On Tuesday the 27th March 2018, deBuren looked at the emphasis on so-called European values, asking whether the EU’s approach to values is actually counterproductive and potentially harmful for the future of the Union.
European values and human rights are laid down in various treaties, but they have recently come under pressure in several member states. According to Brussels, countries such as Poland and Hungary are attacking the rule of law, trying to muzzle the media and limit the rights of women and minorities. The Polish government’s interference in its judiciary system led European Commissioner Frans Timmermans to invoke Article 7 of the EU treaty, also known as “the nuclear option”. Should Poland not comply, then in theory the other EU member states could suspend its voting rights within the EU and cut its EU funding.
However, some believe that the emphasis on European values is jeopardising the future of the Union and that “Brussels” should take a different approach. They believe that lecturing “wayward” member states may actually be counter-productive and lead to the EU’s desired reforms being delayed. In Western European countries – such as the Netherlands – there is also an increasing emphasis on national sovereignty and the suggestion that the EU should focus on issues such as the internal market, the euro zone and security and less on European integration. Indeed, Brexit proved that an “ever-closer union” has become anything but self-evident.
Does the European Union have a future as a community of values? deBuren invited three prominent speakers to discuss this, each of which with an outspoken answer to the question. To find out more, watch the English-language highlights video at the top of this page.
Boudewijn Bouckaert (1947, Belgium) is an emeritus professor of law at Ghent University.
Bouckaert studied law and philosophy in Ghent before going on to work in these fields at Ghent University. During his time at the university, he developed the discipline of law and economics, with this eventually coming to form part of the European Master in Law and Economics programme.
He is a fervent advocate of classical liberalism and was a co-founder of the think tanks Nova Civitas and Cassandra. These two think tanks merged in 2010 to form Libera!, whose chairman Bouckaert is.
Bouckaert has also worked as a politician and he represented the LDD (Libertarian, Direct, Democratic) in the Flemish Parliament from 2009 to 2014.
Sophie in ‘t Veld (1963, the Netherlands) has been a member of the European Parliament for D66 (Democrats 66) since 2004. Since 2014, she has also been the vice president of the liberal ALDE group within the European Parliament.
Sophie was originally educated as a historian and has been working in Brussels since 1994, first as an employee of an MEP and, then, from 1996, as a secretary of the European Liberal Democratic group to the Committee of the Regions.
As a member of the European Parliament, Sophie has been advocating gay and women’s rights for years and she very actively opposes the erosion of privacy and individual liberties. She has recently published a book entitled A European ID, which is a political pamphlet on the future of the European community of values in turbulent times.
Mathieu Segers (1976, the Netherlands) is a professor of contemporary European history and European integration at Maastricht University and the dean of University College Maastricht.
Segers has previously been a Fulbright-Schuman fellow at Harvard University’s Centre for European Studies and a senior research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Department of Politics and International Relations. And, from 2008-2016, he was an associate professor of European integration and international relations at Utrecht University.
Stéphane Alonso (1973, France) is a journalist who started his career at the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad in 1999.
From 2003 to 2011, he was stationed in Warsaw as a correspondent for Poland, the Baltic States, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. After that he became the editor of the NRC’s morning edition, nrc.next, for several years. And, in summer 2013, Stéphane moved to Brussels to become NRC Handelsblad’s main European correspondent.
He has also co-authored two books on Poland and another on the refugee crisis (The Race to the North, 2015).
This debate is one of many looking at important EU topics from a variety of perspectives as part of an international project entitled Trans-European Debates on the European Parliament (TEDEP). The TEDEP debates take place with the support of the European Parliament and have been organised by the Time to Talk members, The Centre for Cultural Decontamination (Belgrade), deBuren (Brussels) and The Red House (Sofia).
Although the European Parliament supports these debates, it has nothing to do with their content and cannot be held responsible for any theses, comments and/or opinions expressed during the discussions.