In his keynote address at the Masterclass graduation ceremony, Klaas de Vries, senator of the Dutch Social Democratic Party (PvdA), strongly encouraged the students to make use of what they learned in the course to reflect on the future of the European Union and initiate concrete steps on it: “Nail your [Masterclass] diplomas above your bed. Think of Monnet, Schuman and Delors and start working on Europe’s future with an inspiration and ambition never witnessed before”.
The ceremony that took place in the Dutch Senate (Eerste Kamer) was the closing event of the Montesquieu Masterclass 2013 dealing with the question how the Netherlands can achieve a ‘fair’ contribution to the EU. The course program included lectures by practitioners, group work sessions and a simulation game. The masterclass involved students from seven universities in the Netherlands and Belgium.
The approach of the masterclass was to link theory and practice. Participants worked in a simulated policy-making environment, representing the interests and positions of different stakeholders towards the development of a series of policy papers to advise the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This was shown during the ceremony event, where the students Marijn den Uijl and Alex van Nieuwland briefed the audience about the consensus policy proposal that was agreed after difficult negotiations among the diverse stake holders, who brought their own agendas to the table. According to the consensus view, the current financial and economic crisis has created a two-dimensional problem, where the social and economic elements are key in the debate, due to an increase in unemployment and a stagnating internal market. The means to solve this problem is by “promoting a European social investment agenda and the harmonization of social policies” and “strengthening supranational rules in the internal market.” The report concluded that by focusing on both dimensions, the interests of the two governing political parties in the Netherlands will be fulfilled, a fair contribution to the EU will be eventually achieved, and the EU citizens will be provided with more “bread and butter.”
Following this briefing, Klaas de Vries presented a view on the history of European integration and an outlook into the near future. In the past years, the Dutch position in the EU became more controversial, in 2005 with the referendum on the Constitutional Treaty and in 2008 when the financial and economic crisis broke out and remedies were needed. He acknowledged the urgency of economic recovery to avoid that more member states drive further away from the collaborative spirit in the EU. Senator de Vries also recognized the need for change in the EU´s perspective where the social problems of living and working in the Union are tackled with the same weight as economic and financial issues. In this line, he suggested forming a European agenda consisting of ten priority issues brought up by European citizens.
After these views were presented, the students received their Masterclass diploma. The ceremony ended with a reception.
Masterclass 2013 - Uitreiking