Simulation Game of the Department of European Political and Governance Studies

In the Department of European Political and Governance Studies at the College of Europe, the first month of 2018 was dedicated to our annual Simulation Game, supervised by Professors SETTEMBRI, HERMANIN and WORTH. After the Christmas break, students of the department arrived in Bruges to find out the roles that they had been allocated, and that they would incarnate during countless hours of negotiations for the following three weeks. Commissioners, member state representatives, MEPs, agents of the EP and the Council Secretariat services, journalists and stakeholders, all of them had a specific role to play during the negotiations.

This year, the topic at stake was the reform of the Dublin regulation, and more specifically the proposal on a regulation establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection, presented by the European Commission in May 2016 and set by the Bulgarian Presidency as one of the priorities for the EU in this first semester of 2018.

Negotiations took place, just as they do in reality, during the first reading of the ordinary legislative procedure, on the basis both of the Commission proposal and of the LIBE parliamentary committee report of November 2017. Starting from that basis, actors were free to advance negotiations as they wished. And so they did: during the three weeks of the exercise, students created alliances, drafted agreements and formed coalitions with the aim of achieving a regulation that was both efficient and lasting, but also that managed to bring together the very distant starting positions of the Council and the European Parliament.

As part of this process, students participated in meetings and hearings of the EP LIBE committee, COREPER meetings and inter institutional negotiations in the form of trialogues, just as in real life. But beyond formal meetings, the exercise was an opportunity for students to come up with creative and imaginative ways of having their voices heard and pushing their interests. We thus have witnessed elements such as the creation of the "Oliebaan detention centre" managed by GEPSA, where a protest against racism emerged upon the visit of two EFDD MEPs. Other events included the organization of a photo exhibition on refugees and exile, and a demonstration organized by stakeholders and MEPs  before a COREPER meetings, in order to have their voices heard.


Students also had at their disposal online tools such as a blog platform, where our own four journalists would update everyone on the state of negotiations; as well as a Twitter-like platform called Twitcol, where just as in real life, negotiators interacted not only among them but also with "real life public". During the game, more than 10.000 Twits were exchanged.

In the end, students reached what is deemed impossible in real life: a compromise that managed to bring together two very distant positions: a midpoint between solidarity and sovereignty. This compromise built around a non-paper issued by the Commission team in view of the last trialogue, based on a "Solidarity Scale Permanent Framework" program in phases, with green, yellow, orange and red lights, allowing certain rights but also certain opt-outs to Member States, depending on the percentage of asylum seekers accepted according to their capacity.  The final text emphasized the rights of minors, as well as the interdiction of their detention, the possibility of group allocations, and included an obligatory mechanism and a corrective mechanism. The proposal was approved on the 1st of February in first reading, after a vote in the EP Plenary (24 votes for and 8 against) and in the Council (with 21 member states for, 3 against and one abstention).

The Simulation Game ended with a final conference in which experts from the actual negotiations in Brussels offered their perspectives and had an exchange with students on the outcome reached.


Photos final conference

Simulation Game - POL Department.1 February 2018