By Philippe Lamberts, co-president of the Greens/European Free Alliance
We need to see from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker proof that he has listened to the people of Europe, and is ready to take the action needed to address their problems. To hear him admit that the price of the financial crisis has been paid by the most fragile amongst us; that the richest amongst us are also those who contribute the least to our public services and our social protection; that social and economic reforms have benefited capital owners more than anyone else; that in the name of short-term profit, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat have been left contaminated by poisons and that the indispensable ecological transition has been postponed to “better times”.
Many Europeans blame the European Union institutions for this. While, in all honesty, it is the member states that must carry a significant part of the responsibility for these policy choices, the Commission has to admit that is has too often pushed in the same direction rather than challenged them to do the right thing.
When Juncker was sworn in as president of the Commission, he said it was the “last chance” Commission. But did he really mean it? We need to see a major shift in the focus of the Commission’s work.
Doing the right thing within our borders goes hand in hand with doing it towards our neighbours and especially towards those who bang on our doors in need for help. No one is asking Europe to welcome every single person in need but let us recognize that we can collectively do much more than what we have done so far. And while we do our share of welcoming and protecting those in need, we must act on the root causes that force people to leave their homes.
All of this will of course entail drastic changes in our economic, social, fiscal, trade and regulatory policies. These changes will not come about without difficulties and will not generate instant results. But they will also not be possible without the absolute commitment of Juncker and his colleagues. If Europe cannot succeed in this, it will lose whatever trust its people keep in the European project. But believe me, no single member state will be better off on its own in meeting the ecological, social, economic, security and strategic challenges of the 21st century. The best, indeed the only way to “take back control,” is for Europeans to act together.
How Lamberts thinks Juncker should begin his speech
“My fellow European citizens: I have heard you. Over the years, too many of you have been wondering whether your democracy was working for you. But this changes today. From now on, all legislative initiatives and policies will be geared towards the dual goals of reducing inequalities and our ecological impact so that all Europeans – including future generations – will enjoy the possibility of a dignified life. All evidence shows that what is good for our people and for the planet is actually good for our economy. Making Europe a global leader in the transition towards just and sustainable societies is the best way to build our future.”