In some ways this is strange, particularly in Ireland. The Irish Labour Party have said that they will not be bound by the IMF/EU-Ireland bail-out agreement, and it has denounced the conservative consensus in Ireland and in Europe. The stress on investment and growth (though the Labour party would also cut spending and raise taxes to reduce the deficit), is quite similar to the speeches being made at the conference. Growth and jobs; the two words were repeated again and again in Warsaw, with continuous reference to the dominance of the centre-right EPP (European People's Party [centre-right]) in the EP, Commission and Council, and their philosophy of austerity, in contrast to what Greek PM Papandreou termed PES "responsibility".
PES leader Poul Nyrup Rasmussen:
Greek PM George Papandreou:
The two parties who have a chance of winning the next election and electing their leader Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Labour (PES) and Fine Gael (EPP) are pretty much in line with their pan-European parties' philosophies (though it's more doubtful when it comes to the EU's own resources and economic governance). Given the talk of a loss of sovereignty and the control the EU now has over our economy, stressing the influence and links with influential blocs within the EU could have some bonuses, but this possibility isn't explored because that's not how the Europarties are seen by the national parties, and that's not how the EU is represented. It's surprising how much the Commission is represented as purely technocratic, and that Olli Rehn's insistence that the Commission does not "involve" itself in domestic politics passes without real comment. The EU does respond to shifts between the right and the left, as can be seen by the shift in the Commission's composition ever rightwards over the last 10 years as the EPP have gained ground in the Council and Parliament.
The point is that there is the room and the place for political debate and discussion. At the moment a lot of the crisis politics has fallen by default to the European Council - the leaders of the Member States - which favours the voices of those who can shout loudest, and unfortuneately this means that any debate that is going on about the Eurozone is taking place in segmented groups, rather than allowing for an exchange of views across borders. The Irish press, and other European media, can complain that Germany is not being sensitive to the situation of the rest of the Eurozone and doesn't appreciate how much the Euro benefits it, but how useful is that if there's no debate between these different ideas and perceptions in each country? Who is trying to persuade the German public of certain right/left-wing policies that are necessary for the weaker Eurozone states, and who is arguing of the necessity of the largely German and Dutch-supported policies to strengthen economic governance in the weaker Eurozone states?
If we just express outrage at the bail-outs and the running of the Eurozone from different perspectives within our constituencies, then we've little hope of coming to a workable agreement that everyone can at least understand, rather than having another crisis measure hastily agreed at another European Council summit.
[EurActive] "...the centre-left wants to introduce a financial transaction tax of 0,05%, with the revenues going to fight against poverty and promotion of green growth.
Second, the PES wants to introduce an Employment and Social Progress Pact to contrast with the Stability and Growth Pact setting out limits on public debt and deficits for euro zone governments. Instead of strict fiscal discipline, the socialist pact would prioritise job creation, leaving behind the Conservative economic approach based on "punishment and sanctions," said Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, PES President.
Other measures include the introduction of Eurobonds that would add to the EU solidarity budget and setting up a European Debt Agency that would help EU tackle debt problems."
Surely competing ideas like these need to be aired and well discussed?
Where are the MEPs? I have not seen an MEP on Irish TV talking about how the EU should approach these matters. Perhaps nobody in the Irish media thought to grill them on what was going on in the EU, or to ask them what could or should be done differently. If we do not try and influence the EU through our MEPs and their parties, then we are missing an opportunity to exert political pressure and to force "Brussels" to respond. With billions being loaned and transferred across the EU and Treaty change in the air to secure the Eurozone, there is clearly a lot at stake - we should be contacting MPs and MEPs, holding public meetings and TV debates where the different Europarties and national parties debate their different visions of the Eurozone. Force them to take positions; to make the case for their ideas. If MEPs from different Member States joined in, then the different viewpoints of other parties in different constituencies could be discussed and understood.
Experience shows that it's hard to interest people in MEPs and European issues, and it would be undoubtedly difficult to set up public meetings and debates consistency across the Eurozone, but we cannot and should not leave the sole political debate behind the closed doors of the European Council, and we are wasting are time carping ineffectively about the positions of other countries, essentially, behind their backs. If we want to make our political voices heard, we should at least try to use the system we have to its full extent.