April 27, Newcastle

April 13, Edinburgh

March 30, Belfast

March 23, Maidstone

March 16, Truro

March 9, Nottingham

March 2, London

February 24, Leeds

February 17, London

February 10, Birmingham

February 3, Brussels

January 27, Southampton

January 20, Liverpool

January 13, London

December 16, Leeds

December 9, Manchester

December 2, Cardiff

November 25, Birmingham

November 18, Durham

November 11, Maidstone

November 4, Glasgow

October 28, Southampton

October 21, London

October 14, Sydney

October 7, Manchester

September 30, Bournemouth

September 23, London

July 15, Belfast

July 8, London

July 1, Birmingham


February 3, Brussels

The panellists for the special Brussels debate were:

Your emails and a selection of the comments from the panellists are published on this page. You can still watch the debate online in Real Video by clicking on the link below:


The topics discussed were:

EU versus Austria

Audience Question: What right does the EU have to interfere in Austrian domestic politics?

Robin Cook: I deplore the views that Mr Haider holds, including xenophobia and racism. In the EU the union of member states is formed based on certain values which Haider rejects and has attacked throughout his political career.

Jens-Peter Bonde: Haider is disgusting but the EU should not interfere. What would the British think if the EU didn't like New Labour? Democracy means the electorate chooses the members of parliament and they choose the government.

Jacques Santer: All 15 member states have to comply with the commitment made to support tolerance, democacy and the protection of minorities.

Iain Duncan Smith: The problem with this is the EU could make it a lot worse. Mr Haider has used the EU as a demonstration of what's wrong with Europe. The National Front did gain a foothold in the UK but they were thrown out when it was realised that they were useless.

Shirley Williams: The EU has a clear commitment to democratic rights and the rights of minorities.

Audience Question: The Belgian minister of foreign affairs said it would be morally wrong to go skiing in Austria. But the Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands is doing just that. What do the panel think of this?

Jacques Santer: We can't afford to isolate a country. All of Haider's voters are not fascists.

Robin Cook: We have freedom of movement in Europe but Mr Haider would end that.

Iain Duncan Smith: The trouble with the EU is the tendency to centralise its power. We should push out all this power to the member countries.

Your comments:

If people wish to find out more about the Austrian Freedom Party there is an English translation of their site at www.fpoe.or.at/englisch/ welcome.html. People can then make a more informed view of what is happening.
T.P.Bragg, Honiton, UK

There is a lack of information on Joerg Haider and the FPOe. The disgusting statements made by Haider in the past - praising Hitler's employment policies and the Waffen-SS are the only things that surfaced. But there are quite a few links between FPOe members and party officials to the right extremist scene in Austria, described in a book called "Haider's Clan" by Hans-Henning Scharsach (Publisher Orac, Vienna 1995). I do believe the British government has to act, although international pressure hits the politicians first, and not the people that vote for him. It is not just an Austrian affair, and the reaction of e.g. of Israel is an important sign.
Matthias Wurz, Dudley, UK (Austrian)

As a democratic country how can we intervene in the situation with Austria, which clearly was voted on freely. Why should we propose diplomatic sanctions and other action to achieve what we want for Austria? I don't agree with what labour is doing to our own democracy, ie Scotland, Wales and the Lord's but I'm not calling for the EU or any other country to intervene. I'm just waiting for our next general election when hopefully the British public will wake up to what this government are really doing.
J. Butcher, UK

As far as I am concerned, as soon as an individual, a group, a political party or a nation state violate or remove the democratic rights of others e.g. minority groups, they have abused and violated the democratic process.
Catherine Palmer, Edinburgh

It is wrong for the EU to interfere with democracy in any country. And imposing sanctions on Austria for something which is constitutional and which has been approved by their President would be doing just that - interfering with democracy. Whether we like or dislike Mr Haider, we have to accept that he has the support of many Austrian people. I could accuse the Liberal Democrats of being very left-wing...does that mean that in the event of them being elected to government the EU or other countries should interfere? The answer is obviously no.
Rajiv Mulchandani, London

The Austrian people have a right to freely elect a government. But we as Europeans also have a democratically expressed choice to isolate regimes we feel are intolerable. These choices are expressed through the election of governments who are actively opposed to xenophobic or racist regimes.
Julian Tedstone, London

It smacks of the deepest hypocrisy that the unelected, unaccountable EU can criticise a democratically elected government by pointing to a treaty article about upholding democracy.
Iain Lindley, Manchester

Hitler also wanted to abolish nation states and sovereign rule. The EU's criticism of Austria is the pot calling the kettle black. Real democracy if allowed to flourish will flush out fascism and extreme nationalism.
Jim Bogusz, Bolsover, UK

Should the EU (and USA, Isreal etc.) interfere with the internal democracy in Austria? Equating Heider with Hitler is merely a smokescreen to disguise the real reason that the EU do not want Heider, which is that he would be a "loose cannon" in Europe.
Dr. Jonathan Chubb, Edinburgh, Scotland

I think many of the panel are missing the point. What happened when the German people democratically voted for the enabling act in 1938? Austria should not be allowed to elect ministers who believe that the SS are "nice people". Unlike 1938, the EU has the power to stop Austria before it puts forward more policies of this nature. Thank you for your time.
Mark Tinsley, Stoke-On-Trent, UK

The European Union is bent on the principle of a Union of "Socialist" Republics and will be seen not to tolerate right wing government. Reference the new Labour government constantly attempting to discredit the forces of conservatism and right of centre politics and, by implication, always maintaining that only a socialist administration in Britain will succeed in Europe.
Vincent Hill, UK

I would like to know what kind of sanctions if any Robin Cook & Tony Blair would consider if all our worst nightmares come true about the far-right party in Austria.
Colin Shannon, Manchester, UK

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Euro-Corruption?

Audience Question: Do events such as the allegations against Helmet Kohl and the mass resignation of the former European Commission prove the EU is corrupt to its core?

Iain Duncan Smith: There is a problem with fraud and corruption when power is centralised. The EU should and do it better.

Jacques Santer: When I came into office in 1995 we saw there was a problem of management in the Commission. It used to be more of a think tank, but it took over many tasks without having the human resources to look after those. It was the basis of investigations within the commission that uncovered fraud. I didn't agree with allegations of fraud, out of 6 cases 4 were from the last Commission. Each commissioner has to be accountable. The EC is a collective body for the parliament and does not function like the government.

Jens-Peter Bonde: Mr Santer wasn't a criminal but a victim. He was run by the bureaucrats. The only cure for corruption is transparency.

Shirley Williams: If you look at the way countries fund their parties, you find many run into corruption. The trouble is that party funding is getting out of hand. It's not just a European problem, it's a world-wide problem. I don't believe you can lay a finger on Mr Santer. His loyalty to Edith Cresson was inappropriate.

Robin Cook: Corruption must be addressed wherever it is found. The EC does need reforms and I support Neil Kinnock's proposals for increased accountability. What should you do less of? The EC performs some vital functions.

Your comments:

Clearly neither Shirley Williams nor Jacques Santer have grasped the point that the whole purpose of being put in charge of an organisation is that you are made responsible for organising it and establishing its culture in such a way that fraud and mismanagement are not tolerated. And it was on this point that Santer was a complete failure. Whether or not he was personally innocent of fraud is completely irrelevant to this point. I need only point out the fact that they used every trick they could find to get rid of the whistleblower but took only very light action - if any - against the perpetrators of fraud. And Santer knows perfectly well that the 6 frauds in those official reports are not the end of the story.
Anonymous

All experience shows that corruption increases with the length of time the ruling party figures remain in power - they soon believe they have a right to power and will do anything to keep it. Any political system that allows rulers to remain in power unchecked for decades, risks the same result.
Anthony New, Bristol

The most hypocritical charge levelled at the EU is that of a lack of democratic accountability. We in the UK have our executive elected by first-past-the-post, a House of Lords soon to be entirely appointed by politicians and a head of state who's only legitimacy is one of birth. What right do we have to preach to those countries like France whose democracy is far more modern than our own; or even the EU itself? The EU has a wonderful opportunity to modernise and trump our own constitution, it should not pass it up.
Ben Murphy, Darford

Am I more cynical than your panel? I don't believe that the countries eager to join the E.U. are waiting to contribute something to us - they sense a trough of benefits waiting to be claimed, and the corruption will spread even wider.
D.Henry, Edinburgh, Scotland

What does the European Union have against directly electing the Commission, including the president? If that were the case, the whole project might prove more acceptable to people here, to see that these people were being held to account for their decisions.
Reg Alderton, UK

Would you join a club where corruption is rife, where the committee steal the subscriptions and when found out are allowed to leave with pensions and no criminal record - of course New Labour would and entrench us further into the system which allows it to continue. The gentlemen who blew the whistle, why isn't he running the finances? Lets get out for God's sake and not be conned into all this by a fear of lost jobs.
M. E. Ridley, Northumberland, UK

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Britain outside the Euro-zone

Audience Question: If it's in Britain's interests to join the Euro-zone will the government dare to give its wholehearted support to it?

Shirley Williams: I wish the government would take a much stronger line. We have suffered in Britain from a ludicrous distortion of the harmful effects of the Euro. Today Britain is the 12th poorest country in Europe and has the highest levels of poverty, bar Greece and Portugal. The government is too concerned with opinion polls.

Iain Duncan Smith: This government spends its whole time on focus-group meeting. After the next parliament they are saying they are going to take Britain into the Europe. To join you have to decide whether your economic cycles are the same. We are far closer to the USA than Europe. If you do not wish to lose the pound then you should join the Conservatives.

Jens-Peter Bonde: What you have to decide is not whether you want the Euro, but whether you want to forbid your own currency. You would need a unanimous decision from all 15 member-states to get it back once you lose it.

Robin Cook: It's a major step. There will be a referendum if we decide it is in the interests of British people. Industry and in particular, the car industry, will gain immensely. British consumers are often ripped off because of the lack of price transparency.

Jacques Santer: My commission launched the Euro. At this moment, all the 11 countries of the Euro-zone have never had such stability. Britain is benefiting from the opt-out clause. If the British people, the CBI and the City of London are in favour then Britain should join.

Your comments:

UK imports from the EU are considerably higher than exports therefore economically there is no advantage in joining the Euro. The UK should forge stronger links with the US as well as Canada and Australia. Many people gave their life so that we could enjoy real democracy. Are we prepared to give it up so that we can sell a few extra cars to Europe?
Glauca Rossi, London

I am in agreement with Robert Mundell, the Nobel prize winner of economics when he says that the UK is likely to join the Euro by 2003. If we do not, it will cause such tensions between us and them that the whole idea of Europe working together will diminish.
Philip Harrison, Taunton, Somerset

Isn't the Euro just another way for Germany to rule Europe like they tried in the Second World War except more subtle. If this government doesn't think we can survive outside of the Euro then isn't it about time we brought in one that does? Facts are that we are prospering economically outside the Euro and that we are strong enough to stand on our own two feet.
David Gracie, Southend on Sea

Opinion polls in all European countries show that the public rejects increased unification and the federal model. Why does the political elite continue in pushing this unpopular concept and what has to happen for the public's wishes to be followed by their representatives?
Jeremy Holland, London

The pound or the Euro - what does it matter - money corrupts!
Duncan Williams, Ammanford

Why can't the concept of a European Union exist SOLELY on economic grounds and not Political Grounds which undermine sovereignty and will only cause deeper apathy towards 'democracy'?
Maya Hawie, London, UK

It is futile and indeed reckless to pursue economic and monetary union without the requisite political unity of purpose and vision. Without clear political direction and institutional unity a European superstate will be the inevitable conclusion reached by those sceptical of the single currency and will become the underlying objective of those enthusiasts. By putting EMU achievement before the achievement of political union and the establishing of the fundamental political frameworks to make it work successfully for the benefit of all EU citizens, we are putting the cart before the horse.
Dean Russell, Bangor, Wales

In a past speech Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that 'Fifty per cent of England's trade is within the EU', inferring that this would be lost if we were not to join the European currency. I was taken in by this for five seconds till the realisation that this could only mean that we would definitely loose 50% of our trade when we join the EU currency.
Hilary Grace, Great Britain

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Euro-bashing and the British media

Audience Question: What can European institutions do to counteract the negative press in Britain about the EU?

Jacques Santer: There is a lack of information and I recognise that. I was concerned that the Euro was too high at the time of the launch, and now we have a culture of stability. There is the serious media in Britain. The British economy is linked to the continental economy, and not to Japan and the USA. We have to see that linkage.

Robin Cook: The British press is lively and entertaining. It has an obligation to tell the truth. There is a story today that the EU is going to abolish the .uk internet domain. There is no such proposal. When they correct it they'll put it at the bottom of the page somewhere between the Snooker and the Cricket.

Jens-Peter Bonde: The problem is there are too many stories to write about. There is scandal after scandal in the EU, and to avoid them we need full transparency.

Iain Duncan Smith: The idea you get a one-way street on these issues is ridiculous. The EU would like to see a whole lot of propaganda to address an imbalance that doesn't exist.

Shirley Williams: I'll just take one example. The French reacted to British beef in Europe. For 10 years the US, Canada, and Australia and 89 countries in all banned British beef too. Not one newspaper talked about it.

Your comments:

Congratulations to the BBC in presenting this programme from Brussels and AT LAST giving a British audience the chance to hear and see for themselves significant figures from the EU debating with each other. As several people said on the programme, there IS a chronic shortage of information in the UK about the EU, and the press is biased. Let's have more 'Question Times' and other programmes taking place in Europe, so we can judge for ourselves what these people think.
Barry Sugg, Brighton

There are two main problems with the British press:
1. If they do not like Europe they never will. If the UK join the single currency they will wait and blow things completely out of proportion making the public panic and become more anti-Europe.
2. Bad news sells as it catches the attention of the reader more than good news. Bad news also stays in the public's mind whereas good news may be forgotten easier.
Karl Irons, Bournemouth

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EU 2020

Audience Question: Where will an ever-closer union take the EU in 20 years time and do we want to be there?

Jens-Peter Bonde: If we continue the way we are going now, we will be one state, with one government.

Jacques Santer: It will be a federation of national states. The nation-state will remain with an inter-governmental, federal part. We will have a unique chance to reconcile the continent within itself.

Shirley Williams: With a 300m population for the first time in 20 years Europe will have the same weight as the US or China.

Iain Duncan Smith: If we don't do something about it we'll end up with a nation. The concept of nation-states working together will be bogus.

Robin Cook: There's not going to be a state called Europe. On February 14 we are starting the process of enlargement for a Europe from Portugal to Poland, from Sweden to Cyprus.

Your comments:

NATO has not been the machine of peace in Western Europe for the past 50 years, NATO was created only to prevent the communists from getting a foothold in western Europe. Middle England in their myopic view of the world only think of the EU as an economic area with whom they can do some trade here or there but FAIL to comprehend the basis for the construction of the European Superstate: to never, ever allow war between European peoples again.....because when we go to war - we drag the world into our conflict!
Michael Turberville, London

The European Union should not proceed further into creating one big country. Having lived in both England and the United States I can see the many advantages that Britain has by remaining independent. Free trade is one thing, but losing control over making laws and adjusting the economy through a national bank is another. In the states there is double taxation in the form of both state and federal taxes, and the amount of government is staggering. Plus everywhere you go the cities all look the same.
David Burnett, New York City, USA

It is significant that only the anti-European contributors saw the EU becoming a 'state called Europe' i.e. a super-state. The idea behind the European Union was to safeguard our nations. You can see how Robert Schuman, the initiator of the EU, conceived Europe in the 1950 and what he expected it to become in the 2000s on the independent website, www.schuman.org. It is nothing like a federal state. He in fact opposed the idea of a super-state.
David Price, Brussels, Belgium

My concern about European integration has always centred around the lessons of history (and being doomed to repeat them). I am unaware of any unification of indigenous populations (this obviously excludes the USA) being successful for any period of time. One has only to think the former Yugoslavia and Soviet Union, and the death and disruption their eventual break-up caused - but we can even go as far back as the Romans. Being Europeans, I am sure we are far too civilised to let that happen to us!
Martin Edwards, Tadley

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Your general comments

I do not know if Haider is a threat to democracy in Austria. I do know that the "EU" is a disgusting anti-democratic organisation and the greatest threat to the people of Europe. The greatest threat to the people of Britain is the useless House of Commons. We have never voted for the degree of integration we have had. If the Commons had functioned properly, then the Dome would not have been built and we would not have the inferior metric system forced on us.
Tony Robinson, Ipswich

The broadcast from Brussels was a very important one as the looming question of the Euro becomes ever more resonant. However, I was rather dismayed by the number of members of the audience who chose not to approach the debate in a constructive and organised manner. The result was a debate more suited to a football match than that of a civilised society.
Mr Gareth Lincoln, Keele University

1. How good it was to see a panellist who was well briefed and articulate without the need for reams of notes from which to read - Shirley Williams.
2. Is the only reason that the EU is united in its stand against Austria that it is the only thing we all agree on? Or is it to divert attention away from a much bigger problem?
Howard Jones, Bath

How does the panel think that the countries awaiting accession to the EU in 2003 i.e. Poland, Slovenia will benefit the present 15 members when CAP, and other structural Funds, are already stretched to provide funding for the present members? The so-called wealthy nations will have to provide the necessary funding to new regions and there will be less in the "kitty" for our already struggling agriculture industry.
S. Hopkins

I believe that the European Commission should have more decision-making powers. In a world where economic globalisation is accelerating, the need for the regulation and reconciliation of trade issues with other concerns is ever greater. (notably environmental and consumer protection... GM foods, hormones in beef, etc.)
Ross Marnie, Stirling, Scotland

Tony Blair is on the rack over the so-called farming crisis. I have just been in my local supermarket and purchased carrots. Available were English and "new season" flown from South Africa. Has the EC a role to play in trying to educate the consumer by only buying fruit/vegetables when they are in season locally, helping farmers maximise food self-sufficiency within a country and as importantly improving the environment?
Philip Wilson, Southampton, UK

The EU commission is made up of failed politicians (Neil Kinnock was rejected by the populace of the UK twice and is now one of the 12 most powerful men in Europe. Since when is this democracy?
Paul Holmes, UK

The European commission is often described as the 'civil service of Europe' and as such it is part of the European democracy. In fact it is much more than that. No civil servant makes policy, he implements the policy of his political masters; but the Commission generates its own policy and we have strutting political types such as Jaques Santer, Jaques Delors etc. telling our elected politicians to fall into line with the commission's ideals. The European idea of democracy is certainly not mine, and, I suspect not that of the British people.
David Sexton, Wittering, Chichester

I would like David Sexton of Chichester to cite one specific example of a European Commission President ordering a British Prime Minister to fall in line with his ideals, as he puts it. Absolute tosh!
John Jones, Brussels

Tonight's audience were very right wing, even fascist. This narrowed the debate. Jacques Santer must have had many interesting things to say. But the programme was spoilt by the infiltration of a lot of right-wing people.
Martin Davies, Burnley

Will the EU eventually adapt a single visa for visitors to EU member states?
Ganesh Moorthy, Norwich

Iain Duncan Smith's closed mind mentality was amazing to behold. In an age of globalisation, multinational business and IT development we cannot remain an island, xenophobic and more dependent on the US than our close neighbours. Wake up Conservative Party...
Sally Campbell, Bristol

Question Time from Brussels focussing on European issues is something that must be continued on a regular basis. One speaker on the programme hit the nail on the head by saying that most people in Britain simply don't know enough about our place in Europe. The extent of the debate this evening showed just how confusing the various positions on Europe really are. We DO want the truth, and we want it from a body or organisation we can trust. The BBC is ideally placed in that respect, and "Question Time" is the ideal vehicle.
Kevin Webster, Lincoln

Britain has a different cultural, legal and commercial system from that on the Continent. The Continental system is largely built on the French Napoleonic Code. Britain has more in common with the United States, which sprang from Britain, than it has with France or Germany. The EU does not seek to preserve this variety of cultures, but seeks to impose a French system on the British. The tragedy is that British politicians have adopted all these lies and seek to foist non-British practices like proportional representation onto the electorate.
Ben, London

Hearing the chorus of booing and applause that greeted Robin Cooks closing comments, it is easy to see why even the mighty forces of New Labour are hesitant about opening up the Euro debate in the UK. It exposes the Achilles heel of the Blair administration, so confident and full of swagger in many other policy areas. The policy of silence from Westminster is having the reverse of the desired effect; the public - who by their own admission tonight are mired ever deeper in their own ignorance on this complex issue - grow inexorably ever more sceptical of Europe. These timid tactics will ultimately backfire on the government: by not showing its hand it will surely only foster the distrust of the voters. As has been proven by recent rumblings against the Blairite project, its political leaders are at risk of being perceived as devoid of any true convictions, and by default interested only in retaining power. Blair should start selling his vision of Europe, and fast. In politics, such luxuries do not last forever!
Will Mayor, North London

Brilliant Question Time. The inclusion of our European friends made the programme come to life, and help us to understand Europe more.
Mr Steve White, Kings Lynn

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