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EUROPEAN ELECTIONS. What worries the European citizens and how Schulz, Juncker and Verhofstadt’s campaign promises are to deal with them

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The European elections to come bring not only 751 MEPs, but also, for the first time, the opportunity to choose the future President of the European Commission.

Caleaeuropeana.ro offers you an exclusive analysis of the solutions that the three main candidates, Schulz, Juncker and Verhofstadt, have for the European citizens’ worries.

Few days only separate Europe from some of the most important European elections days the EU has ever known. In some countries, the elections have already begun, while the others are still impatiently waiting for the grand day. Having a treaty that gives to the citizen more power than ever, when it comes to the decisions taken at the European level, the European Parliament becomes a real attraction point – both for the ones interested in the decisional political level, as well as for those whose interest is more related to the correlations made between the two levels, the decisional one and the citizens’ ones. The aimed point is huge – I have said it before, I am saying it again, having the same confidence. The European Parliament is today one of the institutions with the most numerous attributes in the EU, and most definitely the one whose rights have constantly increased, once with the years and with the signing of treaties. The citizen is today more than ever found in the middle of the EU’s interests, and the candidates to the European Commission leadership are the very first ones to show it. Because the vote comes from them, because the European citizens are the ones to elect, indirectly, the future President of the Commission – and because, in the end, the citizens’ main worries must be found in the solutions thought of and implement over the next five years.

A simple look over the last barometer released by the European Commission, concerning the Public Opinion over the European Union, shows that the European citizens are mainly worried about what tomorrow brings, without looking into perspective, on a long-term way.

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Given the enouncement of the main worries, the people of the 28 member-states have chosen, as their main problems, the rising prices and the inflation (40%), the unemployment (20%), the economic situation in the country they live (17%), the taxation (17%), the financial situation of their household (16%), the health and social security (15%), the pensions (13%), the education system (10%), the housing (6%), the environment, climate and energy issues (6%), the crime (5%), the immigration (3%) and the terrorism (1%). To be mentioned here is the fact that the respondents had the liberty to choose two options out of all those listed, in order for the enounced problems to be as widely spread as possible. Having a look, though, at the percents indicated by this barometer, I can easily notice that, in a simple way of classifying these problems, the first places are taken by problems of an economical and financial nature, only afterwards being present the ones related to health, educational system, climate or crime. These options show the fact that the first things to impact upon the stability of the European citizen are the ones coming from the economical and financial sphere of his existence. Therefore, these end up being classified as it follows: economical and financial issues (rising prices, inflation, unemployment, the economical situation of the state-member, taxation, the financial situation of the household), social issues (health and social security, pensions, housing), educational issues (educational system), environment issues (the environment, climate and energy issues) and crime issues (crime, immigration and terrorism).

Jean-Claude Juncker

jeanclaudejuncker_1             Giving his political program a first look, present on his website, juncker.epp.eu, his main priorities are related to the creation and the growing number of jobs, next to the legislation creation for the protection of data in the digital system, the rising of the energetic importance of the EU by having it independent towards the East gas, the strengthening of the old partnership with Europe’s forever ally, the USA, the reform of the Euro and so its reinforcement, by this taking into consideration the euro stability as well, including here the EU one too, generally speaking, and the answer given to the UK problem, according to its demands and requests. Immigration represents, following the update of his political program, the one indicated on his webpage, a distinguished approach along his priorities, by identifying five essential steps in his politics, as possible future President of the European Commission: the implementation of a European Asylum Support Office, the stepping up in giving support and assistance from the European Asylum Support Office, a better cooperation process with the third world countries, particularly the North Africa ones, the legal immigration and the European borders security. The foreign policy section has itself as a distinguished part in the program shown by Juncker on his website, displaying this way the high importance this sector has in his ways of seeing the EU politics, as a possible President of the European Commission. This way, his main priorities for the foreign policy domain are related to the role the High Representative should play, as a real Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the EU, the structured and permanent cooperation when it comes to the defense matters and the pause given, for the time being, to the EU enlargement. The creation of digital jobs comes as a separate section, being at the same time an important criterion of Juncker’s politics, thus forwarding the idea that this is the only way in which the Union can make a step forward, given the high speed the online medium knows nowadays.

Paralleling the two types of priorities, the ones of the European people, on one hand, and the one of the EPP candidate to the European Commission’s Presidency, on the other hand, we can only notice that these end up having a common point, on the priorities listing, only when it comes to the jobs necessity.  If, for the European citizens, the ardent issues are the ones related to the rising prices and the inflation, the economical situation of their countries and their financial safety, the essential points on the Juncker list are, following the jobs necessity one, be those in the digital medium or not, the ones of the EU energetic independence, number 10 in the citizens’ list, with 6%, and the ones of preventing and combating the organized crime, immigration and terrorism, numbers 11, 12 and 13 on the citizens’ list, with 5%, 3% and 1%. The problems shown by Juncker, when it comes to the US and the Great Britain, are not present on the citizens’ list, and neither does his politics concerning the foreign affairs policy.

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Martin Schulz

martinsSchulz_1Martin Schulz’s program, the S&D candidate for the Presidency of the European Commission, is one of the simplest ones, in terms of aspect and form, out of all those present on the candidates’ websites. Presented under a 10-priority list for the EU future, these start with his worry for the economical strengthening of Europe, next to the social justice, the creation of new jobs meant to assure the gender equality, the drastic reduction of the unemployed young people, the enforcement of the Euro and so the standard EU competitiveness on the global scene, the taxes and fiscal evasion, the constant worry for the climate and the environment by promoting the renewable resources, the strengthening of the consumer’s right and the data protection, the democracy and the EU public participation strengthening, the diversity and the state’s right to decide on their own, the Union coming to interfere only there where the states cannot command on their own, and the reiteration of the European values, pace and security in its relations with the others.

Comparing these 10 priorities of the S&D candidate to the ones of the European people, this time the similar points identified as main points are in number of two, concerning the rising prices and the inflation (number 1 – 40%) and the creation of new jobs, as well as the unemployment (20%). Next, on the people’s list, is the taxation problem (17%), mentioned on Schulz’s list, as well as on the one of the Europeans, and the one of the environment, the crime, the immigration and the terrorism: 6%, 5%, 3% and 1%. Again, nothing new on the Europeans’ list related to the priorities Schulz has shown, concerning the gender equality, the enforcement of the Euro, the rising of the EU competitiveness on the global scene or the matter of diversity and the states’ right to decide on their own.

 

Guy Verhofstadt

guyverhofstadt_1                The program suggested by Guy Verhofstadt for the European Commission’s Presidency for the next five years is one mainly focused on the fight against the economic crisis and against the profound effects it had upon Europe, following these five years of deep recession. This way, his main priorities are strictly related to the economical stability and the creation of new jobs, by enlarging and completing the banking union, the unification of the capital markets and the bounds enlargement, by making possible the credit lines extension on different projects, the creation of a European Energetic Community, the unification of the digital markets, the support of the mobile labor in other EU countries and the implementation of a new economic governance model. On the civil data and civil rights protection, the priorities enlisted are the data 21st century protection, the creation of a European anti-discrimination legislation and the one of a common politics concerning the immigration, the creation of a European prosecutor against the organized crime and the development of the European Community Defense concept. At last, the third section of the Guy Verhofstadt political program is dedicated to the real governing of the European Commission, given the role it has in the EU structure, by making good use of its legislative right, the using of a single seat, instead of three, for the EU institutions, in order for the costs to be diminished and the remodeling of the Commission according to its domains, departments and priorities.

Again, the same type of priorities are identical for the two lists, the Verhofstadt one and the Europeans one, according to their options. The jobs crisis is signaled as the main priority for the EU future, having its front place on the two lists. When it comes to the other options, these two get repeated, with the single note that the discrepancies are the same between the two lists: while the climate, environment, crime, immigration and terrorism care have their high places in Verhofstadt’s written priorities, the very same ones have obtained small numbers in the European citizen’s options, of 6%, 5%, 3% and 1%.

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Our closing conclusions

There is no need for too many comparisons drawn between the three political programs in order to realize the fact that, besides the unemployment issue, present on the list of the three main candidates to the European Commission Presidency, there is no other European worry to be written on their political program. There is, indeed, the environment issue, the organized crime one, the immigration and the terrorism, but these are differently felt by the two types of subjects: while, for candidates, these are primordial, essential matters, on whose solving the Union must immediately focus, the Europeans are only in a small number worried about these phenomena – without a doubt, the answers towards this direction coming from those who face these challenges, be those at the Union borders, or in the heart of the Central Europe, in the prosperous countries, now some sort of European heaven during these recession times.

At a first sight, we would be tempted to say that the two plans are completely disconnected; that what worries the Europeans, generally speaking, is totally different from what the candidates offer; that the issues come in the European citizens’ life have not found their solution in the responses the three candidates have come up with.

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How could the EU energetic independency or the strengthening of the Euro zone help the medical or educational system of a state-member, for example? The answers given to the United Kingdom do not make sure in any way the creation of new jobs, in the same way that a restructured Commission, meant to work as a real Govern of the European Union, whose prerogatives it already has, could not directly make sure of the data protection in the online world. In a simplest way, lacking implications and details, things could appear to be this way. It’s just that the answers given on these mentioned problems know two dimensions.

  1.  And the first one of them refers to the fact that the European Union, as itself, does not have competences in many of the domains identified by its citizens as main problematic domains, prioritized for their existence. The unemployment rate of a member-state is not directly linked to the EU, in the same way that the economical situation of a state cannot be directly coordinated from Bruxelles. The politics on the education and health system are entirely given to the government of the national states, and so are the pensions and the housing. At last, only the last four elements mentioned by the Europeans, concerning the environment and the climate, the crime, the immigration and the terrorism, are found, explicitly mentioned, on the priorities list of the three candidates – and this is because these are problems, domains found in the EU competences, there where the Union can and has to develop politics, for the well-being of the Europeans.
  1. And so we reach the second dimension of the answer identified to the discrepancies between the citizens’ daily worries and the alternatives given by the Commission candidates. The EU priorities cover a wide interest area: starting with the economic domain, through the enforcement of the Euro and the one of the European economical system, thing that will directly attract the prosperity and the well-being of the other states as well, the non-euro ones, till the social aspect, related to the jobs creation, digitally or not, the foreign affairs one and even the one concerning the internal way of Commission, all these are domains whose prosperity bring the solving of the internal problems as well, the detail problems, the daily issues of the European citizens. The frontiers security and the extinction of the immigration phenomenon are essential for a well functioning of the entire EU system. And Ukraine is, at the moment, the best example possibly offered to Europe to show the fact that we need cohesion, both economically and socially, association and a good, well established collaboration between the member-states in order to assure the general prosperity of the 28 member-states. There are differences, they always were and always will be; 50 years of European Union cannot simply erase more than 1 000 years of conflicts and intern wars for supremacy and power, on territories that now claim themselves to be friends, as well as partners. Quite contrary to the American way of thinking, where each of the 50 states has its own role in the US prosperity, the European continent has not come to life this way – but there were two world wars needed, with unimaginable consequences at the beginning of those, faced with extremist left or right ideologies, in order to be realized that a divided Europe cannot exist in peaceful terms, on a long period of time, in peace, harmony and prosperity. Today, the European Union is the answer to these two world wars, and the candidature of the three grand potential leaders to the European Commission Presidency shows exactly what Europe has always wanted, ever since: more integration, more cooperation. We need first to solve the grand, large issues of the European Union, because this is the only way in which Europe can reach the correct answers as well and, probably the most important aspect, on a long term too, for the problems that the Europeans nowadays face.

 

 

Andra AVRAM

 

 

 

 

 

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MEP Vasile Blaga: EU must create solid programs in order to rebuild the labor market

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©Vasile Blaga/ Facebook

MEP Vasile Blaga, a member of the EPP Group in the European Parliament, stresses that the European Union must create solid programs for consolidating and rebuilding the labor market after the COVID-19 period.

“Economic data for the second quarter of 2020 show a worrying decline in the labor market across the European Union. In Romania, the number of closed employment contracts has increased alarmingly – we are approaching one million closed employment contracts, and the number of closed contracts on 15 July is double compared to 1st June 2020. The most affected sectors are manufacturing and it is possible that in the next period we will see a massive increase in contracts in the hospital industry, still affected by the restrictions generated by the pandemic “, said the MEP for Calea Europeană media platform.

According to the Liberal MEP, protecting jobs must be the number one priority for the European Union.

“It is clear that the European Union must be massively concerned with protecting existing jobs and financially stimulating the creation of new ones ”, he added.

Private sector employment must also be a priority for the European Commission: “Direct funding through various forms of private sector employment must be a priority for the Commission in the next period, complemented by the stimulation of sectors severely affected by pandemic – the hospitality industry and the arts and entertainment sector are a priority in this regard “, said the EPP MEP Vasile Blaga.

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MEP Vasile Blaga: The European Parliament was divided between East and West in the vote for the Mobility Package

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© Vasile Blaga/Facebook

MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) points out that the European Parliament was divided between East and West in the vote for the Mobility Package during the week’s plenary session and criticizes protectionism in a market declared “free”.

“The East lost the vote even if, this time, the ideological separations were erased and it voted in corpore for the defense of the rights of the eastern carriers. All amendments tabled to address some of the discriminatory provisions contained in the legislative proposal have been rejected. Anyone with common sense understands that thousands of trucks that drive even empty every eight weeks to the country where they are registered are a major source of pollution, a substantial addition to traffic, and an aberrant waste of resources. Some provisions appear to be dedicated to Eastern carriers, which do nothing but operate fairly and honestly in a freely competitive market. In essence, protectionism is practiced in a market declared free “, the MEP said in a press release.

The Liberal MEP hopes that the analysis of the European Executive will turn the whole process upside down: “There is still hope that the European Executive will show the truth in the impact analysis it has to carry out by the end of the year “, added Vasile Blaga.

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EC Communication chief warns: Disinformation is a real threat to public health during COVID-19 crisis

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Disinformation has presented itself as a real threat to public health during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, the head of the DG Communication of the European Commission, said on Wednesday.

During the conference “Communicating Europe: corona, recovery and beyond”  the director of CaleaEuropeană.ro platform, Dan Cărbunaru, asked the Director-General of DG Communication of the European Executive, regarding the European Union instruments used in the hybrid warfare, but also how the European Commission intends to act through its expertise against misinformation and to protect the citizens against fears.

Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, as Director-General DG Communication, explained to CaleaEuropeană.ro the steps that the European executive has taken, in order to take effective measures against disinformation and mitigate the real threat to public health.

 

Dan Cărbunaru: ”As you finished your presentation, initially, talking about misinformation, I would like to ask you something about it, because each crisis that hit Europe was treated as an opportunity usually to develop new tools for providing an increased European approach in solving European citizens problems. And in the last years, we saw the pressure, we felt the pressure heavily put by the propaganda and the tools of hybrid war. And my question for you is, as we know that we have some tools; EU is stuck on the task force, for instance, do you intend does the Commission intend to protect the public’s fears, using this expertise, this kind of expertise already, let’s say tested in combat, and which is on the European Union, the major risk identified so far in terms of hybrid war in Europe.”

Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen: Thank you very much for this very important question.

”Of course indeed as you also stressed there are several actors in this at the institutional level in the European Union. You are right,  that it’s absolutely something that has grown very rapidly since the beginning of the crisis, and it has continued to spread, as we saw the crisis the coronavirus crisis, playout and indeed, it has been playing very much on people’s fears, in relation to this particular crisis and, and the increased use of social media. And it has, in the context of the coronavirus crisis, it has really even presented a real threat to public health, as well as, indeed, and that’s not new. Those who have propagated this information have taken advantage of the situation to sometimes push political agendas. As far as the action that we have been taken. We have definitely reverted also in this crisis many myths, a lot of misinformation because there’s misinformation and then there’s disinformation this deliberate malign attempt to manipulate opinion and information, but I mentioned, everything that has been circulating about the health aspects of the disease, of course, or the, the disease itself or the treatments or the vaccines I referred to it already, as well as also. And there are, indeed, some foreign actors have come in as well. When it comes to the perceived lack of EU response or perceived lack of solidarity.

Our president was very conscious of this from an early moment and asked us to have as part of this website that she asked us to create, to communicate what Europe is doing to fight the coronavirus crisis. She also asked us to have a disinformation section there.

So that we actually in all languages, and in a format that makes it very easy also to share these stories setting the record straight if you like on social media.

This is one part of the, of the strategy, it is of course to provide the stories, and the facts in a very accessible way also when it comes to the crisis but in a broader frame when it comes to dealing with this information it’s also about informing and educating the public about this disinformation itself, how it works as a phenomenon, and indeed the danger that it poses in this case both to public health, and to democracy, and this is something that this commission is also very concerned about, you will have heard our vice president Jurova also in addition to the president herself and other members of the college have been very strongly voicing their concern in this area. So, communicating actually very actively and regularly, about how you actually identify disinformation, and how a typical online user can protect himself from disinformation is also part of the response. So, without having the time to go into all the details, a very multifaceted approach is needed. Also involving working with platforms as we do and we have done for some time now, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and since this month, also Tick Tock on developing standards to maintain the online information environment clean from harmful misinformation and disinformation.

And then we have our code of practice which is actually the first of its kind of a self-regulatory effort in this area which is definitely called upon to grow even more important and ambitious as we as we go along, and we will see to which extent, it needs to be complemented with with with regulation.

We also need to fund, and that’s what we’re doing, we’re funding researchers and civil society organizations that are dedicated to studying also the phenomenon of disinformation and to finding solutions and, and fact-checking is also very independent fact-checking of course it’s not something we do, but we support it, as well as developing new technologies we will also be able to be helped by artificial intelligence in this respect, definitely. And therefore, and then also protecting elections and public information to do this.

You refer to the EEAS and it’s true that the EEAS has played a truly a crucial role in fighting disinformation as a foreign policy threat, you refer to that and that has expanded to now, including more teams that are focusing on different regions outside the EU, where this information might originate, and you will find in relation to the corona crisis, which quite comprehensive information on where we are stepping up the action, and this includes also doing more on social media in the debate and the Member States.

On the 10th of June when we published a document on how we intend to step up the action and learn the lessons, from the coronavirus crisis when it comes to disinformation. But by the end of the day, it’s also about building trust in institutions having a strong communications environment, and this support to independent media that I mentioned, in addition to because it happens, it starts with ourselves and how do we actually explain things that we know to our friends and families and how do we think about sharing social media posts that we see, this is something that all of us have to pay very much attention to. So, checking your sources and thinking before sharing I think is also the part of the reflex that everyone needs to embrace so promoting that is very important as well.”


OpenEUDebate is a Jean Monnet network of academic institutions (Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Spain; the National University of Political and Administrative Studies – SNSPA, Romania; Institut d’études européennes de l’Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium; The Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium and Agenda Pública, Spain.
”We intend to create a self-sustainable network of experts of varying degrees of seniority working as mediators with national communities of beneficiaries and users that will influence the public debate. The OpenEUdebate community will address two types of fragmentation: between the local-national and the European public sphere, and between specialized knowledge and public debate.”
OpenEUDebate ”will be an accessible and inclusive community where issues are debated critically with a wide range of views. It will “translate” expert knowledge (about contents and procedures) into relevant information for public debate; it will explain the terms of its politicization (above partisan lines); and will enhance the level of public deliberation about it.”
Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen sits at the meeting point of EU communications and policy. She has been Director-General of DG Communication (COMM) since March 2019 and has been overseeing the communication around the European Commission’s response to the coronavirus crisis. Previous roles have included Deputy Secretary-General of the European Commission and Chief Spokesperson of the European Commission. She holds a Master of Science in International Business Administration and Modern Languages, Copenhagen Business School, with a dissertation on European Identity.

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