For the eighth time in the history of the EU, citizens went to the polls to choose their representatives in the European Parliament (EP). The newly elected Parliament will influence – within the boundaries of its increased but still limited powers – Europe’s next five years. This comes precisely at a time in which Europe has been facing an economic crisis, rising nationalism, the loss of trust in institutions and an ideological degradation of culture. Driven by a Europe-wide feeling of frustration, the elections have sounded a serious wake-up call for politicians to have an honest debate about the shape of the current EU.
These were the first EP elections since the first direct elections of 1979 that did not see an overall drop in turnout. In fact, the slogan of the elections – “this time it’s different” – was an apt description of the massive anti-establishment vote seen across Europe. Only among the younger Member States of Central and Eastern Europe did voters seem to have manifested their discontent with the EU with exceedingly low levels of participation: a mere 13% in Slovakia and 19% in the Czech Republic, for example.
In the mostly southern European countries most hit by the economic crisis and forced into bail-out programs – Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain – there was a rejection of mainstream, centrist, consensus-based parties and a swing to new, more radical, far-left parties which reject austerity outright. In northwest Europe, a region which has been relatively unaffected by the economic crisis, other countries – notably the UK, France, the Netherlands and Denmark – saw a turn to Euro-sceptic and far-right parties.
Today, May 28, the outgoing Commission illegitimately and anti-democratically vetoed the European Citizens’ Initiative, “One of Us”, which calls for a ban of EU funding of embryo-destructive research.
Introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon, European Citizens’ Initiatives (ECI) were conceived as a mechanism to facilitate democratic participation by empowering European citizens to ask the European Commission to introduce specific legislative proposals. The “One of Us” initiative exceeded the requirement of 1 million supporters, obtaining 1.7 million signatures, and is the biggest ECI in the history of the European Union.
Although the European Commission is under no obligation to follow requests made through an ECI, it makes a fool of itself if it shoots down a democratically backed request that is in line with European law. However, the Commission chose to ignore the demand of almost two million citizens by rejecting the most successful ECI ever and preferred to impose its own political will. Thus, the entire ECI mechanism becomes a farce. This is precisely what has happened today with “One of Us”.
During a public hearing at the European Parliament on April 10, the different committees responsible for the analysis of the “One of Us” initiative highlighted its clear legal construction,...
Two weeks before the elections to the European Parliament, there is a compelling need for a play-by-play analysis of political profiles and manifestos. The parties belonging to the two major political groups, Socialists & Democrats (S&D) and European People’s Party (EPP) are currently running their election campaigns in the member states with their respective front-runners Martin Schulz (S&D) and Jean-Claude Juncker (EPP). Neither of them is good news for Europe. In fact, their political positions mock the fundamental principles of a free and just society. Here’s why.
Since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the outcome of the elections will determine the presidency of the European Commission. We previously reported on the audacious machinations of Martin Schulz.
One would have hoped for a more reasoned and principled choice from the EPP group — especially in times of growing distrust in the established parties and the appearance of new alternatives. However, with the nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker, the EPP group has chosen a front-runner who, on fundamental societal questions, is as far away from Christian-Democratic principles as one can be.
The opening of the plenary session of the EP in Strasbourg today will be crucial for German Socialist President (Speaker) of the European Parliament Martin Schulz.
It would seem that there are no limits to his megalomaniacal ambitions. Brussels insiders are aghast at the audacious attempts by Schulz to parachute his political advisers into key positions in the, supposedly apolitical, European Parliament administration before his two-and-a-half-year mandate comes to an end this June. Former EP Presidents have usually managed to get promotions agreed for one or two of their top advisers, but the scale of the Schulz power grab is unprecedented.
If all goes according to his brazen plan, the Parliament’s appointing authority for senior positions (the Bureau) will today, at its final meeting before the European elections, confirm the appointments of no less than six of Schulz’s political advisers to be either Directors General (the top layer of EU management) or Directors (the next layer down).
The expected appointments are:
It was a real thriller. But the result couldn’t be better for the proponents of the biggest Citizen Initiative of the EU, One of Us. The European Parliament has never before, in its history, seen such a frank, honest and high-level debate about the inconsistencies of the EU regarding the equal protection of every human being from the moment of conception onwards.
What went on behind the scenes?
Two days before the hearing, the Citizens’ Committee received a letter with a draft agenda, which has been changed without the consent of the Citizens’ Committee. As it turned out, Parliament tried to give minimal speaking time to the representatives of ‘One of Us’ while filling the slots with statements of MEPs. Given the controversies that One of Us has caused over the last two years in some circles, certain MEPs were seemingly attempting to lecture One of Us instead of listening, as would be appropriate for such a hearing.
It was particularly shocking to see that the first round of statements provided speaking slots for four MEPs and two Commissioners before even allowing the Citizens’ Committee to present the initiative and its objectives.