Progressive Caucus* and the Non-Governmental Organizations, which were represented during its event on the 10th of April, decided to continue working together on the basis of their previous work on Europe’s future. The MEPs who participated at the event -also members of the Steering Committee of the Progressive Caucus- as well as the representatives from the NGOs involved, participants who took the floor during the event, as well as activists who were present, focused on the topics social justice, environmental development and trade agreements. They also discussed the future of democracy in Europe.
Progressive Caucus -which represents MEPs from the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left in the European Parliament-, confirmed once again that it supports the goal of developing convergences with civil society organizations on the changes needed for a social transformation of Europe.
Under the name “Progressive Caucus Discusses with Civil Society: A New Scenario for Europe”, the event focused on summarizing those convergence points between the “Missing Scenario” -which had been elaborated by the Progressive Caucus’s Steering Committee, and since has been the subject of dialogue in a series of events- and the “Sixth Scenario: A Sustainable Europe for its Citizens”. The latter was prepared by the NGOs represented at the event -more than 250- and was presented at a previous Progressive Caucus’s event in December 2017.
The event began with the topic of “Social Exclusion and Equality within and outside the European Union”. S&D MEP Elly Schlein stressed that “inequalities are threatening democracy itself, not only affecting growth, but also social cohesion as a whole”. Referring to the latest tax evasion scandals at the EU level, she pointed out that “the money for cohesion policies exists; what doesn’t is political will”. By showing her country, Italy, she noted that among the five richest Florentine families today, the three were still among the strongest 200 years ago.
Farell Fintan who participated in the same debate, representing the European Anti – poverty Network, called “to re-examine the issues of wealth redistribution in the context of globalization”. Elly Schlein added at that point: “European and global challenges cannot find a solution at national level”.
At the next debate on “Economy and Energy: Biodiversity, Sources, Land Use”, Green’s MEP Florent Marcellesi noted that “we tend to present the environment and the economy as opposing poles, but we must try to reconsider them as compatible”. “We have built European societies on the exploitation of the environment and the citizens”, he said, and stressed that “the environment should not be treated as a commodity”. He also announced an initiative to be taken September 2018 with representatives of all the European Parliament’s parties on the post-growth economy, focusing mainly on the vision of an economic transition to a more sustainable environmental and social model.
In the same debate Raphael Hanoteaux from the CEE Bankwatch Network raised the issue of more active civil society involvement in the preparation of European budgets, calling for the “Missing Scenario” and the “Sixth Scenario” of NGOs to become reality.
The next debate about ‘’Democracy in the European Union’’ was co-ordinated by Socialist MEP Guillaume Balas, who also undertook the coordination of the whole event. He expressed his confidence in the recovery of “real democracy in the European context”, noting that “while, even within the Progressive Caucus itself there may be differences concerning the European construction and decision-making processes, there is a unified position on the side of the democratic principle”. “We do not recognize”, he said, “any democratic legitimacy in constructions such as the Troika, imposing tough measures to Greece. Its decisions are not decided on a common European level”. He also said that democracy, together with the topics of inequalities and environmental challenges “are the main pillars of a successful EU reform”.
Ken Godfrey, representing the NGO European Partnership for Democracy, stressed that “transparency is the key to the transformation of EU by helping to curb the power of money on politics”, and raised the issue of cutting European funds in countries that violate democratic European principles such as Poland and Hungary. With the latter agreed Leo Hoffmann – Axthelm, by the NGO Transparency International, focusing also on the need to “raise the democratic standards of our societies to the level of economics”. In particular, he referred to the need to protect justice and the independence of the media.
The last debate on “Sustainable and Fair Trade Policies” was led by the Socialist MEP Georgi Pirinski, where he announced the willingness on behalf of Progressive Caucus for a joint declaration based on the convergences with the NGOs -a proposal that was welcome to be discussed. Focusing on how the European Union’s trade policy is adapted to the interests of the single market, he stressed that the latter cannot be the basis for the development of the European Union. Instead asked for an ‘ambitious social plan that will help to prevent its dissolution’. Comparing the signs of convergence between the “Missing Scenario” and the “Sixth Scenario” on trade policy issues, he pointed out that there may be many -democracy and participation, transparency and solidarity, sustainability and respect for rights- but they “shouldn’t remain at the level of wishful thinking”.
Paul de Clerk , coordinator of the Economic Justice Program of the NGO Friends of Earth Europe, stressed in the same debate the need to “change the principles governing European trade agreements” and focused on how trade agreements “need to serve the public interest”.
At the end of the event, the Vice-President of the European Parliament, head of the SYRIZA delegation and member of the Progressive Alliance Executive Committee, Dimitrios Papadimoulis, expressed his wish to continue the similar efforts and initiatives in the same direction. “We continue with actions in the line of the Marseilles Forum, the forum held in Athens recently, we continue in the spirit of the forthcoming meeting of the progressive forces in Madrid on 9-11 November. It is time for progressive MEPs, politicians and activists, people, to look for convergences that will take Europe one step forward.”
* The Progressive Caucus is a space of dialogue based on confidence-building and open debate. Ιts aim is to analyze differences and build bridges between progressive allies in the European Parliament and across Europe. It has been established by progressive MEPs of different political groups and is open to everyone in the community of the European Parliament standing for solidarity, democracy, social justice and sustainability. In the Progressive Caucus participate MEPs from the S&D, the Greens/ EFA and the GUE/ NGL groups.
See the “Missing Scenario” here: http://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/other/2017/6th_scenario_future_of_europe.pdf
Here the “Sixth Scenario: A Sustainable Europe for its Citizens”: http://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/other/2017/6th_scenario_future_of_europe.pdf
See the Progressive Alliance’s photo album here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/55809559@N08/sets/72157689723482410