A time to reflect

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

epa09093796 EU Parliament President David Sassoli attends a plenary session of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, 24 March 2021. EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ / POOL

The European Parliament has begun a much needed reflection process with a view to updating the way that the institution works, writes David Sassoli.

David Sassoli is the President of the European Parliament.

Fifteen months after the outbreak of the pandemic, everyone is called upon to think again, to think about themselves. No sector can simply wait for the crisis to end and then just return to life as before. Covid has shown us clearly our strengths and weaknesses, what needs to change and how we can improve. This examination applies to European and national institutions, businesses, political parties, trade unions, regional and local administrations. It would be wrong to try and just shut away the experiences we have accumulated,  we must take this opportunity to confront ourselves with the lessons learned from Covid-19.

These fifteen months of pain, suffering, nausea give us the opportunity to increase efficiency in many areas.

It is in this spirit that the European Parliament, since last week, has begun a process of reflection, open to all Members, to update our institution, a reflection process on ways of working, on how to improve legislative work, internal organisation, the role of plenary and parliamentary committees, international activities. Central to this work will be the relationship and dialogue between Parliament and citizens.

In short, we need ideas before intervening on regulations and rules. For this reason, five working groups, steered by a mix of new and more experienced members, with the participation of political groups, will develop ideas to help the competent bodies produce a vision of the Parliament of the future. This bottom-up approach will make use of an interactive platform open to the contribution of all. This will conclude in autumn with a broad and general discussion, which will approve a document containing the reforms to be to be developed in the second part of the legislature.

The pandemic has highlighted many difficulties with the existing rules and shown the need for more flexible tools. Our institutions also need to reflect on how we can function more effectively to allow our democratic system to better respond to the challenges of the contemporary world. Democracy may be a fragile system but this does not mean remaining impassive in the face of events. It is everyone’s duty, in this difficult time, to fix their own houses. I hope that national parliaments also commit themselves to evaluate the functioning of their assemblies because COVID-19 has made us realise that the European Union is not only Brussels institutions. There are national and regional dimensions that have a fundamental reflection on the Community mechanism. Just think about the great importance and centrality of the regions during the response to the pandemic.

They are all ‘pieces’ of the European dimension. And if everyone will do their part, we will be able to rethink how we work and make it less bureaucratic and centralised.

We see with great concern, the push from authoritarian regimes who want to present their system as somehow more efficient or effective. It is a challenge that is being thrown down to us and that we must forcefully counter. We do not want to turn our backs on democracy and we can avoid this by updating our rules, renewing our institutions, offering new instruments of participation. The European Parliament has decided not to stand still and to act without taboos.

We are sure we will succeed, if we improve the functioning of our institutions, to allow democracy to respond effectively to citizens’ most pressing concerns.

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