The 28 member states constituting the Council of the European Union (CoEU) serve as one half of the legislative arm of the European Union (EU). The original members of the EU were Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium. In 1960s, the European Communities were very successful in their efforts of economic growth, and this set the stage for their first expansion, adding the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark in 1973, and eventually to the 28 member states we see today. All actions that the EU takes are founded on voluntary and democratic treaties. The EU’s mission is ‘to guarantee peace, freedom, and security in and around Europe,’ to promote democracy, to strengthen and stabilize Europe’s economy, to make Europe as a whole a livable continent for all citizens, to promote equality, to facilitate communication between European nations, to protect the environment, to manage the impacts of globalization, to ensure Europe’s voice is heard, and to engage with its citizens. The EU is unique in its mandate in that it has the authority to formulate laws that bind member states, as opposed to simply making suggestions. These laws must follow the foreign policy and beliefs of its member states and earn their approval before it can be approved as a law. The Council of the European Union works in unison with the European Parliament to pass EU legislation.
Topic A: Updating EU-UK Economic Agreements in the Wake of Brexit
The United Kingdom (UK) officially left the European Union (EU) on January 31, 2020. This was four years after the historical referendum in 2016, colloquially known as Brexit. The UK and EU are now in a transition period, a time during which negotiations continue in order to determine favorable economic terms between both parties. A member state leaving the EU is unprecedented; it presents the significant challenge of the EU establishing a new economic relationship with the member state after leaving. There are many considerations in this process that must be accounted for. For example, the EU is the UK’s largest trading partner, amounting to 45% of all UK imports and 53% of imports in 2018, and because the UK will no longer be a part of the single market, pressing concerns include the establishment of a new free trade agreement and the fate of resources shared across borders. There is a critical need to establish new directions for the EU and UK that update their existing economic relationship to provide a clear path forward. The CoEU must provide clear direction on the desired terms of these agreements, in order to maintain close ties with the UK and avoid confusion across European and global markets. Thus, this current transition period is a critical time to determine the new forms that the EU-UK economic relationship will take and ensure productive cooperation for years to come.
Topic B: Developing a Unified Policy on Machine Learning and Smart Systems
New frontiers in machine computation allow computers to exercise the predictive learning capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI). With this, common aspects of daily life could be automated through computers making decisions which normally required human intuition, like driving, shopping, law, medicine, finance, and many more. However, with all this potential, there comes a need for rigorous oversight and planning; potent technology, when left unchecked, brings much risk. There could be legal liabilities when AI makes a decision that leads to harm, death, economic collapse, or public dissent, among others. Although developing modern AI techniques requires expert technical knowledge, the economic and social ramifications of this topic have multidisciplinary concerns beyond computing that the Council of the European Union (EU) must consider. The EU must act swiftly and effectively to standardize its position on AI, and to responsibly embrace this nascent technology without delaying adoption and losing global competitiveness. With these consequences in mind, delegates should increase inter-governmental coordination and cooperation to strengthen the EU’s position as a global technology powerhouse. The EU is uniquely positioned to seize this opportunity and lead the global AI charge effectively and, most importantly, responsibly.