European Parliament spokesman and communications chief Jaume Duch insists that fears Brexit would be a “disease” have not materialised and that it is in fact a “vaccine”. EURACTIV Spain reports.
Duch opened an event yesterday (8 May), organised to celebrate Europe Day, by paying tribute to French President-elect Emmanuel Macron’s Sunday victory.
“Really, yesterday was the day of Europe. That Macron chose the European anthem to back his appearance at the Louvre went beyond just symbolism. It was a special moment,” the Spaniard said.
The European Parliament spokesman also said that it was only in the second round when the two candidates, Macron and Marine Le Pen, addressed the role of France in the European Union.
He added that during the earlier stages of the campaign, the candidates were unwilling to broach the subject of France’s EU membership and role, for fear of losing votes.
“Although there were people that didn’t want Le Pen, they decided to vote for Macron. They could have stayed home but they chose to vote for Macron,” Duch insisted.
Mentioning the UK’s decision to leave the bloc, expected to be finalised in two years time, Duch added that Brexit is going to be bad for both the UK and Europe but that the issue is at least something that will bring the member states together.
On the flipside, the Parliament’s communications chief said that the UK’s decision has promoted the benefits of EU membership and “everyone has realised the risks of leaving”.
Duch warned though that “there are people who vote in their national interest in European institutions”.
“Keeping tabs on MEPs is very straightforward. Thanks to social media, each citizen can be their own lobby,” Duch revealed, referring to participation in the last Parliament elections.
He also clarified that “in the EU, all the states are members. If there is political will, the EU can act. The final say goes to the governments but before them always comes the citizens.”
Given that this year marks the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome and the 30th birthday of the Erasmus programme, the debate brought together two generations representing these two milestones.
One of the issues raised was if the attendees of the event felt European or not. The most critical participants said that “the Europe of the future is not in Spain”, given the precarious nature of the labour market for young people and the need to go abroad to find work.
There were also calls for a common tax system to be extended to all the member states, for citizens to be involved in the EU at a local level, for more money to be dedicated to European education in schools and for a more effective solution to the refugee crisis to be found.
In terms of the advantages of EU membership, the debate touched on the validity of university degrees across the member states, a shared culture, history and values, and better opportunities afforded to young people than were available to their parents.