Net@work: Gathering of European centre-right think tanks

On the 20th of April in Brussels the Martens Centre, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) and the Hans Seidel Foundation (HSS) organised the “Net@work” – the first public platform of European centre-right think tanks gathering to debate and advocate EU policies. Experts, politicians and stakeholders from different EU countries discussed variety of topics such as EU political and economic reforms, migration and the refugee crisis, security and demographic challenges, ethnic minorities, local governance and regional cooperation.

MuresanDuring the panel “Political and economic reforms for a stronger EU”, organised by the Spanish Foundation for Social Research and Analysis, the puzzling question was how to find the right balance for reforms.

Economic reforms are necessary, but they can bring disenchantment.

MEP and Vice President of EP Budgets Committee Siegfried Muresan said: “EU has to learn how to tackle more than one important crisis at once.” He also stressed that structural reforms should have been introduced during favorable economic times, since it’s less costly and socially less painful for people, than introducing reforms in times of crisis.

Nico LangeThe key argument presented by Deputy Director for Political Consulting at KAS Nico Lange was that the EU is not performing in solving problems and tackling shocks so far. It has to address current internal and external challenges, including Ukraine’s crisis, in an institutional manner. Moreover, the EU has to improve its communicative aspect. Nico Lange stressed that it was necessary to create an open space to discuss possible reforms and a network of think-tanks could be an opportunity to do so.

Hellenic Observatory, European Institute and LSE Research Fellow Angelos Chryssogelos addressed political challenges of the EU. The EU undergoes the crisis of representation. EU citizens sense they are not represented. Populist parties are main beneficiaries of this crisis – they represent the idea of looking for solutions “outside of the mainstream”.

Referring to Ukraine’s referendum in the Netherlands, Angelos Chryssogelos said: “It’s bizarre that people in Ukraine are affected by the decision of 60% of 30% of the electorate of the country that represents 2% of the EU population”.

In terms of political reforms, this shows how important it is to develop a new smart design for integration of citizens into political decision-making process. The way it was done in the Netherlands became a vehicle for the populist political minority that caught hostage the EU and one of its most potential partners in the neighborhood.