The Refugee Crisis: Too little compassion or too much? 2015 Sakharov Debate (Abridged)

This year’s Sakharov debate focused on Europe’s ongoing refugee crisis, and on how the EU and its Member States responded to it. What remedies were sought and why did an adequate response prove so elusive? Why and how did our various governments, and societies react so differently? How was it that one member state took in one million people and others next to none? What arguments were made in favour of helping, or not helping, refugees from the Middle East and elsewhere? Acknowledging the emotive nature of this ongoing problem, we sought to view it from the angle of compassion, and through arguments framing different approaches to dealing with the crisis.

10 December 2015
11:50 mins

National Parliaments in the EU

Strengthening the role of national parliaments is one central demand in the UK’s agenda in re-negotiating the terms of its EU membership. In addition, Parliament’s control over EU decision making promises to be an important battleground of debate in the referendum campaign. The House of Lords EU Committee published an important report on the question in March 2014. A common claim is that national parliamentarians have a better sense of the citizens’ concerns than their counterparts in the European Parliament, and should therefore play a greater role in EU decision-making. But would this improve democratic control?

  • What national parliaments can do that the European Parliament and the national governments meeting in the European Council cannot?
  • How good are national parliaments at scrutinizing EU legislation? Are there existing practices of parliamentary involvement that could be a model to others, and what reforms would be needed in the case of the UK Parliament?
  • Could greater involvement of national improve the EU’s legitimacy, and what are the main problems with it?


  • Klaus Welle, Secretary General of the European Parliament
  • Charles Grant, Director of the Centre for European Reform
  • Lord Boswell, Chairman of the House of Lords’ EU Select Committee
  • Baroness Smith, House of Lords and Senior Lecturer in International Relations, Cambridge
  • Chair: Prof. Albert Weale, UCL

This event was part of our Britain & Europe Project. It was hosted by the European Institute, in cooperation with the Centre for European Reform.

18 October 2015
11:59 mins

Campaigning for the EU Referendum

Ever since David Cameron’s promise to give the British electorate a vote on the UK’s membership in the European Union the referendum has been high on the political agenda. With negotiations about Britain’s “new deal” intensifying in Brussels, and with the campaign to stay in the EU about to launch, public debate and contestation about Britain and Europe will pick up momentum in the months to come.

This event kicked off a series of events and publications on the EU referendum run by the European Institute this year. Our aim is to provide critical analysis of campaign strategies—on both sides, of key battlegrounds of debate, and readily available facts that can help to impose clarity on them and bust myths.

This first seminar focused on the upcoming campaign, its challenges and strategic options. Our speakers addressed questions such as: what makes the campaign about UK membership particular? What are the implications for campaigners on the ground, in London, Brussels, and across the UK? What role is the government playing in the political debate? What are the challenges of mobilising and persuading the citizens?

Panellists included:

  • Martin Bailey, European Commission & Chair of the Pro Europa Steering Group Brussels
  • Christopher Bickerton, Queen’s College, University of Cambridge
  • Peter Luff, former Chairman of the European Movement, CEO of Action for a Global Climate, Vice-Chair of the Coalition for an International Court for the Environment and Vice-Chair of the Council of the World Federalist Movement/Institute for Global Policy

The discussion was chaired by:

  • Christine Reh, Department of Political Science, UCL

This event is part of both the UCL School of Public Policy’s Policy and Practice series and the UCL European Institute’s Britain and Europe Project

8 October 2015
08:04 mins

Prof. Jack Vowles on what the UK can learn from referendums New Zealand Style

Prof. Jack Vowles of Victoria University of Wellington discusses what the UK can learn from “Referendums New Zealand Style”. There, deliberation is encouraged by significant investment in balanced information campaigns, and promoters must find their own funds, normally but not necessarily subject to expenditure limits. False claims of matters of fact are sometimes rebutted by those associated with the official information campaign, and can also be addressed by advertising and broadcasting standards authorities.
13 October 2015
02:52 mins

Britain and Europe. Prof. Sara Hobolt, LSE on the EU referendum and how the campaign matters

Prof. Sara Hobolt of the London School of Economics discusses how what the UK can learn from the experiences of previous referendums held around Europe on EU-related questions. She explains what key factors that are likely to matter to vote choices in the British EU referendum, and how the campaigns will have the power to shift public opinion in unexpected ways.
12 October 2015
04:39 mins

Britain and the Reform of the Eurozone

In response to the Eurozone’s existential crisis, a complex system of new governance instruments has emerged, not always in a well planned manner. This panel will look at this framework; at how effective it is, as well as how accountable and democratically legitimate—and at how it affects the UK. With speakers Anneliese Dodds (Member of European Parliament, Labour), Luc Frieden (Vice Chairman, Deutsche Bank), Vicky Pryce (Economist and Business Consultant), Albert Weale (Professor of Political Theory and Public Policy, UCL) and chaired by Piet Eeckhout (Professor of EU Law, UCL).
30 June 2015
09:38 mins

Interview with Ambassador of Ireland to the UK

The Ambassador of Ireland to the UK, Dan Mulhall, talks to the UCL European Institute about why Ireland would like the UK to remain in the EU. In an interview, he explores the close relationship of the two countries, and their place in Europe. More >>
26 February 2015
06:13 mins

Pathways to EU Reform

This panel, hosted with the Centre for European Reform, brought together experts on British and EU politics, constitutional law and media coverage to discuss the political, constitutional and legislative possibilities for EU reform. With speakers Wolfgang Blau (The Guardian), Richard Corbett MEP (Yorkshire and the Humber), Deirdre Curtin (University of Amsterdam), Charles Grant (CER) and, as chair, Christine Reh (UCL). More >>
21 January 2015
14:26 mins

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