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IEP Lunch Debate with Jo Leinen: „The importance of the elections for the future of the EU“

The IEP lunch debate on the topic of „The impor­tance of the elections for the future of the EU“ with Jo Leinen, MEP and President of the European Movement Inter­na­tional (EMI) took place at the Repre­sen­tation of the Saarland in Berlin on 13 May 2014. Prof. Dr. Mathias Jopp, director of the Institut für Europäische Politik, moderated the event.

Jo Leinen, MEP, empha­sized that the elections of the European Parliament (EP) this year were different due to the nomination of top candi­dates and that there was actual campaigning. Furthermore, he highlighted the impor­tance of this year’s elections: important decisions are to be made in the upcoming legislative period and growing uncer­tainty as well as euro-skepticism repre­sented big challenges for the next parliament.

Leinen explained that the upcoming elections were important and difficult at the same time, since not only the EP and its President but also a new President of the European Commission were elected. He commented on the two top candi­dates Juncker and Schulz, stating they were both suitable for the job as President of the Commission due to their experience. Leinen criti­cized that Juncker, contrary to his adversary, was only a candidate on the posters since he was not actually up for election. Concerning the influence of the EP on the choice of the future Commission President, Leinen was optimistic: he hoped the Parliament would be confident enough to only vote for a candidate who was named top candidate prior to the elections. Furthermore, he commended the growing power of the EP: 90 to 95 per cent of EU laws could only pass with a “yes” from the Parliament, the trade agree­ments SWIFT and ACTA had been stopped by the EP in the past. Nonetheless, the possi­bility of legislative initia­tives was still missing.

According to Leinen, elections must lead to more Europe, while trends of re-nation­al­ization were dangerous. A new convent on the future of the EU was possible, Leinen mentioned some changes concretely: he proposed a Ministers’ Council for the euro-zone whose President should be Vice President of the Commission; he advised against a fragmen­tation of the EP. A committee within the Parliament should be formed for the euro countries, as well as a euro budget with a budgetary authority. A convent on the future of the EU should be formed after the elections in the United Kingdom next year, since they were decisive for a possible EU-Refer­endum in the country.

A future point on the agenda of the EP would be a Growth Pact to supplement the Fiscal Pact in order to support economies, partic­u­larly in the countries affected by the crisis. Possible funds to use would be return payments from the EU budget as well as possible resources from a tax on financial trans­ac­tions. An indus­trial policy could foster innovation and the compet­i­tiveness on the global market. Leinen also highlighted the impor­tance of a digital agenda in this context which should aim at the sover­eignty of data in Europe.

The crisis in Ukraine should be seen as a wake-up call, especially consid­ering the depen­dence on energy imports from Russia which could be reduced by further devel­opment of renewable energy, more energy efficiency and a better infra­structure within the EU. Nonetheless, Russia was still an important part of Europe, he under­lined. In the light of recent devel­op­ments – partic­u­larly the idea of a Eurasian Union as a competitor to European Integration – the EU should also consider itself a union with common values, such as freedom, democracy, tolerance and good gover­nance. This should be highlighted more in the context of the upcoming elections.

By Inga Wölfinger