Saturday

28th Jan 2023

EU conservatives accuse left of 'agit-prop' over economy

The centre-right European People's Party (EPP) is likely to keep its majority in the European Parliament in the June elections, as Europeans pick a safe pair of hands in the economic crisis over socialist "agit-prop," EPP secretary-general Antonio Lopez-Isturiz told the EUobserver.

"The general feeling is that we can maintain a good score ahead of the Socialists. Not an absolute majority, but a majority like we have now, more or less," Mr Lopez-Isturiz said.

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He admitted the EPP would lose some of its seats "because in many countries we are in government, and that will have a negative impact."

But the Spanish MEP felt confident voters would go "for those options that give them security," rejecting as "prejudices" the ideas that the current economic crisis would damage the centre-right, market economy-oriented parties.

"We defend the social market economy, because who is going to produce the money for the social services, the working places - is it the state or private enterprise?" he asked.

"The left-oriented marketing and agit-prop is saying we are responsible for everything. But who were in European governments during the last 20 years? It was the Socialists who had the majority of governments in Europe."

The EPP, together with the British Conservative Party-dominated European Democrats, holds 288 seats in the current 785-seat legislature, while the second-largest group, the Party of European Socialists, has 213.

Mr Lopez-Isturiz' group is to adopt a party manifesto at its 29 to 30 April congress in Warsaw - the last major EU political group to do so after the Greens, Liberals and Socialists last year.

The EPP is also conducting opinion polls ahead of the vote, with the Spanish MEP pointing to German regional elections in Hessen - where Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union won last week ahead of general elections in autumn - as a positive sign.

Ms Merkel - one the most prominent EPP leaders - kept calm and is now taking "appropriate and reasonable measures" to combat the economic downturn while the Spanish socialist government "wasted all the money" in the first months of the crisis, Mr Lopez-Isturiz said.

He pleaded for more powers for the European political parties and described his vision of a future with common EU lists, where European figures such as Angela Merkel, Tony Blair or Nicolas Sarkozy would run against each other.

"We are producing a common programme, but in the end, it's about national campaigns. [All] we can do, is to be a service provider for national campaigns with European ideas," Mr Lopez-Isturiz explained.

"If in the future, a voter from Romania and one from Spain could vote for a common candidate in Europe, that will change things. If Nicolas Sarkozy was head of the EPP list against Tony Blair for the Socialists. Can you imagine those elections? That would be a real European debate!"

Asked about the democratic credentials of the EPP-Socialist deal on the European Parliament President - where each group appoints its man for two-and-a-half years - the Spanish MEP said in the past it was needed to ensure continuity in the parliament's struggle for democratic scrutiny of EU institutions.

But if the Lisbon treaty comes into force, granting the parliament more powers, the arrangement could be scrapped.

Libertas no threat

Mr Lopez-Isturiz said the newly-founded Libertas movement - stemming from the No campaign in Ireland - is not a threat to the centre-right parties because it is not a "national option" outside Ireland and maybe Great Britain.

"People tend to vote on 'national options' and national views about Europe. They don't vote for the European People's Party or the European Socialists in these elections, but for their national parties," he argued.

"This is the irony. Libertas is a eurosceptic movement, but a real [pan-] European one. Yet in Spain nobody is going to vote for Libertas, because it's not a national option," the MEP explained.

He said Libertas would be a "very strong option in the future, because it's very well financed," however, echoing previous calls in parliament for the group to disclose the sources of its funding.

Meanwhile, the Socialists believe the economic crisis will give them control of the house. This article is part of a series of articles by EUobserver on the forthcoming European parliament elections.

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