The European Parliament elected a new President earlier this week. You probably didn’t know that because Euro news does not figure on many media radars on these shores.
The new President, Martin Schulz, a socialist MEP from Germany, is not without controversy or incident. He crossed swords with Silvio Berlusconi in the now infamous Nazi concentration camp clip. And predictably, the Daily Mail has been frothing at the mouth over his election, which by itself should be enough to pique our interest. Expect more pillory in the coming months.
Schulz’s acceptance speech is really important but sadly, there’s no room in Scotland’s mainstream media for reporting or analysing it. Yet it deserves an unabridged airing, which is why it is published in full (that’s the exclusive bit) below.
People, we may just have found ourselves a champion…
“Either we all lose, or we all win”
For the first time since it was founded, the failure of the European Union is a realistic possibility. For months, the European Union has stumbled from one crisis summit to another, while the economic crisis has raised poverty in many countries and unemployment has reached disastrous levels among young people in particular. They are protesting in Europe’s streets against an economic system allowing a small minority to take in the profits when times are good, and forcing society as a whole to bear the losses when times are bad. A system, which makes anonymous rating agencies in New York more powerful than democratically elected governments and parliaments.
This crisis of confidence in politics and its institutions is also undermining faith in Europe. More and more people are casting a suspicious eye on our work, as decisions affecting us all are being taken by heads of government behind closed doors. To my mind, this is a reversion to a form of European politics which I thought had been consigned to the history books.
Post-war Europe is founded on a sober acknowledgement of the fact that our interests can no longer be separated from those of our neighbours; on a shared understanding that the EU is not a zero-sum game, in which one person must lose so that another can win. The reverse is true: either we all lose, or we all win. The fundamental basis for this is the full involvement of EU procedures and institutions: the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council representing all EU states.. This “community method” is not a technocratic concept, but the principle at the heart of everything the European Union stands for.
The Community project has been undermined. The plethora of summits, the growing fixation with meetings of the Heads of State and Government , is severely diminishing the part played by the only directly elected Community institution, the European Parliament, in decision-making processes. The role of representatives of the peoples of Europe has essentially been reduced to rubberstamping agreements reached between governments in backrooms in Brussels. And national parliaments do not fare much better.
The public are responding to this lack of parliamentary legitimacy by viewing political decisions taken by their leaders as nothing more than a series of dictates from ‘Brussels’. The price is paid by the EU as a whole, since this disenchantment with politics acts as a breeding ground for anti-European sentiment.
My principal task as President of the European Parliament will be to counter this flagrant lack of democracy, this fixation on summits, this ongoing trend towards the renationalisation of policy-making. I want the European Parliament to raise its profile as a forum for democracy and informed, partisan debate about the future of the European Union.
I will do everything in my power to win back lost public trust in the European integration process and to restore public enthusiasm for Europe. But I will not be an amenable President of the European Parliament. I will be a President who, if necessary, fights to ensure that the Commission respects Parliament’s rights and powers, who acts when the interests of European citizens are jeopardised and who represents strong MEPs determined to defend the interests of their voters