Model European Union Tallinn (MEUT) 2017 kicked off with its Introductory & Workshops Day on July 23rd, 2017.
Around 70 participants from all over the EU and beyond gathered in Estonia last Sunday (July 23) to take part in the 2017 edition of MEU Tallinn. Over the upcoming week, this large group of promising young people will put themselves in the shoes of EU ministers and MEPs during a practical simulation of EU policy-making.
With its first edition dating back to 2012, MEU Tallinn seeks to foster understanding of the European project and its impact on citizens’ daily rights, and is currently a partner of the MEU-umbrella organisation Bringing Europeans Together Association (BETA e.V.). MEU Tallinn’s 2017 edition is being hosted in close cooperation with the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which started its term on the 1st of July 2017.
Unlike most MEUs, which usually attribute a single position to its participants, MEU Tallinn will give its participants the chance to experience different roles. During the first three days, they will represent one of the EU member states in three different compositions of the Council of Ministers of the EU – namely, FAC, EPSCO and COMPET councils – to discuss and make amendments to proposals pertaining to three priorities of the Estonian Presidency of the EU, namely the European Defence Cooperation, the European Pillar of Social Rights, and the Digital Single Market. They will then take their roles as MEPs from different political groups during the last two days, as they attempt to amend, vote, and ultimately approve the aforementioned proposals.
Welcoming this year’s partakers on Sunday, MEU Tallinn 2017’s Director-General, Annaliisa Jäme, expressed her wish that the simulation is a memorable one for each and every one of the participants and explained that the proposals up for discussion were specifically chosen to mirror the priorities of the current Estonian Presidency of the EU. The floor was subsequently given to the Coordinator of the Estonian Presidency, Ms. Piret Lilleväli, who briefly laid out the main action areas during the Presidency and how they hope to make justice to Estonia’s epitet of “the digital member state” and help their fellow EU countries to pave the way for a truly EU Digital Single Market.
MEU Tallinn 2017’s Head of Content, Lukas Spielberger, then gave an overview of the European project since its post-WWII origins until its current state and characteristics nowadays – which was not only useful for first-time participants, but also for MEU habitues. After a thorough explanation of the Rules of Procedure – ie., the code of conduct that ensures a smooth and realistic simulation -, participants took part in a short mock EP session. The proposal in discussion – which suggested using the winning song of the Eurovision Song Contest as an yearly anthem for EU official ceremony, and was voted down by a large majority – sought to gave participants a feel of what they can expect during this week.
In the afternoon, a panel discussion on the topic “How will the internet affect the way in which we are governed?” took place, as a very right way to wrap up a decent opening day of MEU Tallinn 2017.
The internet is a powerful tool which, if used in a negative way, can lead to immense amounts of data destruction and chaos.
This is more or less what happened to the Estonian Government in 2007. A series of cyberattacks swamped websites of Estonian Parliament, banks, ministries and the media. This attack, according to some observers, was of sophistication not seen before. Nevertheless, the Estonian Government reacted quickly by publishing a cyber-security strategy only a year after the attacks. Also, Estonia has actively advocated for increased cybersecurity protection and response protocol since then. The 2007 cyberattacks and the Estonian government reaction were mentioned as clear examples of the threat that comes from using internet with bad intent during the panel discussion in which three experts in Data Sciences and Cyber Security – one of them being a representative of the Estonian Government – took part. The measures that should be applied to prevent such attacks from occuring again in the future were also discussed.
Liis Rebane, Head of Estonian Cyber Security Policy at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, pointed out that the threats that come from the virtual world are more than real and should be taken with the highest possible attention. Besides the cyberattacks on Estonian government websites, Ms. Rebane also mentioned the cyberattack on a Ukraine power grid which took place on 23 December 2015 and left around 200,000 people without electricity, and the supposed interference of Russia in the United States elections. All these make up some very powerful examples of the effect that can have the hacking and the misuse of Internet on democracy and governance.
Another expert from the panel, Innar Liiv from Tallinn University of Technology, had some very substantial arguments to offer about the way Internet can be used to improve our daily lives. He pointed out the significance of further facilitating the process and the speed of sending money to each other, for instance. He argued that this would have an enormous impact on the economy: “sending money should be easier, as easy as sending an e-mail”.
Regarding the data usage, Mr. Liiv said that tech giants like Facebook and Google are in the process of monetizing our data: “if you were able to make money out of your own data, people would start caring about their data”.
Last but not least, the representative of the Estonian Government in the panel, Margus Mägi, offered a considerable amount of information concerning the steps that the Government of Estonia has undertaken in order to use the Internet in the most effective way possible in order to facilitate the lives of everybody and improve governance.