DEN HAAG (PDC) - If organizations have different institutional positions and goals, this does not necessarily lead to dissimilarity in how they define a problem.Such a conclusion was drawn during the first lectures of the Montesquieu Masterclass. The Scientific Institute of the Socialist Party and the European Commission Representation in the Netherlands have rather different profiles with regard to European integration. One is quite critical of the ongoing process of Europeanization, the other promotes a leading role of European institutions in addressing the multiple problems that EU member states face. Nonetheless, both have in common that they see a problem of deficiency in solidarity among member states, and a misleading image of the EU. The solidarity problem and the EU’s image must be central on the agenda in the coming time, and they need attention from the Dutch government to play its part.
For Andy Klom, Head of the European Commission representation in the Netherlands, it is particularly the lack of information on EU affairs that blurs the way in which citizens think about the role of the EU. Thus one major challenge is to make this information available, while listening to the concerns of citizens and promoting that “Europe is the solution and not the problem.” Further, since it is hardly possible to quantify and calculate the monetary input and output of member states towards Europe, the ‘fair’ contribution approach puts pressure on the EU by emphasizing differences between countries rather than the goals that the EU pursues, such as peace and welfare. A concrete way to foster a more equitable contribution is through more "own resources" to fund the EU budget (such as VAT, import tariffs, FTT), rather than the current emphasis on national contributions to the EU budget, but an initiative by the European Commission to introduce this did not obtain the necessary support within the European Council.
The differences among institutions inevitably emerge when talking about democracy in the EU. According to Klom, EU decision making is a process legally defined by the treaties in which the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament have the final say over the European Commission’s proposals. He recognizes however that it is “partially true” that a democratic deficit exists. By contrast, Arjan Vliegenthart, the director of the Scientific Institute of the Socialist party, contended that the European Union has a fundamental problem and this is due to a rather nontransparent type of decision-making process. Another difference in point of view is the way in which both spokesmen consider the way to have effective influence. While the European Commission in the Netherlands does this via dialogue with citizens, the research institute is oriented towards the party and its branches in policy-making institutions.
The sessions with practitioners provide the Masterclass participants with insights in the way organizations that seem widely different may have points in common, or prefer the same solution while defining the problem from opposing perspectives. This enables the students to assess how organizations in the real world develop their views of problems and solutions, and decide which approaches are most likely to be legitimate and effective.