European elections manifesto round-up
The upcoming European elections are the most eagerly awaited for some time. Martin Banks assesses the runners and riders.
Each of the three big political parties contesting the May elections has published its European election manifesto, expanding on policies across a whole range of areas.
The manifestos outline their vision for what the EU should look like for the coming five-year mandate, from health and climate change to defence and the economy.
So, what exactly are the parties saying about what Brussels should be doing on EU and international issues?
Under the ambitious banner “Let’s open the next chapter for Europe together,” the EPP - currently the largest grouping in the Parliament - is campaigning with a 16-page manifesto that promises, among other things, 10,000 new officials for the European Border and Coast Guard to tackle illegal immigration.
“Effectively protecting Europe’s external borders is a precondition for securing our citizens and the trust in our Union,” it states.
If the EPP commands a majority in the next Parliament after the elections, its manifesto promises to create five million jobs to boost Europe’s economic competitiveness as well as introducing changes to the EU decision-making process itself.
This includes granting Parliament the right to initiate legislation, a competence currently solely in the hands of the Commission.
The EPP, which is expected to again be the largest group overall with a likely 188 seats, says it will also press for a ‘fully fledged’ European Monetary Fund, ‘modernise’ the Common Agricultural Policy and cut red tape for businesses by 30 percent.
The elections, its manifesto claims, come at a “decisive moment for our continent”, insisting its policies will help “weather the Brexit storm” and other challenges.
The Party of European Socialists’ (PES) manifesto agrees on the significance of the elections, saying this is the “most important moment in European politics since the fall of the Iron Curtain 30 years ago, in 1989.”
Its shorter manifesto advocates a ‘strong’ European Labour Authority; a long-term Investment Plan and also a “plan for affordable housing and clean public transport.”
The Eurozone would, it says, undergo “substantial reform” while a “Just Transition Fund” would help implement the UN’s Sustainable Development agenda.
“The manifestos outline their vision for what the EU should look like for the coming five-year mandate, from health and climate change to defence and the economy”
Other proposals include investing 0.7 percent of Europe’s GNI in development assistance; a European ‘Child Guarantee’ and a binding EU Gender Equality Strategy.
It will also extend the existing ‘Youth Guarantee’ to help young Europeans access a “quality job, traineeship or further education.”
The Socialists, predicted to win 142 seats, also want reform of the UN and to ensure the bloc includes binding social and environmental standards, human rights, consumer protection and workers’ rights in all future trade agreements.
A PES spokesman said, “Europe needs a change of leadership and policy direction, leaving behind the neoliberal and conservative models of the past, and focusing on quality jobs for its people, a healthy environment, social security and an economic model that addresses inequality and the cost of living.”
While its official title may change after the elections, ALDE, the Parliament’s third-biggest group in the last mandate and predicted to win 72 seats this time, has adopted what it unsurprisingly calls a ‘liberal vision’ for the EU’s future.
The short-but-sweet banner - “Freedom, opportunity, prosperity” for the party’s 12-page manifesto says that the EU’s asylum and migration system is “no longer fit for purpose” and calls for ‘migration agreements’ with ‘safe countries’ in the Middle East and Africa.
On the economic and job creation front, it advocates a target of three percent investment of EU GDP in research and development by 2020.
One pledge that may resonate well with the green lobby is its promise of the promotion of self-driving vehicles.
It also argues for reform of the EU itself, promoting the ‘progressive’ introduction of qualified majority voting.
The party will also champion the introduction of a single seat for the Parliament in Brussels, and re-evaluate the division of competences between the EU and the Member States.
“The last-minute dash for votes in what are possibly the most keenly-awaited Euro elections ever is well and truly underway”
There is little mention of Brexit in any of the three manifestos, but ALDE does say it ‘regrets’ the UK’s decision to exit the EU and calls for a “positive and close partnership” in the future.
An ALDE spokesman said, “We want to renew Europe and end the European stalemate brought about by the two old parties, the S&D and the EPP.
It is time for new energy to make the European dream a reality.”
So, clearly, the last-minute dash for votes in what are possibly the most keenly-awaited Euro elections ever is well and truly underway.
Arguably, however, one policy pledge that could swing it for some voters is getting little or no airplay: the Socialists’ pledge to turn 9 May - known in the EU bubble as Schuman Day - into a public holiday.
As one veteran EU pundit declared, “Now, there’s a vote winner if ever I heard one.”
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