Category: DRC’22 Topic Overviews

  • TRAN


    Committee on Transport and Tourism
    Written by: Tommie Steenwinkel

    Relevance of the Topic

    For decades, European Member States have prioritised investments and improvements in road and air travel over railway travel. Consequently, the benefits that a good national and international railway system can have are not used optimally, even though it’s clear that railway travel is the most sustainable and eco-friendly transportation option when it comes to transporting European citizens and goods. A more functional and boundary-defying railway system can not only help in the fight against climate change by contributing to the European green deal. Moreover, with prices of fuels such as electricity, gas and kerosene rising, railway travel has also become relatively cheap and thus a more viable option compared to road and air travel.

    Although in recent years the European Union has adopted four major railway packages and recently declared 2021 the European Year of Rail, switching from road to rail is still an ambitious concept rather than a reality. Member States have thus failed to fully implement changes such as introducing competition in the railway market by allowing access to private companies. Another core problem lies in the cooperation between Member States, instead of designing a unified European-wide railway system the construction and designing of railway infrastructure is mostly handled on a national scale. How can we get all European Member States on the same track to ensure a sustainable, affordable and accessible railway system for all European citizens?

    Key terms and definitions

    • The European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS): is the system of standards for management and interoperation of signalling for railways by the European Union. The European Union aims to implement ERTMS across all European railway tracks to increase the interoperability of trains in the EU.
    • The Trans European Transport Network(TEN-T): is a planned network of roads, railways, airports and water infrastructure in the European Union. The TEN-T programme consists of a variety of infrastructure projects that ultimately aim to close gaps, remove bottlenecks and technical barriers, as well as to strengthen social, economic and territorial cohesion in the EU. TEN-T includes the ambition to create a Single European Railway Area (SERA).
    • Last-mile infrastructure: in the context of public transport, last-mile infrastructure describes the last leg of a passenger’s journey between the station and the passenger’s destination. If the distance between the station and the destination is too great, passenger’s may opt to travel by car rather than public transport.
    • Interoperability: is the ability of rolling stock to operate on any stretch of rail in the EU, no matter where they are. Currently, this ability is being hampered by lack of common infrastructure. Many Member States have their own standards, systems and equipment. Some Member States even have a different rail gauge, meaning the rails are either too wide or narrow for many trains to ride over.

    Key Actors

    EU Member States: are crucial actors when it comes to creating a future-proof European railway system. They are the ones responsible for building railway infrastructure and making sure the four railway packages adopted by the European Union are being executed. Some Member States do a better job at this than others.

    The large train companies of Europe: like Deutsche Bahn and SNCF have extremely large concessions which some experts consider a nearly complete if not a full monopoly within their respective countries. While the fourth railway package adopted in 2016 tried to encourage these companies to have more competition with other commercial companies, there is almost never an even playing field. With the European railway packages in place, they should only be responsible for the operational part of rail traffic, not the infrastructure. In practice, many large national train companies are still fully or partially responsible for the infrastructure of rail traffic as well. 

    The European Commissioner for Transport: is the member of the European Commission that is responsible for the planning and development of homogeneous transport policies and regulations across the Union, for the Trans-European Transport Network as well as for interoperation.

    The European Rail Freight Association: is a non-governmental organisation that aims to achieve the best conditions for a competitive railway sector. Their mission is to promote rail transport as a first and viable choice for companies that want to transport European goods and to ensure full market opening of rail across all of Europe. 

    The European Union Agency for Railways: is an EU agency with the mission of moving Europe towards a sustainable and safe railway system without limitations. Their tasks include things like improving railway safety, acting as the system authority for the ERTMS and improving accessibility and use of railway system information.

    Key Conflicts

    Technical and operational challenges

    Currently, a Eurostar train travelling from London via France and Belgium to Amsterdam needs nine different train control systems. Even though the ERTMS tries to remove all these different operating systems into a standardised one, there are still many other technical and operational challenges. Some examples of this are railway control and command systems being specific to certain Member States, certain trains being only able to operate on their respective railway systems and train operators needing different certificates and diplomas to operate cross-border trains for every Member State they pass through.

    Separation of wheel and track

    Even though increasing competition in the railway sector has been on the European agenda since the 1990s, there is almost little to no competition between train companies in all of the European Member States. One of the main reasons for this is that many big train companies hold a large share of the railway infrastructure as well. Because of this, many railway tracks are only used by the train companies that own them rather than all train companies being able to use these railways. It is however important to note that changes made in the privatisation of the sector need to be well looked at because it has its downsides as seen in the United Kingdom for instance.

    A lack of cooperation between Member States

    Right now, the European railway system is a patchwork rather than a network. Changing that requires more cooperation between Member States. Some of the core problems are train services and websites only providing information and timetables on a national level and Member States being reluctant to invest in cross-border rail infrastructure because it won’t be commercially viable in the short term. Because of this, the goal of a Single European Railway Area with an international train ticketing website and functional international railway infrastructure is a concept rather than a reality right now.

    Customer inconveniences

    If we want to make travelling by train a viable and commonly used option, we need to make the customer journey as convenient as possible. A reason for customers to still choose travelling by plane over train is the price of a ticket. While plane tickets are exempt from value-added taxes (VAT), passengers that buy a train ticket often do have to pay the tax. Furthermore, many train tickets are still very expensive for the average customer because of the monopoly positions certain train companies hold. Although the EU would like Member States to open their railway market to competition, it has faced a lot of push back from many Member States, including the powerblock of France and Germany. Another cause for customers choosing the car over the train could be that there is a lack of good last-mile infrastructure to get customers to their designated places. Although some Member States have been experimenting with a bicycle service to make more destinations accessible, such as the Dutch OV-fiets, a lot of the time, even if there is last-mile infrastructure in place, many of these lesser-used train lines run at a very slow speed.

    Measures in place

    Europe has one of the most mature railway systems in the world when compared to other continents. Amongst other things, EU legislation has had a large impact on the development of the European rail network in recent years. However, despite initiating many projects and passing a lot of legislation, many projects were not completed fully or at all, and a lot of legislation is still not implemented. Thus, there is a lot of room for improvement.

    • The European railway packages, adopted between 2001 and 2016 with the aim of creating a Single European Railway Area, are a set of legislative packages with the aim of gradually opening up rail transport service markets for competition, making national railway systems interoperable and defining appropriate framework conditions for the development of a single European railway area. Some of the ways the railway packages try to achieve these goals are by implementing ERTMS across all European railway systems, creating a ‘one-stop shop’ for all European train services and trying to separate the train infrastructure companies from the train operating companies.
    • The fourth railway package, adopted in 2016, consisted of a ‘market pilar’ and a ‘technical pillar’ which aimed to complete the process of gradual market opening that started with the 1st railway package and boost the competitiveness of the railway sector by significantly reducing costs and administrative burden for railway undertakings wishing to operate across Europe.
    • 2021 was declared the European Year of Rail in order to demonstrate how trains can help the EU become climate-neutral by 2050. During this year, many new European railway projects were introduced to work towards a single European railway area like Rail Baltica that will connect Finland to Poland.
    • The Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) policy addresses the implementation and development of a Europe-wide network of railway lines, roads, inland waterways, maritime shipping routes, ports, airports and railroad terminals. The objective is improved use of infrastructure, reduced environmental impact of transport, enhanced energy efficiency and increased safety. It aims to double high-speed rail networks by 2030 and even triple them in 2050.

    Food for thought

    Even though the importance of European-wide railway transportation is addressed by many different actors, actual improvements in the European railway system are incremental and incredibly slow. What can the EU do to increase competitiveness on a national and international level and thus increase improvements in the railway sector? How can the EU encourage Member States to invest more in their national and cross-border railway systems? Aside from these economic issues, there are also many technical challenges ahead. What can the EU do to increase interoperability across all Member States? Lastly, what more actions can we take to persuade the individual customer to choose the train over other more polluting transport options?


  • SEDE


    Committee on Security and Defence
    Written by: Nikola Pantelić (RS)

    Relevance of the Topic

    Russia’s war against Ukraine has fundamentally changed the geopolitical reality in Europe. The continent that has in recent times made a name for itself for its peacefulness is once again beating the drums of war. At the beginning of this year, Russia attacked Ukraine and put the EU 27 on the list of enemy countries. Amidst the war in Ukraine, on September 12th, Azerbaijan also carried out attacks against Armenia once again. The recent war in Ukraine and increasing global instability have, therefore, highlighted the need for further defence cooperation in Europe. Recently EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borell said: ”The speed at which the world is changing is often exceeding our capacity to cope. We need to become more agile and have a strong capacity for doing lessons learned, including in the field of security and defence. In order to protect Europe and European values, Member States of both NATO and the EU will have to fulfil all their responsibilities.” Although the EU is keen to expand defence cooperation, many EU Member States are still hesitant. Working together more could also mean ceding further sovereignty to the EU. Furthermore, the Member States’ foreign policy, and therefore defence needs, are often different and sometimes at odds. The question that arises is, should the EU cooperate further on security and mutualise its defence ambitions? How far should this cooperation go? Is a European army on the cards, or is it a bridge too far?

    Key Terms & Definitions 

    This is the part where you will briefly mention some of the important words or phrases you will be using while writing the Topic Overview. You should mention between three and five terms that are neither organisations (actors) nor legislation. Always provide the source by hyperlinking the name of the term.

    • The EU army: is the hypothetical army of the EU which would integrate Member States’ national forces into a unified European Command Structure. Currently, there is no such army, and defence is a matter solely handled by the Member States.
    • Sovereignty of Member States: As a supranational organisation, the EU is composed of sovereign Member States. Sovereignty means the power that a state has over its own territory and institutions. Maintaining one’s own military force in the form of an army is seen to be a key component of a sovereign nation in International Relations. 
    • Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP): As part of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, the CSDP is a unified approach to military matters and crisis management. It allows for limited cooperation among Member States’ militaries and facilitates joint military and civilian missions abroad.

    Key Actors 

    • European Commission: The European Commission is commonly regarded to be the executive power of the European Union. Furthermore, it can initiate laws and reforms. The current commission under President Ursula von der Leyen has put an emphasis on the EU’s geopolitical role and has called for a more comprehensive approach to European defence. 
    • North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO): is a security alliance between 30 member states with the purpose of preventing conflict and guaranteeing freedom and security to all its members. NATO promotes democratic values and enables its members to consult and cooperate on defence and security-related issues. It is believed that Russia was aiming to halt the expansion of NATO with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. With the exception of Austria, Cyprus and Ireland, all EU Member States are either members of NATO or in the process of becoming a member.
    • The European Defence Agency (EDA): was set up in 2004. It helps its 26 Member States (all EU Member States except Denmark) to develop their military resources. It promotes collaboration, launches new initiatives and introduces solutions to improve defence capabilities.
    • The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC): is responsible for the EU’s external action, which includes foreign policy, defence and security, trade, development cooperation and humanitarian aid.
    • The European External Action Service (EEAS): prepares acts to be adopted by the High Representative, the European Council or the European Commission while also being in charge of the EU’s diplomatic missions, Intelligence and crisis management structures. The EEAS is also responsible for managing general foreign relations and defence policies and controls the Situation Centre. Member States make the final policy decisions and the EEAS plays a part in technical implementation.

    Key Conflicts 

    A common EU defence policy is provided for by the Treaty of Lisbon (Article 42(2) TEU). However, the treaty also clearly states the importance of national defence policy, including NATO membership or neutrality. In recent years, the EU has begun to implement ambitious initiatives to provide more resources, stimulate efficiency, facilitate cooperation and support the development of capabilities. French President Macron called for a joint European military project in 2017, while then-German chancellor Merkel said “we ought to work on the vision of one day establishing a proper European army”.

    Public support vs. national interest

    Three-quarters (75%) of Europeans are in favour of a common EU defence and security policy according to a special Eurobarometer on security and defence in 2017 and a majority of 55% were in favour of creating an EU army. More recently 68% of Europeans said they would like the EU to do more on defence (March 2018 Eurobarometer survey).

    Although things look great in this regard for the European federalist camp, the situation is far from being easy and the other side of the coin requires recognition as well. Full integration of European defence forces holds potential negative repercussions, among other things, for the national identity of Member States and their sovereignty. Furthermore, key debates on defence matters are treated differently in the Member States and common ground on fundamental questions has not yet been found.

    Inefficient military spending

    Besides most Member States not living up to NATO’s goal of spending at least 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defence,  inefficient spending is also an issue. Currently, many Member States use incompatible equipment and run individual procurement sectors. 

    European integration in the defence sector could produce relief. By creating a common ammunition certification system or through joint procurement, Member States could save, for example, up to EUR 600 million. When added up together, EU Member States are the second largest defence spender in the world behind the US, but an estimated EUR 26.4 billion is wasted every year due to duplication, overcapacity and barriers to procurement.

    Measures in place 

    Food for thought 

    With Russia attacking Ukraine and peace shifting further and further away from Europe, what is the best possible way to react to potential security threats of the EU? Is a unitary response necessary in order to defend the EU and its values? With NATO being ever present on the continent, is a common military of the union necessary and what are the alternatives? What are the ways to develop smarter military budgeting strategies? And how can we make sure that defence and security ambitions do not cause negative repercussions in other political domains? 


  • PECH


    Committee on Fisheries
    Written by: Alice Comoglio (IT)

    Relevance of the Topic 

    “Listen to me: the human world it’s a mess. Life under the sea is better than anything they got up there”. This might have been true in 2002 when Sebastian the crab sang it in the Little Mermaid, but these days, unfortunately, experts say Sebastian’s song is not holding up so well anymore.

    71% of our planet is covered by water, 97% of that consists of seas and oceans; 50% of the atmosphere’s oxygen that we breathe to survive comes from marine plants; more than half of the 5000 pathogen genes of marine organisms are being applied to medicine and human health. Through unsustainable fishing practices, pollution and marine debris, humanity has caused sea levels to rise, oceans to acidify, the climate to change and a loss of biodiversity and habitats. With 99% of European continental waters unprotected from “high-impact activities” such as bottom trawling and industrial-scale extraction, experts say the underwater world’s protection is a widely disregarded topic that lacks attention.

    Whether we love the marine ecosystem because we have seen “Finding Nemo” too many times or because we truly care for the sake of the wet part of our planet, all experts agree action is necessary. 

    Key Terms & Definitions

    • Biodiversity: is a term used to describe the enormous variety of life on Earth and specifically used to refer to all of the species in one region or ecosystem. It refers to every living thing, including plants, bacteria, animals, and humans. Biodiversity allows the cycle of nature and the survival of whole habitats and sets of species, hence its protection is the objective of many treaties and organisations. The term marine biodiversity refers to the variety of organisms in seas, oceans, etc.
    • Marine protected areas (MPAs): are bodies of water (part of a sea, ocean, estuary or even lake) established by the local government with restricted human activity intended for the long-term conservation of marine resources, ecosystem services, or cultural heritage. It protects marine ecosystems from issues such as overfishing or petroleum drilling, for example, but it can also protect important underwater archaeological sites such as shipwrecks. The level of protection of an MPA can range from uniform multiple-use (that allows extractive activities, like fishing, inside the MPA) to no-access zones that prevent anyone from accessing the area.
    • Bottom trawling: is a method of fishing whereby fish or other sea animals are herded and captured by towing a net along the seafloor. A major issue with trawling is that, besides the fish or crabs the fishermen are looking to catch, many other sea animals find themselves unintentionally caught in the fishing net. This is known as bycatch. Moreover, bottom trawling is also very damaging to seafloor integrity, harming its balanced ecosystem.
    • Bycatch: is the incidental capture of non-target species such as dolphins, marine turtles and seabirds when fishing.
    • Geoengineering: is a type of engineering focussed on manipulating our natural environment in order to counteract the effects of climate change. While it is a very young and promising but also risky field of engineering, experts recognise it could be an essential component in restoring the ecosystems of our rivers, seas and oceans

    Key Actors 

    Key Conflicts

    The protection of marine biodiversity might pose itself as an issue with many solutions. However, some of these attract a subsequent chain of underlying problems.

    MPAs are important conservation tools for the restoration of fish biomass and biodiversity, yet, even though countless studies have demonstrated their positive ecological and socioeconomic effects, some factions of society, including fishermen, local villages, climate deniers, as well as some scientists, have argued against their establishment. Some of them (like fishermen and tourism companies) want more scientific evidence to be provided on how they are going to benefit them and their businesses in the short term; other MPAs’ opposers don’t believe they are an efficient way to tackle the problem of overfishing since fishermen are simply going to displace their fishing efforts into a different area. This last issue is in fact a key problem. According to the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture’s report, the number of overfished fisheries has increased from 10% to 33% in only 40 years as a result of the use of new technology for global overfishing. This has led to the rapid depletion of fish stocks making fishermen unintentionally accept new baselines for the size of their fish stocks not knowing that previous ones used to be larger. Altogether fishermen risk losing their jobs. However, at the same time, they are getting to the point of never being able to fish again for the consequences of bottom trawling and overfishing.

    However, there are also other issues to tackle. For example, when oil is transported in ocean tankers, when it is used as fuel in ships or around oil platforms or wells there is the possible risk of an oil spill with long-lasting and detrimental consequences (like the total annihilation of healthy flora and fauna plus the high cancer development probability even in humans). Still, having to reduce or stop these activities would have a major financial impact on shipping and oil companies. Moreover, reducing the shipping of oil may lead to an energy crisis for countries that heavily rely on oil for their energy production.

    Seaweed farms, which are a refuge habitat for a diversity of marine life and absorb nutrients, coastal pollutants and carbon dioxide to grow, can help improve water quality and buffer the effects of ocean acidification in surrounding areas. However, seaweed is an ingredient in cosmetics, animal feed, and fertiliser so a great part of the seaweed produced is harvested and the habitat creation process has to restart.

    Marine mammals such as dolphins or whales, which often serve as indicators for the health of marine ecosystems, are increasingly suffering from diseases caused by human actions like dumping waste at sea. Moreover, reports of stranded marine mammals have greatly increased over the last few years and some of the causes are injuries caused by ship collisions and entanglement in fishing gear. In order to halt this effect and restore the health of marine mammals together with the ecosystem, scientists are still evaluating marine geoengineering techniques, which have the potential to mitigate the effects of climate change and other forms of pollution or damage caused by human activities but may have adverse impacts on the marine environment.

    Measures in place 

    In order to recognise and solve the issues, different bodies and organisations have already set directives or put in place various programmes:

    • Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14: At the UN Sustainable Development Summit, in September 2015, the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” was presented, with 17 Sustainable Development Goals at its core. The 14th goal of this list, “Life Below Water”, aims to conserve oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
    • Natura 2000: Born out of the EU Habitats Directive and the LIFE programme in 1992 by the EU, the Natura 2000 Network is the world’s largest coordinated network of protected areas. Even though it includes strictly protected nature reserves, most of the land remains privately owned. The approach to conservation is largely centred on people working with nature rather than against it; Member States must ensure that the sites are managed in a sustainable manner, both ecologically and economically. Today, the Network stretches over 18% of the EU’s land area and more than 9% of its marine territory protecting its natural heritage.
    • Natura 2030 Programme: A long-term IUCN programme set out to “conserve marine resources for the benefit of all”. In addition to providing a more inclusive and extended vision, the Programme defines broad areas of work and sets aspirational targets as well as indicators to measure success.
    • EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy: In line with the European Green Deal, the European Commission adopted this new strategy in June of 2021. The Strategy proposes new measures, such as reducing the use of unhealthy substances, while also expanding existing legislation, such as expanding the areas under the protection of Natura 2000.
    • Nature Restoration Law: The first comprehensive continent-wide law of its kind, it calls for binding targets to restore degraded ecosystems, in particular those with the most potential to capture and store carbon and to prevent and reduce the impact of natural disasters. It was adopted by the European Commission on the 22nd of June 2022 and it aims to restore wetlands, rivers, forests, grasslands, marine ecosystems, and the species they host.

    Food for thought 

    Seeing the potential benefits of MPAs: how can we ensure their recognition by the governments and local populations? How can they actually be “protected”? And how can we effectively regulate fishing practices while 10% of the world’s population is dependent on the industry? Recognising that our goal is to better protect our marine ecosystems: who will be negatively impacted by their preservation? Is it possible to help them? How can we mitigate the negative aspects while still succeeding? Acknowledging that half of the oxygen we breathe comes from marine plants: how can they be safeguarded? Is it possible to build seaweed farms with the sole aim of restoring the ecosystem and helping the marine habitat? And is marine geoengineering a possible solution or would it only worsen the situation? Taking into account that the topic is multifaceted: regarding the measures already in place, will they have a realistic effect or will they remain dreams on paper? 




    Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs
    Written by: Marieke de Weerd (NL)

    Relevance of the Topic 

    A long list of fundamental rights and principles are under threat, as stated by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) ‘Democracy’ and ‘rule of law’ are amongst the EU’s most important core values. However, currently, they appear to be violated by the Member States Hungary and Poland, which has been recognised by the EU. Democracy is one of the fundamental principles of the EU, and a prerequisite to joining the bloc.

    MEPs have declared Hungary to no longer be a functioning democracy but instead considered it a hybrid regime1 of electoral autocracy. In an effort to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party, holding two-thirds of the seats in the Hungarian Parliament, approved a bill, which granted his government rule-by-decree powers. These powers are nearly unchecked and are without a time limit. Meanwhile, experts overwhelmingly agree that Poland is going down the same path, violating the rule of law by undermining the independence of the judiciary. In an attempt to halt the anti-democratic developments, Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) was launched against both countries. However, the combination of a necessity of a unanimous vote in the European Council, and a deal between both countries to block each others’ procedure, is preventing it from moving forward.

    Something like this has never happened before. Nevertheless, we can not rule out the possibility of it happening again in the future. What else can the EU do to prevent further democratic backsliding in Poland, Hungary and potentially in other Member States and secure the Union’s core values? 

    Key Terms & Definitions 

    Rule of law: rule of law is the practice that ensures that all citizens are treated equally before the law. Besides that, this practice ensures a specific form of government, which would prevent the arbitrary use of power. In general, it implies that no one is above the law.
    EU core values: The EU’s core values are the moral principles the Union is founded on. As article 2 TEU states those are: respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights.

    Rule by decree: a style of governance allowing quick, unchallenged creation of law by a single person or group. It is easily susceptible to the whims and corruption of the person or group in power. However, it is also highly efficient because legislation is implemented much faster.

    Article 7 TEU: The article 7 procedure has the purpose to prevent Member States from advancing policies that endanger democratic institutions. This procedure has so far only been launched against Poland and Hungary. The European Parliament, the European Commission, and one-third of Member States can propose to trigger article 7. the European Council has the power to adopt the procedure.

    State of emergency: a legal government declaration made during times when a nation is faced with disaster or exceptional threat. It allows for the government to assume exceptional powers, such as the establishment of curfews and travel prohibitions.

    Key Actors 

    The European Commission: Commonly understood to be the EU’s executive branch, the European Commission is responsible for proposing legislation, enforcing EU laws, and directing the Union’s administrative operations. The European Commission is acting against Hungary to restore proper democracy.
    The European Court of Justice (ECJ): The ECJ supervises the proper implementation and application of EU law. It consists of judges from each Member State. The ECJ determined that the conditionality mechanism could be launched against both Poland and Hungary. Poland and Hungary have criticised the instrument and attempted to have the ECJ rule against it, without success.

    The Task Force on Justice: This task force is an initiative of the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies. This is a group of 38 member states, international organisations and global partnerships aiming to provide justice for all by 2030.

    Freedom House: a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that tracks levels of democracy and freedom worldwide. It was founded on the core conviction that freedom flourishes in democratic nations where governments are accountable to their people. They work to defend human rights and promote democratic change. In a Nations in transit report, they stated that Hungary is no longer considered to be a free country. 

    The Law and Justice party (PiS): a right-wing populist and national-conservative political party in Poland. They hold 48% of the seats in the Senate and 51% of the seats in the Sejm, the lower house of the bicameral parliament of Poland. In contrast to what their name might suggest, the party has enacted a series of measures undermining the independence of the judiciary. They claim this to be necessary to make the judiciary more efficient.
    The Fidesz party: Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s party, which holds two-thirds of the seats in the Hungarian Parliament, forgoing the need to form a coalition government with other parties. This government holds rule-by-decree powers for an unlimited amount of time, which can only be withdrawn by the Hungarian Parliament itself. However, with the Fidesz party having a majority in the Hungarian Parliament, this is very unlikely.

    Key Conflicts 

    A democracy can only thrive when its citizens are able to freely express their opinions and choose their political leaders, thus having a say about their own future. It is necessary that both freedoms of information and expression are upheld. With democracy being one of the EU’s core values, the EU is concerned with protecting it. Yet, we can ask ourselves whether the EU should interfere when it comes to upholding EU values, and if so, to what extent?

    The democracy map, created by the NGO Freedom House.

    However, as recent developments in some of the Member States lay bare, democracy and related sub-concepts of the rule of law and human rights are under pressure in the EU itself, but also on the global scale:

    • Three years ago the Task Force on Justice found that more than five billion people worldwide lacked this access to justice. Discrimination based on ethnicity, race, gender or economic status is oftentimes to be found at the core of this problem;
    • Judicial actors, such as those in Poland, face harassment and attacks, preventing justice from being served. This puts the ‘checks and balances’ system between the government and the judiciary at risk of not being executed properly;
    • Due to the digital revolution, the spread of manipulative information has gotten easier. Facts and fiction are more difficult to distinguish from one another. Technology is said to have both a positive and a negative impact on democracy. 

    Currently, especially the EU Member States Hungary and Poland are violating the bloc’s core values. 

    • The Hungarian Parliament approved a bill granting the government emergency powers. These powers had no fixed time limit. Besides, with only the government able to take the power away from him, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s party Fidesz gained unprecedented political power. Due to this bill, Hungary is no longer considered a semi-consolidated democracy, but an electoral autocracy;
    • Poland is undermining the rule of law. PiS proposed a judicial bill, claiming to be the only legitimate representative of the people’s interests. Accordingly, MPs, rather than judges, can nominate candidates for the judiciary benches which essentially puts president Andrzej Duda and MPs above the law. 

    As citizens experience such injustice, societal trust in their government and other public institutions declines. The perception that corruption and biases function to the detriment of communities, on the other hand, increases. However, confidence in public institutions is essential for enhancing civic collaboration and consequently ensuring the functionality of democracy.

    Measures in place 

    Considering the fact that democracy and the rule of law are part of the foundation the EU is built on, its violation isn’t taken lightly by the EU. As Ursula von der Leyen tweeted ‘It’s of outmost importance that emergency measures are not at the expense of our fundamental principles and values. Democracy cannot work without free and independent media. Respect of freedom of expression and legal certainty are essential in these uncertain times.’ Therefore, action has been taken:

    • The European Commission presented the European democracy action plan, designed to build more resilient democracies across the EU. This plan is designed to engage citizens, doing so by:
      • promoting free and fair elections; 
      • Strengthening media freedom;
      • Countering disinformation.
    • The European Commission triggered Article 7 against Poland on the 20th of December 2017 over its controversial judicial reforms. The European Parliament followed, putting Hungary under the Article 7 procedure on the 12th of September 2018. However, with Poland and Hungary in a mutual defensive alliance, blocking each others’ procedures, the procedure cannot move forward.
    • MEPs have published a report
      • Addressing the fact that Hungary is to be considered a “hybrid regime of electoral autocracy”;
      • Pointing the finger directly at Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, condemning his government’s efforts to undermine the EU’s core values;
      • Raising concerns about a long list of fundamental rights that are under threat;
      • Criticising the EU institutions for allowing democratic backsliding to go unchecked; 
      • Expressing deep regret for the contribution that the lack of decisive EU action has had on the breakdown of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in Hungary. 
    • The European Parliament has written a resolution on the situation in Hungary. Furthermore, in an exceptional move, the European Parliament called on the Council to act against this particular Member State.
    • Last April, the European Commission launched the conditionality mechanism2 against Hungary, due to its non-compliance with the EU’s fundamental values. The European Commission has concerns when it comes to Hungary regarding the independence of their judiciary, conflicts of interests and systemic corruption. This consideration, amongst others, led to the prevention of the approval of Hungary’s national recovery fund, amounting to EUR 7.2 billion in grants;

    Food for thought 

    All of those measures are steps in the right direction, and there is certainly more the EU can do to prevent further democratic backsliding. However, should it? Even so, to what extent? Furthermore, facing the risks of the reduction of societal trust, we must recognize the urgency of this problem, before it is too late. As outlined in Article 2 TEU, the bloc is founded on specific core values which need to be upheld to ensure its existence as a democratic Union. Yet, the way ahead seems far from being clear. Is the problem perhaps not the lack of legal instruments, but the lack of political will? How does the EU get Poland and Hungary back on track to being a full democracy? Or perhaps more importantly, how can the EU secure the democratic functioning of its Member States in the future?


  • LIBE I

    LIBE I

    Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs I
    Written by: Sofia Giani (IT)

    Relevance of the Topic 

    In 1766 Sweden was the first nation in the world to pass legislation that guaranteed the freedom of the press. The law stated the principle that citizens of a state should be free to seek, receive and impart information through any media without fear of reprisal or legal persecution. Since then, the principle has become a cornerstone of liberal democracies.

    How has the situation developed in more than 250 years? While Norway remains at the top of the World Press Freedom Index, conditions on both extremes have evolved considerably. Estonia and Lithuania – two former authoritarian communist states – are now among the top ten, while the Netherlands no longer is. Meanwhile, Greece has replaced Bulgaria, coming in last in Europe.

    Freedom of expression and information, together with the freedom of the press, fundamentally contribute to the formation of public opinion, allowing people to make informed social and political decisions.

    In recent years, press freedom worldwide has been deteriorating, and Europe is no exception. Now imagine: what if there was no journalism? 

    Would citizens still have access to freedom of opinion and the right to be informed? Therefore, what can the EU do to ensure free and safe work for journalists? 

    Key Terms & Definitions 

    • Censorship: the action of preventing a part or the whole of a book, document, film or any other kind of information-imparting medium from being seen by or made available to the public because it is considered to be offensive or harmful, or because it contains information which, often for political reasons, are wanted to be inaccessible.
    • Press Freedom Index: an annual ranking of countries compiled and published by Reporters Without Borders based on the organisation’s assessment of the countries’ press freedom records in the previous year. It intends to reflect the degree of freedom that journalists, news organisations, and netizens1 have in each country, and the efforts made by authorities to respect this freedom.
    • Democracy Index: another index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit which uses media freedom as one of the indicators to measure how democratic a country is.
    • SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation): the term generally refers to a lawsuit filed by powerful subjects, such as a corporation, a public official or a high-profile business person, against non-government individuals or organisations who expressed a critical position on issues of some political interest or social significance. SLAPPs use several strategies, generally including exorbitant claims for damages and allegations designed to smear, harass and overwhelm activists and/or civil society organisations.

    Key Actors 

    • European Commission: the Commission is the sole EU institution tabling laws for adoption by the Parliament and the Council that protect the interests of the EU and its citizens on issues that cannot be dealt with effectively at the national level and get technical details right by consulting experts and the public.
    • Journalist: a person who writes news stories or articles for newspapers, magazines, or news websites or broadcasts them through media. In this case, we are referring particularly to independent journalism, meaning it is free of influence by government or corporate interests or influential people: this means that journalists feel no pressure to shape their reporting, and can share unvarnished facts with the public.
    • Reporters Without Borders: an international non-profit organisation governed by principles of democratic governance aiming to safeguard the right to freedom of information and the independence of journalism.
    • Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists: a mechanism which helps create a dialogue between governments and organisations representing journalists, aiming to stop violations against press freedom in the Member States and enabling journalists to exercise their profession without the risk of compromising their safety. 

    Key Conflicts 

    In many countries, journalists and other media actors face censorship, political and economic pressure, intimidation, job insecurity, abusive use of defamation laws and physical attacks. Although Europe has always topped the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, some clear signs of decline are arising. The annual report by the partner organisations to ‘the Council of Europe Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists’ provides a wide range of facts on the situation2. The disparities shown in the annual Press Freedom Index, combined with the information from the Annual Report on the Platform, reflect three main alarming threats:

    • The return of journalist homicide in the EU. An emblematic case is the one concerning Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta. Galizia was a writer, blogger and anti-corruption activist, who reported on political events in Malta. In particular, she focused on investigative journalism, reporting on government corruption, allegations of money laundering and organised crime. She was killed in a car bomb explosion on the 16th of October 2017. This case, however, only represents the tip of the iceberg. In 2021, six journalists were killed: three of them – in Greece, the Netherlands and Turkey – were directly targeted. Another journalist died in Georgia following the violence while covering street protests. By the end of 2021, 26 cases of unpunished homicides of journalists remain active on the platform. The Russian Federation, Turkey, and Ukraine account for 60% of these impunity alerts collected by the platform.
    • Journalists facing hostility from protesters. Especially during protests against public health measures aimed at tackling the coronavirus pandemic (particularly lockdown-related demonstrations), journalists were physically attacked, insulted, harassed, and threatened. Moreover, the pandemic was used by some governments to introduce a raft of measures against media and journalists. This ranged from limiting access to government briefings and health workers, directing Covid-19 “public health information” funds to pro-government media and, in the Russian Federation, but also in the EU Member State of Hungary, introducing laws criminalising the deliberate spread of disinformation related to the pandemic. However, these threats to journalism do not only limit to pandemic-related protests, journalists are also increasingly vulnerable to direct attacks on their physical safety and integrity in general. in 2021, there were 82 alerts in that category, many of which took place during public protests.
    • Oppressive laws against journalists. Some EU Member States attempted to limit the freedom of the press by introducing oppressive laws against journalists, or other actions targeting reporters who were taking a critical approach to their governments. SLAPPs are a particular form of harassment used primarily against journalists and human rights activists to prevent them from, or penalising them for, speaking up on issues of public interest. Moreover, European countries have tried to control the reporting of politically sensitive news stories, particularly migration, which they characterised as national security issues. At the end of December 2021, 56 journalists and media actors were imprisoned in Member States of the Council of Europe. The Platform has recorded 10 alerts on the filing of criminal complaints for press offences by private or public figures. 19 other alerts have been filed on the prosecution of alleged criminal offences initiated by law enforcement and/or judicial authorities, as well as 9 alerts on the use of investigatory powers to disclose journalists’ sources.

    Measures in place 

    • A free, responsible and diverse press is, in theory, protected by both national and international law. Particularly the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 10, and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union refer to the issue.
    • The European Commission has taken several measures to protect media freedom and pluralism in the EU. This has culminated in the European Media Freedom Act proposed in September 2022. Among others, the act aims to achieve:
      • No interference by governments or powerful figures in the editorial decision-making of the media;
      • Ban the use of spyware against journalists;
      • Independent and adequately funded public service media;
      • Ensure the transparency of media ownership;
      • Establishment of a new European Board for Media Services;
      • Establishment of requirements on EU Member States’ national measures promoting the media.
    • Since 2015, the Safety of Journalists Platform serves to facilitate the compilation, processing and dissemination of information on serious concerns about media freedom and the safety of journalists in Council of Europe Member States. It aims to improve the protection of journalists, better address threats and violence against media professionals and foster early warning mechanisms and response capacity within the Council of Europe.
    • The Council of Europe Cooperation Programme has been implemented in over 20 projects in Member States and partner countries promoting media freedom, including various aspects of journalist’s safety, such as seminars, training sessions for law enforcement, methodological recommendations and legal support for victims of suppression of press liberties. 
    • The EU supports media freedom and pluralism in many ways. Some examples of these are:
    • World Press Freedom Day, occurring each year on the 3rd of May, reminds governments as well as citizens of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom, while also being a day of reflection among media professionals about issues and ethics of press freedom. World Press Freedom Day is a day of support for media which are targets of the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom. It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of a story.

    Food for thought 

    Freedom of expression and information, alongside the freedom of the press, are pillars of liberal democracy, on which the European Union is founded according to article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union. Media and press are essential institutions for holding governments accountable, as well as for sharing the stories and needs of members of the public.

    Without this bidirectional dialogue between the society and the ones in power, how could you possibly have a strong and vital democracy?

    The whole scenario that this topic overview has now outlined describes structural violence against journalists and with that an attack against their rights, attacks that ultimately challenge the stability of democracy in the EU. Imagine the same scenario proposed at the beginning: What if there was no journalism?

    Could the EU still call itself democratic?


    Here are some useful sources for further information:

    • Press freedom: why you should be worried (2022) – the international correspondent at the Economist, Avantika Chilkoti, exposes the global decline of press freedom, with a particular focus on democracies.
    • Media Freedom Act (2022) – the Vice President of the European Commission Vera Jourova introduces the Media Freedom Act.
  • ECON


    Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs
    Written by: Laura Simón (ES)

    Relevance of the Topic

    From doing your groceries to applying for a mortgage, the cost of living is on the rise. European citizens are struggling to reach the end of the month as their wages are becoming too low to cover basic costs. The EU economy is experiencing inflation at unprecedented rates. In this situation, the market experiences a rise in prices as the currency loses its value. The European Central Bank’s (ECB) response to the crisis has been to raise interest rates, making the cost of borrowing money higher. This measure is designed to slow down spending and decrease demand leading to lower prices. However, this slowdown in economic activity could lead to a recession, meaning that European economies could start to lose value. Paired with inflation, this phenomenon is what economists refer to as ‘stagflation’.

    Every day regular Europeans are seeing their savings dwindle as the purchasing power of the Euro falls to a historic low. Moreover, decreased economic returns can lead to increased unemployment and poverty, threatening the livelihoods of millions of European citizens. 

    For the nineteen members of the Eurozone, interest rate hikes and inflation affects each member directly. Moreover, many other EU Member States’ currencies are either directly or indirectly tied to the Euro. Because we share an economy, the act of one is an act for all. Therefore, the EU must coordinate its policies if it wants to get out of this cost of living crisis in one piece.

    Key Terms & Definitions 

    • Inflation: Is a general increase in the prices of goods and services in an economy due to the devaluation of the currency.
    • Interest rates: tell you how high the cost of borrowing is. So, if you’re a borrower, the interest rate is the amount you are charged for borrowing money, shown as a percentage of the total amount of the loan. The higher the percentage, the more you have to pay back for a loan of any given size.
    • Wage-price spiral: is a phenomenon in which workers demand higher wages so that their purchasing power1 keeps up with the increased cost of living, causing prices of goods to rise due to increased demand and higher cost of labour incurred in production, causing an increased cost of living which then leads to workers to demand higher wages and so on.
    • Purchasing Managers’ Index: is a measure of the prevailing direction of economic trends in manufacturing. Production costs have a huge impact on final prices and the lack of materials used by the manufacturing sector appears to be the main cause of this crisis.
    • Eurozone: Consists of nineteen Member States of the European Union that have adopted the euro as their currency. These countries all use the Euro as their currency.
    • Stagflation: This phenomenon takes place when inflation rises while economic activity slows down. It can cause quite a dilemma for economists as actions meant to regulate inflation can lead to further recession and vice-versa.

    Key Actors 

    • The European Commission: has the power to propose legislation. The European Commission recently proposed an energy price cap to help European citizens deal with rising energy prices. Furthermore, The Commission plays a crucial role in coordinating economic policy between the Member States when dealing with the current cost of living crisis.
    • The European Central Bank (ECB): is responsible for keeping prices stable in the Eurozone. The ECB is also responsible for the monetary and exchange rate policy in the Eurozone and supports EU economic policies. The ECB acts as the central bank of all those countries that adopt the Euro and it has the sole authority to produce Eros.
    • Policymakers from Member States: Governments and private institutions from Member States play an important role. As they come up with their own laws and measures, based sometimes on individual interests, international organs struggle to create a balance. Moreover, during a crisis, financial assistance for Member States may be required as they are currently suffering from interest rate peaks and a debt rise.
    • The International Monetary Fund (IMF): The IMF is a United Nations institution with the aim of creating economic growth, stability and equality around the world. They act through the evaluation of their members, analysing rates and demanding particular policies in exchange for financial aid. They have control over international transactions, granting loans to countries encountering crises and boosting nations experiencing growth. IMF funds come from member quotas.
    • The European Stability Mechanism (ESM): is an organisation whose action is based on the ESM intergovernmental treaty. Their role is to assist Eurozone Member States undergoing economic difficulties through different types of financial programmes and instruments. The ESM raises money for these programmes through the sale of bonds and bills to investors rather than through taxation of Eurozone citizens.
    • Workers and consumers: are the most affected by the current cost-of-living crisis due to the value of wages depreciating due to inflation and products becoming more expensive. Workers and consumers produce a lot of value through working and purchasing, hence they stand at the core of the European economy.

    Key Conflicts 

    Rising interest rates 

    Now that we understand what interest rates are, we can start to understand what role they play in the current crisis. The ECB regulates interest rates by lending money to European banks at certain rates. The ECB considers an inflation rate of 2% ideal. With a current inflation of 9.9%2, the Governing Council of the ECB has tried to bring down inflation by raising interest rates, recently increasing interest rates by 75 points with further increases expected. Essentially, by making money more expensive, they expect to reduce consumer spending and encourage consumer austerity. The purpose of interest rate hikes is to lower demand so that prices can stabilise. However, on the other hand, raising interest rates has a major impact on economic activity. Because raising interest rates lowers the demand for goods, they indirectly decrease the number of jobs. Furthermore, raising interest rates also leads to a lower cost of housing, as higher mortgage rates lead to less available spending power. Moreover, the results of raising interest rates are not immediately apparent, forcing banks to guess their best next move based on models. However, these models cannot take into account major crises, geopolitical or otherwise, as we’ve seen with the pandemic and war in Ukraine.

    The rise in manufacturing costs

    The pandemic and the Ukraine War have had a massive impact on the market. Due to higher gas and energy prices, the cost of producing and transporting products has skyrocketed. This has led producers to raise prices so that they are able to afford the additional costs. Energy and farming industries are struggling, which is translated into the suffering of the rest of the market sectors as they represent the base of the pyramid, as energy and agricultural products are goods which are often necessary to produce other goods or are goods which are used by every consumer.

    Gas supplies to Europe

    With the escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian war, gas has become a scarce commodity in Europe. This has caused gas prices, and therefore energy prices, to spike upwards. European states have been trying to cut off their dependence on Russian gas. However, due to a big reliance on natural gas for, among other things, energy production, turning to other sources for natural gas, such as the United States, has been an expensive endeavour. Due to decreased supply, high demand and price gouging, the gas being sold to Europe is far more expensive than before. Having few production capabilities within the EU, relying on other countries’ gas may not be the best idea. Therefore, Europe perhaps may need to look elsewhere for solutions to its gas and energy demands. 

    The rise in national debt

    Why can’t we just print more money? A common government strategy to tackle recession consists of investing large sums of money into the economy through subsidies or economic aid to citizens. This measure is meant to stimulate the economy by ensuring money keeps circulating, therefore keeping the economy running. However, such large-scale investments can be hard to finance. An easy solution for governments is to borrow significant sums of money in times of crisis leading to growing debt. With many European countries still having very high debt-to-GDP ratios, the EU needs to devise a way to alleviate Member States from the burden of debt while also ensuring they have the means to tackle a recession.

    Measures in place 

    Besides the rise of interest rates and aiming for more economic independence, the EU counts on several plans and strategies, some of which go back to its first actions. 

    • Capital Markets Union (CMU): is a plan to create a single market for capital. Regarding the aim to develop a recovery plan, they have adopted several measures, the latest being The Capital Markets Recovery Package. The objective is to boost investments by reducing bureaucratic processes and barriers. The recovery prospectus will be available for capital increases of up to 150% of outstanding capital within a period of 12 months.
    • The Stability and Growth Pact (SGP): Agreed at the Amsterdam summit in 1997, is known as the Eurozone’s fiscal rule book. It is a set of fiscal rules designed to prevent EU countries from spending beyond their means. However, given the absence of relevant elements of economic policy coordination, the stability and growth pact also started to assume that role, something that eventually led to its failure as it had not been sized up to perform that function. Nonetheless, the stability pact is important and should continue to pursue its role of ensuring fiscal discipline. 
    • The Banking Union: their basic aim is to ensure that European banks are strong and supervised. It was created by the European Commission in response to the 2008 financial crisis. All 27 EU Member States are a part of the Banking Union.
    • Various stimulus packages: Member States all over the Union have been sending out stimulus checks to consumers to compensate for the rising cost of living. Ranging from energy subsidies for low-income families and energy-intensive businesses to the slashing of Value Added Tax and subsidising public transport tickets, Member States have been attempting all sorts of measures to compensate for the rising cost of living for those who need it most.
    • Decoupling energy prices and energy price ceiling: In order to combat rising energy prices, Member States have agreed to decouple energy and gas prices. This measure is meant to lower the price of energy generated by non-gas-powered power plants. Furthermore, the European Commission has proposed a cap on energy prices in order to ensure a fair price for consumers and limit exorbitant profits for energy producers. Although some Member States have introduced their own energy price cap, a European-wide cap is yet to be implemented.

    Food for thought

    At this point, you might find yourself wondering “should the EU encourage saving over money flow?” The truth is that the current crisis is not the EU’s first economic challenge and won’t be the last. What can we learn from the past, which errors just can’t be repeated? Are we going to let differences break us, leaving behind unity? Which measures have gotten us out of a crisis in the past? Are they applicable now? The European Union is facing a Union-wide crisis that is having a major impact on its economy and its citizens. How can the EU get out of this crisis while protecting its most vulnerable citizens and fragile economies? Everyone knows time equals money. How can the EU respond to this crisis on time without leaving anyone behind?


  • DEVE


    Committee on Development
    Written by: Felix Crawford (NL)

    Relevance of the Topic 

    The war in Ukraine is a constantly developing conflict. As of yet, media could suggest that there is no end in sight. Still, it is important to look at the future as well. What happens after the war? When can Ukraine attempt to rebuild itself and repair the destruction and the devastation left behind by the Russian attack?

    The EU has demonstrated its strong intentions to help rebuild Ukraine. There are many operations in progress right now, and more are being discussed. Billions of euros are being disbursed to Ukraine to assist in its recovery, with more aid expected to come over the next few years. There are however complications regarding long-term aid. Member States are having a hard time agreeing on what the details of the pledges and agreements should be, especially regarding long-term commitments.

    There are various different ways aid can be administered; some consists of monetary support for general use, but there is also financial support aimed directly at supporting the humanitarian and military effort in Ukraine. Humanitarian aid varies from supplying people with shelter equipment to distributing specialised equipment which can be used in case of a nuclear attack. Military aid is mostly centred around defence weaponry and protective supplies. Another important factor which is hard to facilitate whilst the war is still ongoing is the need for structural support for the country’s residents—many of whom have lost any sense of normalcy or security. How can the EU ensure that support is successful in helping to comprehensively rebuild the country after a prospective ending of the conflict?

    Key Terms & Definitions 

    • RescEU: is a humanitarian project managed and financed fully by the European Commission. It has created an EU-wide stockpile of emergency resources that can be deployed at a moment’s notice and is used whenever there is a crisis situation in Europe which requires immediate emergency supplies and support. It is part of the larger EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
    • The EU’s Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP): is a part of the EU’s common foreign policy. It is primarily focused on preventing external conflict, as well as on crisis response and preparedness. Although Ukraine is not part of the EU, many of the EU’s foreign policy branches are strongly involved in the conflict.
    • The Ukraine Recovery Conference: is one of many summits and conferences held by EU Member States with the goal of supporting Ukraine. Many experts and leaders of EU Member States gather at these conferences to find common ground and gain an understanding of the different perspectives on the war and consequent recovery.

    Key Actors

    The Russian Federation: Russia is the main aggressor against Ukraine. Through its invasion it has caused extreme duress to the people of Ukraine, alongside hundreds of billions of euros in damages. Both the war expenses and the worldwide sanctions have caused significant economic problems for Russia domestically.

    Ukraine: Ukraine is the primary victim of this conflict. Billions of euros in damages have amassed in Ukraine throughout the war, and its people suffer greatly. More than five million Ukrainian people are currently refugees, and nearly all Ukrainians are negatively impacted by the war’s consequences. Almost ten million people are at risk of mental conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety.

    EU Member States: Though the EU tries to coordinate larger operations in Ukraine, nearly all Member States support Ukraine outside of the EU framework as well. Examples of this are France and Poland, which have both supplied copious amounts of military aid, and Germany which hosted the Ukraine Recovery Conference.

    The European External Action Service (EEAS): The EEAS is the EU’s diplomatic service. It works under the European Commission and is the primary organ responsible for international diplomatic action, and is also involved in military endeavours. An important part of the EEAS is the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) which focuses on fostering relations between the EU and relevant associated countries.

    Mental Health Europe (MHE): This is an NGO network centred around mental health. They have been very active in both Ukraine and Poland, helping NGOs connect with people and offer direct mental support. Organisations such as the MHE could help victims, as well as the general population, to psychologically move forward from the atrocities committed.

    The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD): As the main organisation responsible for European developmental investments, the EBRD is deeply involved in the Ukraine reconstruction efforts. As part of the EBRD Resilience and Livelihoods package, the EBRD invests in many different businesses and institutions in Ukraine, such as their energy network.

    Key Conflicts 

    An Active War

    An apartment building in Donetsk damaged by a Russian attack on October 9. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

    There are many possible outcomes to the war, with the final outcome being far from certain. Rebuilding Ukraine is not going to be very effective whilst the war is still ongoing. Though humanitarian efforts are already assisting with rebuilding the country, their effectiveness is reduced by the constant destruction. Humanitarian aid workers are having a hard time accessing those in need of help, and civilians cannot safely leave the war zones. Repairing the psychological damage left behind will take decades. Previously, humanitarian corridors have been used to extract civilians and administer aid. Considering the risk of escalating the war, the EU cannot force Russia to cease their attacks, but efforts are being made to discourage the Russian government from continuing the war.

    Slow Decision-Making

    Because of the various different parties that have to be appeased in the decision-making process, the EU can be slow to respond to crisis situations. After months of negotiations, disbursements that were finalised six months ago are only now coming into effect, and only EUR 4.2 billion of a previously dedicated EUR 9 billion has made it to Kyiv so far. When responding to crises, certain flaws of the EU’s supranational system become apparent.

    Rebuilding Despite Corruption and Instability

    Although it would be ideal if all reconstruction efforts in Ukraine went according to plan, there is no guarantee that the allocated money meant for development will be used for the reconstruction of the country. Before the war, corruption ran rampant in Ukraine. Initiatives to counter corruption in Ukraine will face complicated challenges once the war ends. In a post-war state there are many variables that can stunt anti-corruption measures: uncertainty, fear, remains of pre-war corruption, and a weak rule of law are all hindrances in the way of a transparent and non-corrupt government.

    Measures in place

    There are many plans to assist Ukraine that are being considered by the EU. There is a wealth of legislative documents and agreements, so much so that addressing all of them is not viable. Therefore, a comprehensive list of the most important developments will be expanded upon.

    Food for thought 

    The EU has an obligation to help rebuild Ukraine, both during and after the war. How should the EU approach this whilst staying true to its principles and supporting the Ukrainian people to the best of its abilities? Member States disagree on how best to offer assistance, and tensions run high as financial, military, humanitarian and social help is desperately needed.

    Another important matter is what the EU should do towards de-escalating the war. Though creating more international tensions is hardly desired, the EU should make its stance on Russia’s hostilities clearly known. What should future relations with Ukraine (and Russia) look like, and how can the EU make sure that humanitarian help is effectively administered when international relationships are tense or fighting is still happening?


  • AGRI


    Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development
    Written by: Nicolas Vardon (SE)

    Relevance of the Topic 

    Just like the skin of our body protects us from life outside, the Earth’s topsoil is the coating that maintains all life underneath the earth’s surface. Since the 1850s when agricultural fertilisers were first developed, 50% of all topsoil has been lost due to human agricultural practices and erosion. This has had a detrimental effect on the quality of our earth’s soil, resulting in decreasing crop yields. Moreover, not only have the size of our harvests been decreasing but the quality and size of individual fruits and vegetables have shrunk due to worsening topsoil. Yet, the consequences of soil erosion and acidification are not limited to the loss of fertility but have also led to increased pollution, sedimentation1 in rivers and waterway clogging due to eutrophication2. Given that agricultural land makes up about 40% of Europe’s territory, the degradation of our soil should be looked at not just from an agricultural perspective, but also from an environmental and ecological perspective. Soil degradation has led to a staggering loss in biodiversity, with agriculture as its number one cause. However, attempts to limit this damage have required some Member States such as France, the Netherlands and Germany to take drastic steps. These steps have led to unrest in some Member States. With farmers at risk of losing their livelihoods, farmers in the Netherlands, especially those who use farming techniques most damaging to the environment and the ecosystems surrounding their farms, have caused months of unrest because of their government’s new legislation which aims to slash nitrogen production in half by 2030. With the agricultural industry providing a livelihood to 10.5 million farms and 44 million people across Europe, the sector plays an important role in the lives of many Europeans. One thing is clear, if we continue on our current path, our soil and therefore the ecosystem we live in will be irreparably damaged. However, with so many Europeans dependent on the agricultural sector for jobs and a way of life, a balance needs to be found. How can the EU save the environment while not destroying the rural way of life and leaving farmers jobless? What sort of balance should be found? 

    Key Terms & Definitions

    • Food security: as defined by the United Nations (UN), this term refers to the ability to of having access to safe and nutritious food meeting dietary needs for an active and healthy life.
    • Topsoil: The upper layer of soil between 5 to 20 centimetres under the surface where nutrients are delivered to the plants and water is absorbed.
    • Ecosystem services: An ecosystem service is any positive benefit that wildlife or ecosystems provide to people. The benefits can be direct or indirect—small or large. Real-life examples include plants cleaning air and filtering water, bacteria decomposing organic waste and bees pollinating flowers.
    • Soil erosion: The gradual movement and transport of the upper layer of soil by different factors such as water, wind and mass movement, resulting in the deterioration of soil in the long term.
    • Intensive farming: Is a type of farming that relies on large amounts of resources and labour to increase production per unit area. It uses land, water and fertilisers to a large extent. It can be considered how economies of scale function in agriculture.
    • Soil acidification: The effect where soil Ph decreases over time, resulting in reduced fertility and crop quality.

    Key Actors 

    The Directorate-General (DG) for Environment (DG ENV): is the European Commission’s department responsible for developing, carrying out and doing follow-ups on the EU’s legislation and programmes on the environment. The DG’s main objectives are to protect the environment and biodiversity, minimise risks to human (and consumers) health, and promote the transition to a net zero-carbon emission3circular economy. It regularly consults civil dialogue groups to better shape its environmental policy. The Directorate-General also takes care of assessing its legislation as well as producing reports on and surveys on European citizens’ views on agriculture.

    The European Environmental Bureau (EEB): is a group of 180 organisations working in the field of environmental protection and innovation. The EEB acts as an umbrella organisation whose aim is to give a strong voice in the EU and international processes to smaller NGOs. The organisation also has a record of working with trade unions and progressive industries to represent their opinion. This stakeholder should be considered as the civil population’s advocate as they voice their opinions and concerns.

    The European Environment Agency (EEA): is an agency of the EU that supplies unbiased and independent information on the environment to the executive bodies of the EU. The EEA supplies data and indicators not only on the environment with information such as air pollution, biodiversity, land use and climate change but also on agriculture. This organisation is, in a sense, “the eyes” of policymaking.

    The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA): is a decentralised agency of the European Union which is responsible for communicating and providing scientific advice on existing and emerging food risks for the creation and adaptation of European legislation. Through cooperation with EU countries, international bodies and other stakeholders, it aims to boost the public’s trust in the EU’s food safety system. This stakeholder therefore mainly supports customers as it is mandated to look after their safety and health. 

    Lastly, European Farmers: play a key role in the industry as they are the ones experiencing it. Their main priority is to sustain themselves and their families through the selling of their products. Maintaining their land’s health and fertility could be considered as something secondary as in the short run they are focused on bringing money home. It is nonetheless complicated for farmers to find the perfect balance between how intensely they should farm their land or not given the negative repercussions of intensive agriculture. In addition, it should be remembered that they play an important role in maintaining rural areas active by providing jobs and economic opportunities.

    Key Conflicts

    In an industry that has been revolutionised in recent years through the use of automation, independent machinery and chemicals, a common goal all stakeholders pursue is the ability to supply the food market continuously. This is one of the responsibilities and goals which is stated in the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Nevertheless, this has always left the environment as a last priority for the biggest stakeholders. Given the size of the industry and its environmental repercussions on biodiversity, conflicts between the different parties arise.

    The EU’s approach has repeatedly been questioned in recent years. This is because the main way politicians have been providing help to the sector is by allocating large sums of money to farmers for their living. Nevertheless, this approach can be considered to be not the most appropriate as it is aimed to provide farmers with a stable income rather than consider the environmental costs4 of their intensive farming. This essentially means that a greater focus is given to socioeconomic issues rather than the environment. Furthermore, when it comes to the EU’s goals related to social constraints and equity, studies have shown that there is a misallocation of financial resources within the subsidy system. For instance, the majority of the payments are given to regions practising intense agriculture causing the most environmental damage to their soil, rather than to lower-income farmers in poorer areas. This does not follow the Commission’s approach of harmonising and creating solutions for Member States.

    Another important point of view to consider is the farmers’ and the food companies’ situation. Farmers aim to maximise their production in terms of numbers and revenue. This pushes them to use chemical fertilisers to boost their production in the short term, but negatively affects the quality of their crops and land in the long term as explained earlier. The use of chemicals in agriculture is seen as a sensitive topic for them, as 80% of farmers admit that the adoption of sustainable and greener farming practices is driven by consumer demand, and only 46% of them believe that it will have a positive impact. With the quantity of fertiliser used in the industry staying high, there is no indication of any farmer-led initiatives to proactively transform their business model. Furthermore, this lack of anticipation regarding the soil’s health could soon have global negative spillover effects as with soil losing its ability to store carbon dioxide, GHG emissions would rise even further.

    Last but not least, the opinion of consumers is crucial. With food being a necessity good5, it will be consumed either way. The population has high environmental and quality expectations of the other two actors mentioned in this section. Research shows, 94% of Europeans think it is important to safeguard our environment. This should be kept in mind as ultimately, the possible consequences could have a tremendous impact on our citizens.

    Measures in place

    Adopted by the EU in 2020, The European Green Deal aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. That means that in the next 27 years the EU wants to reach net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 in every sector of each Member State. This EUR 1.8 trillion million project touches on very broad areas such as climate, environment, energy, transport as well as agriculture. This initiative is also important for farmers as it, among other things, provides a budget for subsidies related to their activity. Bearing in mind our aim statement for this AGRI committee, this measure is mainly related to the “green transition” and “safeguarding of nature” we are looking to expand on in the resolution we will produce.

    The Common Agricultural Policy is a partnership between Europe and its farmers, which was first implemented 60 years ago by the ministers of the 6 founding countries of the EU. It aims to increase productivity whilst ensuring food security and providing fair living standards to farmers. Unlike the first measure stated above, this one focuses more on social, financial and economic matters of the topic. Subsidies are again of focus here, but labour force demographics, geographical economic constraints and market decentralisation are what make this measure relevant to our research. 

    National Policies play an important role in the diplomatic talks held within the EU. As governments’ goals and views are pretty volatile in the short term, it is difficult for the EU to implement a common approach to the issue. Different countries have different environmental goals, such as the Netherlands wanting to reduce Nitrogen emissions by 50% by 2030 and France reducing their Nitrogen emissions by 15%. It is indeed complicated to come up with a common approach as countries’ size, geographical location, workforce and economic interests differ.

    The General Food Law contains general principles, framework and requirements that were implemented by the European Commission at a Union level following a series of food incidents in the 1990s. This policy englobes the Farm to Fork strategy which, as the European Green deal, aims to make food systems fair, healthy, and environmentally friendly. An example of a requirement implemented by the European Commission would be the mandatory use of eco-labels on ecological food products.

    Food for thought

    Ultimately if this issue is still present, it means that the current implemented system does not fulfil its expectations. It is therefore completely legitimate to question it and consider different points of view. How can new environmentally and ecologically friendly ways of farming be implemented in the short term while still being able to supply the amount of food needed? Should the EU proactively look at ways of healing the damaged areas of soil or rather focus on harmless farming methods? Should current farmers be held accountable for the damage they’ve caused to the environment? Should the European Union prioritise some stakeholders more than others given the current political, economic and environmental situation? Has the EU allocated enough resources to the issue? How can the EU act proactively towards new and young farmers when it comes to their business model and farming practices? Ultimately, what solutions should be considered as appropriate in order to unravel the long-term environmental threat that soil degradation presents to our ecosystems?


    • Briefing on the current Agricultural situation in the EU” (2020) – A detailed piece of text, filled with interesting and valuable information regarding agriculture in the EU. 
    • Rotten” (2019) – A Netflix series focusing on the food supply chain and the issues it hides. Not only EU- based, but gives a more worldwide approach to the issue.
    • Tomorrow” (2015) – A movie which effectively analyses how specific industrial domains should be modified to fit the world of tomorrow. There is an interesting section on agriculture.
    • Can we create the “perfect” farm?” (2020) – A short Ted-ed video on the evolution of farming and its effect on the environment.