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The European Culture Society (LUECS) is hosting an event on Friday Week 6 with Labour MEP Afzhal Khan, who represents the North West and is also Vice Chair of the European Parliament Security and Defence Committee. Khan will speak about what it means to be European in 2014 and challenges facing the EU. He will open up to the floor for a Q&A session and an open debate. The event is co-hosted by the department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion (PPR) and is open to all students, regardless of their degree.
The aim of the event is to facilitate the engagement between members of the society and the European Parliament, given that a very topical and important political issue at the moment is the rise of Euro-sceptic parties in the UK and the rest of Europe. LUECS has created a Facebook event for the talk; so far over 100 people have confirmed their attendance.
Speaking to SCAN about the event, Darren Mason, the Public Relations Officer for LUECS said Khan will almost certainly “address the rise of UKIP as in the recent elections, they did come first by about 300,000 votes. People are turning to UKIP in large numbers, so it is a major political issue that people are disillusioned with the EU, rightly or wrongly.”
The rise of a party like UKIP is an important issue for many European students potentially considering studying in Lancaster. Mason stresses the issue is that “with UKIP being the force that it is, it will seem a little bit daunting for someone in Bulgaria, Romania, in the Eastern parts of the EU or even in some of the Western countries, France, Germany etc. They will be sat there considering coming to British universities like Lancaster and seeing these news stories about people supporting Nigel Farage or UKIP and they may be put off. It does have a detrimental effect, which is worrying.”
The event is also designed to shed some light on what a Member of the European Parliament actually does, as many people may be unaware of the roles of an MEP or even who their MEPs are. According to an Opinium/Observer survey conducted just before the European elections in May, only 11% of the population that took part said they would be confident naming one of their MEPs. Turnout for the European elections was only 34.19% compared with a turnout of 65.1% at the last general election, so clearly furthering people’s understanding of the European Parliament and the elected representatives may be necessary. Mason states that: “for me and for the society it is important for people to understand the workings of the European Parliament and understand what it means to be European and understand what our elected European Parliament representatives like Afzhal Khan do.”
The event will be held in the Cavendish Lecture Theatre on Friday of Week 6 at 5pm.