Friday 15 September 2017

Political groups on EU reform

Today we use the press release Let’s make the most of the momentum to shape an ambitious future in order to look at how political groups in the European Parliament reacted to president Jean-Claude Juncker’s speech about the state of the European Union (SOTEU) and the future of Europe, especially with regard to EU reform.
Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People’s Party (EPP) Group, hailed the European way of life in speech and press release, promising to renew the European social model, one of the main themes in Juncker’s speech. Weber highlighted the fight against illegal immigration and terrorism, called for an end to membership negotiations with Turkey and the establishment of a European Defence Union. With regard to terrorism, we note the press release from the EPP Group yesterday about the first meeting of the European Parliament’s new special committee on counter-terrorism (TERR).

For the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) Group, the leader Gianni Pittella greeted Juncker’s proposals and packed six minutes with demands for more resolute action by the European Union. Pittella offered clear responses on some key issues concerning a more democratic and capable EU:

We welcome Juncker’s acknowledgment of the equality between the EU member states – a multispeed Europe is not a sustainable option! Let's provide the eurozone with a real Finance minister, accountable to the European Parliament, with an appropriate fiscal capacity to be used for growth and development. Europe certainly doesn't need of a kind of watchdog along the lines of the Troika.


People want to see democracy and the rule of law respected and not threatened by the governments in Hungary and Poland. We welcome Juncker’s words on this and call the Commission to act on it if needed. ECJ judgements must be respected and applied.

Last but not least the revision of EU governance. The real problem is the overwhelming weight of the Council and the detrimental use of the unanimity vote system. Let’s break the taboo. We must revise the dominant role of the Council and increase the use of the majority vote system. Only by a real democratisation of the institutional balance, with an enhanced role for the Parliament, can we finally ensure Europe is capable of meeting the challenges ahead.

In the same way, a joint president for the Commission and the European Council – selected by the Parliament through the ‘Spitzenkandidaten’ system – could help make the EU more democratic and transparent.

Syed Kamall for the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group chose to focus on globalisation, free trade and entrepreneurship, against protectionism and regulation. A day earlier the group vice-president Hans-Olaf Henkel had opposed EU-wide lists in the elections to the European Parliament.   

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Group leader Guy Verhofstadt welcomed the vision and ambition of Juncker’s SOTEU address. People want a reformed European Union, asking for more European action. Good institutions make good policies. We need European level democracy, transnational lists:

That’s why I’m fighting for transnational lists, for a real European constituency. So that we lift our democracy to a continental scale. Europe is more than just the sum of 27 national democracies. Our European executive needs to be matched by a powerful parliament.

Our European executive needs to be matched by a powerful parliament that defends our European principles and values against governments in Poland and Hungary. “Alt-right governments”, who believe Trump is the example, Trump with his white supremacy. Or Putin or Erdogan who jail their democratic opponents.

Let’s make Europe the counterweight of all this. A beacon of openness, of freedom, of hope for the 21st century.

After a sombre portrait of EU from the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) Group, the MEP  Patrick Le Hyaric wanted to turn Europe around to focus on social and environmental progress.
The leader Philippe Lamberts for the The Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA) Group managed to paint a picture of Europe almost as dark as the one offered by the Left, before he arrived at reducing inequality and our ecological impact.  
Here are links to the speeches for the anti-EU groups, Nigel Farage for the EFDD and Harald Vilimsky on behalf of the ENF.

Ralf Grahn

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