Photographer:Fotograaf: Student Forum Maastricht
MAASTRICHT. What do to with the thousands of people seeking asylum in the European Union? This is a hot topic not only for Europe’s leaders, but also for the students who took part in the Student Forum Maastricht (SFM) at the Maastricht University Campus in Brussels from 15 to 19 April.
Fifty students from all over Europe came together in five working groups to draw up policy proposals on different themes. These proposals will be presented to representatives of the European Commission. “In a couple of weeks we’ll have feedback sessions with the representatives”, says Karoline Winter, a third-year European Studies student and team coordinator of the SFM. “Last year, they were very enthusiastic about the proposal on migration. It was forwarded to other representatives and taken into account when the European Council debated the migration rules.”
This year the students discussed asylum policy, energy, data protection, minimum wages and the independence of regions within the EU (e.g. Basque Country). “Every group was guided by a tutor and an academic adviser, who sent information about the topic to the participants beforehand so that everybody would have the same background knowledge”, says Winter. “The problems they had to discuss were presented to them by an EU representative. Except, unfortunately, the independent regions group. It’s a controversial topic, so we couldn’t find someone to do it.”
After a panel debate, several lectures and two days of discussions, the working groups presented their ideas. “The asylum group, for instance, came up with a key to divide the refugees equally across European countries, based on unemployment rate, population, etc. They also called for a change in the humanitarian visa regulations”, explains Winter. “And the independent regions group proposed that regions that split off from an EU member state should be able to rejoin the EU more easily and quickly, so that their populations don’t lose their EU civil rights.” This would have applied to Scotland, for example, had the Scots said ‘yes’ to independence during their referendum in September 2014.
A recording of the panel debate with members of the European Parliament is available on the website www.student-forum.eu