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: Revising and Implementing the GDPR
The European Union is one of the main global stakeholders in data regulation. Given the considerable size of technology and internet companies on the European continent and the wealthy market it represents, the EU plays a significant role in setting global privacy and tax regulations for technology giants like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon (known as GAFAs). The General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679 (GDPR), a comprehensive series of regulations relating to data protection and privacy, is the EU’s newest tool in this matter. Nevertheless, the digital world is changing rapidly, so critics from within and outside the technology industry consider the GDPR to be a barrier to economic growth and the further development of technology companies in Europe. The GDPR also does not give clear rules on taxation; therefore, each country taxes GAFAs differently, creating tension between EU member states. France, Spain and other Western European countries have proposed an EU-wide tax on GAFAs. However, the proposal was narrowly voted down by other member states that rely on GAFAs with offices within their borders. Compromise is still needed, and a reform to the GDPR seems the perfect opportunity. If Europe wants to lead in technology, it needs to leave space for innovation, but there remains the critical question of how to fairly balance the interests of consumers, small businesses, and GAFAs.
Topic B: Mutual Defense Agreement with Ukraine
Ukraine continues to be torn apart by rival militant factions with opposing views on the country’s future. The new government of Ukraine wants to align with the European Union and NATO. However, they are opposed by regional militias and paramilitary groups who seek stronger ties with Russia. The Crimean crisis, dividing both factions, was the only armed conflict in the European continent during the 2010s and the geographically closest conflict to the Union. The EU reacted to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula with the establishment of the Ukraine’European Union Association Agreement, assuring further cooperation on economic areas, workers’ rights, and political unity. The agreement also commits both parties to promote a gradual convergence toward the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy and European Defence Agency policies. But no clear timeline has been set for the implementation of this agreement, nor does it promise military protection or cooperation. Ukraine now has a new pro-EU president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who ran on a platform of further bilateral cooperation with the EU. This is the moment for the EU to decide how its future relationship with Ukraine should proceed and to what extent the EU will defend and reinforce the existing government.