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Thursday, 22 November 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

6. Elections to the European Parliament in 2014 (debate)
Video of the speeches

  President. − The next item is the Commission statement on the elections to the European Parliament in 2014.

I would like to remind Members that we are not using the catch-the-eye procedure in this debate.


  Algirdas Šemeta, Member of the Commission. Madam President, elections to the European Parliament are always a highly significant moment for the Union and the 2014 elections come at a particularly critical time. The Commission has always supported every effort to reinforce Parliament’s legitimacy. This is not only in the interest of all EU institutions, but above all in the interest of EU citizens. The direct representation brings a crucial element of legitimacy for the actions of the EU. What we need today more than ever are pan-European debates, a better understanding of what is at stake, higher voter turnout and also a more direct link between the election result and the leadership of the Commission.

In his State of the Union address in September, Commission President Barroso called on European political parties to present their candidates for the post of Commission President at the European Parliament elections in 2014. A commitment from the political parties to take this step would further reinforce the European dimension of these elections. This can be done without a Treaty change, as the Treaty says that the European Council, when proposing a candidate for Commission President to the European Parliament, must take the elections to the European Parliament into account. This is therefore something which should be put into practice with immediate effect.

Concerning gender balance, you know that the Commission actively promotes gender equality; however, you address your call for gender balance in the next College to the future Commission President, therefore you will certainly understand that it is not for this Commission to discuss the future President’s actions.

Regarding the precise dates of the European elections in 2014, it would be unfortunate if they negatively affected the turnout. If the Council adopts a decision proposing a different date for the European Parliament’s elections, the Council and Parliament, which has to be consulted in line with the amended Electoral Act of 1976, should ensure that clarity about the date is provided as soon as possible.

The need for a stronger political Union with more accountability and democratic legitimacy of decisions taken at European level is and must remain at the centre of all debates on the future of the EU. The role of this Parliament is of crucial importance in this context.


  Carlo Casini, on behalf of the PPE Group. (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the motion for a resolution that we will vote on contains three points, as the Commissioner has underlined. The first deals with bringing forward the date of the elections: the proposal is aimed at ensuring that the Commission will be in a position to start work at the end of the summer. We must verify whether this is feasible – as the Commissioner has pointed out – to ensure that the date chosen will affect turnout positively rather than negatively.

I believe that the most important proposal, however, is for nominations by the political parties of candidates for the Commission Presidency, and I prefer to speak of ‘political parties’ here rather than ‘political families’, precisely in order to underline the need for the creation of genuine European political parties. This is very important if Europe is to capture the imagination of the European electorate. The declining turnout is due also to the fact that during the European elections various national rather than European matters are discussed. The European elections are seen as nothing more than a test of the domestic political situation.

During the election campaign we must talk about Europe, and the citizens must be firmly convinced that their votes count for something in terms of European policies. I think that nominating candidates for the Commission Presidency would help to convince the citizens of this. Europe will certainly be discussed more than in the past in these upcoming elections, because the economic crisis has focused attention on the basic debate of whether there should be more Europe, less Europe or even an end to Europe. It is absolutely essential to give citizens the opportunity to choose the government of Europe and the President of the Commission.

The third question has to do with the make-up of the Commission, apart from the question of gender balance: we are debating whether it might not be better for a quota of future Commissioners, established in numerical terms or in some less determined manner, to be drawn from among MEPs. This would also give the electorate the feeling that their vote makes a difference. For these reasons, I think that we should support the resolution.


  Roberto Gualtieri, on behalf of the S&D Group. (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the current crisis is not just an economic crisis, it is also a political crisis that has to do with the contradiction between the prevalence of the national political sphere and the need for the euro to have a European government founded on European institutions that have democratic legitimacy at European level. For this reason, the resolution is of great importance.


  Andrew Duff, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Madam President, the political party is clearly the missing link of our transnational democracy. I think if we are going to reverse the declining trend in turnout, we need to convert our European political parties into serious campaigning organisations willing to articulate an ideology to make political choices and to win votes.

This motion starts that process by calling on our political families to step forward and take responsibility for building the democratic polity of our more federal Union. The nomination of party champions as candidates for the Commission Presidency, as well as the drawing of Members of the College from the Parliament, follows the logic of the Treaty of Lisbon, whereby Parliament will elect Mr Barroso’s successor. Our success will be measured in just how the personalisation and dramatisation of the election campaign captures the public imagination, fuelling debate about serious questions in front of the next Parliament, such as the character, gender balance and strength of the Commission; the pace and depth of integration; the size and shape of the budget; and of course the size of Union membership. The year 2014 is our chance to transform European democracy and this Parliament ought to seize that with confidence and strength.


  Gerald Häfner, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, Europe is not a random structure. Europe is a democracy. Our aspiration is to make Europe one of the world’s strongest democracies, and the principle which lies at the heart of every democracy is that all power emanates from the people. Every polity needs strong institutions and strong decision-making, but what matters is that these should be based on the will of the people and how this is achieved. The more successful this is, the stronger the democracy.

Our task today is to ensure that the European elections play a stronger role in deciding Europe’s political future. It is about strengthening the connection between the choice of the voters and the policies adopted and implemented at European level in the years thereafter, and making this connection more visible to citizens.

My question – and it relates to one specific person – is this. Where did this Mr Barroso come from? He was conjured out of the hat after the election, but had never previously been nominated as a candidate for the European Commission. Is this a case where we can say to citizens: ‘We set out the policies very clearly and it was your choice, your decision’? The answer to that is no. Citizens have the sense that they are casting their votes but have no influence over what happens afterwards.

We need to strengthen this connection. At the same time, we must also make it clear that political parties and families have a responsibility to make the European elections genuinely European, instead of misusing them as a means of promoting their own purely national political agendas. They must put up European candidates with European programmes. That is what we are seeking to achieve with this motion for a resolution.

In future, we want the political families, in advance of the elections, to state which candidate they are nominating for the post of Commission President, the most powerful position in our common Europe. To that end, we want them to meet and present their programmes and put a face to their political visions for a common Europe during the elections. All this will help to reinforce legitimacy as well as strengthen political debate about the various positions in Europe.

We want the future Commission President then to be appointed from these lead candidates on the basis of the election results: in other words, he or she should come from the political family that performed best in the elections. We also want at least 50 % of the Commission, in future, to be composed of Members of this House, and we are also calling for a number of other measures to enhance citizens’ influence over the composition of the Commission and therefore also on European policy.


  Ashley Fox, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Madam President, may I thank Mr Cassini and my fellow committee members for their work on this resolution, which contains several good suggestions. We all agree that we need to improve the procedures of the next European elections. We should try to encourage greater participation in these elections by our citizens.

I support the change suggested to bring forward the elections from June to May 2014. This will allow Parliament more time to scrutinise the new Commission President. In the United Kingdom, holding the election in May will make it easier to tie in the European elections with our local elections. This will save the taxpayer money and should increase participation. I was pleased that the paragraph which called for at least half of the Commissioners to be drawn from Members of the European Parliament was removed in committee. We should not restrict the right of Member States to choose whom they wish to be their Commissioner.

I hope that the new Commission contains both men and women of real talent. They should be appointed on merit, and merit alone. I do not support the demand in this report that the European political parties nominate a candidate for the Presidency of the Commission who should lead the campaign. The Member States in Council will choose the new Commission President. I ask Members here this question: if centre-right parties form a majority in Council in 2014, do you really think that they will appoint a socialist – perhaps like Martin Schulz – to be the Commission President, just because socialist parties hold more votes than EPP parties in the European elections? In my view, that is not going to happen. For that reason, my Group cannot support this resolution.


  Søren Bo Søndergaard, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (DA) Madam President, we in the Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left support the call for an end to the scandalous gender composition of the Commission in the next period. If all of the EU’s words about equality are to be taken seriously, this must be reflected in a balanced gender composition.

However, it also seems to me that the most positive thing has been said about the motion for a resolution that we are discussing. Take, for example, the proposal that the European political parties should nominate the candidate for the post of Commission President. The question is: Where does the idea come from? Is it something that will be raised with the EU citizens? Is it something that appears on the banners carried by demonstrators in Athens, Madrid and Lisbon? No. It is a proposal that comes from above. We have heard this from Mr Barroso, among others, who turned it into a big number in his speech on the State of the Union here in Parliament. However, real democracy and the development of democracy come from below, and if the European parties want to put candidates forward for the post of Commission President, they can simply do it. It is entirely possible. They have the opportunity, regardless of whether Mr Barroso thinks so or not. The problem of the enormous democratic deficit in the EU will not be solved by making the European political debate presidential and personal.

Instead, we need more democracy. Our group has therefore proposed calling on Member States to introduce electoral systems that ensure that political parties will be represented in relation to their size. What sort of democracy excludes parts of the population from being represented politically? We say, as the rebels did in the American War of Independence, ‘No taxation without representation’.

Unfortunately, this motion for a resolution does not reflect this sort of clear democratic requirement. This is frustrating because – as has been said – the EU does not need more presidents, it needs more democracy.


  Roberto Gualtieri, on behalf of the S&D Group. (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I said that the crisis currently affecting the euro is not exclusively economic but is rather a political crisis based on the growing contradiction between the fact that the national dimension prevails in politics yet the policies needed to face the crisis are European.

This resolution aims to bring about a reform that does not require changes to the Treaties or secondary legislation. It is an important political and institutional reform because it uses the mechanism of nominating a candidate for Commission Presidency based on the model of parliamentary regimes, although we are obviously not dealing with a direct election. Nomination is by the European parliamentary parties, recognised by and present in the Treaties. We are therefore applying the spirit and the letter of the Treaties, which state that the President of the Commission is elected by Parliament and that the appointment of the President should take into account the result of the EP elections. At the same time, we are introducing a reform allowing the citizens to participate directly in choosing the political government of Europe. This brings genuine democratic legitimacy, based on a real European political sphere for the European institutions, which is a precondition for the effectiveness of their actions of government, as well as for their democratic legitimacy.

On the other hand, this reform does not, in my opinion, contradict the independence of the Commission. This is because Article 17 of the Treaty of Lisbon on the independence of the Commission refers both to the fact that the Council should propose a candidate, acting by qualified majority, and that the proposal should take account of the results of the elections to the European Parliament, clearly demonstrating, as is the case in ordinary democratic regimes, that the democratic legitimacy of a governing body does not necessarily conflict with its independence.

The question here is one of democratisation and politicisation, in order to strengthen the action of the Commission and, overall, to build a more legitimate, stronger European Union that is closer to its citizens and therefore more capable of providing a response to the extraordinary crisis that we are experiencing. Indeed, with reforms such as this, the crisis might well be the opportunity to take another step on the road to a political Europe.


  Nicole Sinclaire (NI). – Madam President, is it not deeply ironic in a debate about democracy that this Parliament is using rules to actually stifle debate? We are not allowed to use blue cards or catch-the-eye, which means that very small entities such as the non-attached Members get no speaking time at all.

Of course we will all be standing in elections in 2014. You did say at the start of the debate that there would be no catch-the-eye, but you did not say, and it has not previously been put in any of the material or by e-mail, that there would be no blue cards. I think that is a real breach of this debate and shows the EU to be what it is: it talks about democracy but it does not want to let everyone have their say or even their vote.


  President. − (IT) I said at the start of the debate that we would not be using the catch-the-eye procedure because this was agreed between the political groups on Monday when this item was added to the agenda. The procedure is thus that only one Member speaks on behalf of each group. No non-attached Members indicated that they wished to speak. The President may, however, give the floor to Members who indicate that they wish to put a blue-card question.


  Algirdas Šemeta, Member of the Commission. Madam President, as President Barroso said in his State of the Union address before this House, we need a European public space where European issues are discussed and debated from a European standpoint. We cannot continue to try to solve European problems just with national solutions and debates. The MFF is a case in point. Therefore the Commission values your engagement to enhance the European political process and to enable EU citizens to also become genuine EU political actors, be it in the context of the European elections in 2014 or beyond. The presentation by European political parties of their candidate for the post of Commission President at the European Parliament elections in 2014 would be an important step.

For the choice of Commissioners, the most important aspect is that Commissioners-designate are chosen on the grounds of their competence, their European commitment and their independence. The Treaty provides a clear mechanism for the choice of Commissioners. Within this framework the European political families are always free to look for the best way to ensure the best candidatures. In any event, Parliament hears all Commissioners and must give its consent to their appointment.

There are many other elements that EU institutions, European political parties and Member States can use to promote the European project with our citizens. It is now for all of us to take the appropriate and sometimes bold decisions in the run-up to the elections in 2014. It is with this in mind that the Commission will come up with proposals to enhance the democratic legitimacy of our Union.


  President. − (IT) I have received one motion for a resolution(1)in accordance with Rule 110(2).

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place today at 12.00.

Written statements (Rule 149)


  Alajos Mészáros (PPE), in writing. (HU) In 2014 the citizens of the European Union will once again be able to go to the urns and decide who they want to represent them directly in Brussels, the centre of EU affairs. Even if we have not managed to recover completely from the crisis by then, we must still concentrate our energy on giving Europe’s citizens hope for the future. I believe that it is only by adhering to democratic values that we can create a Europe that is both competitive and demonstrates solidarity. The task that falls to the political parties at European level is to promote greater European political awareness and translate the will of EU citizens into action. As this will come about at the next elections thanks to the Treaty of Lisbon, I am confident that the political legitimacy of both Parliament and the Commission will be genuinely reinforced by having a more direct link between the election of these two institutions and the votes of the European electorate. It falls to Parliament to ensure that appropriate preparations are made for this process and that citizens are duly informed. The electorate needs to understand clearly why and for whom they are voting in two years’ time. They need to see the changes that have been made as regards European political cooperation, and they especially need to see how this will have a more positive impact on their own lives. I hope that the new European Parliament and European Commission will take shape in 2014 in line with Christian-democratic principles and with due consideration for European solidarity.


(1)See Minutes.

Posljednje ažuriranje: 1. ožujka 2013.Pravna napomena