It’s time for change, it’s time for Europe!

MEPs need to gain the trust of the electorate after a disappointing campaign.

, by Samuele Pii

It's time for change, it's time for Europe!

The European Parliament election of 1979 was a sign of hope for democracy. Over the subsequent three decades, the Parliament has increased its powers with every reform of the EU treaties. But the elections to be held on 4-7 June will be national elections co-ordinated on a European basis. The electoral campaign showed once again how the direct election of members of the Parliament is not enough to give birth to European democracy.

At a national level, the link between citizens, parties, parliament and government is clear. At EU level, the political parties are still too weak and the function of government is shared between the European Commission and the Council of Ministers. The political parties unveil their proposals, but citizens have to try to understand the different visions of Europe on offer.

Leaders who can explain how the EU functions and seek support for their ideas are missing and much of the media does not do enough to get the message across.

The election of the president of the Commission will be the first test for the new Parliament.

This election campaign will be remembered as a missed opportunity. The main parties should have presented their candidates for the presidency of the Commission, to raise the stakes in the elections and spark public debate. This would have allowed citizens to match faces with political programmes.

A low turnout, maybe even a record low, is a concern. The new Parliament will have to work hard to gain legitimacy.

The election of the president of the Commission will be the first test for the new Parliament. The political groups should find agreement on a candidate on the basis of a common government programme. Socialists, Liberals and Greens could, for instance, make a coalition in favour of former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt as an alternative to José Manuel Barroso. Such competition between candidates would strengthen democracy.

The new Parliament should reaffirm its commitment to implementing the reforms provided for in the Lisbon treaty without waiting for the results of the second Irish referendum on the treaty.

The EU will have to be more active on the world stage in order to defend its own interests and promote peace, democracy and human rights. It needs the Parliament to be a workshop of avant-garde policies.

A renewed moral energy should boost a federalist initiative in the Parliament.

A European economic plan should be a top priority, in order to support employment, growth and cater to the needs of future generations. A European new deal is necessary to fight against climate change and pave the way towards sustainable development. European citizenship must be promoted through youth mobility. The right to launch popular initiatives as an element of direct democracy, as envisaged by the Lisbon treaty, in order to involve the citizens in the decision-making process, must be introduced.

These are just a few of the priorities that the next generation of MEPs should consider, if they truly want to gain the trust of the citizens. In order to connect with the people, the EU institutions must reaffirm their attachment to civil ethics, through stricter codes of conduct and more transparent use of public money. A renewed moral energy should boost a federalist initiative in the Parliament. Following the example of Altiero Spinelli, who in 1984 convinced the Parliament to approve by a large majority the first European constitution project, MEPs should constitute a new federalist inter-group during their first plenary session on 15 July in Strasbourg.

Once the Lisbon treaty is in force, the Parliament will be able to play a greater role in the process of reforming the EU treaties, to help give Europe a democratic and federal government.

This article was first published on 4 June with the title ’Towards a Federal Europe’ at

Image: Europe in the world, source: European Commission

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