Always wanted to have a chat with the President of the European Commission? Students from the Avans School of International Studies ASIS were offered the opportunity to ask their questions to Jean-Claude Juncker.
The ASIS students took part in the Citizens’ Dialogue held in Brussels. During these sessions, European Union (EU) citizens can quiz European Commissioners and enter into debate with them. This way, the Commission aims to bring itself closer to EU citizens and create greater transparency. Kyrill Nussbaum, a third-year student studying International Business and Management Studies, took part.
Kyrill, why did you want to participate in the Citizens’ Dialogue?
‘It seemed like an exciting opportunity to enter into a dialogue with the European Commission. We ASIS students get the impression that the EU is disintegrating, as various Member States are discussing a possible exit. Our participation in the Citizens’ Dialogue offered us the chance to discuss this issue with Juncker, who is facing serious problems as a result of these developments.’
What exactly did you do in Brussels?
‘We debated emergency situations, together with about three hundred other participants. Topics discussed included the Paris terrorist attacks and how this has led to Member States’ call for increased border controls, while the EU actually is supposed to abolish these controls within the Union. Juncker and the other European Commissioners also fielded questions from the audience. We had the chance to briefly speak to Mr Juncker in person after the debate.’
What was the highlight of the programme for you?
‘The brief conversation we had with Mr Juncker after the session. It was a unique experience to be so close to one of Europe’s key politicians and to engage with him. It felt like he was one of us, not this incredibly powerful politician.’
You were also given the opportunity to pose your questions during this meeting. Did you ask Mr Juncker a question?
‘I did. I wanted to know how the European Commission is taking action to prevent the European Union from falling apart. Mr Juncker was unable to answer my question at length for lack of time. He did say that he still has every confidence in the EU’s existence, but that the current Member States will assume different roles in the future and that the EU will be assigned different responsibilities.’
How do you look back on this experience?
‘The school has simply offered us an amazing opportunity. After all, not every student gets invited to enter into a debate with the President of the European Commission. The Citizens’ Dialogue really made us feel that everyone is part of the political system, that citizens can put forward their thoughts and ideas to the European Union and that we really matter.’