European Union is at a ‘crossroads’ say leading NGOs

Published on The Parliament Magazine, 13 May 2019

Leading NGOs have put forward their “manifestos” for the upcoming European elections, agreeing that the European Union is at a “crossroads.”

These include Social Platform, a civil society alliance, and SMEunited, which represents SMEs at EU level.

On Monday, less than two weeks before the elections on 23-26 May, a spokesman for Social Platform told this website, “It’s hard to predict how important issues including social justice, human rights, equality and inclusion will fare in the next European Parliament.”

“Citizens’ participation is vital if these fundamental values are to be prioritised by decision-makers.”

Its 49 members work in a range of different areas, from disabilities to Roma inclusion “but what we all have in common is that we want more people to have their voice heard by using their right to vote.”

The group has produced a short campaign video which, said the spokesman, will “remind people that every vote counts and carries influence, particularly if we want to see people’s dignity and well-being at the top of the EU’s priority list.”

SMEunited president Ulrike Rabmer-Koller said the upcoming elections “will be decisive, including for SMEs and the environment they do business in.”

“The vision is to build an even stronger, more united and forward-looking Europe for the 24 million SMEs that provide two-thirds of jobs and represent 99.8 percent of businesses.”

“Europe certainly has to improve its competitiveness if we want to preserve our welfare.”

On SMEs’ expectations towards candidates, she stated that “Europe can only become a better place for SMEs if politicians not only talk about the importance of SMEs but start acting accordingly.”

Also launching its election manifesto is Diem25, a coalition of Green, radical left and liberal supporters, who say they seek to “repair” the EU.

It says Europe faces five crises: debt, banks, poverty, low investment and migration and calls for “fundamental change” of the way the EU operates, including a constitution for the EU.

A Diem25 source said, “We believe the EU is disintegrating and that is why we must act quickly.”

Last week, Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique En Marche unveiled its manifesto with nine proposals including increased investment in environmental policy, imposing a tax on Big Tech across Europe and moves toward a European army.

Meanwhile, the new political party, Change UK, has set out its European election manifesto, expanding on policies outside Brexit.

The new political party has outlined its vision for what remaining in the EU would look like for health, climate change, defence and the economy.

The Charter for Remain details how the UK could use its membership of the EU to push for change on domestic and international issues.

Its UK leader Heidi Allen, a UK MP, said her party is an alternative to the “broken politics” of the Conservative and Labour parties.

“Our politics is broken, with the two main parties so preoccupied with their own self-preservation that they are no longer working in the national interest.”

“Meanwhile, Brexit, the biggest symbol of our broken system, continues to consume our country and divide our communities. Politics doesn’t need to be like this. And today, we are setting out an alternative.”

“We believe the best way forward for our country is to fight to remain in the EU – and to achieve that, we need a People’s Vote.”

Elsewhere, further details have been revealed about a key debate in Parliament on Wednesday between the candidates for the presidency of the Commission.

The debate will be the only one to bring together all the lead candidates vying to be the next president of the European Commission.

They are: Nico Cue, European Left (EL); Ska Keller, European Green Party (EGP); Jan Zahradil, Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe (ACRE); Margrethe Vestager, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE); Manfred Weber, European People’s Party (EPP) and Frans Timmermans, of the Party of European Socialists (PES).

Eurovision has editorial responsibility for the debate which will focus on the topics such as. employment, migration, security, populism, climate change and the global role of the EU.

It will be presented by three journalists chosen by Eurovision: Emilie Tran Nguyen, France Télévisions and Markus Preiss, ARD Germany, will lead the debate on stage, while Annastiina Heikkilä, YLE Finland, will add to the discussion from the social media angle.