Friday 13 January 2017
Next Tuesday, the European parliament is due to elect its president for the remainder of this term and the contest is more open than it has ever been. Every political group has its own candidate and I have been nominated for the Greens/EFA (European Free Alliance).
With the UK set to leave the EU, my nomination has been met with raised eyebrows at home and in Brussels. One MEP described it as “surreal” – others are more enthusiastic. However, neither I nor my group feel that my nationality should disbar me. Indeed, it may well be the last chance MEPs have to elect a Brit to the post.
As a remain campaigner, I have thought a great deal about the value of the EU and the need to communicate that to people across Europe. I believe I’m well-placed to understand what is happening in the UK, as well as the rest of the EU. I am proud to represent the UK and passionate about the EU, so I know that the UK’s exit must be, as far as possible, a win-win situation for Britain and our European neighbours. But the parliament’s president is not in charge of the negotiations – although MEPs have a vote at the end of the process, as I hope MPs will.
There are many other issues facing the EU within a shifting political landscape, and the European parliament must be a global standard-bearer for human rights and democracy; solidarity and environmental progress. I want to help the EU to rediscover its place and purpose in the face of major challenges.
Principally, the EU must battle to maintain its position as a strong advocate of universal human rights, which are coming under continued threat internally and externally. The parliament, especially, must strengthen its commitment to promoting and defending democracy worldwide. I will fight to ensure the EU is working to safeguard people’s everyday needs, be it job security or the ability to provide a future for themselves and their families.
The EU must work for ordinary citizens – it cannot be seen as an ally of unscrupulous bankers and big business. We must also increase our willingness to show solidarity with those people elsewhere in the world who are in need, including refugees. The EU has been a leader on climate change, but it needs to pursue its goal of delivering a sustainable future for Europe and its citizens with a renewed vigour, if it is to maintain that role. The parliament must exploit its powerful role within the EU to ensure that happens.
To fulfil our role as the directly elected representatives, we have to ensure our own house is in order and that we are an “open” institution. The parliament needs to be more transparent and, as president, I will ensure recent rule changes on opening up the law-making process, dealing with lobbyists and any conflicts of interest for MEPs are put into effect. I will also push for the creation of a strong ethics committee. With me at its helm, the parliament will be more independent and do a better job of holding the European commission to account.
I also want to see it become more environmentally conscious: we can cut our use of plastic, promote energy efficiency and reduce our carbon footprint still further – a single seat for the parliament would help do this, although that’s not in our hands. Under my presidency, the parliament would be even more inclusive of civil society and we need to continue and develop the diversity programme that we have.
Electing a female president would certainly help the gender balance at the top level. I will also push for the parliament to take greater social responsibility, safeguarding the rights and wellbeing of workers, not least by improving the working conditions of those on precarious contracts.
I’m convinced that the parliament needs a president who isn’t one of the usual suspects; a stereotypical Brussels insider. I have been an MEP for a long time, and as a member of a smaller political group am often critical of EU policies and a passionate advocate for those who do not have the benefit of living in the world’s richest region.
I am a firm believer in the need for international cooperation to tackle many of the problems the world currently faces. We are stronger as a parliament when we promote the values of democracy, universal human rights and solidarity on a sustainable planet. It’s on that basis that I put forward my candidature for the post
See the article in the Guardian here