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  • NEWS on Europe

    - Duizenden Nederlanders studeren wereldwijd aan HO-instellingen over de grens. Toch willen zij via NEWS actief bijdragen aan het kennisdebat in eigen land. Niet alleen over het snijden in Huygens-beurzen, maar ook over Europa en het populisme.

    NEWS (Nederlandse Wereldwijde Studenten) invited two PvdA specialists on their annual meeting to reflect upon the current state of the European Union. Michiel van Hulten, former Party Chairman, Member of the European Parliament, and René Cuperus, known Euro-skeptic,  joined the student association that brings together ambitious Dutch talents studying all over the world.

    Going international during your studies did not get any easier. In the wake of recent budget cuts, the Dutch government scrapped the Huygens study grant triggering objections from NEWS who called this move an 'ambitieboete'. The Huygens study grant enables 100 Dutch students to study at top universities abroad while inviting around 300 foreigners and potential 'kennismigranten' to the Netherlands.

    Next to that, agenda point number 1 in Brussels these days is the Greek debt crisis that threatens to become a contagion even for Italy, Europe's third biggest economy. To tackle this issue, Merkel, Sarkozy and Co. juggle with immense bailout packages meant to appease speculators on financial markets.

    Legitimacy Crisis

    Regarding the European debate, René Cuperus asserts that the EU is not only going through a financial, but a legitimacy crisis. According to him, the EU has grown to an "imperium van 500 miljoenen inwoners" even referring to the decline of the Roman Empire between 150 and 500 AD.

    His party colleague, Michiel van Hulten, agrees that recently European politicians had done a poor job explaining decisions made in Brussels and the European Council. This, however, did not pose a threat to the legitimacy of the institutions itself. Rather, it was about the EU leaders who needed to become better at translating what is happening at a European level to their citizens.

    Cuperus suggests much more radical change. His vision entails that the power of the EU institutions is curbed and given back to national bodies. After all, Europe was to be found in the capitals of Europe like "Berlijn, Stockholm, Amsterdam en Madrid, niet in Brussel".

    Populist 'Nullijn'

    Disagreement between the speakers became especially apparent when it came to the question of solidarity. Cuperus advocated a very strict definition: national institutions should take care of the poor and sick. Van Hulten put forward that solidarity also has to occur on an international level, especially in the European community which shares common values and concepts of democracy and society.

    In this context, Van Hulten also commented on the call for freezing the EU budget and consequently establishing a financial 'nullijn'. Such a policy was recently supported by former Higher Education Minister Ronald Plasterk (PvdA) and is also the goal of both Socialists (SP) and populists (PVV). Van Hulten concluded that Plasterk "populistische redenen kiest, om bij de PVV en SP kiezers te scoren".

    Furthermore, he addressed another financial issue currently debated in the Netherlands. Van Hulten stated that it cannot be that the Netherlands demands that it contributes only as much to the EU as it receives. "Sommige mensen hebben meer pech dan anderen. Dat gebeurt ook binnen Europa, internationaal." If all EU members start demanding this, little will be left of the European community.