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The European Parliament has to assume more responsibility for what is happening in the Union

01 July 2014 / 20:07:32  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

The first meeting of the European Parliament took place over a month after the European elections and elected its new, former, president Martin Schulz. At the same time, the election of the European Commission President has become a serious challenge for partner relations in the European Union, which anyway is under attack for the policy pursued over the past years.

How to overcome the Eurosceptic and anti-European attitudes and the challenges facing the new European Parliament were the topics of the conversation between leading commentator on events in Greece and Europe Yiannis Koutsomitis and GRReporter.

Mr. Koutsomitis, what can we expect from the new European Parliament? Will it be able to deal with the big problems of Europe?

The European Parliament is entering a new phase. It participated for the first time in the election of the European Commission President. This means that many of its decisions will be subject to his approval, thus significantly limiting the right to use the argument that the European Parliament does not participate in the making of important decisions.

Another important development is the recently announced collaboration between the main pro-European parties that will support the European Commission headed by Jean-Claude Juncker. Of course, all this has to be demonstrated in practice, and not only in terms of issues related to the economy, but also in connection with personal freedoms, migration policy and other issues for which the far right and the Eurosceptics are pressing the pro-European forces.

The great challenge facing the European Parliament is to prove that it is not just an institution that often seems secondary but that it now participates in the executive power.

The far right failed to form a parliamentary group. What caused this failure and does that mean that its rise in Europe is not so great in the end?

This was because several individual MEPs, one of France's National Front and one or two of Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party in the Netherlands withdrew. Wilders had provoked reactions inside his party in terms of both the way he was leading it and his various Islamophobic statements.

On the other hand, there are internal contradictions in the European far right. The French far right is actually an internal French nationalist right while its Hungarian equivalent is a purely far-right party. The failure to create a parliamentary group is due to them.

There is a rise of the extreme right in some countries and there is not in others. For example, there is no rise in Italy, Spain and Germany whereas there is in France, but I think it is due to very specific reasons, including the lower prestige of the country as a major international power and domestic nationalism. The real rise of the extreme right is observed in South East Europe, especially in Hungary, the Baltic countries and Greece. In this case, I think it is due to the failure of the parliamentary institutions and political parties to respond in a democratic manner to the problems and to the decline in living standards. The immigration policy is increasingly moving into the background at the expense of the striving to break with the ruling bourgeois democratic parliamentary system.

The European Union is in crisis, it is the subject of strong criticism regarding the policies pursued so far. What can the European Parliament do to make the idea of ​​Europe more attractive?

The political vision that a united Europe will improve the standard of living is no longer in effect. Now a new one has to be found that will aim to strengthen the institutions and make every citizen feel that his or her vote is valuable and is as strong as the vote of the citizens of the economically and politically strong European countries.

Leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Party of European Socialists Sergey Stanishev announced that he would be a MEP. Is this a common decision and is there another similar example in Europe?

There are several examples of MEPs who are deputies in the national parliaments of their countries, including Geert Wilders in the Netherlands. The issue is under consideration by the European Court, which will decide whether it is possible for someone to retain the two posts. I think Nigel Farage from the UK has a similar problem.

It is really weird, but I think this also shows that the role of the European Parliament is becoming more important and it will be able to undertake more initiatives.

I do not know the reasons behind Mr. Stanishev’s decision but Geert Wilders very much insisted on gaining the right to take both posts. Therefore, I think many important decisions concerning Europe will be taken in Strasbourg in the coming years.

Why does the Party of European Socialists want to be led by such a discredited politician as Sergey Stanishev?

Probably it comes down to respecting the balance between the representatives of the parties of the old and new Europe. Maybe they think that they are strengthening the positions of the newer member states in this way.

On the other hand, Bulgaria proposed Kristalina Georgieva for the post of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. What are her chances of succeeding Catherine Ashton in this post?

I am familiar with the excellent opinions of her previous work. I think the main obstacle will be the application of Italy’s Foreign Minister Federica Magerini. The Italian Prime Minister insists on her taking this post.

It is also likely that this high post be granted to the UK as a compensation for the defeat of David Cameron in connection with the election of the European Commission President. It all depends on the nominees.

An agreement to associate the Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova to the European Union was signed a few days ago. It is a step in the right direction. Why was it taken so late?

It was late primarily because the new president of Ukraine had to be elected. Brussels wanted these three contracts to be signed at the same time in order to send the message that the Union is expanding.  If former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych had not totally changed his position things would have happened earlier.

Do you think that the support for the Eurosceptics will be increasing?

This depends on some decisions that Europe is obliged to make. For example, it is now abundantly clear that the UK citizens do not want their country to continue to be an EU member in today’s reality.

Because the euro area has gained great potential inside the EU, the membership in it will probably be diverse in the coming years. Angela Merkel even hinted at the following things during her recent press conference: strengthening the democratic and political structure of the euro area on the one hand, forming a group of countries that are close to their euro area membership on the other, whereas another group will include those countries that do not support the political consolidation and want to maintain their independence on certain issues. This kind of relationship exists now between the EU and Norway and Switzerland.

I think it is not excluded that some countries will focus on this kind of cooperation. If no other alternative is found and the political consolidation continues with the same rhythm, and if the euro area continues plating a leading role in some countries where the anti-European attitudes are already a fact, these attitudes will intensify even more.

Tags: PoliticsEuropean ParliamentEuroscepticismFar rightpro-European partiesKristalina GeorgievaSergey Stanishev
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