1. What are your expectations/hopes from these elections?
My hope is that citizens who are the silent majority will wake up and understand that if they want the European project to survive and evolve, they have to defend it. Times are gone when European elections could be considered as unimportant. The European Union is in danger. Populists, nationalists and certain foreign powers are all trying to weaken and even destroy our Union. They are using tools of mass manipulation, which makes them dangerous. But since the Brexit referendum in 2016, many citizens have rallied behind pro European campaigns and formed citizens’ movements. The “Pulse of Europe” is one such example. It is important that the silent pro-European majority finds its voice and speaks up. If we want to continue enjoying freedom, democracy, international cooperation, tolerance, non-discrimination as well as economic prosperity and our European social model, we need to stand up for these values.
The European elections are about two things: 1) the composition of the European Parliament and 2) the next Commission President. I think many people are not sufficiently aware of how much power the EP holds nowadays. After several Treaty reforms, the EP has become the co-legislator, on an almost equal footing with the national governments represented in the Council. Its decisions determine the conditions under which we live, work, buy things, travel, do business, have access to healthcare abroad, under which our rural areas and our regions develop, how workers are protected and how clean our environment is. Not voting in these elections is handing over power to some very destructive people.
2. Do you/people in your member state still have faith in the EU to deliver?
I have been living in Belgium for over 20 years, although I am not Belgian. What I observe is that Belgians have a deeply rooted distrust of politics and politicians. I can see where this attitude comes from, but I also think that it is exaggerated. Faith in the EU to deliver? Well, my faith has taken a serious blow in the course of the last years. The EU with its current institutional setup is too weak to impose its own principles and laws upon recalcitrant members (rule of law, redistribution of refugees).
When decisions have to be taken in “crisis summit mode”(like in the Euro crisis), the process is slow and not efficient enough. In all of these cases, the problems are being caused by the member states, not by the Commission or the Parliament. But it is the Union who gets blamed. Personally I believe the EU needs some serious reforms. It needs to become stronger, more democratic and also more social. Too many people are being left behind in our societies. It is not surprising that they get angry.
3. Will you be voting? If so, who for (if you are willing to say)?
Of course I will. I just received a letter from my commune asking me to register. Being on the electoral roll for local elections in Belgium is not the same thing as for the European elections. I guess many people are not aware of this. The deadline for registration is February 28. Who I will vote for will depend on the election programme of the parties concerned, and also on the situation in the polls just before the elections. Because so much is at stake this time, I will vote tactically. I want a majority that stands for a stronger, more democratic, fairer and reformed Europe.
This article was first published in Brussels Express and is reproduced with kind permission.
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