Federalists call for 2013 European primaries


Daniel Cohn-Bendit, co-chair of the Green/EFA group and one of the frontmen of the federalist Spinelli Group, called for primaries to be held one year ahead of the 2014 European elections to choose candidates for the next European Commission president.

An alliance of Liberals, Socialists, Greens and Communists should organise a primary in 2013 to choose a candidate to succeed to José Manuel Barroso, he said yesterday (26 March).

Cohn-Bendit called the alliance a "pact for social and ecological democratisation of Europe".

"We don't need to ask anyone," he said, referring to other proposals aimed at giving legitimacy to the selection of Barroso's successor.

Cohn-Bendit said that if the alliance would have the majority in the 2014 election, leaders of EU countries could still propose candidates, but the only candidate who could pass in Parliament would be the one chosen through primaries.

The next year should create "a democratic space" in Europe, said Cohn-Bendit, who spoke at a Spinelli event at the Université Libre de Bruxelles.

He admitted that the number of voters likely to participate in the primaries would be low – between six and ten million people of an estimate 260 million.

Speaking at the same event, ALDE group leader Guy Verhofstadt said the European People's Party (EPP) could also organise primary elections. But some EU countries to not have a tradition of holding primaries, he conceded.

Verhofstadt outlined the various ideas in preparation for the 2014 elections. On the transnational lists (see background), he said there was "a lot of opposition also inside the European Parliament".

The two largest political groups, the centre-right EPP and the centre-left S&D, reportedly oppose transnational lists.

Verhofstadt said an alternative to the transnational list would be to give candidates the possibility to run in several national constituencies. The third possibility he outlined was to decide that the next Commission president would chosen from amongst the MEPs.

Regarding the need to increase the turnout at the European elections, Verhofstadt pleaded for a European tax to be paid by all EU citizens, which in his view will make them more responsible and more interested in the EU elections.

In a recent letter to the European Peoples' Party President Joseph Daul, MEP Andrew Duff, author of a report on the electoral reform of the European Parliament and on creating a pan-European constituency, voiced his "astonishment" for the lack of support from the Parliament's centre-right.

"As we run up to the next elections in 2014, are we confident that the quality of the election campaign will be such an advance on previous elections that the electors will see that, in voting for MEPs, real choices are being made about the direction of the EU polity? Do you not share my fears that our national political parties are now failing to sustain the integration process in a fitting manner? Have we convinced the media to report the politics of our Parliament in a thorough and fluent way?

"The report is a careful compromise. It recognises that some issues concerning the pan-European proposal are particularly sensitive - namely, the timing of the reforms, the choice between closed or semi-open lists and the question of whether the 25 pan-European MEPs should come on top of the 751 existing deputies or be drawn from among them.

"For all these reasons I would urge you and PPE colleagues to return to their previous positive and constructive approach to the problem of how a stronger European Parliament might best contribute to the better government of a more united Europe," Duff wrote.

Altiero Spinelli (1907-1986) is considered as one of the founders of Europe. An Italian Communist, he was also the founder of the European federalist movement, a member of the European Commission and the European Parliament. The main building of the European Parliament is named after him.

The Federalists have been campaigning for a "credible personalisation" of the election of the next Commission president. As Andrew Duff, a leading liberal MEP said, it would be better for the successful candidate to have had to go through an election process, instead of "being plucked from thin air".

Duff explained that a transnational list of 25 candidates would be set up by the existing political groups and campaign across national borders. The 25 MEPs would be elected on top of the 751 MEPs provided for by the Lisbon Treaty. For this, the European Parliament would vote a resolution, and then an intergovernmental conference would make the necessary changes to the Lisbon Treaty.

If the changes are adopted, European voters would have the possibility to vote for their national MEPs, and if they so wished, cast a ballot for the transnational list as well. Voters would be able to vote for the entire list or for individual candidates.

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