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EDP MEPs tell us why they chose to fight for Europe

"Languages, cultures, regional differences and local initiatives must be cherished because they are Europe’s strongest asset."

Towards new forms of European governance

Vassilis Kontzinos

The European Democratic Party held its Council meeting on June 3rd in Athens, in presence of delegations from all over Europe. The discussions, opened by the co-presidents François Bayrou and Francesco Rutelli, began with the formal accession of three new members: the Canarian Coalition (Coalición Canaria), the Reformists Party (NS Reformisti) of Croatia, and the Union of Centrists (Enosi Kentroon) from Greece.

José Miguel Barragán, Secretary General of the Canarian Coalition:

"We have a vision for Europe, it has to be redrawn closer to the citizens. We also have the ambition to make Europeans aware of the difficulties of the outermost regions and island territories."

Radimir Čačić, president of the Croatian Reform:

"We share a lot of values with the European Democratic Party. We advocate a different political attitude and greater solidarity between citizens. We also believe that reforms are necessary in Europe and Croatia, in order to reduce unemployment and poverty as well."

Dimosthenis Danellas, representating Vassilis Leventis, President of the Union of Centrists, held on official travel:

"We wish that Greece remains in the EU and the Eurozone. Together, with the EDP, we will work for a better Europe, a more united Europe."

The morning continued with a series of discussions on fighting populism. In the introduction, François Bayrou stressed the accumulation of phenomena illustrating the questioning of Europe in each of the European countries, making the European Union the scapegoat of every problem:

"Europe appears to the people as bearing the sins of globalization. This is deeply disturbing because those who are most severe are in the greatest difficulties, the less educated. When a political project is cutting itself off from its popular base, then it is in danger."

The President of the Democratic Movement was concerned, however, by the inability of European leaders to involve citizens:

"The Heads of State and Government are very quiet, at least in France. The president did not say a word to French citizens about the Greek crisis, he never explained to them the consequences of the transatlantic treaty. All this happens in the most total distance from the public opinion and the success of populism is a result of these weaknesses."

Francesco Rutelli expressed his concern about the crisis of democracy in Europe, even though the European project was in its early days, the anticipation of the triumph of democracy. For the former mayor of Rome, a close attention will have to be paid to the consequences of the referendum outcome in the UK:

"After this referendum, Europe will never be the same. It can decline very rapidly if we do not keep our weather eye open. If the result is negative, countries could decide very quickly to leave the EU. The pro-European parties like ours must prepare an overhaul of Europe, on basis that can be understood by citizens."

These issues were at the heart of the different members’ interventions, each regretting illegible institutions and decisions, and the distrust that this raises in public opinion. The delegates have also shown this growing disenchantment with their respective national situations, especially in Poland, Germany or France where populistic parties and Eurosceptics are attracting more and more voters.

Marielle de Sarnez, secretary general of the EDP and vice president of the ALDE group in the European Parliament, concluded the discussion by encouraging everyone to participate actively in the reconstruction process of European democracy:

"Either we decide to improve the existing institutional system at a very little scale, making it perhaps more transparent, more democratic, or we decide to rebuild it. I think it's time to really rebuild it. We have to invent a European democracy by combining European parliaments, European citizens, trying to find a balance with the Heads of State and Government. Today there are extremely selfish manners, folded over themselves. I think it is time for renewal, innovation, creation of a new form of European governance. These are for me the challenges that the European Democratic Party will tomorrow face".

In the afternoon, Dimitris Malliaropulos, the Bank of Greece, and Harry Theocharis, MP and former Secretary General of Inland Revenue in the Ministry of Finance, were invited by the EDP to give their lights on the Greek situation and prospects for emerging from the crisis..