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Second-in-command at the European Commission Frans Timmermans reckons that people can still be won over for Europe. Debate at the University of Copenhagen
As the Danish national parliamentary elections loom, the EU and its benefits are under scrutiny. Many sceptics believe they are paying unjustly for foreign problems. But people can still be won over for Europe, according to one of the top EU leaders.
Dutch politician Frans Timmermans is the vice president of the European Commission, and is the man in the know in regards to the European Union. The central theme of the debate, held at the University of Copenhagen, was Euroscepticism and the doubts of European citizens towards the benefit of EU membership.
He attributed this to a fear of change. Change towards a more collective stance will take time, he says. ”Don’t believe any politician who says change will come here and now”.
The audience was comprised of politicians, academics, and students. This mix of people produced many questions, ranging from personal queries about EU fund allocations and ”welfare tourism”, to low election turnout, to the time frame of EU-wide telecommunications free of roaming charges.
Part of the problem lies in the ‘Brussels Bubble’, says Timmermans. Most Europeans feel distant and alienated from the EU’s head of command.
Timmermans wants to change this, saying that grassroots meetings such as this one will connect the people with the institutions. This has already started, according to Timmermans, but the change may be slow to implement.
Also touched upon was the topic of Greece and its new leftist government. The general sentiment was that of wait-and-see, with little commentary apart from an air of frustration.
Timmermans was vocal in condemning violence either by state or by individuals, namely Russia in Crimea and the recent terrorism in Paris. As a Russian speaker and former diplomat to Russia, he had a lot to say about the power of Russia’s leader and said that the sanctions in place will be tested for effectiveness soon.
Touching on the subject of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, he was quick to point out that the perpetrators were Europeans. The situation needs rethinking. ”Indifference has been confused with tolerance [for] too long… Only if that changes, will we have progress.”
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