On 10 May, candidates from the main parties running for the European Parliament (EP) elections took part in a round table debate organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in Madrid. They were in favour of initiating a reform of the EU institutions with the aim, amongst other things, of enabling organised civil society to play a greater role in the building of Europe.
The European elections, taking place on 26 May, come at a time when the rise of populism in all its guises is combining with internal and external challenges to put the European venture under greater strain. Candidates from the main national parties [the People’s Party, the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE), Podemos (United We Can Change Europe) and Ciudadanos (Citizens)] and members of the Economic and Social Committee participated in a round table debate organised by the EESC on the premises of the European Commission Representation in Spain. Entitled “Deepening democracy: Building more Europe”, the aim of the round table was to analyse the policies needed to build a stronger Europe that could guarantee a future of economic progress and social justice.
Soraya Rodríguez, EP candidate for Ciudadanos, stressed the need to reform legislative procedures by simplifying them and cutting red tape. She also called for the unanimity rule for major decisions to be revoked and replaced by a majority rule, and for much-needed tax reform at European level. With regard to social policy, she put the case for a European unemployment policy and for new projects to be launched to combat youth unemployment.
Patricia Caro, the EP candidate for Podemos, was critical of the system currently prevailing in Europe and called for greater citizen participation in all the institutions as well as an end to austerity policies.
Lina Gálvez, third on the PSOE’s list for the EP elections, advocated a new institutional set-up in relation to the euro since, to her way of thinking, it was currently
detrimental to some countries, including Spain. She also said that Europe was experiencing a very difficult economic situation, with debt and huge internal geographical imbalances continuing to pose a major problem. She drew attention to growing inequality among the people of Europe and expressed her support for a fairer distribution of the benefits of technological disruption. In her opinion, the fact that neo-fascism was on the rise was a direct consequence of Europe’s economic crisis, something that was creating disaffection.
Antonio López-Istúriz, representing the People’s Party, called for the crisis to be brought to an end and associated social policy with job creation. He also referred to nationalism, the fourth industrial revolution and the challenges facing European society.
The debate between the candidates of the main political parties was preceded by a round table attended by Spanish members of the EESC: Miguel Ángel Cabra de Luna, representing the Spanish Confederation of Social Economy Enterprises (CEPES); Patricia Círez, from the Spanish Confederation of Employers’ Organisations (CEOE); Juan Mendoza, from the General Workers’ Union (UGT); and José Antonio Moreno, representing the Workers’ Commissions union (CC. OO). In addition to explaining how the European Economic and Social Committee contributed as the representative of organised civil society in Europe, the EESC’s Spanish members addressed issues such as immigration, youth unemployment, current economic and employment models and how they were evolving, the rise in populism, Brexit and climate change.