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EUROPEAN ELECTIONS 2014. Schulz, Juncker or Verhofstadt? Who wants closer ties with the U.S.? CALEAEUROPEANA.RO ANALYSIS on the political agendas of those who have the chance to lead EU

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Andra AVRAM

The electoral campaign has started – and so have the promises of change and better perspectives of the European citizen’s life. Caleaeuropeana.ro has analysed the plans of the three main candidates to the leadership of the European Commission. A better understanding of their vision upon how and towards what the EU must be lead could eventually help you in making up your mind and taking a decision, before going to vote. Because – ”This time, it’s different”, so promises the European Parliament, following the line chosen for the promotion of the 2014 European Elections, between 22 – 25 of May. Why? Many may ask themselves. Because there come in force the norms of the 2009 Lisbon Treaty. Because these are the very first European Elections organized following the signing of this treaty. Because, despite the growing number of the EU member-states, with Croatia at July 1st, 2013, the number of the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) is still the same, of 751 – or, better said, of 750 plus 1, this 1 counting as the President of the European Parliament, according to the Lisbon Treaty. Because, even though there are still controversies concerning the legitimacy of these elections, when it comes to the real representation of the citizens in the EP, no one can deny the fact that, once with this new treaty, the EU Treaty, or the Lisbon Treaty, the number of attributes of the European Parliament has significantly increased. And this leads, inevitably, to a more democratic EU and to the process of democratization at the EU level.

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If, until now, the citizens had the power only to elect their euro-deputies, in order to be represented by these, for a five year mandate, starting with 2014, the European citizens elect as well, indirectly, the one to lead the European institution meant to supervise the word of the treaty, the ”guardian of the treaty”, as the European Commission is more popularly known as. A big step forward, when it comes to the EU democracy, an even bigger challenge to the main three candidates to the European Commission Presidency, whose political programs become, these days, reasons of ardent debates. Thing which is not to be surprising, given the importance of these elections; the winner will be one of the most prominent figures of the European Union.

 

Martin Schulz: a left leadership for a Social Europe

As it was expected, the main left candidate for the Presidency of the European Commission focuses a lot on the political aspects regarding the “change of the right wing and the come-back to the left leadership”. The recent economic crisis of the last five years of mandate of the European People’s Party, taking into consideration the great number of right MEPs of the 2009 – 2014 mandate, represents the main form of attack of the social-democrats, in their fight with the right wing. The Manifesto launched by the PES, on whose principles the main programmatic ideas of the candidate Martin Schulz are based, are developed along three main concepts: progress, protection and performances, meant to cover the main problematic domains of the current European Union.

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The priorities stated under the line of “A Union that progresses” are directly linked to the creation of jobs, for these to be the main worry of the socialists, followed by the economical relaunch, the putting of the financial sector at the service of the citizens and the real economy, and the open-up towards a Social Europe. The emphasis particularly comes on the young side of the European citizens, the ones who, according to PES, have no fault for the current economic crisis, although, in the end, they are the ones who suffer most because of it, due to the big number of unemployed following the study years, with no job perspectives. Simultaneously, the left ideology comes to life through the type of politics they promote, particularly in the section dedicated to the Social Europe. Beyond the politics concerning the economical relaunch promised by the PES, of the reinforcement of the Euro zone, so that the current mistakes are never again repeated, of the protection of the citizens in front of the banking politics, the left ideology really shows up in the promises they make to the electorate: the support of the social housing, the creation of new jobs for the in-need ones, the assistance of the social politics, the equal and just redistribution of the incomes and of the welfare. The support of the middle class is, this way, directly stated, through these priorities, under the section of the Union that progresses.

The concept of “protection” and the one of the “Union that protects” have in their structure slogans like the Union of equality and of women rights, of diversity and of a safe and healthy lifestyle of all of us. If the Union of equality and of women rights promotes, first of all, the equality between people, no matter the sex, religion, race or colour etc., as well as the women right to non-violence or any other type of aggression, be it physical, verbal, sexual etc., the Union of diversity continues in the same way, towards the promotion of diversity of any kind and type. The socialists promote thus a politics of opening, of innovation, of new towards more, helping this way at the creation of the idea that only this type of open mentality and of acceptance of new politics and psychologies can lead towards a better, new type of Europe. At last, the Union of a safe and healthy life for all of us goes on with the type of openness previously stated, following this time the idea of health politics, of safe food and safe products, of data protection and of respect of the citizens’ rights, firmly condemning the organized crime and the human traffic phenomena.

Last, but not least, the third concept supported by the socialists, the one of “performance” and of “A Union that performs”, promotes the idea of more participation and more democracy, of a green Europe and the spread of Europe’s influence in the world. If the idea of participation and democracy particularly direct one’s thought towards the European Elections of the 22 – 25 May, this being the main thing on which the socialist emphasis falls on, thus advancing, once again, the promise of a democratization process of the European Union larger and larger, the green Europe concept has at its base the new type of energy supposed for the European future, promoting, at the same type, politics meant to reduce noxes and gas, as closest to zero as possible, as soon as possible. Not in the least, the promotion of Europe’s influence in the world has its origins in the old mentality of the Europeans, the one of leaders, once upon a time, of knowledge and, by this, of the world itself, so that, in the 21st century, Europe wants to re-become the model of values and of democracy that once used to be, for the entire humanity.

In a short form, all these 10 ideas are found in the short-list program of Martin Schulz, written under the form of 10 main ideas which will change Europe. Following strictly the idea of the group’s and party’s ideology, I can only notice the fact that the first part of the PES program is the only one in which one can find ideas of socialist origin, through the protection of the middle-class and the support of the assistance politics. The rest of seven are ideas or actual problems which the European Union has to confront and, by this, its citizens as well, so that the solutions that the social-democrats come up with in its support are not necessarily of left ideology origins, but more of ways of solving these problems according to the actual EU challenges. Martin Schulz recommends himself, thus, as the left candidate whose way of solving problems resides in more cohesion, more acceptance and more diversity – concepts not necessarily of left nature, in an European Union whose political families seem to grow further and further from the ideology that gave birth to them.

Jean-Claude Juncker: Economical relaunch, close relationship with the US

 

The political program of the EPP candidate, Jean-Claude Juncker, doesn’t change much in substance and content when it comes to the ideas launched by the socialist candidate Martin Schulz. The job problem, especially for the young people, the one of a green, independent from the East gas Europe, capable to have its own resources, next to the reinforcement of the Euro zone, after a long period of recession dramatically felt within the EU, all these are themes more or less common, previously found on the socialist Schulz’s agenda as well. Nonetheless, the distinction that Juncker comes with, among the five points enounced as his priorities, as the possible future President of the European Commission, are strictly related to the EU partnership with the US and, a totally distinguishing point on his agenda, to the coming-up with a solution, when it comes to the problem raised by the United Kingdom in the EU.

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If, for his first specific point, the one with the US partnership, Juncker claims the necessity of a closer relationship with the west ally of Europe, when it comes to the UK, Juncker shows himself available to accept certain positions, the classical “opting-out”s that the UK has even nowadays, and which are meant to be continued, despite the pressure that Brussels brings on for the unification of the Euro-zone and with regards to the Schengen area. “The other EU countries will have to accept that the UK will never participate in the euro, even if we may regret this”, says Juncker, supporting his statements according to which he will make everything he can, as President of the European Commission, in case of his election, in order to maintain the UK within the EU, to which he adds “We have to accept that the UK will not become a member of the Schengen area.” Such a clear position as this one shows, at the same time, his weakness in front of the British Crown. The United Kingdom of Great Britain is the only state which is so highly mentioned into an otherwise well-established political program, announced by Juncker as his five main priorities – thing which can be very well received by the British people, nationalists by definition, and yet not so well seen by other states, perhaps just as important, if not more, as the UK, when it comes to economical, financial, political or social aspects, without ‘receiving’ the same distinction within a political program.

Having a look at the political manifesto of EPP as it is, we may easily find the same great themes and domains of interest, as we did in the PSE case, just differently sentenced this time – and, having an even closer look to details, after a first, fast lecture of some political priorities, it is exactly this type of information, related to their structure and to the way they are formulated, that differ, according to one’s ideology and which, in the end, are written in the right ideology language. The problem concerning the jobs, of the unemployed, of the reinforcement of the economic situation, of the strengthening of the Euro, of the data protection and of the civil liberties, of the safe and healthy life of the European citizen, of the necessity of making the EU borders safer and stronger, as well as the extension of the EU influence upon the neighbouring areas, precisely in order to assure these borders, all these are problems that the Union, generally speaking, has to face and whose resolving is imperative, no matter the ideological perspective that the future President of the European Commission will have. The difference comes, though, from the way the solutions are formulated, according to the two type of politics and ideologies: if left counts more on the cohesion aspect, by “holding together to one another” and by self-helping, without making good use of the external factor, it is precisely this policy of openness towards the West, this strategic partnership that EPP suggests, for a closer relationship with the US and therefore the creation of a larger gap between the EU and Russia, which make the difference between right and left. The right ideology was always the one to promote the openness, the change, the innovation, the economical partnerships, aspects which are also met in the EPP politics, as well as Juncker’s. This, next to the protection of the European citizens, the support and the spread of the EU democracy and values in the neighbouring area, the zero tolerance shown towards criminality and human traffic, all these consolidate the political program of EPP in its basic aspects, so managing to cover the main interest areas, from the economical and financial one, to the social and the foreign affairs one, thus managing to bring into attention the most important problematic points the EU faces today.

 

Guy Verhofstadt: ”The unique plan of salvation” and the Commission Reform

Guy Verhofstadt’s program, the ALDE proposed president for the Presidency of the European Commission, opens up in a more than original manner, by exposing some slide-shows meant to illustrate the European and global situation from economical, financial, digital, social etc. perspectives. By illustrating the main problems that the EU faces, as well as the perspectives from what points these problems are analysed, particularly the ones which belong to certain ideological factions, Verhofstadt suggests in the end a “unique plan of salvation”, following the Delors method, proposed by he himself, through which he promises to bring to salvation and the prosperity of Europe, without over-imposing or over-taxing a too weak Union, following the 2009 – 2014 recession wave.

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Even so, having a look upon the priorities that Verhofstadt states, the solutions he comes up with, as possible future President of the European Commission, are not very distinct from the ones previously suggested by his competitors, the socialist Schulz and the popular Juncker. Written, when it comes to the structure and to the style, as the ones announced by the socialists, they remind one, from their content aspect, by what the popular support, in the EPP manifesto. The stabilization of the economical sector, the growing number of the jobs, the private data protection and the one of the civil rights, a European Commission meant to govern for real, these are the three main points announced in the Verhofstadt program, points that remind one for good of the challenges that the European Union faces nowadays. If the first two priorities are problems found in the programs of the other two candidates as well, the economical stabilization, the creation of new jobs, particularly for young people, the energetic independence of Europe, the strengthening of the Euro zone, the data protection and the civil rights, as well as the better safety of the UE borders and the promotion of Euro anti-discrimination law, all these being themes identified and promoted as well by socialists and populars, the third point, the one of the European Commission that governs indeed, is a distinguished and distinguishing point on the Verhofstadt list, meant somehow to illustrate the atypical personality of this candidate.

Signalizing thus a premiere, when it comes to political programs, Verhofstadt is the first, out of the three main candidates, that discusses the governance problem within the Commission and within the EU, supporting the idea of a better governance at a European level, efficient and effective at the same time. As a main target towards everything that currently happens at the EU level, Verhofstadt militates first of all for an intense promotion of the legislative initiative the Commission currently has, and thus of fulfilling for good and for real the role of government it has.  His second idea is directly linked to the three working places of the EU institutions in Luxembourg, Bruxelles and Strasbourg, supporting the idea of a single working place, by this helping the EU economy, according to the data Verhofstadt gives us, with £150 millions per year, next to the 20.000 tones of gas emanated in the atmosphere, assuring at the same time a better cohesion between the working groups. At last, in the third subpoint, Verhosfadt suggests a redistribution of the current working groups, so that there is more efficiency and more clarity in the Commission work. The suggestion the ALDE candidate comes up with is the one of separating the groups into departments, so that each gets distributed according to its specific, in such a way that there is the group of the President, the one of Energy, Clime and Innovation, the one of Economical, Financial and Monetary Affairs, the one of Foreign Affairs and, in the end, the one of Justice and Fundamental Rights, each having in its structure the specific domains. With this new proposal, as well as with his entire point three of the political program, Verhofstadt manages thus to innovate, to bring something new on the political scene, exactly the way he is build, as a political personality, as well as an ALDE leader: the “atypical” attribute in everything he does.

 

Schulz, Juncker, Verhofstadt. Socialists, populars, liberals. Beyond these simple concepts, though, behind these political personalities, there are real programmatic structures, of ideological nature, consisting into ways these groups best know and perceive as the best ways of having Europe out of crisis. A single thing is for sure: Europe needs to be reconstructed – and not only economically, although this is the thing that impacts most and, why to hide it?, affects most. But the economical aspect is not the only weak point of the Union, in this very moment – and the grand political families know this too well. The way in which this reconstruction will come, though, is the great unknown factor in the equation of the 22 – 25 of May European elections. And it is, at the same time, one of the most important unknown factors in the history of the elections for the European Parliament. Its result is indeed grand; beyond all these lines promoted by the European Parliament in order to bring people to vote, beyond all these political propaganda addressed to people by the candidates themselves, beyond the promises they make now, on the edge of the elections, the ideologies that stand their opinions can be found in their political programs as well. The elements exist, there is no way to be denied. Will the ideology win, though, once confronted with the popularity of one candidate or another? Will the messages supported by one or another be the ones that will truly decide who the President of the European Commission is, for the next five years? A great issue of the voting system is the fact that one may almost never know for good why a candidate was opted for, instead of the other. Should it be the sympathy for one? The antipathy towards another? The lack of a better option? The hope one has in the political messages of a certain one or another? Hard to say, particularly in the euphoria of the winning of such an electoral race, with a huge point at stake for the next five years. It would be interesting to follow such a theme. Chances are, it won’t happen. Again, a huge point is at stake… and the winner will be too busy to take his prize, following such a hard campaign, while the others will have to lift their heads and get back to work, again from the “opposite” side. The European Union has to be rebuild, no matter what; the way this will happen, be it left or right, be it socialist, popular or liberal, be it through itself or, on the contrary, through the call of the ancient allies of Europe, this we will only know following May 25th.

 

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Foreign Affairs Minister Ramona Mănescu: The Strategic Partnership with the US is the central focus of the Romanian diplomacy, while the accession to Schengen remains a priority

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Foreign Affairs Minister Ramona Mănescu said on Thursday that Romania’s accession to Schengen remains a priority of the Romanian diplomacy.

“Evoking the period when I was MEP, I can certainly tell you that (…) all the time both [the European] Parliament and the Commission said Romania was prepared to join Schengen, from a technical and logistical point of view. (…) Practically, we function de facto as a Schengen member state, but de jure we are not regarded as such. Romania doesn’t ask anything but the observance of the Treaty, we are members with full rights, we met our commitments and we seriously continue to meet them, no one can challenge Romania’s contribution to the security space, because we are not talking only about the eastern flank of NATO, we are also talking about EU’s eastern flank,” Ramona Mănescu told Antena 3 private television broadcaster on Thursday, quoted by Agerpres.

She maintained that the Romanian citizens “have all the right to get this well-deserved position of Schengen member state.”

“This is not something we must beg for, or be made a favour. It is provided in the Treaty and it must be observed. (…) I assure you we keep this on the agenda as priority topic, and all bilateral and extended discussions will include the Schengen accession component, we won’t stop from telling our colleagues in the EU that the Romanian citizens have the same rights,” Mănescu underscored, mentioning that, at present, in the Council half of the states support Romania’s accession to the free movement area, and the others oppose.

The Foreign Minister also pointed out that the Strategic Partnership with the US must remain the central focus of the Romanian diplomacy.

She also showed that Romania has the same position towards Russia as NATO and the EU.

“Romania’s position towards Russia starts in the first place from the vicinity we are in, but it is also part of the EU’s position regarding Russia, as we are part of the EU, we must get in line with EU’s stand. I am referring to sanctions, to certain limitations that we have in the dialogue and cooperation with Russia and I am particularly referring to the firm position we have as EU member, which we have always had, of observing the international legislative framework. We don’t ask too much from Russia as an actor on the geopolitical stage if we ask them to respect the international legislative framework. (…) It is the principle which we start from and which we cannot fail to keep not even for Russia, which is here, close to us. We have no reason to make an exception, because nothing is negotiable in this story,” Ramona Mănescu said.

According to the Minister, the relation with Russia represents “a key point in the stability in the area, in securing NATO’s eastern flank, in the manner in which we can further manage the discussions in the Black Sea. “The threats and gestures which Russia has repeatedly done in the Black Sea space, from a military stand, have been sanctioned all the time. (…) Both NATO and the EU have the same discourse. Romania cannot have a different discourse, because it is both part of the EU and NATO, and we are at the Black Sea,” she added.

Mănescu also said that she expected “the energy diplomacy to have its word,” in regards to the resources in the Black Sea.

“Our desire is for a partner such as Exxon to stay here and continue to work together as much and as well as possible. This entails our making some steps in an expected direction. I believe things will settle in the end, enter the right track and I even want to clarify this position shortly and the US partners must be convinced that we’ll be keeping the same line. (…) Mrs PM wants this as well,” Mănescu said.

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Romania has a new Foreign Affairs Minister. Ramona Mănescu took the oath of office

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Ramona Mănescu, Nicolae Moga and Mihai Fifor took the oath of office on Wednesday in the presence of President Klaus Iohannis for the Interior and Foreign Affairs Ministries office, Deputy Prime Minister for implementing Romania’s strategic partnerships office respectively.

The head of state wished success to the new three members of the Dancila Cabinet.

The swearing-in ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, ministers, Deputy Speaker of the Deputies’ Chamber Florin Iordache, Government Secretary General Toni Grebla and presidential advisors.

President Klaus Iohannis signed on Wednesday the decrees appointing Nicolae Moga as Interior Minister and Ramona Mănescu as Foreign Affairs Minister, according to a Presidential Administration release.

Through another decree, Mihai Fifor was appointed Deputy Prime Minister for implementing Romania’s strategic partnerships.

Furthermore, Iohannis took note of Carmen Dan’s resignation from the Interior Ministry and signed the decree dismissing Teodor Meleșcanu from the Foreign Affairs Minister office.

Ramona Mănescu is a Romanian politician and lawyer. She was a Member of the European Parliament serving 2007 to 2013 and 2014 to 2019 from the National Liberal Party (till July 2017), active within the European People’s Party group in the European Parliament.

As part of this group she is a member of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, vice-chair in the Delegation for relations with the Mashreq countries and a substitute member in the Committee on transport and tourism and in Delegation for relations with the Arab Peninsula.

Between 2007 and 2014 she was part of the ALDE group in the European Parliament, where she also held the position of Vice-President (11 November 2012 – June 2014) of the ALDE Party (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party). As a member of this group she is a coordinator in the Regional Development Committee and a member in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs.

At the European Parliamentary elections from June 2014, Mănescu renewed her mandate within European Parliament, where she became a member of the European People’s Party group in the Parliament European.

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Romania: President Klaus Iohannis appoints former MEP Ramona Mănescu as the new Foreign Affairs Minister

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President Klaus Iohannis signed on Wednesday the decrees appointing Nicolae Moga as Interior Minister and Ramona Mănescu as Foreign Affairs Minister, according to a Presidential Administration release.

Furthermore, Iohannis took note of Carmen Dan’s resignation from the Interior Ministry and signed the decree dismissing Teodor Melescanu from the Foreign Affairs Minister office.

Through another decree, Mihai Fifor was appointed Deputy Prime Minister for implementing Romania’s strategic partnerships.

The swearing-in ceremony takes place on Wednesday at 11:00hrs, at the Cotroceni Presidential Palace. 

Ramona Mănescu is a Romanian politician and lawyer. She was a Member of the European Parliament serving 2007 to 2013 and 2014 to 2019 from the National Liberal Party (till July 2017), active within the European People’s Party group in the European Parliament.

As part of this group she is a member of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, vice-chair in the Delegation for relations with the Mashreq countries and a substitute member in the Committee on transport and tourism and in Delegation for relations with the Arab Peninsula.

Between 2007 and 2014 she was part of the ALDE group in the European Parliament, where she also held the position of Vice-President (11 November 2012 – June 2014) of the ALDE Party (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party). As a member of this group she is a coordinator in the Regional Development Committee and a member in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs.

At the European Parliamentary elections from June 2014, Mănescu renewed her mandate within European Parliament, where she became a member of the European People’s Party group in the Parliament European.

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