• European Liberals says the EP's profile is purposefully downplayed by national politicians (Photo: EUobserver.com)

National politicians undermining EU parliament, say Liberals

14.04.09 @ 17:57

  1. By Andrew Willis

Liberals in the European parliament criticised national politicians on Tuesday (14 April), saying they regularly try to hide the important legislative role the EU-level chamber plays.

German liberal MEP Jorgo Chatzimarkakis said EU citizens were for the large part unaware that the vast majority of national legislation originates in Brussels – saying the percentage was 85 per cent in Germany, and even higher in eastern Europe.

He said this ignorance was a result of domestic deputies not telling their constituents how much work is performed by their EU-level counterparts.

"People don't know this because national politicians don't want them to know. They don't want to show up their own minor role," said Mr Chatzimarkakis by way of explaining the low voter turnout in European elections.

"How much money do you want us to spend in order to get a message across that is always destroyed by our own national politicians in our own parties."

The European media also came in for criticism for their apparently poor coverage of European parliamentary affairs with Mr Chatzimarkakis saying: "normal editors have clichéd ideas about what the readers want."

Party president Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck went further still in her criticism of coverage of the chamber.

"If the European media paid as little attention to football as they do to the European Parliament, then no one would understand the rules," she said.

Campaign kick-off

The comments were made at a press conference on the eve of the European Liberal, Democrat and Reform Party (EDLR) campaign launch ahead of this June's European elections.

The party has based its manifesto – adopted in Stockholm last October - around the four areas of civil liberties, the European single market, the environment and energy policy, and enlargement and foreign security.

The ELDR expects to return between 72 and 75 MEPs, winning over 30 million votes and maintaining its number three position in the parliament in its alliance with the European Democratic Party, known collectively as the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE).

"I believe we will continue to hold the balance of power," Ms Neyts-Uyttebroeck told EUObserver, adding that she felt that the centre-right European Peoples' Party would retain the top spot in terms of MEP numbers, despite a move by the British Conservative Party to leave the grouping.

"The loss of the Conservatives will be a loss in numbers, but it may actually be a relief to many members," she said in reference to the frequently tumultuous relationship between the British party and the pan-European umbrella group.

Ms Neyts-Uyttebroeck also predicted that the Socialists, who currently hold the number two slot in the European parliament, would fail to capitalise on the current economic crisis due to outflanking by leftist parties in Europe further to their left, which she expects will do well in the June elections.

The general feelings however amongst Liberal party members is that the party is well placed to capitalise on the current environment due to their traditional support for free markets that are properly regulated.

"What we want of the state is a prudent role," said Mr Chatzimarkakis, arguing that governments must only "get involved" with companies when there is a systemic reason for doing so, and only then in accordance with clear guidelines.

Such moves could include car sector bail-outs being tied directly to the development of green technology.

Additionally, Bulgarian MEP Bilyana Ilieva Raeva said eurozone membership was key to helping central and eastern member states recover from the current downturn.

"There is a strange wish from the ECB not to start the [last step of the accession] process," she told this website.

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