Wednesday 21. August 2019

Electing a new European Parliament

Between 23 and 26 May 2019, the citizens of the European Union are called upon to elect a new European Parliament.

Few of them will realize that forty years have passed since the first direct election of Members of the European Parliament and, on 1 July 2019, the European Parliament will begin its ninth session.

Not only has the number of deputes changed since 1979 - from 434 to 751 MEPs in 2019 - the challenges and tasks facing European parliamentarians today have also grown and become more difficult. This is also related to the greatly expanded powers that the European Parliament has been given by the Treaty of Lisbon: in most policy areas, it is co-legislator, even if it lacks an important aspect, namely a real right of initiative.

After the constitution of the newly elected Parliament in July, MEPs will have as their first major task the hearings of candidates for the European Commission, including their President, to be completed and judged. This sets the course for EU policy for the next five years until 2024. Although there is much talk of top candidates, it is not yet a foregone conclusion that the top candidate of the largest group in the European Parliament will really become the next Commission president. In all likelihood, the political spectrum after the elections will be even more fragmented. This means, however, that the former de facto coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats will no longer have a majority and will depend on one or more partners. It shuffles the cards for the important posts to be filled - namely President of the Commission, President of Parliament and, at the end of the year, also the President of the European Council.

In addition to the question of how the new leadership of the European Union will devise its strategy to address the major policy areas for which a solution needs to be found next year - from the multiannual budget to the Common Agricultural Policy - there is the much more fundamental question of a vision for the European Union, which has a medium-term perspective and which is able to 'think transversely' and to look at the different policy areas from a integral perspective. Climate policy, industrial and trade policy, agricultural and environmental policy, migration and labor market policy, energy and transport policy are closely related and must be "thought together". Will the newly elected Parliament, will the new European Commission have people with those leadership qualities that are needed for this "coherent thinking"? Will they be able to answer the question of a "fundamental change", of a "reorientation"? Will there be a discussion about the «Whither of the EU», about a future scenario for Europe in a "world in transition"?

No question: politicians and civil servants must have sufficient expertise and skills to do their job well. But: Competence is not limited to technical knowledge, but goes beyond that. Two contributions in this issue of Europe Infos seek to address these other competencies: integrity, authenticity, a service attitude, foresight, compassion and the ability to initiate "processes (of renewal) rather than occupying (established) spaces" (Pope Francis , Evangelii Gaudium 223). It would be desirable for as many as possible of the new officials to have these skills or to develop them in the course of their term of office - for the benefit of a "sustainable and decent" Europe, aware of its responsibility beyond Europe.

A Member of the European Parliament will after 39 years! in service no longer stand for election. He has not only the knowledge of the political craft, but also the necessary political vision. And if necessary, COMECE could count on Elmar Brok. He deserves our thanks and gratitudefor his work on the integration of Europe!

 

Michael Kuhn,

COMECE

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