The programme was broken into a number of different areas. We looked at how the EPP party apparatus function, the future of European integration and global democratisation from the EPP’s perspective and we also looked at presentation skills and how to best utilise modern media.
“It was fast apparent that the influence that the EPP has on my everyday life is much larger than I ever expected.”
There were two major things that especially struck me when I was over there.
Firstly, it was fast apparent that the influence that the EPP has on my everyday life is much larger than I ever expected. The Deputy Secretary General of the EPP, Christian Kremer spoke to us about the impact of EPP Ministerial meetings. These bring together the all national ministers from EPP parties where they attempt to coordinate policy initiatives for their mutual benefit and come to a consensus to present at Council of Ministers meetings.
This debates and discussions that take place at these meetings have a direct impact on the decisions that ministers take when they come home. They are valuable forums for exposing ministers to new ideas from across the continent and getting insights into what works and what has not for other governments. It is no surprise that European ideas such as the Dutch healthcare model are beginning to take a prominent role in Fine Gael policy development.
It was also interesting to note the influence of the Centre for European Studies itself on the last Fine Gael election campaign. Much of Florian Hartleb, the Director of the CES Academy’s, research over the past while has been around the concept of Cyber parties and on the important role of social media in political campaigning. EPP spokesperson Kostas Sasmatzoglou gave an intriguing insight into how the EPP have dominated the European political party scene on social media.
It was interesting to pick up a CES publication that included an essay from Fine Gael General Secretary Tom Curran and Ravi Singh about how such techniques were applied to the Fine Gael General Election Campaign last year.
The work goes on in the CES has a direct influence on EPP policy making and as a result upon the policies taken up by governments led by member parties. In terms of bringing about a sustainable economic future for Europe the policy brief (http://www.slideshare.net/thinkingeurope2011/the-european-union-at-a-crossroads-an-action-plan) presented to us by former advisor to the Belgain government Stefaan De Corte was of particular interest.
The other major thing that dawned on me at the CES Academy was regarding the important role of ideology in politics. Irish politics is so devoid of ideological rhetoric that it is easy to forget the influence that normative values have on what we consider to be the best policy. It also became fast apparent that my own values fit quite comfortably within the EPP framework.
“Irish politics is so devoid of ideological rhetoric that it is easy to forget the influence that normative values have on what we consider to be the best policy. It also became fast apparent that my own values fit quite comfortably within the EPP framework.”
Wilfried Martens, former Prime Minister of Belgium and the President of the EPP, gave a talk about the values of the European People’s Party. He stressed that these values are central to what the EPP is all about and in this vein spoke of a number of EPP values that really struck a chord.
He put forward an interesting ideological framework whereby government must be strong enough to provide for a social market economy but decisions should be made at the lowest possible level (subsidiarity). He talked about putting the individual at the centre of policy formulation and argued that what is best for the individual citizen is what should be promoted as being best for society at large.
If you would like to learn more about the Centre for European Studies, why not come along to their Economic Ideas Forum in Dublin Castle this Thursday and Friday? See their website for more details: http://www.thinkingeurope.eu/eif12/
- Economic Ideas Forum to take place in Dublin Castle, 19th-20th April (yfginternational.wordpress.com)