Midweek, Wednesday afternoon May 25. It was the one time that week all MaastrichtMBA students left their small-scale teaching classes to join forces and attend a keynote session by Prof. dr. Michael Kaeding, professor in European Politics and EU Integration.
The atmosphere was great, relaxed, and very lively, so Kaeding felt comfortable to approach the group with an invitation to ask any questions they like. As he guided the students in an intricate network of EU political and procedural structures, it became clear there were different levels of knowledge and EU involvement in the group. Some are familiar with European legislation and regulation in their line of work for export and import of products or services, others just welcomed this workshop to broaden their insight and knowledge.
Marcel Adriaens realised he didn’t know a lot about the political function of Europe until attending this session. “It was very informative. Professor Kaeding started with the basics, which made the information accessible and easy to grasp, and in combination with the lessons in macroeconomics from earlier this week, it provides for a clear picture why a united Europe is necessary and useful. In my work, European policies aren’t really relevant, but understanding Europe is a must for everyone’s general awareness and knowledge and as such, also for mine.”
Food for thought as a main objective
As time progressed, Michael Kaeding now and then abandoned his presentation to answer a number of questions, such as why a nation’s representation on EU level doesn’t necessarily relate to a nation’s national politics or views, which can be very diverse. Some political parties only exist for the purpose of the European Parliament, as there are also national parties whose views and politics are not represented on European level. The position of EU president Martin Schulz was discussed, whether his role has primarily an ambassador or representative function, or bears real influence and power. As far as power is concerned, the roles and dynamics of the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council were explained and discussed. And how a process of decision-making can be part of political strategy and tactics.
“How do we feel about Strasbourg?”, professor Kaeding asked the group back, and he responded to the different answers with plausible explanations as they exist in the European context. Having explained the basics of the EU, Kaeding took examples of current major issues in Europe such as the refugee crisis, and placed them against potential and possible developments in relation to elections, voting and legislation. He discussed the various parties, the coalitions, and compared past, present and future. He talked about exclusive competence versus shared and coordinated competence. And then there’s of course the importance and significance of the Treaties.
Useful and enjoyable…
Apart from all of these serious matters, there was plenty of room for laughter and humour as the MBAs very much realised how their different cultural and professional backgrounds played a part in their political judgements, which construed this session into a very vibrant and enjoyable one.
May van de Kerkhof: “Professor Kaeding succeeded in keeping us focused. In a week full of micro- and macroeconomic topics, the overall umbrella of the EU helped to create yet another frame. To me the workshop is very useful in the context of my daily work, where CBS (Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek) delivers many statistics for Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, on the basis of European regulations. To get a more insightful picture of how party politics work in the different institutes of the EU, why Euro skepticism is growing and how, for example, to get a majority on a specific topic. It gave me some new insights and takeaways, as a result of which the session was an asset in the programme.”