R1-M2: EU Debaters VS TeamBG1

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4
Future of Europe

Welcome to Round 1 of the Future of Europe E-Debate Competition!

The topic for the 1st debate is:

The President of the European Council should be elected by EU citizens.

In this debate the EU Debaters (Affirmative) will face TeamBG1 (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 all teams!

RESULT:

I thank both teams for this debate.

This was a close match, but in the end I sided with the opposition, TeamBG1.

To summarize, I felt that both halves of the debate were close, but at different levels of quality. The first speeches for the affirmative and negative team were fairly strong, but the 2nd speeches were comparably weaker. I felt overall that the 1st opposition speech was marginally better than 1st proposition, as well as the 2nd opposition speech being a big stronger than the 2nd affirmative speech, which made the end result clear.

The first proposition speaker does a good job of setting up the debate and what the general parameters are, the context for the position of EU Council president, it’s history and potential influence. There are solid argumentation for why such a change might increase people’s interest in the EU and maybe cultivate the feeling of “unity” or “democratic representation” (such as active participation and increased focus on the EU decision-making process. First opposition also does a good job of giving weight to this role, which can have real lasting impact on the union, despite not having “true legislative powers”. It was also pointed out that such a process might encounter problems when it comes to national media coverage, or the potential for people to only vote for their own people, or based on charisma, populist rhetoric and so on. It was furthered that what the EU needs is actually to create that sense of identity among its member states.

Although some of the problems identified are quite specific to this situation and there is no specific impact given of potential harms, the second proposition also doesn’t debunk these potential problems, other than by calling them out as being “unspecific”. Both 2nd speeches for either team unfortunately do not expand or further develop the initial arguments in a compelling way. Some of the claims and harms are mitigated by the proposition pointing out that “no negative outcome is especially probable” but without showing why a positive outcome is actually likely. But the idea of “participation in the voting process leads to greater unity or involvement in the EU” is repeated but not expanded upon. Similarly, the 2nd opposition speeches tries to focus on the dangers of electing a president with superficial criteria, such as charisma, but this argument doesn’t evolve past the initial presentation made by the 1st speaker of opposition.

In the end I did find that opposition’s arguments seem to be more grounded in the realities of the European Union, and more potential risks and challenges are outlined, compared to the potential benefits presented by the proposition team. In conclusion, I believe TeamBG1 wins this debate.

Speaker points:

1st Affirmative: 15 (Content: 7; Style: 4; Strategy: 4)
2nd Affirmative: 12 (Content: 5; Style: 4; Strategy: 3)

1st Negative: 17 (Content: 8; Style: 5; Strategy: 4)
2nd Negative: 12 (Content: 5; Style: 4; Strategy: 3)

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    TeamBG1

    It is a well-known fact that many of the European citizens are not properly informed on the political situation in the European Union. This is a serious problem concerning the future of the EU, as it distances the people from the processes that occur in any of the European institutions. It might result in mass misconceptions of the reason for the existence of the EU as a whole.
    As our colleagues have already proposed, this problem might be solved with changing the way the President of the European Council is selected. Currently he is elected with a double majority vote by the members of the Council. If an election is held and the people themselves make the choice who he is, it might make the situation better as his mandate is only two and a half years, which means that people would have to vote more often. This way the citizens will feel closer to the EU and in a way educate themselves. Although this is certainly a possible way of dealing with the current problem, the result might not be what we expect. As the elections require time, effort and resources the whole process might result in less profits for most industries and a lot of irritated people as the election takes more than a day. Furthermore, this problem is present on a national level as well. Voting might not solve it completely because even if their future is concerned some people still do not make the effort to understand why their vote is essential.

    Every president needs to be at least a little bit charismatic but we do not think that the President of the European Council should be chosen depending on his charisma. It is true that when someone is chosen through an election being attractive to the masses is an advantage, but that is exactly why we think the President of the European Council should not be elected this way. The truly democratic way for someone to be appointed would be to have the thrust of the majority yet this does not always mean it would be the best course for the EU, as we have already seen in the case of England with Brexit. In an attempt to seem appealing to the public the main focus can shift resulting in more charismatic presidents with less experience or who are less decisive. Even if the president himself does not have as much authority it still might still be damaging to the European Union.
    Although the prerogative of being chosen by the citizens of the EU might seem at first sight non-problematic, it is fact that tension between the two posts has already been noted on multiple instances, for example the competing between former presidents of the European Commission Jose Barroso and of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, as described in articles in EU Observer. This is only natural, being that the formulation of the president’s responsibilities is rather vague and that the two positions have overlapping roles, especially in the foreign policy. This has raised concerns over how much influence the President of the European Council may acquire, especially with the privilege of being the citizen’s chosen representative.
    With the President of the European council elected by the heads of state or government of the member states, who are respectively elected by the citizens of the member states, the democratic image of the EU is still standing and the participation of the citizens in the political matters of the EU secured.

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    EU Debaters

    We agree with our colleagues that the European Union, as a whole, is in need of a ”European public sphere” that would appeal to the masses in all member states in a way that information is simplified and easy to digest for all types of people. If we’re talking about this ”European Education class” expressed through media, we need it badly. But until there will be a Bill about this written by the European Commission, changing the voting system for the election of a President for the European Council will also count as a form of getting the people of EU to feel more connected and in power about what is happening at most EU levels. As we said last time, as the President is elected for a two-and-a-half-years mandate, the election would be happening more frequently than the European Parliament election, which means that the voters will be continuously updated about what is happening with the European agenda, the international affairs and more.
    The danger of electing someone only based on their charisma is applied to most (if not all) positions of power and therefore, we do not see this as something that should hold back this change. There could be, for example, elected one candidate for this spot from each member state and then elected, also by the European citizens a winner. Voters wouldn’t necessary vote for their own candidate, since each candidate would have his/hers own agenda with which they’ll be supporting themselves in this race, and people from one country don’t all share the same ideas as their candidate. The needs and wishes and ideas that people hold about the future agenda for the direction and priorities of the EU tend to differ from region to region, rather than country to country, maybe even on a smaller level. Changing the voting system so that the President would be chosen by the people of the European Union is not supposed to be a chance for ”leaving the future of the EU into uncertain hands”, on the contrary, we support the idea that this modification would make people more interested in the matters of the EU, more interested in the future of the EU, more interested to make their voices heard, because with this new voting system (happening more frequently and making a more visible change than with the EP elections) they will feel that their opinions actually matters, like they are European citizens because the EU will involve them more in the EU processes.
    We feel that the problems concerning the European political families is a matter that has very little to do with the Presidency for the European Council, and that the European Parliament already has enough power over the President of the European Commission (which, let’s not forget is there to consolidate and discuss in the interest of the whole European Union, while giving the European Parliament even more powers over it would be a problem more than a solution, since the EP is concerned more with the problems of the people, at a lower level).
    While there is problems and difficulty in understanding the whole purpose of the EU sometimes, due to the way that each institution works, they are however connected (The European Commission sending its legislative proposals to the Council and the EP, which work together through the process of codecision, and we could also say that the European Council is connected with the Commission since the President of the European Commission is a part of the European Council meetings). Also, there’s no need for the President of the European Council (chosen by the people, in this scenario) to be in conflict with the Commission President, since the only new prerogative that the President of the European Council will have is representing the people’s opinions, interests when it comes to the path the EU is set to follow.
    He would not be a leader, he would not be comparable to a president at the country level, he would just be a more democratic voice for the people, a more democratic image for the EU, by taking in consideration the people’s opinions when discussing the future agenda for the EU.

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    TeamBG1

    The discussions concerning the future of the European Union and, more specifically, the current administrative structure, have proven as incredibly turbulent. This is of course expected of a topic, a decision on which can have direct effects on the lives of nearly 513 million people. One part of this discussion revolves around the methods of election of the President of the European Council.
    As our colleagues have already explained, the European Council holds no true legislative powers. It has however acquired a number of institutional decision-making powers, including being authorized to adopt binding acts (Article 256 TFEU). This means that any changes in its structure may lead to long-lasting effects on the work of the European political body. We are also inclined to point out, that the position of its chairman has certain aspects, which make it a much more important piece in the complex mechanism of the EU, than the dubbed name of simple “strategist”. As representative of the EU on the world stage, the president holds great influence in the political community and is often described as the “go-to” person when questions, concerning the EU, have arised. As chairman of the European Council the president also has influence in the shaping of the EU legislation, even when not directly involved in its formation. These are some of the reasons why the President of the European Council is a centre of such heated discussions, as shown in the “Debate on the future of Europe”.
    The real problem with the democratic deficit though, in our view, stems not only in the current administrative structure of the Union or lack of ways to change it, but more importantly in the European community itself. Even if a general election is implemented, for the position of Council or Commission president, as long as there is no real European public sphere, little to no European media coverage on equal levels in all member states, and little awareness for European politics, the citizens across Europe would most likely vote for a candidate from their own country, or even more dangerously – for a candidate elected purely on behalf of his charisma, which would bring major political chaos and division on all political levels. Such elections could potentially fall prey to demagogy, thus leaving the future of the EU into uncertain hands. It is therefore crucial, that before any major changes in the system occur, a strong European political awareness already exists. Furthermore, no clear data showing a positive effect of voting on the general political awareness exists, as this type of awareness is strongly connected to many other factors, including heterogeneity of the voting population. The diversity of Europe’s political and cultural traditions can only be suitably respected by a strong parliamentary system, while it is highly unlikely, that even a strong president will be ever accepted by a majority of the EU’s citizens. Perhaps the best way to make the people feel closer to what is happening, is to strengthen the position of the European parties and find a way to implement the opinion of the European Parliament into the vote for President of the Commission. Another way to bring the people closer to the politicians is to organize major information campaigns, happening not only before elections, but rather before big decisions. In this way the citizens will be brought up to things without having to change the presidential post every year or so. And while they will not have direct hand into every decision, the parties in which they participate will make sure that the voice of their supporters is heard for every decision and that at the same time the political awareness in the community is held high.
    It is important to point out, that the current institutional design of the EU is highly problematic and a change is due. With the European Commission, Parliament and Council all speaking mainly in their own name and the Council of Ministers speaking with 28 voices, it is not surprizing that the EU citizens find it hard to understand what the Union actually stands for. But electing a strong leader in the face of the Council president may lead to on-going conflicts of competence between the Council’s and the Commission president, which on itself will cause a political paralysis, similar to the one seen in the French system. In the long term such a division will lead to even more problems and distrust in politics than the current system already has.
    It is therefore our firm view, that the President of the European Council should not be directly elected, in this way retaining a position of moderator, rather than a leader, thus developing the European Union in a more parliamentary system and not a presidential one.
    (3,969 characters w/o spaces)

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    EU Debaters

    As it is well known, the European Council is the European institution which is formed by the heads of state or government of all member states, a European Council President and also, the President of the European Commission.
    In comparison with other European institutions, the European Council does not hold any kind of legislative powers, its main role being setting the path which the European Union should follow. They’re also responsible of the policy agenda (deciding where there’s problems and raking them by their importance) and the strategy agenda for priorities.
    The position for President of the European Council is a rather new ”job”. From the 1970’s up until 2009 it was unofficial, being represented by the head of state or government that also held the presidency of the Council of the European Union at that specific time. Since the Lisbon Treaty, President of the European Council became an official, full-time post, with a President being appointed for two and a half years, with the possibility of renewal once. Right now, he/she needs a double majority vote by the members of the European Council to be appointed in this position.
    Although it isn’t a popular idea, we believe that the President of the European Council should be elected directly, by the citizens of the member states, since it would be a chance for decreasing the democratic deficit felt by a lot of people. The EU claims that through its treaties it tried to get the inhabitants of the member states closer to the EU institutions. Since the European Council does not participate in the legislative process (a part where the EU peoples can’t interfere a lot) and it has a more general role – of establishing the direction in which the European Union is following- it could (and it should) let its citizens decide who should be the head of the European Council.
    So, as our first argument, we strongly believe that the European Union as a whole, can work only if all its institutions are working well and cooperating, but more importantly, it needs the trust of the people it represents, other way it would lose its credibility. It’s a problem well documented and heard of that people can’t find any good reason to vote for the Members of the European Parliament, seeing no way that it would benefit them. The problem may be that the European Union needs to let people decide on more occasions and since the European Commission does not represent the direct interest of the member state’s citizens, letting them choose the President of the European Council would be beneficial for ruling out the problem of the lack of trust that people feel towards the EU. By changing the vote system for the European Council and making the President of this institution be elected directly, it would make the European citizens more conscious about the role of the European Union as a whole. By making them go out and vote more than once every years (for electing the MEPs) it would make them feel closed to the European Union, it would show them that their opinions are important in more than just one domain, for the mandate of the President of the European Council lasts for two and a half years. With the elections being more frequent, their interest would be greater, knowing that they’ve got to keep in touch with what is happening at the European level.
    Secondly, letting them vote and elect a President would mean an increase of interest in what else the European institutions do beside approving policies. It would be an opportunity for the European citizens to learn more about the works of the European Union by making them hear what each candidate for the position of President of the European Council has on his/ hers personal agenda about the direction in which the EU should go. It would be an opportunity to no only make people more educated on these matters, but also to let them express their concerns and opinions about what wrongs should be righted or what should be changes, letting them express their own agenda for the purpose of making them feel more connected with the European Union as a whole.
    In conclusion, as one of the biggest problems on the European stage right now is the democratic deficit that the people in the member states feel, due to the lack of being included more often and being taken more seriously when it comes to the problems of the European Union – which represent the problems of the people, since they give the EU its legitimacy- letting them elect the President of the European Council would mean letting them have an opinion and a chance to express that opinion about what is wrong, about what should the European Council consider an issue that they should act upon and about what the priorities are or should be, in their opinion.