Spitzenkandidat, Power Balance Among Nations or SMEs?
Editorial by Stefan Moritz, Managing Director of European Entrepreneurs CEA-PME
After the Elections for the European Parliament in May 2019 it seems that the situation is totally unclear for the European voters. Who has won, what will happen now with our votes, what changes and what will remain the same?
One thing is clear: the European democracy has won! The turnout has increased by more than 8% compared to 2014, and went beyond 50% after 25 years! We are happy that we have contributed to this with a thorough campaign, that has reached out to tens of thousands of our member companies all over Europe, to their families, friends and employees. Our main aim was to increase the turnout. And that is in fact the real good news.
For what regards the political families, it is a fact that no one has really won. The European People's party (EPP, -37 seats) and the Socialists & Democrats (S&D, -32) have lost clearly, but might find new coalition partners to lead again in a (very) big coalition. Also the Left (GUE/NGL, -14) as well as the Conservatives (ECR, -13) lost significantly seats, so they will stay at a low level of influence. Winners seem to be the Liberals (ALDE with Macron, +37) and the Greens (Greens/EFA, +23), maybe gaining more influence, if they find an agreement with the People's Party and the Socialists. And the right-wing nationalists or "sovereignists" (ENF, +22) have marked an increase, but not what they hoped and many had feared. There seems no possibility that this political group (+/- 73 seats, less than 10% in the parliament) can influence the major political decisions of the next 5 years. As Natalie Nougayrède put it in the British newspaper The Guardain: "The far right didn’t sweep the EU elections. Europe’s centre is holding".
But the further splitting of political parties in the parliament has weakened its capacity to lead the action for a clear direction in Europe. It seems, we are again in a situation, where the Member States take over to determine the political line of the next years in Europe. Macron doesn't like the "sovereignty" of the European Parliament and prefers to forget about the winning Spitzenkandidaten Weber (EPP) and Timmermans (S&D), proposing the Danish liberal Commissioner Margrethe Vestager as candidate for the presidency of the European Commission. Her qualities and merits are undoubtedly placing her in a good position, but this must be explained to the voters. Also the Italian result of Salvini's League is more relevant for national issues, for example avoiding an excessive debt procedure or ending the coalition with the 5 Stars Movement. Same applies to France with Mrs. Le Pen thinking more about beating Macron, or in Germany with the AfD on how to win Eastern German Länder in fall 2019. The Brits are still busy with themselves and sooner or later their 73 MEPs will leave the EP again. The Spanish socialists think of getting more influence for Spain (not only for the socialists), after 5 years of weak voices from Madrid in Brussels. In the middle of national priorities, egoisms and problems, we risk that the negotiations for the EU's top-jobs will again be only in the hands of the Member States, which legitimately put national interests above common, European interests. But this ignores the vote of nearly 51% of the European people for the European Parliament.
What we need now is a clear turn towards the political challenges that Europe is facing. This is where the European Parliament can and must play an important role: what are the major issues? Which policies should have priority for all of us? Some political groups like the EPP are slowly taking initiative, nominating the negotiators to find a deal, with clear thematic tasks. Others are likely to do so too very soon.
Important is now to underline, that there are political issues that should prevail in the priority ranking for the next years: as SMEs we need to safeguard and develop the Monetary Union and further deepen the biggest Internal Market in the world. The EU should not introduce own taxes, as long as there is no EU-government elected by the people, but better conditions for a fair competition require more comparable tax-bases throughout the Union. We need urgently more investments in research, innovation and digitalisation for SMEs that need to be protagonists and not secondary to research institutions. More lifelong-learning and quality professional training will be crucial not only for SMEs, but for the whole society in the view of increasing automatisation. SMEs can and want to take over a more important role in international trade as well as in development cooperation, particularly with Africa. The "backbone of the European economy" has to be further strengthened after the crisis 2008-2013, and obtain better conditions (rules, finances, priority)than big corporations in many fields .
Our positions are clear. We now call the political families to focus on what is needed for Europe. Not for one or the other country, or the own political party, that might have lost some votes or gained some others, but for the continent. For example, SMEs matter for Europe, and so do our votes.
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