More than 30 leading Europaeum alumni were in Oxford last month invited from member institutions to take part in the Europaeum’s inaugural special European Democracy Day focusing on how to improve democracy across and within the European Union – including the role the UK may play in a future European Union (see our main poster here). They were drawn from a range of our MA, graduate and summer school programmes as well as our scholarship and bursary awards, with some going back more than more than five years. Please see here for a list of Europaeum alumni participating.
They were able to participate in our day of activities which included a fireside chat with former European Commission President Joao Manuel Barroso and Professor Yves Meny, and a model European Parliament-style debate on four key policy recommendations to do with democratic reforms for the EU: universal election, adding to the powers of the Parliament, investigating how the new six-pack and other reforms will lead to greater centralization, and ways of involving more bottom up participation. The students were joined by others from the Weidenfeld Scholarships Scheme and the Blatvanik School of Governance.
After their dinner at St Antony’s College, they were able to attend the special debate on Brexit reflecting the looming national debate and referendum on the future relationship of the UK with the European Union. The debate was set up by the Europaeum in partnership with the Oxford Union, with support from colleagues and partners within the wider EUK@OX consortium, in the historic 192-year old Oxford Union (see news report here). Billed as the most significant Oxford Union debate in 10 years or even for decades, some said since the 1930s, people queued for up to five hours apparently in cold and wet weather to grab their seats (see media report here) Even as the packed audience – including special Europaeum guests and senior representatives from the Jagiellonian, Paris I, Charles University, Pompeu Fabra, the Graduate Institute, as well as Oxford – was listening to the powerful debate, a poll for the Independent newspaper was revealing a 52-48 per cent majority actually in favour of Brexit.
Please see here for a list of Europaeum guests attending the dinner and debate. Our four keynote speakers President Joao Manuel Barroso, former President of the EU and our newest member of the Europaeum Board, Mr Nick Clegg MP, former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nigel Farage MEP, leader of UKIP and Sir William Cash, long-term Conservative opponent of UK membership, battled on the on the motion: “This House believes that the UK and the EU are better together”. For images from the debate, as published in The Oxford Times see here. At the end of a lively two-hour debate the vote was overwhelming, with 283 for the motion and 74 against. Next month we will publish a link to the actual debate and a full gallery of photos from the debate and from our Democracy Day.