Strasbourg plenary: EU Parliament discusses future of EU

Written by Martin Banks on 14 February 2017 in News
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Ukip's Nigel Farage has warned the EU it faces an "even bigger shock" in the coming 12 months.

MEPs participated in a heated debate on the future of the EU | Photo credit: Fotolia


Speaking in a debate in Parliament on Tuesday, Farage said the messages sent out by Brexit and the election of Donald Trump had "completely bypassed" many MEPs.

He was taking part in a debate in Strasbourg on three separate reports on the future of Europe drafted by German EPP group deputy Elmar Brok, Italian Socialist Mercedes Bresso and ALDE's Guy Verhofstadt. 

A third report, on the Eurozone's future, was authored by French Socialist Pervenche Berès and German EPP group MEP Reimer Böge.


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Verhofstadt's report looks at possible changes to the institutional set up of the EU while the Brok-Bresso document sets out how the EU could better function.

The reports partly call for "more Europe" in order to address the threat posed by growing support for populist parties across Europe.

Farage told the plenary, "I feel like I am attending a religious sect today. The message sent out by Brexit and the bandwagon that is rolling across Europe seems to have completely bypassed you all.

"You seem blind to the fact that the EU in its present form has no future. Verhofstadt calls for more Europe but people want less Europe."

With elections in France and Germany in 2017, he told his MEP colleagues, "If you thought the events of 2016 were a shock then you are in for even bigger shocks this year."

His comments were partly echoed by ECR group deputy Ashley Fox, who said he had hoped the reports would offer a new approach to the ills facing the EU.

"So who decided to give one of them to Verhofstadt? At least he is consistent - he always calls for 'more Europe.'

"The British didn't vote for more Europe, but less. What he is proposing is a United States of Europe."

Further criticism of the three reports came from Greens/EFA group MEP Pascal Durand, who labelled the EU a "political dwarf" and said the reports "offer no solutions" to the bloc's problems.

The own initiative reports, which will be voted on later this week, were also branded as "merely technical and institutional" by GUE/NGL group member Barbara Spinelli.

Berès agreed that the Brexit result shows that the EU "must change", but urged member states to "rally round" the Eurozone as a "bedrock for the EU27."

Other MEPs were more vocal in their support for the EU, including Greens/EFA co-Chair Philippe Lamberts, who said the reports offered "the way forward" for the EU. 

German Socialist Jo Leinen acknowledged that the EU had been guilty of "slow decision making", but blamed its problems on the "egotism" of member states.

Speaking in the same debate, European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans welcomed the "refreshing" reports and said that the executive would shortly table its own white paper on Europe's future.

He told MEPs, "Brexit has put both the EU and UK in a new situation. However, there's only so much the Commission can do and it's also up to member states to deliver."

 

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Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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