March 31st 2017

Europa Club Uni event series visits MCI: “Taking Stock of Project Europe”

Inspiring panel session with renowned EU experts

On March 30, 2017, Europa Club Uni discussed the great European questions of our time under the theme of “Diversity & Cohesion: Taking Stock of Project Europe”. The event centered on discussing strengthening the social, economic, and territorial cohesion in the European Union as one of the primary goals of the club at a time during which this cohesion is threatened by current social, political, and economic challenges.

The panel discussion, which was hosted by the bachelor program in Nonprofit, Social & Health Care Management, the Europa Club Uni event series, and the daily newspaper Der Standard at Management Center Innsbruck for the fourth time, offered students an interesting mix of critical perspectives, future visions, and partly passionate pleas for a common Europe. This year, once again, prominent speakers were welcomed to the discussion: Ulrike Lunacek (Vice-President of the European Parliament), Stefan Imhof (head of Division IV: Coordination at the Federal Chancellery), Verena Ringler (project manager responsible for international communication at the Mercator Foundation), and Belachew Gebrewold (Head of Department and Studies for Social Work at MCI). The discussion was led by Der Standard Deputy Editor-in-Chief Rainer Schüller, who interviewed the panelists about topics such as migration, climate change, Brexit, and civil society.

Has the European integration project finally failed?

This question is currently keeping all Europeans in suspense. “MCI openly commits to the European concept”, the host Rector Andreas Altmann stated in his opening address, and thus reminded the audience of the opportunities and prospects, which the European Union has made available to us and which would have been unthinkable in former times. In his welcome address Paul Schmidt, Secretary General of the Austrian Society for European Politics, continued in a similar vein: he emphasized that we must not take all of the European Union’s achievements for granted. We are living in a very challenging but also exciting time, which is likely to enter the history books.

Right at the beginning of her talk Ulrike Lunacek made clear that the former European rationale of “no more war” was no longer sufficient to maintain a European identity. “A true sense of unity and community spirit that defines us as European regardless of the member state we come from […] – this is what we need to work towards in order to regain positive momentum.” In the past, essential actions needed to create a common identity, such as the implementation of shared tax and fiscal policies, had been neglected.

A further focus of the event was on the urgent topics of refugees and migration. In this context, MCI migration expert Belachew Gebrewold pointed out that the European states had previously failed to take the causes of this current crises, for example climate change and globalization, seriously. Now it was high time to foster international cooperation in order to find common ground. It was time to step in for an economic system which would benefit all, instead of merely providing charitable measures.

When Stefan Imhof from the Federal Chancellery was asked about the next big issue of the day, Brexit, he explained how it had caused a great deal of shock. In view of the ongoing sequence of EU crises which began in 2008 with the financial crisis and continued with the Great Recession, the Eurozone crisis, and the European migrant crisis to finally culminate in Brexit, the Union was too busy calming the waves to even think about the future. The general political nature of the future relationship between the EU and Great Britain would become more apparent in the following two years.

Verena Ringler from the Mercator foundation sees Brexit as a kind of wake-up call, for “times of crisis are always also times of development.” Europe’s future would depend mainly on participatory processes as well as European citizens approaching one another. Specific ideas, such as giving every 18-year-old a free Interrail pass as a birthday present, are already circulating and being discussed by the European Parliament. Action must also come from the Europeans themselves, who should let go of the idea of Brussels as their savior.

Concluding questions from the audience initiated a lively exchange between students and speakers, revealing interesting facts and relations. We would like to thank all the contributors and look forward to a reunion with Europa Club Uni in 2018!

Bachelor study program Nonprofit, Social & Health Care Management
Europa Club Uni

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Mag. (FH) Ulrike Fuchs
+43 512 2070-1527