By Poul Nyrup Rasmussen,
President of the Party of European Socialists
You choose – but please don’t throw your vote away!
Like it or not, Europe is a part of your government, and Brussels is one of the seats of your democracy. There’s the Town Hall, regional government, national parliament and the European Union with its directly elected European Parliament.
You probably feel more attached to your national parliament than to the European Parliament. But ask yourself: can your country tackle the economic crisis on its own? Can your country combat climate change on its own? Can your country fight the trafficking of women, children, drugs and arms on its own? These problems need action at every level – local, regional, national as well as European. Like it or not the European Parliament makes laws affecting our everyday lives, laws that change the world around us.
So the European elections on 4-7 June are your chance to influence how Europe – the largest economy in the world – develops over the next five years. And what a five years it is going to be! We are in the deepest global recession since the 1930s: unemployment will reach 27 million in 2010 with dramatic consequences for people all over Europe. We need to start getting serious about the global climate and energy crisis, and address urgent humanitarian crises in the developing world. These are all areas where Europe can make a difference.
Don’t be fooled by those who say that Europe is a bureaucracy you can’t influence. It’s simply not true: all the decisions are all taken by elected politicians – directly-elected national governments who make the decisions in the ‘European Council’ and the directly-elected European Parliament. The European Commissioners are chosen by those governments and voted on by the European Parliament.
The last five years have, at European Union level, been conservative years – with conservatives as the largest force in all EU decision-making bodies. My view is that they were failed years but it is up to make your own mind up.
The direction offered by us socialists and social democrats is clear. We have set out steps to fight the recession we want taken in the first hundred days following the European elections, including:
1. A new, strong recovery plan for Europe, with coordinated investments in jobs and green growth.
2. A European Employment Pact to safeguard employment, and strengthen workers’ rights, working conditions and equal pay
3. A new Women’s Rights Charter to improve all women’s rights and opportunities
4. A Social Progress Pact to tackle the social consequences of the crisis, preventing a rise in poverty and inequality
5. Effective regulation and supervision of the financial markets
6. New mutual solidarity across European member states
And the elections are not just a choice about the make up of the next Parliament. If the conservatives form a majority after the election, José Manuel Barroso, the current President of the European Commission, will get a second five-year term. If we can form a progressive majority in the European Parliament he will not.
So there is a good reason to vote: you are faced with a real political choice.
It may be tempting to stay at home. Going to the voting station takes time and effort. But don’t think that not voting makes no difference. By staying at home you give the extremists a better chance of being elected and you could end up with an MEP who in no way shares your values, and who will not represent you. The racists, the nationalists and the anti-Europeans have contributed nothing to the important decisions that the European Parliament has taken in the past, and won’t in the future. They are marginalised and isolated by their inability to cooperate across national boundaries.
A vote for the extremists is a wasted vote, and a wasted vote is a vote for the extremists.
So I appeal to all women and men – please don’t stay at home on European elections day. Use your vote to make your choice of the direction you think Europe should take over the next five years.