People must be listened to, supported, they must feel they are not only part of the debate, but the most important actor because it is not something abstract we are talking of when we sit in meetings in Brussels and Strasburg. It is people's lives, their jobs, their financial ability to take care of their families, of providing decent lives and a possible future to their children.
What kind of Europe will help the millions of Europeans hit by the crisis get to the end of the month? It might sound extreme, but the lively discussion that took place at the European Parliament on October 2 can be summed up in this question.
The debate on the Future of Europe was convened by Greens' Group co-presidents Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Rebecca Harms, and saw the participation of national Green parties leaders and members of national parliaments. In the run up to 2014 European Elections campaign, the Greens have been focusing on solutions to the current crisis, and the discussion of what role is there for the European Union is at the core of the debate.
The Reflection note by the "sherpas" for the EP (Brok, Gualtieri, Verhofstadt and Dany Cohn-Bendit as substitute), "Towards a Real Economic and Monetary Union - Building a Capacity to Decide", was widely discussed. Some relevant suggestions were made by representatives of the European Green Party, in particular co-chairs Monica Frassoni and Philippe Lamberts, who currently work on a draft resolution on the Future of Europe which has been prepared by the party's working group, and that will be voted at the forthcoming Greens' Council in Athens next November.
A large consensus on tax harmonization measures brought together the participants, who agreed that this is where Greens need to concentrate their efforts. The state of the debate is also about the unfair fiscal competition, an old debate, where progress has been very slow so far.
Several participants pointed to the importance for Greens to deliver a response on adequate social measures.
Philippe Lamberts insisted that Greens must come forward with a strong social message. "Europe must be able to provide a safety net, do we want to say something about the social dimension of a better European Union? Do we want an integrated social union? Perhaps it is the time to push for minimum standards across Europe. If we don't have serious answers ahead of 2014 elections, we will not be successful", he stressed. You can listen to Philippe's interview here.
The relevance of a social European dimension was endorsed by national representatives who confirmed that, from their national perspective, if we don't see Europe connected to social justice, it will be a major failure at European level. This should be one of our priorities as Greens, as we put people's interests on the agenda, not just banks' interests.
A selection of interviews on the topic of the Future of Europe and national perspectives is available at the EGP's Youtube page. See the videos here.
The urgency of concrete actions, the lack of adequate responses to be brought back to people, and the inadequacy of the European system at the time of the crisis were summed up by Irish Greens' leader Eamon Ryan: "At the moment we are in a rafter, we are trying to survive. Some of the debate here is equivalent to say that in a few years we will build a saving boat. But we need it now, not in a few years. We need measures that will allow us to sail again properly". Eamon's interview is available here.
"People in countries hit by the crisis cannot make ends meet anymore, they don't have means to live, and they don't see Europe as the solution. Even if their perception might be wrong, or biased, this is what people see, and if Greens want to be successful, they must be able to change the public perspective. What people think is an important element of the resolution to the crisis and we must address that," said Juantxo Lopez De Uralde of EQUO.
In Spain for instance, with unemployment rates over 24%, people are looking at ways to leave the country, to go somewhere where they can have a future. "The Spanish boat is sinking and we must do something to show that the European boat is helping," said Uralde.
So far bailouts helped banks, not people. Massive amounts of money were injected into the Spanish banking system, with no effect on the quality of life of individuals.
In Spain people feel alienated from political classes, and from Europe: "We must find a Green position much closer to what people need and think. The European idea is very much in decline. There seem to be two kind of Europe, one on high-speed and the other in decline. If we don't stand side by side with people, we have no chance to get the message across. A banking union...taxation... they are all good things, but we must stay on the side of citizens, or we will miss the boat," said Uralde. Listen to Juantxo's interview (Spanish) here.
People must be listened to, supported, they must feel they are not only part of the debate, but the most important actor because it is not something abstract we are talking of when we sit in meetings in Brussels and Strasburg. It is people's lives, their jobs, their financial ability to take care of their families, of providing decent lives and a possible future to their children. The importance of recognizing the role of citizens was central to the afternoon discussion, with MEP Gerald Häfner underlining that Greens "must have the political courage to give citizens more power in the democratic process".
The Future of Europe, and in particular which kind of Europe and which social dimension, is the focus of a resolution developed by the EGP working group that will be tabled for voting at the Autumn Council in November, as part of an ongoing discussion to pave the way to the 2014 European Elections campaign.