a protest’s core values, and might undermine participation, because people might be pushed away by certain political associations with the movement.

While I didn’t find that the proposition team responded to a reasonable degree to this opposition line of argumentation, and the problems of political association of “pollution” of a protest, I also didn’t feel like opposition brought enough impact or harms on some of their good ideas and arguments. Yes, I do believe the reasoning that this type of political association with protests can happen and can be problematic, the actual impact, other than “reduced participation” isn’t explored enough to supersede the potential and principal benefits outlines by the affirmative team. What is the impact of a political party aligning with a protest, when they’re actually not wanted? Why is the political independence of a CSP more important? It might be, but this needs to be explained in order for me to fully credit the opposition for this argument. Why are these things “clearly undesirable”? Again, they might be, but nothing is inherently clear in such a debate, or if it truly is clear, then I cannot see this as a plus for the team, as it relies on arguments and ideas that are “outside” of the debate, be it clear or not.

There were points for proposition that I also felt didn’t receive enough attention, or explanation, such as the liberal use of the concept of “distinct profiles”, but left rather vague for this idea to have impact in this match.

But that being said, I enjoyed this debate, especially in the first half, which I feel boils down the main issues of this debate fairly well, with a common goal outlines for both teams, even if implicitly. Both teams wants these protests, and the problems brought to light, to have as much exposure and discourse as possible, in the hopes of reaching a solution. Opposition manages to prove that the motion carries some risk, that might diminish the effectiveness of these protests, and inherently if the goals are reached, but I have not found these disadvantages to have enough impact to outweigh the potential benefits.

I would like to congratulate both teams for making it this far and for this final debate. But, alas, there can only be one winner.
Kudos to Team EngagEU 2 for winning this competition and to Team EngagEU 1 for second place.

A representative from CRPE will contact the winners in regards to the prize: the winning team will have the opportunity to present their perspective on the E.U. and civic movements at a conference in Bucharest!


Speaker points:

1st Affirmative: 19 (Content: 8; Style: 6; Strategy: 5)
2nd Affirmative: 17 (Content: 7; Style: 5; Strategy: 5)

1st Negative: 19 (Content: 8; Style: 6; Strategy: 5)
2nd Negative: 16 (Content: 6; Style: 5; Strategy: 5)

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    Team EngagEU 1

    Through this speech we will firstly clarify certain points, secondly address the defense the proposition has made, and finally simply rebut the affirmative team’s criticism while reaffirming our position since the proposition failed to present further arguments.

    Before we begin: It is always a sign of a team losing the argument when it starts to use inappropriate language for debating. We however will not lower ourselves to such offensive phrases and keep focusing on winning the argument.

    The first point we would like to address regards is the need to be loud in order to be heard. While we acknowledge that this is true - and we have never denied it - the point is that being loud does not mean that CSP necessarily wants opposition parties to be loud for them.
    Moreover, it seems that the affirmative team keeps undermining the role of CS. CS does not mandatorily need opposition parties hence our stance that the participation of the latter is not a sine qua non condition in the realm of CSP, even if they might at times join their voices.
    Furthermore, regarding the unification of opposition parties we consider that in the phraseology of the proposition “can of course work together”, “can” is a keyword, which does not mean shall at all times, which seemed to be the idea the proposition wanted to pass in its first speech.

    To answer our opponents question, what if that part of Civil Society simply does not want to be associated with a certain opposition party, even if the cause of the protest is one of a shared goal? It appears that once again, the proposition has focused their discourse too much on the needs of the opposition and thought less of the needs and will of civil society!
    Additionally, our team as not for a minute depreciated the public opposition in favour of anything at all, we solely underlined the role of the government and its nexus with both opposition party and civil society since breaking this nexus and closing our eyes to the linkages between civil society and CSP is painting an unrealistic picture of the real world.
    We argue, as we did before that this line of thought, alongside the reasoning and focus on the need of opposition parties to “show a high profile”, might lead to the dangerous path of politicization and instrumentalization of CSP. This is clearly undesirable.

    Succeeding in the aforementioned, we will now follow by addressing the criticism of the proposition.
    We have never raised the idea that politics must remain ignorant to anyone or anything. What we have put forward, and the proposition seems to not take this into account, is that different realities in distinct countries exist and as such, the way the democratic system deals with such problems must vary. In countries such as Portugal where right-wing parties are still highly associated with the dictatorship the country underwent for forty years - and where corruption perception levels are high - for any cause or any CSP, if a right-wing party were to capture it - as to “rise profile” as the proposition indicates - a grand amount of the population would not join such a protest and the very cause of the protest would be undermined by the participation of said party. So no, opposition parties do not have an obligation to participate, they might do so if there is indeed a will of civil society to be associated with that party.

    Regarding our argument of neutrality, which the proposition team called out, we can’t help but notice that they seem to not have even read our argument further than the word “neutrality”. The example put forward does not even go against our stance so we choose to simply not address it - since the opposition fails to explain how it is relevant or even to produce a link with our argument. But we will be happy to explain it again: CSP have a political stance, this is true. But CSP are not associated with a political party, nor should they be. If an opposition party were to work alongside a CSP, there is a real danger that a CSP would be associated with said singular opposition party. The Fridays for Future movements strongly reject association with national Green Parties, although their goals are quite similar. The political independence of CSP is more important than the political gains of a singular party.

    Concluding, the question of neutrality, politicization of CSP, and credibility leads us to conclude that although CSP and opposition parties might at moments join their voices for a common goal, the participation of said opposition parties is not an obligation for the well functioning of the democratic process, neither it is a sine qua non condition for CSP to happen and be successful. Therefore, the motion is to be rejected.

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    Team EngagEU 2

    By means of this speech, we will first and foremost rebut the criticism made by the negative team through pointing out inherent gaps in their line of argument. Later, we will address the inadequate arguments forwarded to support this flawed argumentation.

    To begin with, we see the need to clarify that the paradigm of opposition parties and CSP have to be louder in order to make a point. They do not dispose over the political power of the democratic majority. Being part of the majority, the need for protests is not as big as when being in opposition. If minorities want to contribute their own views to the political discourse, they have to make proper use of their resources. The entire portfolio of democratic opinions needs to reflect in public discourse. If opposition parties do not take part in CSP, they would neglect their democratic responsibilities and duties as an important advocate for such voices.

    We believe it to be unfortunate that the negative team is incapable of following our unambiguous line of argument. Also, we refuse to tolerate any allegations regarding our own understanding of arguments brought forward by ourselves. We stand behind what we have said and would like to help our opponents resolving their comprehensive deficit by stressing that we never made any indications towards forming a singular bloc. To prevent any further misunderstandings, we are more than happy elucidate on the points made. If opposition parties pursue similar objectives, they can of course work together, thus providing the facilitation of the exchange of opinions. Here, one example are the demonstrations against the Bavarian Policing Duty Act from 2018, where politicians of the Social Democrats, the Greens and Liberals gave speeches, thus introducing a wider range of arguments, raising awareness for this portfolio of opinions among civil society and organising a strategic approach of the opposition in the Bavarian Parliament. If several opposition parties and CSP share the same goals, why shouldn’t they come together in order to be heard? This would lead to more attention for potential shortcomings in decision-making and also show broad consensus across different minority groups.

    We are perfectly aware of what democracy means and remind the negative team not to depreciate public opposition in favour of an already stronger government. Our opponents are right in assuming that the government is also closely linked to civil society – they have to be if they want to be elected democratically. This, however, is not and has never been the point of both our motion and line of argumentation. We speak about Civil Society Protests, which, unlike civil society as a whole, are the object of interest in this specific debate. Whereas it is the task of the government to represent the entire people, the task of opposition parties is to criticize when necessary. To be able to do so, they need to show profile, which they can only establish by being normative and supporting specific ideas. If opposition parties agree with points forwarded by CSP, it is their obligation to participate in corresponding protests to ensure that decision-making and thus society works for everyone. In a democracy, opposition parties have the duty of being a control instance to ensure exactly what we have mentioned in our first motion: That the government never loses track of parts of civil society. We outspokenly oppose our opponents’ statement that we seem to forget what democracy actually means. Our motion is an improvement for the quality of any democratic decision-making processes.

    Following this defence of our motion, we will now briefly address the arguments made by the negative team. We believe that democratic decision-making processes would be a failure if they did not show any interest in CSP. Just because there is populism and corruption, politics must never remain ignorant towards civil society protests. A democratic system needs to learn how to deal with such problems democratically by including all relevant actors. CSP are on the same side as opposition parties. Pursuing common political goals in the realm of definitions made during our first speech can never be undemocratic.
    Lastly, we have to correct our opponent’s argument of neutrality. Parties are supposed to be normative, opposition parties especially. In this regard, a perfect example is the outcome of the EU elections 2019 in which the German social democrats, as such being part of the German government, lost a significant number of votes due to the lack of a distinctive profile. Being part of the opposition, the Green party, however, gained numerous voters due to their visible profile also during CSP and their criticism regarding the so-called “great coalition”.

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    Team EngagEU 1

    We believe that this motion is unfeasible. We will thus proceed by rebutting the arguments brought forward by the proposition, followed by presenting our arguments against this motion. These are arguments based on principles such as neutrality, credibility, and representation.

    It is clear that the propositions’ argumentation oversimplifies the issues presented and draws the wrong conclusions.
    As for their first argument, they assume that the views expressed by civil society protests (CSP) are the ones that the majority of the people desire. Just because a group is loud does not mean that it represents the majority. For instance, when conservative groups protested for the repeal of gay marriage in France, almost 200,000 people attended these protests. However, polls showed that the majority in France was against the repeal of gay marriage.

    Furthermore, the notion that opposition parties are in need to unify against the government is a spurious one. The proposition does not clarify why there is a need for a liberal, a socialist and a right-wing populist party to unify into one singular entity. Why opposition parties that are fundamentally different from each other would attempt to form a singular bloc is unclear to us and even unclear to the affirmative team.

    And finally, the proposition paints an overly simplified picture of the relationship between government and opposition. In fact, the opposition and CSP are not different sides of the same coin! To exclude the work of the government in this equation is simply wrong. Governmental activity is just as connected to the civil society as are the actions of the opposition. One cannot forget that in a democratic regime, a government is elected by the people and represents the will of the majority. Therefore, the government, the opposition and the civil society form a nexus that reinforce and challenge each other constantly. It is the moral imperative for the opposition and the government to listen to civil society, both of them.

    We will now present our own argumentation against the motion:
    During their whole speech, the proposition makes the mistake of assuming that all opposition is the same. However, quite the opposite is the case: oppositional parties are diverse. Liberal, conservative, socialist, green and right-wing populists all significantly differ from each other. Even if some parties oppose certain governmental policies, it can be from widely different viewpoints. There are arguments against the Euro from a left-wing perspective and a right-wing perspective. If these fundamentally opposed opposition parties were to come together to partake in civil society protests, what message would that send out to the electorate? That they are all the same?

    We continue with the argument of credibility. In countries with high levels of corruption perception such as Italy, Romania, and Hungary to name a few (Transparency International, 2018) the fact that political parties take part in CSP might undermine the cause and goals of the protest itself, and ultimately the role of civil society organizations. This is because in countries where there are high level of corruption, the trust in governmental institution tends to be low and if political parties adhere to CSP, the very cause and goals of these protests might be forgotten and thus alienate citizens from the democratic process, ultimately disturbing the very nexus we have previously established, which is highly undesirable.

    Another argument has to do with neutrality and the undesirable politicization of civil society. Civil society groups are not partisan organisations. Although perhaps sharing common goals, if the opposition were to demonstrate alongside a CSP, it would mean that the protest becomes inherently associated with the political party. Political involvement might risk undermining the political neutrality of civil society since the presence of the opposition parties might lead to a “pollution” of the protest, its intentions, objectives and even its neutrality. This can not be and is not desirable for protesters, NGOs and other organisations, or even for the democratic system itself, since it might push away non affiliated citizens from joining the protests that do not wish to be associated with said party. This event might lead to reduced civil participation, i.e. democratic participation. Let us remember that civil society also has the role of watchdog and hence shall not serve as a stage for the opposition to campaign in.

    In this speech we have laid out why the arguments brought forward by the proposition only work in a simplified world and the political realities make the motion unrealistic, unfeasible and undesirable and then laid out our own arguments.

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    Team EngagEU 2

    By means of this speech, we argue that opposition parties should participate in civil society protests (CSP) each time they have common goals. We are going to set the motion by defining the terminology used, followed by our three main arguments supporting the motion.

    To begin with, when talking about opposition parties, we refer to democratically constituted parties forming the parliamentary opposition within a democratic political system. Specifically excluded are groups and any kind of organisation not striving for political offices, thus forming part of civil society. In this realm, we will speak of civil society as individuals or organisations which are non-governmental and stand in for the will of citizens. In consequence, CSP are initiated and organised by civil society actors (i.e. individuals, NGOs, associations, action groups, citizen’s initiatives etc.) and are of supra-individual nature (demonstrations, rallies, flash-mobs, campaigns etc.). We define participation as actively taking part in such actions (demonstrating, giving speeches, rally others to join etc.) as well as supporting it by means of generating attention in media. Financial donation or benefits in favour of actors organising the protests are specifically excluded.

    In the following, we will proceed with presenting our main arguments.

    (1) Fostering political participation
    The main task of parliamentary oppositions in both presidential and parliamentary democracies is controlling the actions of the government. Being in opposition usually means being unable to implement one’s own political agenda. If CSP and opposition party goals coincide, this subsequently means that the opinions expressed are unlikely to be implemented. This, however, does not mean that these opinions are less relevant than those of the political majority. When CSP are accompanied by opposition parties, the result is mutual political and democratic support. Protesting is a fundamental functional element of public participation in democracies. By taking part in protests, democratically legitimated parties can not only support their common goals but also foster political participation in general. Beyond this key benefit, also the quality of participation receives enhancement by improving the bottom-up diffusion of political ideas within the system. By this means, political parties can doublecheck with the public how their opinions resonate at grassroot level and correspondingly adjust their course of action. Any parliamentary opposition can only work efficiently if political ideas encounter a permeable political system in order to be discussed adequately in parliament.

    (2) Fostering the opposition
    Many times, the goals of different parties coincide with regard to a specific topic. However, the paths to achieve this goal differ in several aspects, if not entirely. Consequently, a number of opposition parties would participate in CSP. This has a number of positive effects as (a) a broader social consensus could be established by portraying a multifarious portfolio of ideas supporting the goal of the protests. (b) Thereby, opposition parties could strengthen their position in parliament since joint participation in CSP would lead to effects of unification. (c) As a consequence, civil society would benefit from an enhanced representation of their ideas in parliament. (d) Lastly, the more parties are involved in protests, the more likely it is that a society-wide debate emerges via mass media. This, in turn, could have impacts on governmental agenda-setting and improve the quality of decision-making processes.

    (3) Normative imperative
    Last but not least and following the above said, we argue that opposition parties are obliged to participate in CSP in order to perform their functions properly. Opposition parties are per definition entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that all voices, especially the critical ones, are heard. If they did not take part in protests, this would not only mean disrespect for those citizens standing in for their common political ideas but also betraying their own political goals. Opposition parties and CSP are two sides of the same coin. If and how they interact is to be seen as an indicator for the quality of both party system and democratic constitution of a society. In order to ensure that the broad portfolio of opinions is reflected in political discourse, opposition parties have to ingrain themselves in civil society. Since they have not been entrusted with the responsibility of government through general elections, taking part in protests enables them to stress the normative legitimacy of their political agenda inside and outside of parliament.