Europe must stay true to 'shared values'

EU must pursue more proactive avenues in its foreign, economic policies and in the equality of its institutions, argues Gianni Pittella.

By Gianni Pittella

08 Sep 2014

The S&Ds' priorities are priorities for the whole of Europe: economic growth, investment, employment and a bigger role for the EU on the international stage. We are facing political and humanitarian crises all around Europe: Gaza, Iraq, Ukraine, Syria and Libya. Europe has the right but also the moral duty to be a protagonist in these international crises, playing a united and proactive role for peace. These are the reasons why we launched the campaign #EUWakeUp this summer. We can no longer accept European Union foreign policy based merely on declarations, good intentions, strong condemnations and deep concerns.

Europe has to wake up and to lead efforts to promote peace in a proactive and practical way. We can no longer delegate the defence of peace, human rights and stability to the US or to single EU member states. We all need more Europe and a move from European voices to European action.

"We all need more Europe and a move from European voices to European action"

I recently visited Israel and Palestine to stress that the time has come for Europe to play a genuine political role in the region. Our role in the EU is to ensure that the peace process is not taken hostage by extremist attitudes. Any attempt from Hamas or from any other radical organisation to hit Israel has to be neutralised. Israel has the right to live in peace and not under constant siege. On the other hand, we are shocked at the announcements from the Israeli government about building new settlement units and expropriating Palestinian land. This policy can only create more extremism. There is no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without lifting the blockade on Gaza, which is currently an open-air prison for 1.7 million people. In this context, we also urged the Israeli authorities to allow European parliament delegations to visit Gaza.

In the Middle East, and in Ukraine and Libya, there is no more time for delays. Europe cannot wait longer. We are confident that the new EU high representative for foreign affairs Federica Mogherini will transform the EU into a leading player. The peace process needs our input to be implemented and respected.

On economic issues, we will cooperate with all other political groups willing to make the change from dogmatic austerity. There is no alternative to a majority including the centre-right EPP. However, this majority will be open to ALDE, the Greens, GUE/NGL and all the MEPs willing to contribute to improving Europe. It must be clear that we will not accept measures which go against our programme and principles. Our top priority is to overcome the narrow austerity policies which lead to social and economic disaster. For us, ending austerity means focusing on investment. Commission president-elect Jean-Claude Juncker's commitment to launching a €3bn investment plan over the next few years is already a first victory for our group. Europe cannot only stand for austerity policies. There is an urgent need for growth.

"Our top priority is to overcome the narrow austerity policies which lead to social and economic disaster"

We need to take advantage of all the options and tools already available to us as part of the current treaties - in the most flexible ways possible - to ensure strong economic growth and more investment in crucial sectors: infrastructure and research. The stability and growth pact must be better implemented: the three per cent rule cannot be set in stone because applying its dogma is driving Europe into deflation and recession. It's one thing to keep the accounts in order, but another to let the accountants drive us to destruction, preventing any chance of recovery. Investment and long-term vision is the only way we can tackle unemployment and give younger generations a decent future.

Europe, however, is also a community based on shared values and principles. We cannot undermine these principles. Therefore as president of the Socialists and Democrats group, I have insisted that Juncker builds an effective, progressive and representative commission team to lead Europe forward. Since his election through the European parliament in July, Juncker has been working hard to shape his team, but at the moment only a few women have been designated as European commissioners. The S&D will not support a new commission with fewer women than in Barroso's previous team. We urge the member states which have never appointed a woman as a commissioner to contribute to the gender balance of the next commission. With new, dynamic, credible faces in Europe, we can achieve a genuine international role for the EU, as well as more growth and the jobs, hope and social justice we need.

Read the most recent articles written by Gianni Pittella - EU requires 'shock therapy' if it is to make a return to economic growth

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