R1-M6: TeamBG3 VS Team EngagEU 2

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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 TeamBG3 (Affirmative) will face Team EngagEU 2 (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.

For this match, the winning team was that of opposition, Team EngagEU 2.

The main reason for this is quite simple, the proposition team provides a lot of context and talks about the position of European Council President, as well as the EU, at length. But ultimately they fail to provide enough reasons for how and why this change would be beneficial. How will this improve the democratic process within the EU? How “would better the democracy within the Union?”

In contrast, opposition provides several well-reasoned arguments, sometimes a bit simple or lacking in examples, but it was quite easy to see potential downsides of this measure. There was a distinction made for who and what the European Council should represent, and why turning this role into a “voice” for the people might cause a “conflict of interest” (some specific examples of what that could mean in practice would have been useful). They argue also that the current process provides enough representation of the people of the EU, as well as the potential to slow down the decision making process. Further arguments are brought up by the 2nd speaker, who talks about accountability and how the president is not actually solely accountable for the Council actions, as well as the threats of populism and euroscepticism.

Taking into account the variety and depth of arguments presented by the opposition, in contrast to proposition arguments, it is my opinion that Team EngagEU 2 is the winner.

Speaker points:

1st Affirmative: 11 (Content: 4; Style: 4; Strategy: 3)
2nd Affirmative: 10 (Content: 3; Style: 4; Strategy: 3)

1st Negative: 20 (Content: 8; Style: 6; Strategy: 6)
2nd Negative: 20 (Content: 8; Style: 6; Strategy: 6)

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    Team EngagEU 2

    We would like to thank the affirmative team for the consideration of the issues pointed out during the rebuttal. In the following, we are going to react to the arguments made by our opponents during their response, as well as to their initial interpretation of the motion.

    We duly recognise the affirmative team’s opinion and will not set out to question the capabilities of the heads of government of comprehending political philosophy. What we do query, however, is the dual nature of political representation the President of the EC would have to reconcile. From our point of view, the only possible motivation to implement such an adjustment to already existing electoral procedures would be to create the misleading appearance of participation opportunities. This, however, can under no circumstances be the modus operandi to foster participatory involvement of citizens in EU politics. In this matter, there are three reasons we would like to present in order to support our argument. First of all, there is no point in calling elections for a position which cannot be held accountable by its constituencies since all decisions are agreed upon by the corresponding heads of government. If at all, this could only be evaluated as a waste of resources. Secondly, as a consequence of the first reason, this would only strengthen populist and anti-EU-movements in their believe that real participation was only a myth and all political decisions are made by a self-contained elite. Our third point concerns the assumption that a publicly elected President would be likely to fail in putting the will of all EU citizens into practice against the heads of government.

    We are eye to eye with the affirmative team that with regard to participatory mechanisms within the EU, there is still room for improvement – a gap which needs to be closed if the European Union wants to strife for a prosperous future. We agree that decision-making and politics in Brussels and Strasbourg have a far-reaching impact on the lives of every single EU citizen. However, one cannot deduce from this circumstance that it is a reasonable and effective measure to put the position of the President of the EC up for election. It has already been stated by the affirmative team “that the President of the EC may not be the most felicitous office to be elected” publicly. This is the case because it is not true that EU-citizens remain excluded from representation within the EC. Civic political interference is intended by nationally electing a head of government who represents the portfolio of opinions of the majority in the corresponding member state.

    The EC’s function is to represent member state-specific interests and we are convinced that the corresponding heads of government are well aware of how to present these interests in the best light possible. The principle of subsidiarity is a fundamental guideline regarding the distribution of competences within the EU and clearly states that social and political issues should be dealt with at the most immediate level consistent with their solution. We believe that against this backdrop it is unarguably the responsibility of the heads of government to ensure political representation of their constituencies. By contrast, the President of the EC’s function is to bring the interests of the governments of the EU member states together. Adding another line of argument would only hinder the succession of his cohesive function. We argue that this is already big enough a task for a singular position within the political system of the EU. In addition to this, we doubt that it is possible for one person to carry out a representative function for the entire electorate of the EU at once. Referring back to the pivotal motivation brought forward by the affirmative team in favour of publicly electing the President of the EC – namely unifying electoral processes within the European Union – we would like to close our speech with the following question: Is this motion really a step towards unification or might it rather be the case that the problems coming along with it outweigh the intended effect?

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    TeamBG3

    We would like to thank the Negative team for their eloquent response and rebuttal of our arguments. We would like to begin our second speech by stating that we wholeheartedly agree with most points made by the Negative team. We also thank them for correcting some factual errors within our first speech, for which we take responsibility and apologize .Nevertheless our task as the Affirmative team is to counter and rebut their arguments.

    We would like to correct the Negative team on the point that we had stated in our speech that the plurality of electoral systems are resulting in a deficit of democracy. While we alluded to a difference in representation, we did not state that it led to a deficit in the representation of the citizens. We restate that a unified electoral process for appointing the President of the EC would result in an improvement of the democratic process within the EU.

    We agree that the EP is responsible for representing the people, while the competences of the EC lie in different matters. Nonetheless the EC has influence within another important EU institution – the European commission (further mentioned as ECom). The ECom, along with the EP and Council of the European Union are responsible for much of the legislatory and execute decision making with the Union – decision making that most of the time affects the citizens directly. As such, we would like to restate and affirm once again our point that a direct involvement of the people in the election of the EC President would further their participation in the governance of the Union. We disagree on the point that it would be just another bureaucracy – giving electoral right to the people should never be disregarded as such.

    On the previous point we would like to state again that we agree with the Negative team that the President of the EC may not be the most felicitous office to be elected. With that said, we would like to quote the Negative team – “Since the EC is the member states representative body within EU-politics, it needs to base its legitimation in national elections.” While our opponents led in this statement by explaining that, according to them, the fact that the members of the EC are appointed through some kind of democratic elections is enough to ensure their legitimacy, a point we do not argue, we are still convinced that unifying the election of the President of the EC would better the democracy within the Union.

    As far as our opponents’ statement that direct election of the President of the EC would lead to a worsened cohesion within the EC, we wholeheartedly disagree. If the democratic process works on a philosophical level within the minds of the members of the EC, the fact that the Council is chaired by a person elected by the same people who elected/appointed each member of the EC should be enough for the President to be successful in their role.

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    Team EngagEU 2

    As the negative team, we take note of the points brought forward by the affirmative team. In the following speech, we would like to critically examine the line of argument made during the opening affirmative statement.

    The affirmative team states that the functions of the President of the European Council (EC) and of the EC itself are in most cases advisory as well as that the President has to carry out complex consultation processes with other EU-institutions, including the European Commission, the European Parliament (EP) and the European Central Bank (ECB). In addition, it has been mentioned that the EC is entitled to appoint a number of major positions within the European Union, first and foremost referring to the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (High Representative) as well as the president of the European Central Bank. Thereby, it has been argued that these responsibilities are incumbent upon the President of the EC and as such symbol of his considerable political influence within the European Union. With this in mind, we would like to point out that it is not the President’s to take these aforementioned decisions. In fact, we need to bear in mind that it is the European Council as a pivotal body of our Union which is exercising significant political influence within the EU. All responsibilities are carried out by generating consensus among the heads of government of the EU member states where it is possible. The President’s function in this context is to foster this process of achieving a consensus by chairing EC meetings and represent the EC publicly and towards other EU-institutions. We agree with the affirmative team upon the pivotal influence of the EC but remind our opponents not to equate the function of the EC’s President with the political influence of the body itself.

    Due to the fact that the President’s function comprises predominantly advisory tasks, we are not entirely convinced of a significant improvement with regard to the quality of decision-making processes within the EU as pointed out by the affirmative team. We would even set out to argue towards the opposite direction. Since the EC composes of the different heads of government of the member states, and the president’s role is working for consensus between them, it would not be appropriate to have the EC President elected by the European People. Such a President would be, like the EP, entirely accountable to the European people and their vote; thus, he would have to work in their favour. Representing the European people is not the field of competence of the President of the EC but rather of the European Parliament. The president of the EC being elected directly by the people would result in a conflict of interest since it would be an impossible task to bundle and represent the member states mutual interests at the same time as those of the electorate. Such heterogeneity in the field of competences of the President of the EC would not only lead to a decline of the productivity of the European Council but also slow down or even impede decision making processes within the European Union. On this account, we do not see any added value in terms of functionality or efficiency in the proposal of opening up the position of the President of the EC for public election.

    Furthermore, it has been established by the affirmative team that different voting practices among the EU member states would entail a democratic deficit for the composition of the EC and thus the appointment of the EC’s president. Concerning this matter, we would like to point out that the plurality of electoral systems does not refer to any kind of democratic deficit, nor do the varying official titles of the corresponding heads of government. The fact that the EU member states are all countries in which the heads of governments are democratically elected under the rule of law is already guarantee enough for adequate representation. Since the EC is the member states representative body within EU-politics, it needs to base its legitimation in national elections. Beyond that, opening up the position of the EC’s President does not involve any adjustment to the circumstance of differing voting practices and member state-specific official titles. The body of the EC would still consist of 28 EU-heads of government, each of them being elected differently. Thus, the election of the EC’s President would merely be a bureaucratic addition to the already existing electoral system of the EU. Although we wholeheartedly agree with your argument of increasing the ability of EU citizens to be more involved, this is not the right way of promoting and encouraging political participation.

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      TeamBG3

      We would like to thank the Negative team for their eloquent response and rebuttal of our arguments. We would like to begin our second speech by stating that we wholeheartedly agree with most points made by the Negative team. We also thank them for correcting some factual errors within our first speech, for which we take responsibility and apologize .Nevertheless our task as the Affirmative team is to counter and rebut their arguments.

      We would like to correct the Negative team on the point that we had stated in our speech that the plurality of electoral systems are resulting in a deficit of democracy. While we alluded to a difference in representation, we did not state that it led to a deficit in the representation of the citizens. We restate that a unified electoral process for appointing the President of the EC would result in an improvement of the democratic process within the EU.

      We agree that the EP is responsible for representing the people, while the competences of the EC lie in different matters. Nonetheless the EC has influence within another important EU institution – the European commission (further mentioned as ECom). The ECom, along with the EP and Council of the European Union are responsible for much of the legislatory and execute decision making with the Union – decision making that most of the time affects the citizens directly. As such, we would like to restate and affirm once again our point that a direct involvement of the people in the election of the EC President would further their participation in the governance of the Union. We disagree on the point that it would be just another bureaucracy – giving electoral right to the people should never be disregarded as such.

      On the previous point we would like to state again that we agree with the Negative team that the President of the EC may not be the most felicitous office to be elected. With that said, we would like to quote the Negative team – “Since the EC is the member states representative body within EU-politics, it needs to base its legitimation in national elections.” While our opponents led in this statement by explaining that, according to them, the fact that the members of the EC are appointed through some kind of democratic elections is enough to ensure their legitimacy, a point we do not argue, we are still convinced that unifying the election of the President of the EC would better the democracy within the Union.

      As far as our opponents’ statement that direct election of the President of the EC would lead to a worsened cohesion within the EC, we wholeheartedly disagree. If the democratic process works on a philosophical level within the minds of the members of the EC, the fact that the Council is chaired by a person elected by the same people who elected/appointed each member of the EC should be enough for the President to be successful in their role.

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    TeamBG3

    The topic of the present debate concerns the hypothetical adoption of a new type of elected office in the EU – the President of the European Council. Our team, as per the rules of the debate, is in favor of the motion that the President of the European Council should be elected by the citizens of the EU.
    As the first speaker I would like to summarize in short the role of the European Council within the EU, and the role of its President:
    The European Council (mentioned bellow as EC) is made up of the heads of state or government of the member states of the EU. It does not hold legislative or executive authority, as its functions are mainly advisory. The EC is responsible for shaping and defining the EU’s policy and agenda, as well as appointing the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Executive Board of the European Central Bank (ECB), including the ECB president, and officially appointing the entire body of European Commissioners (source: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/european-council/ ).
    The President of the EC is elected by the body of the EC by a qualified majority. His term lasts 2,5 years and is renewable once. The President of the EC is responsible for ensuring the preparation of EC meetings and the continuity of their work, in cooperation with the President of the Commission, and on the basis of the work of the General Affairs Council configuration, chairing the EC meetings, helping to facilitate cohesion and consensus within the EC, as well as presenting a report to the European Parliament after each European Council meeting. The President is also responsible for the external representation of the EU at the level of heads of state or government on issues related to the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), alongside the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and at international summits, usually alongside the President of the European Commission (source: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/european-council/president/role/ ).
    While, as mentioned above, the role of the EC is mainly advisory, it should not be underestimated. It has a significant influence not only on the agenda of the European Commission and the EU as a whole, but also has a direct role in the foreign, security and economic policies of the Union.
    In the hands of the EC is the appointment of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (mentioned bellow as the High Representative). The High Representative has a significant role in the foreign policy of the EU.
    Also the EC appoints the Executive Board of the European Central Bank and its president. As we know, the ECB is the main banking authority within the countries of the Eurozone (states, which have adopted the Euro as their official currency).
    The President of the EC is the de facto chairman of the Council. As such his responsibilities include not only ensuring the productivity of the EC meetings and cohesion between its members, but also representing the EU at the level of the heads of state.
    The heads of the member states of the EU hold different official positions in their respective countries – some are presidents, others are prime-ministers and chancellors. While all of them are appointed through some variation on the democratic process, their elections aren’t universal – some are elected directly by the citizens of their country (e.g. the president of Bulgaria), while others are appointed by other elected bodies (e.g. the chancellor of Germany). I am not pointing this out as a flaw or as a problem – this is merely a byproduct of the structure of the EC and the differences in the governance of the national states composing the EU. Nevertheless, this heterogeneity in the election or appointment of the members of the EC (i.e. the heads of state) result in a difference of representation of the citizens of the EU in the EC, including in the matter of electing the President of the EC.
    As firm proponents of increasing the ability of the citizens of the EU to be directly involved in the governance of the Union, our team backs the direct election of the President of the EC by the people in EU-wide general elections. This is a way of mending the aforementioned heterogeneity in the election or appointment methods of the members of the EC by giving the citizens the opportunity to elect the chairman of the Council. Furthermore, as an official directly elected by the citizens of the EU, the President of the EU will be even more inclined in his decision-making and in his duties as a leading role in the EC and representative of the EU at the level of heads of state to follow the interests of the citizens.