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I attended in April 2017 the Democracy Days in Reggio Emilia and decided to join a workshop about the relation between Europe and Africa. I had the pleasure to meet MEP Cécile Kyenge (S&D) who chaired this workshop. Kyenge is an Italian politician and led the EU-Election Observer Mission for the 2015 general election in Burkina Faso. During this workshop, we had to debate about the question whether the EU is still important for Africa. It was one of the most interesting workshops I ever attended, why I would like to present our findings in this short essay. According to Kyenge, the African youth play an important role for the democratic process in many African countries. The youth mobilised in the last decades against Authoritarian regimes in Africa and had often succeeded. Consequently, the youth is essential for democracies in Africa why it is often referred by Kyenge as the “watchdog of treaties”. Therefore, there should be no doubt that the EU should invest more in African young people. Projects like the “EU-Africa Erasmus programme”, have impact on both sides. If we invest in education, we always invest in the future. Moreover, events like “The Youth and the Future of Africa”, organized by the S&D, bring European and African citizens together, why they should be repeated in the near future. Supporting and developing the skills of young people to play an active and effective role in party politics, decisions, and representation at local, national and international levels is fundamental. Young people can be excellent advocates for change. When given the right encouragement, they can be shown how to engage with parliament and be real champions for progress. It should be our goal to help next generations of election observers, who ensure elections take place without corruption or manipulation. They are a fundamental part of any democracy. We ended the workshop with the words that Europe has a special responsibility for Africa: In such a fast-developing world we need a deep partnership with Africa. In particular, we should support African youth to help young democracies in Africa. Initiatives like the EU-Africa Erasmus programme or conferences are therefore a good starting point, however; the process needs to be continued. Finally, I am very happy to see that the S&D acknowledges the importance to speak about Africa during the Together event.
Imagine you have an argument with a stranger- and then the same argument with a family member. What would this mean for the situation? This is the question the EU needed to ask itself within its migration policy; and it was not often easy to respond. Hungary is a full member of the European Union since 2014. The expectations were high for the Central European country who had to experience the nightmare of communism. However, since the last years, the relation between Budapest and Brussels was often more than challenging. But how should the EU deal with a member state government which does not fear any confrontation? -First, it would not be the right decision to avoid more dialogue. Even if it sounds first reasonable, this option would never lead to a good result. It is rather important to try to understand the other parties concern. Therefore, the S&D organized a youth conference in Budapest to encourage the dialogue with the Hungarian young citizen. More events like this are needed to start conversations which lead to agreements. So, if you encourage the dialogue, for instance with your family member, but the other party still does not want to listen, what would be the next step? In the case of Hungary, this meant that Budapest did not cooperated with the relocation agreement, to accept refugees. The Eurosceptic government rejects to relocate migrants from frontline states Italy and Greece to help ease their burden. Therefore, it is now important to stand up for your values and to ensure your credibility. Stricter action is now the right decision. -Second, the EU decided to take legal actions against the Eastern state, what was the right way to show Budapest that a Union should not exist in good times only, but also in bad ones. It is only possible to handle these long-term crises together as a Union. As Gianni Pittella said: “Solidarity works both ways.“ However, if the other party is going further, turning away from democratic principles, and put into question what you stand for? Hungary’s Prime Minister has been using populist language and hard Euroscepticism since the last years. A climate of mistrust was created, and in this climate even the issue of death penalty has been reintroduced to the public discourse. However, death penalty is against values and European law. -Third, the EU clearly needs to name and oppose Orban’s inexcusable actions. Xenophobic language should be taken seriously and should not be accepted inside the EU. However, if Budapest is further turning away from European principles, the EU should reconsider Fidesz EPP Group membership. As with the family member, suspending would be the last step you want to choose, but this option needs to be considered if Orban is not going to change its position. -Fourth, if Hungary’s government is not going to accept the legal actions, the EPP should reconsider Hungary’s membership. However, this should only be taken as a final option. The EU should always be open for dialogue with Budapest. Finally, Brussels should encourage the dialogue with Budapest and its citizen since many of them, in particular the youth generation, is not in favor with Orban’s actions. Additionally, legal action should be taken into account if Hungary is rejecting European agreements. If Hungary is not going to change its asylum policy, the EPP should reconsider Fidesz membership. But as seen with the anecdote with the family member: Facing problems inside a family can be more challenging, than facing them outside. Quotation: http://www.socialistsanddemocrats.eu/newsroom/pittella-ecj-ruling-relocation-hungary-and-slovakia-must-finally-accept-system-and-share
Many European citizen complain about the so-called “democratic deficit” within the EU, but what does this actually mean and how can we handle this problem? The European Parliament (EP) is the only supranational institution whose politicians are directly elected every five years. The Parliament is composed of 751 members, who represent the second-largest democratic electorate in the world and the largest trans-national democratic electorate in the world. In the last decades, especial after the Lisbon treaty, the EP gained more power. This means, that the EP in now part of the legislative process (ordinary legislative procedure) together with the Commission and the Council. Furthermore, EU citizen have the right to join the political debate when using the European Citizen’s initiative, which aimed at increasing direct democracy. However, many citizens still don’t feel a number of European institutions actions. They are scared that their worries are not heard in the bubble of Brussels. So, what can be done to target that institutional crisis? First, transparency is needed to increase the EU’s efficiency and credibility. It must be easier to understand the EU’s working process. This also means that a lobby register is finally needed to make EU’s decision making more transparent. Second, Brussels should decentralize some of the decision making since member states are closer to the everyday life of people. The EU should always respect results of democratic elections, even these means that the decision-making processes can take longer. A good example is the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a free-trade agreement between Canada, the European Union and its Member States. All 28 European Union member states approved the final text of CETA for signature, with Belgium being the final country to give its approval. Even in that case Belgium finally supported that agreement, democratic decisions must always be accepted by the EU. Third, the European Parliament needs to receive the power for legislative initiative, what currently alone the Commission has. Since only the Parliament is directly elected by the EU’s citizen, it is not acceptable that it has not this significant right. Finally, it can be seen that the latest treaties decreased the EU’s democratic deficit with shifting more power to the Parliament or the implementation of the European Citizen’s initiative. However, it needs to be pointed out that it is still a long way to completely end the democratic deficit. Events like “Europe Together” are a good way to involve more citizens in this political debate and it makes the EU more attractive for the youth. I would be very delighted to support this S&D vision in October 2017 and hope that it will be a great event for all participants.