NEWS debate on Europe

Nieuws | de redactie
26 juli 2011 | Thousands of Dutch students study all over the world. Via NEWS, they contribute to the debate of higher education at home. A discussion over Huygens-grants, the future of Europe and populism.

NEWS(Nederlandse Wereldwijde Studenten) invited two PvdA specialists ontheir annual meeting to reflect upon the current state of theEuropean Union. Michiel van Hulten, former Party Chairman, Memberof the European Parliament, and René Cuperus, known Euro-skeptic, joined the student association that brings together ambitiousDutch 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 scrappedthe Huygens study grant triggering objections from NEWS who calledthis move an ‘ambitieboete‘. The Huygens study grant enables100 Dutch students to study at top universities abroad whileinviting around 300 foreigners and potential ‘kennismigranten‘ to the Netherlands.

Next to that, agenda point number 1 in Brussels these days is theGreek debt crisis that threatens to become acontagion even for Italy, Europe’s third biggest economy. To tacklethis issue, Merkel, Sarkozy and Co. juggle with immense bailoutpackages meant to appease speculators on financial markets.

Legitimacy Crisis

Regarding the European debate, René Cuperus asserts that the EU isnot only going through a financial, but a legitimacy crisis.According to him, the EU has grown to an “imperium van 500miljoenen inwoners” even referring to the decline of the RomanEmpire between 150 and 500 AD.

His party colleague, Michiel van Hulten, agrees that recentlyEuropean politicians had done a poor job explaining decisions madein Brussels and the European Council. This, however, did not pose athreat to the legitimacy of the institutions itself. Rather, it wasabout the EU leaders who needed to become better at translatingwhat is happening at a European level to their citizens.

Cuperus suggests much more radical change. His vision entails thatthe power of the EU institutions is curbed and given back tonational bodies. After all, Europe was to be found in the capitalsof Europe like “Berlijn, Stockholm, Amsterdam en Madrid, niet inBrussel”.

Populist ‘Nullijn’

Disagreement between the speakers became especially apparent whenit came to the question of solidarity. Cuperus advocated a verystrict definition: national institutions should take care of thepoor and sick. Van Hulten put forward that solidarity also has tooccur on an international level, especially in the Europeancommunity which shares common values and concepts of democracy andsociety.

In this context, Van Hulten also commented on the call forfreezing the EU budget and consequently establishing a financial’nullijn’. Such a policy was recently supported by former Higher Education MinisterRonald 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 tescoren”.

Furthermore, he addressed another financial issue currentlydebated in the Netherlands. Van Hulten stated that it cannot bethat the Netherlands demands that it contributes only as much tothe EU as it receives. “Sommige mensen hebben meer pech dananderen. Dat gebeurt ook binnen Europa, internationaal.” If all EUmembers start demanding this, little will be left of the Europeancommunity.

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