The Brief – Brok scores own goal in the federalist camp

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter

If you’ve ever wondered what would be the equivalent of an own goal in EU politics, here is a recent example.

Elmar Brok, the president of the Union of European Federalists (UEF) who is also an MEP with the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), opposed the proposal to have the transnational lists in the 2019 EU election.

The transnational lists were one of the rare truly federalist ideas to have come along in the last few decades – and the European federalist movements have been asking for them forever –  yet, their president chose to stick to the party line, or even campaign against the idea.

This has dealt a severe blow to the organisation’s reputation and, unsurprisingly, there have been calls for him to step down. It is also worth mentioning, and criticising, that the EPP had allied with the extreme-right to kill the transnational lists.

It’s not the first time that the federalist president had acted against the federalist principles. During a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome in March 2017, Merkel’s ally was the only speaker who avoided using the words “federalism” or “United States of Europe”.

EU federalism and the means to reach it have been clear and very carefully written in manifestos.

And the transnational lists are one of those means.

We’ve learnt enough from the examples of would be federalists who carried the flag of Altiero Spinelli and at the same time attempted to befriend movements willing to abandon the eurozone.

We’ve learnt enough from those federalists who forgot the social agenda and made fiscal discipline almost a prerequisite for being considered pro-EU.

Now is the time to protect those EU citizens who have sacrificed their entire life for the European dream.

By letting them down, we will all be “brothers in the EU crime”.

Cutting operational grants, as the Commission just did to the UEF, is not the wisest idea, especially almost a year before the European elections.

If the decision was simply a matter of a bureaucrat’s pen, then the question must be asked how bureaucracy can prevail when the EU political project is at stake? When extreme-right populism is gradually becoming the norm and pro-EU stance is perceived as an elitist and old-fashioned way of thinking?

The Roundup

Today’s informal summit is just about to wrap up so check the website later for all the main talking points. Bulgaria’s PM is already dreading an upcoming one on Turkey.

Silvio Berlusconi could crown Parliament boss Antonio Tajani as prime minister next month in order to boost Italy’s standing in Brussels. But the result is still far from secure. No polls in the 15 days before the election, so make your own predictions now.

Austria has lodged a complaint against the EU’s approval of Hungary’s nuclear power plant expansion. Slovakia followed Bulgaria in failing to ratify the Istanbul Convention.

One Polish mayor told EURACTIV that his city is bucking Europe’s somewhat negative image of his country, by taking environmental targets seriously and supporting migration.

Railway chiefs want their sector included in the Brexit talks, as many are concerned that it is a low priority in the negotiations. Cross-Channel operator Eurostar has pledged to run its trains on 100% renewable energy by 2030.

Tweets of the Week is out, watch the latest edition here.

Uk environment minister Michael Gove was slapped down by the Commission’s Frans Timmermans after the British politician suggested banning plastic straws. The Dutchman said the EU was one step ahead of Westminster (again).

Look out for…

Jean-Claude Juncker jumps aboard the Balkans express and goes on a tour of the EU’s prospective candidates.

Views are the author’s

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