R2-M2: Team EngagEU 1 VS Youth Europe Liberty Life

Future of Europe


The topic for the 2nd debate is:

Civil disobedience and actions are justified when the justice system and rule of law are undermined.

In this debate Team EngagEU 1 (Affirmative) will face Youth Europe Liberty Life (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!


I thank both teams for this debate.

This match was somewhat tricky to judge, but I ultimately have the win to the proposition, Team EngagEU 1.

On a more technical note, I’ll address the “impoliteness” brought up by the 2nd proposition speaker. Calling your opponents incompetent is, at best, an unintended insult and, at worst, a violation of equity standards. I can accept that this was not on purpose, sometimes language can be finicky, but if no harm was meant, than I would’ve at least expected a formal apology, “We meant no disrespect”, or something of the sort. So I did feel that the opposition comment was over the line.

The fundamental reason that proposition wins is that, I do agree, opposition doesn’t actually tackle the motion, but more rather the proposition arguments. I mean that in the sense that there is no substation argumentation against the motion, that doesn’t also use the affirmative points as a starting point. And as the Guide specifies, each team must in turn prove or disprove the motion as being beneficial or desirable.
On the subject of “where this motion is set”, of course there is no inherent restriction within the wording of the motion. But, in this judge’s’ perspective, it will mostly be applied where it CAN be applied (more likely in functional democracies, with at least the appearance of a healthy justice system). Of course this motion could be applied anywhere, but it probably doesn’t make sense to apply it in countries that don’t have a functional democracy or justice system. So the discussion on “where” it takes place wasn’t particularly relevant, as long the core ideas were solid, or not specific to ONE country/instance.

Proposition has some simple, yet sound arguments. Such actions are legitimate when ‘conventional’ justice fails, it is a means of free expression and populism may rise, if nothing is done. I would have liked further explanation on the point of populism, as the connection or mechanism isn’t made clear, as pointed out by opposition. Also, there is no significant response given to the idea of “potential of escalation to violence and the damages caused” by the proposition team.

On the other hand, the opposition doesn’t in turn provide enough ideas or arguments about why this can be harmful, or more importantly, will probably be harmful. Yes, the rule of law is important and core to the values of the EU, but what should happen if this core value gets eroded? Some clarification is provided in the second speech, but it is neither of sufficient impact of overall clarity to change the course of the debate. And new ideas and arguments tend to have less impact if presented only in the second speech, as opposed to expanded upon from the 1st speech.

This might be a more “technical” call and I didn’t discuss more of the content nuances presented, but overall I felt that the propostion team did a better job of fullfiling their role, which is to prove the motion to be true or its implementation desirable. In conclusion Team EngagEU 1 wins this debate.

Speaker points:

1st Affirmative: 16 (Content: 7; Style: 5; Strategy: 4)
2nd Affirmative: 17 (Content: 7; Style: 5; Strategy: 5)

1st Negative: 11 (Content: 6; Style: 2; Strategy: 3)
2nd Negative: 11 (Content: 5; Style: 3; Strategy: 3)

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    Youth Europe Liberty Life

    (Vasilis Kottas) I don't speak on behalf of my teammate and i don't wish to insult nor the judge nor the opposition team. I believe this was a biased judgement. Having used the term incompetency was sincere or cynicism if you prefer. We were not rude and the manners (how you say something) is totally different in person. The opposition provided arguments only by examples and a heroic ending. She failed to answer our examples and our EXISTENT arguments. She failed to raise an argument on justice system. The "where" argument was concrete and is set by either team at the definition and criteria section. I don't want to expatiate, content wise our speeches were richer and especially the second one and the the fact that the grade was the same for both of our speeches justifies my statement on the bias of the judgement. I repeat i do not speak in behalf of my teammate but i am sorry that the winning team was the one that raised its heroic voice and not improved its arguments.

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    Youth Europe Liberty Life

    Title: Humanitarian legitimacy of civil obedience

    We will start by highlighting once again the crucial problems that we identify in the affirmative’s team second speech. Afterwards, we will reinforce the arguments that we have already exposed in favour of the idea that civil disobedience and acts are not the way to fight for human rights and civil obedience is the foundation of a European society.

    Firstly, for the term “undermined” the LEVEL of abatement is not set. In simple terms, if a group of citizens judge that a judicial decision is not in accordance with the initial belief, like in Greece on LGBTQ+ community, this justifies civil disobedience, according to the opposition team (opp). Positive discriminations can be interpreted as undermination of the rule of law, should then there be civil disobedience? This is the FRIGHTENING truism of the opp. In Warsaw far right protests against a positive discriminative law towards Jewish property, in Chemnitz against LGBT laws, “Peace march” by orban supporters. These examples show that civil disobedience towards the rule of law, is not justified, because it is against the progress and protection of human rights.

    Answering the acquisition of OUR lack of arguments and the context we set. We talk in EU level because the debate’s project is on “FUTURE OF EUROPE A NEW NARRATIVE FOR EUROPE: BRINGING MORE UNION INTO THE EUROPEAN UNION”. Secondly, being sincere can be interpreted as impoliteness, especially when there is no face to face interaction. Thirdly, regarding the arguments left WITHOUT rebuttal: demagogy, brexit protests, yellow vest movement, #Metoo’s truth goal, protests towards regulatory acts, the definition of civil disobedience and acts, the essence of the justice system. Regarding the lack of opp’s arguments in depth analysis on political philosophy:
    1. Thoreau's anarcism, in our first speech, was left unanswered.
    2. Rawls’s principles (equal individual rights, equal opportunities, difference) are the condition for civil obedience, the opp does not cite any example to defend their motion where they were violated.
    2. The three leading representatives of the symbolist theories embrace the belief that it is the very convention that raises the obligation of obedience.

    One aspect which illustrates legitimate coercion as a component of promoting the freedom and autonomy of the individual is a foundation stone for every political community. The establishment of a duty of obedience is in ardent unity with the request for legalization of the legal order. The process of legalizing with moral and political principles can only have a moral/political background. In modern-day societies, the legitimate foundation is directly related to the defense of individual, political and social rights and equal freedom for all as constituents of the human race. Therefore, the principle of human dignity dominates the highest legal basis. The principle of human dignity (a.1 EU Charter) is self-realization of its ideal justice. Manifestations of human dignity are all the top moral and political principles of law. Therefor, each political subject must first and foremost obey the criticisms of the specific legal order.

    Building on from the previous argument, in a constitutionally organized legal order, an appeal before the competent court is a one-way street for challenging a legislative provision. Only EXCEPTIONALLY, it is possible to rely on the exonological, moral justifications of the civil disobedience (Bedau). In addition, civil disobedience action can’t be directed vaguely at the expense of government policy. This would risk jeopardizing the parliamentary majority and constitutional legitimacy (Russell). Moreover, the elected parliamentary majority is equipped with the sole power to change or abolish an (unfair, wrong or irrational) legislative choice (Lefkowitz). In order to preserve the legitimacy, the exhaustion of legitimate means of defense is a prerequisite before/if the citizen is brought into civil disobedience.

    The arguments highlight that, the "uplifting" of civil disobedience invalidates its very character as the lively part of individual, political and social action (extra legem). The fact that individual conscience is proclaimed as a primary body of legally protected rights, duties and obligations is based on a reasonably mistaken finding. Political power and legal coercion are a priori treated as threats to the inherent, natural rights of the individual. However, legal coercion and the monopoly of legal violence are not forms of violation, but courage to defend their natural rights.

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    Team EngagEU 1

    In the following speech, the affirmative team will lay out why the opposition was unable to counter the arguments made during the first speech of the affirmative team and further extend our line of argumentation.

    Since the opposition has failed to deliver any arguments on their own that tie into the motion, this rebuttal is unfortunately rather short. We invite the opposition to formulate its own arguments against the motion. However, there are a few points, not arguments, we feel necessitate an answer:

    First of all, we object to the term incompetency. We believe it is not in the spirit of good debate to insult your opponent.

    Secondly, the opposition tries to introduce a counter-motion, for which there is no justification. It is the privilege of the affirmative team to interpret the motion and we follow historical precedent in stating that civil disobedience is non-violent, as it was laid out, for instance, by John Rawls. Furthermore, we would like to refer to the text of the motion which states: “Civil disobedience and actions are justified when the justice system and rule of law are undermined.” How the opposition comes to the conclusion that this motion necessitates discussions solely on the European Union remains incomprehensible. Rather, this discussion concerns a matter of principle, and that can be, and should be, applicable worldwide.

    And finally, it is interesting that the opposition tries to cite the legal justice system and on the same note fails to consider that if the legal system is subverted, the options they have cited mean nothing, as citizens run out of options to object injustices. What the opposition has failed to understand is that in this motion we are discussing civil disobedience in situations where the judicial and political systems fail to uphold their duties. Violent demonstrations, such as cited by the opposition, are not in line to the notion of civil disobedience.

    In the following part, we will rebuild the arguments that the opposition has attacked:
    Framing Thoreau’s civil disobedience merely as tax evasion verges on character assassination, as he fought against unjust wars and slavery, which cleary determine his motivation for disobeying. This was clearly laid out by him in his essay “Civil Disobedience”. While societies indeed form a social contract, let us ask one simple question: What can the people do if the government does not keep its side of the bargain and subverts the values the society is built on? In the case of the EU, these are “the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities (Art. 2, TEU).” The opposition argues that if these values are subverted by the government, citizens should either take it to the justice system, which is nonsensical if the justice system is also subverted by an unjust government, or they should accept the situation. It is clear that subverting the justice system is a breach of the social contract. How can the opposition argue that citizens objecting to an immoral government just have bad luck and can do nothing to stop injustice? This line of argumentation is frightening. Instead, citizens only option can be civil disobedience. Martin Luther King famously connected the acts of civil disobedience by the civil rights movements as acts that show nothing but highest respect for the law. Acts of civil disobedience have the chance to force governments to respect the rule of law again.

    We welcome the opposition agreeing that populist movements may eventually violate human rights, yet the consequences they draw are again shocking. The opposition clearly values property over human lives and dignity, and again fails to understand that civil disobedience must be nonviolent. If a populist government moves to subvert the rule of law and the justice system by appointing judges that are loyal to the government and not to the law, options are limited. Of course, one could just do nothing, as the opposition suggests, but we believe that this is fundamentally the wrong way! If the rule of law is subverted, civil disobedience is the only way to peacefully protest the government. This is not only an expression of free speech, but also demonstrates the highest regard for the law.

    In this speech, we have laid out why the opposition did not answer in the spirit of the motion, why the opposition was not able to provide a persuasive line of argumentation and why the opposition is fundamentally wrong in their reasoning. Acts of civil disobedience are not only justified when the rule of law is subverted, they are in fact necessary.

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    Youth Europe Liberty Life

    We would like to formally greet the opposition team and the judge to this debate. Firstly, let us clarify the terms of the topic and why a dictionary definition is not a correct approach. In Oxford Dictionary civil disobedience is USUALLY peaceful, in Merriam Webster is a “refusal to obey governmental demands or commands”, which they are only regulatory acts and in Collins the protest is not categorized as peaceful or violent. We define “Civil disobedience and actions” as acts violent or (temporarily) non violent towards the legal order. “Justice system and rule of law” are interpreted as the constitutional and moral foundations of a society. Since the debate is on EU, the topic should be judged in Union context only. We structure our arguments in favor of the moral/legal obligations of citizens, while proving the incompetency of the opposition team to prove their motion.

    The main problem with our opposition’s case is their underlying assumption that ALWAYS civil disobedience and actions are a form of counteraction to defend human rights. There is no question that this assumption was a vital part of our opponents’ case. Of course, our opposition couldn’t possibly be arguing that, because that would be a truism.

    Addressing their first argument, Thoreau’s “disobedience” was, merely, tax evasion. As an anarchist, he opposes to any legal order. Citing Aristotle “Man is a political animal”, as members of society, we have signed sort of a social contract, as described by the founders of liberalism Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau. Its goal is the creation of a legal order and a judicial system in favor of the individual rights. The structure of the social contract is not a relative experiment of the individual human aggregation. Undertaking contractual obligations at the level of the political community is a gauge for the proper functioning of society and the effective protection of human rights. At the heart of the Union's judicial system is the principle of the rule of law on which the Union is founded, 2 TEU. The Court has incorporated the principle into the legal order of the Union in the Les Verts case. The Secretary General of UN has stated (2004): The principle of governance in which all persons including the State are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards, it requires measures to ensure adherence to the principles of the rule of law.

    The second argument of the opposition team is utterly wrong. Populism may lead to unlawful actions, with uncertain outcomes and in most cases they are severe byproduct of violation of human rights. There has never been a demonstration, not leading to verbal or physical violence mostly between protestants and policemen, even between protestants and innocent people that were just crossing the street. Furthermore, the damages are incalculable and at the end the citizens are called to pay the restoration. A profound example are the protests in Greece during the years of crisis, which started as peaceful protests and escalated to violent acts of violence. A more recent example is the “Yellow Vest” movement in France. According to figures shared by the French government, Yellow Vest protests have led to 11 deaths, more than 2000 injured, the vandalism of the Arc de Triomphe and damages of 200 million. Finally, about #Metoo movement, clearly, the opposition team missed that racism and stereotypes are sociopolitical beliefs inside the society, not a legal product.

    The opposition team fails to support her motion by referencing examples of the past and out of the Union sphere. Examples from the ‘70s, the turkish authoritarianism and the protest of pilots towards a regulatory administrative act, such as a deportation, do not utterly prove that civil disobedience is in favor of a positive change. Continuing to this context of unanalyzed examples, mentioning Trump and Farage, the opposition team, blindly, defy the supporters of Trump and the pro brexit protests led by the demagogy of UKIP. EU citizens have the legislative power through the mechanism of “European Citizens’ Initiative” and they can challenge judicial decisions by addressing their demands to international courts.

    Finally, we would like to remind the opposition team the title of the debate which refers to justice system as well, whose main goal is to protect human rights. And there is only one rational way that anyone feeling his rights are infringed, can use and this is through justice. Freedom of expression is the most powerful right that we have and the best place to use it in order to defend ourselves, is the court, where judges can hear us and provide solutions, not the streets, underrating the value of our right.

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    Team EngagEU 1

    In this motion we intend to justify civil disobedience and further to underline its need in situations where governments fail to uphold its values and principles in regards to its citizens. We will do so by firstly defining what should be understood as civil disobedience, following by an exposition of the problematic around this motion, and by finalizing with illustrative arguments.

    The Cambridge Dictionary defines civil disobedience as “the act by a group of people of refusing to obey laws of pay taxes, as a peaceful way of expressing their disapproval of those laws or taxes and in order to persuade the government to change them”. We should deem to two important points in this definition regarding the present motion: firstly, we should emphasize the fact that these demonstrations are to be performed in a peaceful manner, not a violent one; and secondly the fact that these actions are taken with the prospect of making the government change certain laws, as a form of protest, which to us seems nothing more than a rudimentary form to exercise democracy and free speech.
    It is moreover significant to remember when discussing such substantial topics that our world is a very heterogeneous one and that the contrasts between and even within societies are striking, in order to understand the different societal needs and fears. We will now underline our motion with the three arguments we find most convincing.

    Our first argument transports us to the sphere of democracy. As Henry David Thoreau very well uttered “Anyone in a free society where the laws are unjust has an obligation to break the law”. In times were we see several breaches in terms of Democracy, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law, we cannot in all conscience argue that civil disobedience cannot be justified. Instead, we should incentivize movements such as the #MeToo feminist movement that took off all over the world, the marches against racism in the USA, and protests against critical steps backwards in terms of rights and freedoms such as the Czarny Protest in Poland, to only name a few. When we see our government taking away our rights and freedoms we have the duty to stop it, and a way to do so is by protesting. This, as we previously mentioned, does not mean engaging in violent demonstrations but rather to show in a united front what the will of the people is.

    Our second argument regards the rise of populism. If citizens do not gather and stand up against the attempts to take away of their rights and freedoms, the populist movements that have recently grown all over the world - including in our beloved Europe - we will not stand a chance against such movements and their destructive goals. History itself tells us so: from the west of Portugal in the 70s with the peaceful Carnation Revolution; to the most recent marches against the ever more authoritarian Turkish government in the other side of Europe. If it is clear that populist movements are transversal in terms of time and place, it is also intelligible that civilian disobedience is justified and even demanded when judicial and political systems are undermined. In this motion we honor those that stood and currently stand against any form of authoritarianism throughout our history.

    Lastly, we argue that civil disobedience is simply a form to exercise our freedom of expression, an essential freedom that sometimes governments try to take away but that we shall strive to keep and exercise at all times. This freedom of expression can – and in our opinion should - also be used to protect the rights of those who are not in a position to exercise any form of civilian disobedience, such as the case of the German pilots who stopped deportations of 222 asylum seekers in 2017 by refusing to fly. In other words, civilian disobedience is such a strong and essential tool that it can be used not only for the protection of our rights but also of others in need.

    Concluding, we the affirmative team would like to reiterate the historical noteworthiness and attested importance of civilian disobedience, then and now. Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and many others proved that it is, while Trump, Farage and Orban demonstrate that we still need these movements.
    If the rights of the people are infringed on, if the justice system is undermined, if the rule of law is being subverted, acts of civil obedience must be justified. Let us then remember the movements our predecessors generated so that we could live in the free way we do today. But at the same time, let us call to mind the unfortunate circumstances some populations and minorities still have to face all around the world, today. And if ever, we are to meet corrupt leaders again, let us rise and disobey until they hear us, the people.