Progressive Forces for a New Europe
Claude Moraes MEP writes that there is a great thirst on the Left for common progressive solutions in a reformed European Union
Newly-elected MEPs will take up their seats next month but we’re already getting the measure of the political shape of a European Parliament, which is becoming more significant in terms of how we shape progressive and Left European politics. The overall situation is that the hype over the far Right taking over was exactly that. The reality is a more fractured European Parliament with some significant developments on the Left.
Out of the 751 seats, the expected expansion of the radical left “GUE/NGL” did not happen and the group was reduced from 52 to 41 MEPs - this was hugely disappointing to them. The Socialists and Democrats (the home of Labour MEPs), reduced from 187 to 154, but this was broadly expected. The big winner on the progressive spectrum of the European Parliament were the Greens/EFA with a massive step up from 52 to 74 MEPs. Together the GUE/NGL, Greens/EFA and S&D far outnumber the far right and the centre Right too, at 269 MEPs. In the centre of the European Parliament, courtesy of Macron and others, the Liberals (ALDE) were the other winners, apart of the Greens, with a big increase of 68 to 112 MEPs.
So what do we expect to do in the Parliament in terms of progressives and Left policies across the S&D, GUE/NGL and Greens/EFA? Many of our progressive policies are the ones you would expect in the area of the “New Green Deal” and climate change, employment and social protection, breaking down monopoly power, more compassioned asylum and migration policies, better development and external policy and an EU budget, an economic and monetary policy more focused on austerity.
However, the expectations that people rightly have, that the EU politics can deliver a more comprehensive and European wide solutions, is now very high. So what would that look like ideally in the coming five years in the left of the European Union and a European Parliament that is now a powerful co-legislator and despite what it says by the Eurosceptic press contains a great deal of soft power in the areas of policy we care about on the left?
For the Left and progressives in the European Parliament there is a clear consensus that the fourth industrial revolution - digital human rights and the climate crises and the challenge of austerity as well as the continuing global migration crisis and its political effect - are the key challenges.
For Europe to survive and thrive, we need a Europe that is based on equality. The principle of equal pay for equal work must be respected and further protected. This means all workers must have the same rights: proper contracts, fair salaries, and a ban on zero-hours contracts and fake self-employment. A key step will be decent minimum wages across Europe and a stronger commitment to eliminate the gender pay gap by 2030.
The next generation has realised it faster than many of us - climate change is happening, and it is happening fast. A European ‘Green New Deal’, similar to what has been proposed in the US, could provide a comprehensive solution, which would link key issues of our progressive agenda for Europe.
Another tough but essential issue to tackle will be the reform of the Common European Asylum System. Only a humane solution based on solidarity and shared responsibility will allow the EU to remain a credible defender of human rights.
We must also work to provide better protection from the exploitation of citizens’ data. This is important not least to ensure that our elections are safe from foreign disinformation campaigns and cannot be disrupted like the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the Brexit vote. In the European Union, we have the tools at our disposal to do and we must regulate to restore trust in online platforms, protect citizens’ privacy, and return confidence in our democratic systems.
This is an important opportunity in the life of the European Parliament for a more holistic left agenda to emerge. We have seen with hugely important movements on the left such as “Another Europe” a great first step.
There is great thirst on the Left for common progressive solutions in a reformed European Union. The phrase “Another Europe Is Possible” speaks to the need not just for reform of the institutions but for policies which could change the lives of the people we represent and which come from legislators within the EU. The more discussion of these issues, the more we will engage people on the left, many of whom have also been affected by a cynicism of the EU through the austerity years.
For the longest Labour MEPs are serving in this 2019 Parliament we should keep our eyes open and our progressive instincts intact. Another Europe is indeed possible.
- Claude Moraes is a Labour MEP for London