The European Parliament can no longer accept orders from EU heads of state and government, Isabelle Durant, a Belgian Green MEP and former minister who was recently appointed vice-president of the assembly, told EURACTIV in an interview.
“Our first priority is for the assembly to make itself respected,” said Durant, taking as an example the nomination of José Manuel Barroso for a second term at European Commission’s helm.
“The [Parliament’s] vote has been postponed until September, but I hope it will be delayed until after the referendum in Ireland on 2 October,” Durant said, arguing that the choice of Commission president should be part of a nomination package that includes other jobs to be created under the EU’s Lisbon Treaty.
Durant, who also served as deputy premier and transport minister in Guy Verhofstadt’s government between 1999 and 2003, offered a mixed review of Barroso’s first term in office.
“On the energy and climate package, this Commission has been ambitious, but on other subjects like the recovery plans, the banks and auto bailouts, this Commission has played the role of ‘I don’t disturb’,” she said.
The new vice-president intends to strengthen citizens’ engagement in European politics, taking into consideration Lisbon Treaty articles which reinforce the role of civil society and participatory democracy in the European Union.
“We can’t stand still for another five years to witness another ‘no’ in a referendum or a decreasing turnout in the next elections,” she said. “We need to do something, with or without Lisbon.”
More specifically, she said she intended to restart the Parliament’s ‘citizens’ agoras’, which were previously introduced by Green colleague Gerard Onesta.
“We need to improve the citizens’ agora and maybe link them to [the Parliament’s] petitions committee, so that we are sure there will be a follow-up,” she said, stressing how important it is for citizens’ assemblies not to become mere talking shops.
Asked about possible future coalitions in the new Parliament, she said momentum was building for the Liberals, Social Democrats and Greens to form “interesting and useful alliances” to move Europe forward, despite the Parliament’s overall shift to the centre-right following the June elections.