events archive

Does the EU stand for democracy and freedom?

Institute of Ideas in partnership with the Free Thinking Zone present a mini-Battle

7:00pm, Thursday 8 May 2014, Skoufa 64 str & Grivaion, 10680 Athens, Greece

The debate will be in English

500 million people in 28 countries have the right to vote in the European elections this May to elect 751 MEPs. This may seem to be a great, if not unprecedented, exercise in democracy. But how democratic is the EU and how will this election benefit the citizens of Europe? After all, real power lies with the member states in the Council and with the bureaucrats in the European Commission, rather than the European Parliament.

Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus have all negotiated economic bailout deals with Troika officials over the heads of their voters. We have constant EU regulations written by unelected technocrats trying to regulate our lives, from whether we pour olive oil from jugs in restaurants (failed) to banning menthol cigarettes (successful). Has voting become a symbolic rubber-stamping of policies that economists and technocrats have decided are necessary?

EU politicians worry about low voter turn-out, public apathy and disengagement. However where there does seem dynamism about voting for anti-EU parties such as Front National in France and the Dutch PVV, such groups are often denounced as backward and ignorant.

But if the EU seems to be dismissive of the demos in so many ways, why do most citizens want to remain members? Why is there a waiting list of nations to join, with people in Ukraine seemingly willing to die to foster closer ties with the West, ultimately join the European Union and have representatives sitting in the European Parliament? For those who want to revive the democratic instinct and encourage ʽthe peopleʼ to take control of their destiny, is the EU a help or a hindrance?


Sabine Beppler-Spahl, editorial journalist, NovoArgumente; head of education, Sprachkunst36. She currently works in adult education in Berlin and lectures at the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam. She has also published articles in Die Welt, Berliner Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Zeitschrift Merkur and other publications.

Dr Philip Cunliffe, Senior Lecturer in International Conflict at the School of Politics and International Relations, University of Kent. >Philip has written and published widely on questions of current affairs, peacekeeping, intervention and sovereignty. He is also a regular contributor on Balkan politics to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Antigone Lyberaki, professor of Economics at Panteion Univerity; Vice President of Drassi; EMP candidate for Drassi-ALDE

George Pagoulatos, Professor of European Politics and Economy at the Department of International & European Economic Studies, Athens University of Economics & Business; Visiting Professor at the College of Europe in Bruges; Senior Fellow at ELIAMEP.

Kyriakos Pierrakakis, Doctoral Candidate at St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford; former Chairman of the Institute for Youth of the Greek Ministry of Education , where he focused a lot on the development of a startup ecosystem in Greece and on building bridges between Greek innovators and the Silicon Valley community.

Chair: Nikos Sotirakopoulos studied International and European Studies in Panteion University of Athens and Law, with a Masters in Environmental Law, in University of Kent. He completed his PhD in University of Kent. His main academic interests include Marxism, New Social Movements and the critique of postmodern tendencies in contemporary Left.