EU needs gender-balanced, pro-European leadership

Europe can only be a credible international player through the adoption and promotion of a common vision, argues Philippe Lamberts

By Philippe Lamberts

10 Sep 2014

The challenges facing the Italian presidency cannot be underestimated. The wrangling over the top posts in the EU institutions was always likely to drag on and cause major distraction, but events outside the EU’s borders look set to dominate the agenda. The Italian presidency cannot lose focus of the important EU policy issues to be addressed over the coming months.

The appointment of the EU’s top jobs and the commission college will be crucial to the success of the EU over the coming five years. We need pro-European candidates, who will take up the challenge of creating a more fair, sustainable and democratic Europe. The Greens will scrutinise candidates on this basis. Ensuring gender balance must also be a priority.

"Ending the hardship caused by the one-sided focus on austerity in the crisis response must be a top priority”

Events in Ukraine and the Middle East will undoubtedly dominate the agenda, providing a real test for EU foreign policy. The EU’s influence will only be an effective and globally credible player if it can present a clear and common front. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is scandalous and the EU cannot continue to stand idly by. We must stand up for human rights, particularly towards our allies like Israel. If they flout these rights, there must be consequences. All parties supposedly want a peaceful solution. This must be based on mutual respect. Ending the disastrous settlement policy and the blockade of Gaza is essential.

Ukrainians want a democratic and European future and the EU must support them. This means standing up to Russian president Vladimir Putin and not allowing him to drag us back to the geopolitical dark ages of the last century. Europe needs to speak with one voice and pursue more rigorous sanctions. Reducing our damaging dependence on energy imports from Russia (and beyond) would be extremely helpful to this end. This implies pursuing an ambitious energy saving strategy, as well as developing home-grown indigenous energy sources. With the UN global climate summit in Paris just around the corner, this would also ensure coherence with the EU’s energy and climate policies.

The Italian presidency needs to push for the EU to adopt ambitious and binding 2030 targets for greenhouse gas reductions, energy savings and renewable energy. The gung-ho approach to the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) needs to stop. There is a myriad of legitimate concerns about TTIP and what it will mean for EU social, health and environmental standards. These concerns, which are being raised by millions of citizens and civil society organisations, cannot be ignored. We need to stop this TTIP and rethink how to shape our future relationship with the US on our own terms. Data protection is a case in point. We cannot continue with a situation where the basic rights of European citizens are infringed with no recourse to justice. We need to ensure the highest data protection standards in Europe and this means finally adopting the new revised EU data protection rules. These rights must then be respected by third countries and private corporations.

The same is true for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), where the EU needs to get its own house in order. This implies an authorisation process that respects the massive opposition to GMOs. This opposition must also be reflected in how the EU deals with third countries and private corporations. Despite some progress, the EU’s economic and banking union remains a work in progress. Urgent priorities under the Italian presidency must be to ensure a separation of normal banking activities from more risky investment activities. We also need to finally shore-up the eurozone by mutualising sovereign debt.

Ending the hardship caused by the one-sided focus on austerity in the crisis response must be a top priority. We need to start addressing the scandalous levels of unemployment. Ending the damaging role of the unaccountable Troika must also be urgently realised.

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