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Prosperity replaces war as a reason for the unification of Europe

07 February 2014 / 00:02:45  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

Four months before the elections fears of low voting activity and expectations for a rise of the extreme right and xenophobic forces in Europe are increasingly growing. The reasons for the continuously declining trust in the European institutions and the growing Euroscepticism were the main subject of the conference on "Dare Democracy", organized in Athens by the French edition "Le Nouvel Observateur" and the Greek "Kathimerini" newspaper.

"In recent years, inequality and unemployment in Europe have gone beyond all bounds. A piece of research shows that if the situation does not change, in 2018 the trust in the European Union on the part of the countries of northern Europe will be only 1.3 percent and in the southern less than 1 percent. What is needed is a radical political change. The restriction of governance cannot continue with the increased powers of the European Commission at the expense of the European Parliament as has been the case in recent years," said former Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy Massimo D'Alema.

Based on his experience in the European Parliament as a member of the group of the Party of European Socialists (PES), D'Alema said that the politicians in Europe should start discussing the future of the European Union with each other regardless of their political differences and compromising in order to create a specific vision for the European citizens. He declared his strong support for the federalization of Europe. "Many of my colleagues in PES do not support this position but I am a federalist. The world is constantly changing and if we are to be at the table negotiating on global issues, we have no other alternative than to unite. I know this is difficult. There are countries that want to dominate and they do not hide this but that is just part of the past. Our future will be brighter and we will be strong only if we are together," said the Italian politician.

He fully supported the proposals for changes in the governance of the European Union of Liberal Guy Verhofstadt, former Prime Minister of Belgium and a candidate for President of the European Commission on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

"It is not possible for 28 prime minister to co-govern. Imagine that representatives of the 52 states govern the United States without Obama and that there are no institutions to control the economic and financial policy. That would be impossible. We all know that Europe cannot have a single currency in the future without a currency and banking union. If we continue like this the only certain thing is that the Eurosceptics will prevail."

According to Verhofstadt, the member states should establish a federation democratically governed by authorities elected by the citizens. "One idea in this direction is for the leader of the European Commission to be elected by the parliamentary group of the party with the highest number of representatives in the European Parliament. In this way, the people will indirectly contribute to his election since the Members of the European Parliament were elected by their vote. My personal opinion is that we need to establish a system for paying taxes directly to the European institutions. This will enhance the sense of belonging in the citizens of the union and the money will be allocated to the member states."

The candidate of European liberals, to whose parliamentary group the Greek Drassi party belongs, stressed, "Without federalization and general problem solving, we will count increasing numbers of new generations of young people who will want their countries to leave the European Union. Yes, it managed to achieve the original purpose for which it had been created, namely to avoid another war. However, young people have not experienced war, they were born and raised in peacetime and this argument cannot win them. What they need is development opportunities and jobs."

Former European Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamandouros explained that this year's European elections for the first time would be held under the Lisbon Treaty, which has introduced changes, including in the election legislation. Diamandouros said that a major step towards strengthening democracy would be to enable the European citizens to vote for the parties represented in the European Parliament.

Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier said that the European Union should become more convincing as regards young people, calling for more politics and less bureaucracy in its governing. He defended the way in which Europe had reacted to the financial crisis, saying that although the European Union is not one country, the situation is under control.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said that the rise of the extreme right forces in Greece is due to the policy of austerity and its severe impact on Greek society. "That is why we need to create a new social contract based on "social liberalism". Greece is back onto its feet and its economy has started recovering. The big bet is to deal with unemployment, which particularly among young people is 60 percent."

According to Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos Europe must return to its fundamental values, ​​reject the bureaucratic and non-transparent mechanism that is governing it and get closer to the citizens who "today feel remote and do not understand what is happening".

Tags: PoliticsEuropeConferenceLe Nouvel ObservateurGuy VerhofstadtMassimo D'AlemaAntonis SamarasEvangelos Venizelos
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