This was one of the topics addressed during the kick-off of the Masterclass 2013, where a selected group of master students from different Dutch and Belgian universities, as well as recent graduates with diverse backgrounds -from European Studies to International Relations and Economics- of diverse nationalities within and outside the EU showed their enthusiasm and readiness to participate in this innovative course.
Arco Timmermans, Research Director of the Montesquieu Institute, introduced the students to the realm of public policy design and the so-called “policy laboratory”, where he emphasized the relevance of two main elements: the definition of the problem and the solutions to it. Particularly during the course, he explained, the participants will make an analysis of the central topic: Determining a ‘fair’contribution to the EU. They will do this from the perspective of different national and European stakeholders that will advise the Dutch government on the best choices, supported on Multi-Criteria Analysis, a method to evaluate the feasibility and convenience of the alternatives based on cost and benefit attributes.
The session finished with a vivid exchange of opinions on diverse issues related to the theme of the Masterclass, like a discussion on the nature of the contribution to the EU, bringing up arguments involving economic, social, historical and political perspectives. Also part of the debate was Cameron’s intention to hold a referendum on whether the UK should stay or leave the European Union. Many participants in the Masterclass expressed their concern about the negative effect of this initiative against the “European project”, while others considered it only part of the usual British EU-skepticism discourse with minimal impact.
The discussion among the participants showed the complexities of a cost-benefit analysis. How we formulate the problem is highly relevant for the policy outcome. In other words: the approach of the stakeholder determines the problem portrayal and thus the appropriate policy design. In the following sessions the Masterclass participants will be introduced to different perspectives of experts and practitioners, who will share their experiences in the policy-making world. Afterwards, they will work in project teams towards the development of a policy paper.