Later this year will see the celebration of the founding of a small but heartening programme of European cooperation, and one that is still open to the UK.
The European Parliament has a flourishing Former Members Association (FMA), which has a significant membership of former UK members of all parties. Fifteen years ago, the FMA set up a modest ‘European Parliament to Campus’ (EP to Campus) programme, which enables universities to host former members as guest lecturers.
European Parliament Former Members Association
The scheme is entirely not for profit. The former MEP/guest lecturer receives no fee; the only condition is that the speaker incurs no expense. The FMA may provide a small travel grant and the host university must provide the accommodation and general hospitality.
The scheme works well, particularly as it gives students and staff the chance to bounce their knowledge and their ideas on European and international politics off practitioners.
Any university can simply ask for a speaker on a certain subject, often allied to a pre-arranged conference or seminar. They then submit a request, the more specific the better. The FMA matches the request to its own database of MEP/guest lecturers and submits a shortlist to the university, who make the final decision on speaker.
Expanded programme for participating countries
The EP to Campus programme has now expanded well beyond EU member states, and even beyond near neighbours, to include countries such as Turkey, USA, India and Morocco.
Indeed, the universal lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has led to an expansion the programme’s range by using webinars and zooms. I have enjoyed zoom discussions with students in Toronto and Tbilisi over the last 18 months.
The obvious added value of EP to Campus is to hear views of the EU’s internal and external politics from a different perspective. For example, I sat in as a guest to listen to a German Green give her perspective to students of international relations at a London University.