MEP viewpoints: What should EU priorities be?
- 21 May 2014
- From the section Europe
Voters across Europe are poised to choose who will represent them in the European Parliament.
In all 28 member states the candidates are racing to get their message across. We asked MEPs in Europe's main party groups to set out their three top priorities for the EU. They are all campaigning for re-election.
Marlene Mizzi (Malta) - Socialists and Democrats (S&D), centre-left
- We should prioritise citizens' well-being - and that means jobs and education. We must ensure that young people find proper jobs, and address the skills mismatch. The market demands certain skills, so we must ensure that institutions deliver those skills.
- We should also concentrate on things like the financial sector and ensure a crisis doesn't happen again. The banking union report by [S&D's Elisa] Ferreira has addressed the banking problems. When the EU addresses the proper governance of institutions then it will be addressing a lot of important issues.
Banks are like all businesses - you find some that are correct, some less correct. I think in general they've learnt a very tough lesson in the last three years, and I think investors will be more careful. We know which banks can be robust and which not. Banking union will ensure more vigilance.
- There should be an [EU] immigration policy, especially with countries which are doorways to Europe - Malta, Italy, Greece and Bulgaria. Some countries are brushing away the problems, but the principle of solidarity must be there - some countries are really suffering immigration.
Malta's problems are Europe's problems. As a gateway we've got a lot of African immigrants, some irregular and illegal. We feel Dublin II [on asylum] has to be revised. There must be responsibility sharing - money alone is not enough. There is a commitment from the [EU] Commission to address the problem, but to date nothing really concrete has happened.
Marian-Jean Marinescu (Romania) - European People's Party (EPP), centre-right
- We need more Europe, a stronger, more integrated Europe. In energy policy, security and defence and foreign affairs we should have a common position, to face the challenges that will come. We are talking about Russia - if the EU doesn't adopt sanctions but accepts negative effects in Europe then what happened in Crimea will continue in Ukraine.
- On growth and jobs we need to apply the budget we approved in parliament. We need to direct European money into activities to stimulate growth. The most important direction is reindustrialisation.
In the EU cohesion policy the specialisation of regions is very important - in that way we can make development efficient. In Oltenia, south-western Romania, the most competitive areas are energy - we have coal, power stations - and agriculture and food processing. So we need to focus resources in that direction.
- We also need a common immigration policy, to absorb the labour force from within Europe. We need a clever policy to cover each sector in member states - develop free circulation in the labour market. Some countries need workers - so we should first use workers inside Europe, then ones from outside Europe.
Paul Nuttall (UK) - UKIP deputy leader, Eurosceptic EFD group
- We need to reclaim self-governance for the British people, so we can make our own laws, be it on energy, regulation of the City of London, or employment legislation. We want people who are accountable to the British people to make our own laws, rather than unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, at the European Commission.
Ultimately we're campaigning for a British exit from the European Union. We should turn towards a global vision - develop our own trade relations with the rest of the world.
- Second, we want to stop wasting money on the wasteful EU, stop giving the Union £55 million a day - to an institution which is a byword for waste. This money could be better spent in Britain to overcome unemployment and the loss of jobs caused by EU hyper-regulation.
- We want to take back control of our own borders, so we can decide the numbers and quality of people who come to Britain to work and reside here. The EU mass immigration regime has caused job displacement and wage compression for many in the UK. We want to be able to choose people from around the globe with the necessary skills to help the British economy.
Philippe Lamberts (Belgium), Greens
- First we have to complete the work of regulating the financial sector. We're not yet at the point where 'too big to fail' institutions don't exist any longer. We must ensure that no single financial institution can blackmail a democracy. There is still much to do in banking sector reform, to split investment banking from retail banking, reduce leverage in the financial sector and go after toxic products.
We also need to go after massive tax fraud and evasion - at the national level you can't curb one trillion euros escaping from European treasuries annually.
- Second we need an energy union - I hope people realise that having 28 energy policies is a recipe for disaster. If we want the EU to be energy-independent we need massive renewable energy schemes, and on a continental basis. Germany is doing it on its own - that means more US coal imported, more French nuclear energy. It's not a successful energy transition for Europe.
The annual bill paid for fossil fuels is 450bn euros (£366bn). The most promising renewable resources - solar in the Mediterranean, wind energy by the ocean - are all on the periphery. We need to connect the core of Europe with the periphery. That cannot be done on a national basis.
- And we need democratic legitimacy at EU level. The whole decision process in the European semester [on national budgets] should be democratically accountable to the European Parliament and national parliaments. Socio-economic decisions are being taken behind closed doors, by national governments and the EU Commission.
Syed Kamall (UK) - Conservative, ECR group
- We should grow the ECR group. We said after the election let's see who we have things in common with. Next week we can start having conversations.
Coalitions are built on individual issues - for example, completing the single market, focusing on digital, research and development. We need to make sure new laws have a positive impact on jobs, not negative. We will find allies in the EPP, Liberals.
- Second, we need to spread our agenda for reform and renegotiation. There is high unemployment in Europe, social unrest - it's clear that we have allies who also want reform. We went too far and too fast with the euro, it caused immense problems. Freedom of movement should be about free movement of workers, not people who come with no intention of working.
We don't say everything at European level is bad - there may be good reasons for law enforcement co-operation. With the European Arrest Warrant - there are good and bad things.
- Thirdly - costs. We cut the EU budget, and people said it would never happen, but David Cameron got other leaders to agree to it. There is an enormous amount of waste - even today we have the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) at nearly 40% of the EU budget, and we know how much waste there is with it. That money would be better spent on R and D, future technology.
The accounts have not been properly signed off after 19 years. We have to prove to the electorate that money is being spent properly.
Gabriele Zimmer (Germany) - Die Linke, socialist GUE/NGL group
- Our party is concerned to construct a social Europe, an EU which is fighting poverty, social exclusion, to introduce a minimum income.
We want to change crisis management in EU institutions - we are against cutting the budgets in member states, especially Greece, Portugal, Spain. We demand an investment fund to develop the economy, and social and ecological development.
- Inequality is very deep in the EU - between states in the eurozone and outside, but also within countries. That has been exacerbated by Germany's export surpluses. So we want to stop the pressure to cut national budgets, stop the privatisation of public services, and of insurance - it hasn't helped citizens' security. The banks have been rescued, at the expense of citizens.
The EU's Lisbon Treaty should be changed - we want a social clause introduced, so that free movement of capital and services is not more important than social protection of workers.
- On migration we need a common asylum procedure. Refugees should be able to decide which country they enter, depending on family ties or language ability. That would smooth out the financial burden - it shouldn't just fall on certain countries. There needs to be a legal way for people to come to the EU. We need skills in the EU - there's a considerable lack of them - and there are many jobs.
We also want people to be protected - those who have fled war, persecution. We want to stop people dying on our borders. In the last 15 years 23,000 migrants died.
Graham Watson (UK) - Liberals (ALDE)
- A lot of people think the EU is secretive, and having proper access to documents could shine a light on the way in which the EU makes laws. The EU's rules on public access to documents - which I steered through the European Parliament - were approved in 2001. However they have never been properly implemented. So citizens cannot get access to documents which are crucial to explain how decisions are made.
- We need proper cross-border investment in energy transmission, to make the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy. At the moment the Russians have a lever over the EU, due to our dangerous dependency on Russian oil and gas. We need to wean ourselves off that.
I am very much in favour of the ambitious targets for energy efficiency and carbon reductions that the European Commission is seeking. But I would like to see the Commission pressing harder against any further development of fossil fuels, and especially fracking.
- The disruption to the lives of MEPs by having to move to Strasbourg once a month is quite considerable. I do believe the French government would be willing to give up their claim on having the parliament in Strasbourg if they were offered something in return. For example, we could move an EU agency to the current parliament building in Strasbourg, or create a European University. Practical steps like this will make a difference to restoring public confidence in the EU institutions.
Interviews by Laurence Peter and Alasdair Rendall