Speaking in Parliament to launch the drive on Wednesday, the assembly’s President Antonio Tajani declared, “We want to show that the EU is worth defending. The challenge now is to convince our citizens of this.”
The Italian deputy said that Brexit offered a “glimpse of the future” if voters failed to appreciate the value of the EU.
His comments come with a new Eurobarometer survey on Tuesday showing that 67 per cent of those polled say that they believe that EU membership has benefitted their country, the highest level for 35 years.
The finding comes in the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
The UK is due to exit the 28-member bloc by the end of March 2019. The European elections in the remaining 27 member states will take place between 23 to 26 May 2019.
Tajani, addressing an audience of journalists and Parliament insiders, said the election would be a “battle between not only the traditional parties” but also between “those who believe in the EU and those who seek to undermine it.”
The whole election, in which MEPs are elected for a five-year term, would take place “against the backdrop of Brexit,” he said.
He said the EU’s achievements, ranging from tackling climate change and unemployment to stimulating economic growth and boosting consumer rights, were “worth defending.”
He also said that the fight against terrorism as a “key” issue in the election, pointing out that in 2014 just 11 per cent of voters cited the issue as their main reason to vote compared with 49 per cent in the latest polls.
Tajani said, “This is going to be one of the main subjects in the election and this Parliament has to show it can play a more important role.”
He also said that, according to the latest polling, some 49 per cent of voters say that maintaining the “Spitzenkandidaten” system for electing the next Commission President would increase the likelihood of them voting next May.
This is the process under which the Commission President must be one of the lead candidates from one of the mainstream political parties.
Tajani, a former European Commissioner, said that this system, which is opposed by some member states but supported by Parliament and the Commission, would give voters the chance to have a say in who becomes the next to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker.
As part of the launch, Parliament has issued a “digital tool” comprising a range of information about the elections.
It states that there are still 400 legislative proposals still be dealt with by Parliament in the 10 months left before next May.
According to Parliament’s spokesperson Jaume Duch, it also spells out “exactly what the Parliament has done for every city, region and country in the past five years.”