Our second debate between Greek and German experts and youth on their shared challenges and future took place on 4 November in Thessaloniki, Greece and Mainz, Germany. The topic was Europe: Political Union or Trade Bloc and you can watch the debate online, in partnership with our streaming partner Radio MOF.
The debate centred around whether Europe should move closer to a true political union, further diminishing the sovereignty of its member states in the interests of a common future, or if it should move towards being a trade bloc of independent states without the power to influence political and other decisions among its 28 members. Andreas Lutsch, one of the debate's moderators and a professor at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, introduced the debate focusing on the historical context it takes place in. Defending the notion of Political Union were Constantin Schuessler, of Maastricht University, who believed that a "political union which is based on a democratic government [...] will grant peace and safety and prosperity for European citizens" and Nikos Vrantzis, of the Young European Federalists, who saw "a retreat of the European project due to the fact that Europe has created European problems to which it cannot give European solutions". Vrantzis also stated that Europe has "an incomplete political and economic system, unemployment at a high level and citizens suffering and blaming each other" and "could face this difficulties easier if it moved in the direction of a federalist union".
In opposition were Stratos Karakasidis (Greek Association of Political and Economic Science Students) and Malte Kilian (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz). Karakasidis said that "Europe has vastly different experiences with regional trade and general varied levels of success, for example Germany and Greece. With the financial turmoil which is currently taking over Europe, a regional trade bloc would offer opportunities to increase its growth as an independent continent" while Malte Kilian focused on the problems in Europe today:
"There are several obstacles that prevent the creation of a political union. First: member states are still reluctant to give up their sovereignty, especially in fiscal policy, home and foreign affairs. Second: people are reluctant to accept what they see as a technocratic and non-democratic process that has failed to solve their problems. [...] All in all, the EU seems to be too distant. Third: there are no European elections, citizens are not able to vote on EU policies, there is no European party system, national elections are fought on domestic rather than European issues, and European parliament elections are also not about Europe either, as parties and the media treat them as national second elections or national mid-term contests. Fourth: European is not a nation. Europe is a multi-ethnic society. Europeans do not speak one language and do not share one collective identity. And since the economic crisis the trust in the European project declined dramatically."
After the debate was over, the speakers answered questions from students from high schools and universities in the two host cities of Thessaloniki and Mainz.
As Greece and Germany dominate each other's headlines and political discourse due to the financial crisis and the subsequent bail-outs, we aim to start a direct dialogue between the youth of Greece and Germany through a series of public debates held in both countries and linked by technology. The project is run by IDEA UK in partnership with the Greece office of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and the Debating Society of Greece. Follow our website at dwb.idebate.org for news and updates!
We would like to thank the Goethe Institut Thessaloniki for their valuable support in Thessaloniki, as well as the Johannes Gutenberg University for their hospitality in Mainz.