A fairer EU
A stronger, more united and fairer European union is in the interests of Finland and the Finns in a globalised world.
Deeper EU cooperation requires more transparency and a greater say for ordinary people. One way to make the EU more democratic is to give the elected European parliament the right to initiate legislation and make it a legislator on an equal footing with the council.
The EU should set an example by its respect for human values and rights and protection of democracy, and as should act as a defender of equality and the rule of law.
The EU should rationalise and improve the efficiency of its law-making and use of resources. The EU’s credibility is weakened by the fact that thousands of parliament staff travel every month between Brussels and Strasbourg. This costs some EUR 180 million a year and creates 19 000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. The decision is in the hands of the council, and France will not agree to give up Strasbourg as parliament’s seat. Parliament’s Single Seat campaign has been running since 2010, and seeks to find alternatives for France, so that it can consent to letting parliament decide on its own seat.
Transparency is democracy
The EU’s transparency legislation is based on democracy. People must have the opportunity to participate and the right to obtain information. Opposition to the EU is partly caused by people’s feelings about the extent to which they can influence decisions.
And yet documents are still withheld from the public on the grounds that the decision-making process is still under way. Thus ordinary people are not able to influence politicians’ opinions until the decisions have already been taken.
And not everyone has an equal influence. Big companies and organisations which can afford to run large campaigns find a hearing more easily than small citizens’ organisations. Decision-makers’ links to lobby groups should be made more transparent. The register of lobbyists should be made compulsory in parliament, the commission and the council, and the resources with which firms and organisations wield an influence should be published. Transparency is the defence of a more democratic EU.
Transparency is also being sorely tested by the EU-US free trade agreement (TTIP). The negotiations are being held in secret, and no-one is allowed to read the negotiation documents except a restricted group of people behind closed doors. This contradicts the principle that, as Parliament’s approval is required for the EU’s international agreements, it should be kept permanently informed about the negotiations.
Citizens’ digital rights are an essential part of democracy and freedom of expression. It must be possible to use e-mail and the internet without the fear of being spied on. There must be tight and clear limits on the data which may be recorded and investigated in the name of national security.
Human rights and foreign policy
The EU must be concerned first and foremost with respect for human rights and the rule of law at home, so that it can be credible when promoting these principles in its all foreign relations. Promoting human rights and the rule of law is also in the interests of businesses. For them, too, it is easier to operate in a clear and predictable environment.
The EU must speak with a single voice, and for this it is necessary to strengthen foreign policy. In all its decisions, the EU must consider the impact on human rights and equality, and must seek to reduce poverty and damage to the environment. The indicators of development must be reviewed so as to take into account not just economic but also social and environmental impacts.
In its foreign policy, the EU must remember the formula familiar from enlargement negotiations: cooperation is deepened when the negotiating partner promotes human rights, peace and democracy. Agreements with non-EU countries must contain clauses on respect for human rights and the rule of law, and the enforcement of these clauses must be monitored.
We should not become dependent on energy from non-democratic countries which disregard human rights.
Read more in Human rights diary, my blog as chair of the European parliament’s subcommittee on human rights from 2009-2011.
Caring should not stop at national borders. People have the right to freedom from want and poverty everywhere in the world. As the world’s largest supplier of development aid, the EU has a responsibility to promote this right in development cooperation and other policies. Commercial, foreign, agriculture and security policy should consistently support the reduction of global poverty. We cannot give with one hand and take away with the other.
The UN’s millennium development goals have not been achieved. The EU and its members must step up their efforts and raise funding on development to 0.7 percent of GDP. The EU must stop demanding that developing countries liberalise their financial markets. We should actively support civil society in developing countries.
Furthermore, sustainable development cannot be achieved before girls and women have equal rights to decide about their own bodies and to access health services. The EU must ensure that girls’ and women’s rights are taken into account in all policy areas. Girls’ and women’s rights to sexual and reproductive health must be made part of the UN’s development goals after 2015.
Together with a Dutch MEP Sophia in ‘t Veld I chair the parliament’s working group on sexual and reproductive health and rights (EPWG).
The climate and the economy
Responsibility for the environment does not stop at national boundaries. Differing views about the details must not prevent us from finding solutions when climate change is speeding up and species are going extinct.
The European way of life must gradually be adapted to reflect our relative share of natural resources and energy. A new industrial revolution is needed in which prosperity is produced with significantly less natural resources and energy.
Solutions to the banking crisis first and foremost be funded from fees collected from the banking industry in advance, or where necessary in arrears. Using taxpayers’ money should only be the last resort. Tax avoidance should be brought under control, as billions of euros in tax revenue are lost in the EU every year.
The EU should promote investments which both create jobs and produce environmentally friendly technology, products and services. These include projects which provide the public with a cross-border service, such as the Rail Baltica line from Tallinn to Warsaw, the Europe-wide electricity super-network and the ambitious green economy investment programme.
Funding research and development in renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable transport projects should help reduce energy dependency. Environmental subsidies for agriculture should reduce environmental damage.
As a major market area the EU should demand from its most important trading partners tighter regulation in both environmental and labour law. Comprehensive energy and climate legislation must be created for the EU containing binding climate objectives and sanctions.
The EU must take up a leading position in climate negotiations. Its own emissions reduction target must be raised to 30 percent by 2020 as compared to 1990. Emissions must be brought below 55 percent by 2030, so that it will be possible to achieve a carbon-neutral EU by 2050.