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18th Jan 2020

Opinion

Juncker: The right man for the job?

  • MEPs must take their decision on whether Jean-Claude Juncker is the right man for the job based on his programme. (Photo: ZDF)

Now that the unseemly spectacle surrounding the nomination of Jean Claude Juncker as European Commission president candidate has passed, the legitimate question remains as to whether he is the right man for the job.

That is the question the European Parliament must answer on 15 July and that is what MEPs will try and determine this week in the hearings the different political groups are hosting with Juncker.

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For the Greens, there should never have been a question about who EU governments should nominate as their candidate.

While it was far from perfect, to ignore the proto-democratic 'Spitzenkandidat' process, on which the European elections were contested, would only have served to further undermine the democratic legitimacy of the EU.

Juncker's election by the European Parliament cannot be a fait accompli, however.

This would be a mistake by MEPs and would be an insult to voters who have placed their trust in the EU's only directly-elected institution.

Irrespective of the backroom deals and cosy coalitions that have been the subject of much debate, our group is sincerely interested in Juncker's vision for the coming five years and is committed to giving him an open and fair hearing.

Thankfully, Juncker also seems interested in taking the views of a broader spectrum of political groups into account.

Revision of economic response to crisis

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the next president will be to try and free the Commission from the shackles increasingly imposed on it and other EU institutions by EU governments. Ending the unaccountable role of the Troika in EU economic and fiscal affairs would be a major and necessary step for defending European democracy.

There is a need to totally revise the EU's economic response to the crisis to address the devastating social impact this has had.

This means shifting from a blinkered focus on austerity towards future-oriented investment in a sustainable economy. It also means finally completing the euro and moving towards the mutualisation of sovereign debt.

Europe needs an ambitious and concrete job creation strategy, with a particular focus on the youth unemployment epidemic. Tackling inequalities cannot be successful unless serious measures are taken at EU-level on the revenue side.

Tackling tax havens and tax avoidance, by corporations and individuals, must be a core priority and we will be keen to find out how Juncker, in particular, intends to address this.

EU energy and climate policy has to be at the heart of the shift to a sustainable economy. Ambitious and binding 2030 targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as greenhouse gas reductions, will be essential if the EU's goals on energy security and climate change are to be met.

It has to be made clear that dirty and dangerous technologies like shale gas and nuclear power have no part to play in a sustainable energy future.

Europe and its citizens need a Commission president that is not afraid to defend our higher standards both towards the outside world and attempts by corporations to undermine them.

This is particularly true of public services, health, food safety and GMOs. The current negotiations on the EU-US trade agreement (TTIP) risk being a Trojan horse in this regard and must be fundamentally reoriented.

Fundamental values

We need a Commission president who is willing to defend fundamental EU values and the basic rights of EU citizens both within the Europe and beyond.

Restoring an 'open Europe' inside and outside the EU's borders, also implies addressing the current unacceptable approach to refugees and asylum seekers.

We believe it is essential for European democracy that the 'Spitzenkandidat' process is respected and this means the European Parliament voting on the leading candidate to emerge from the elections: Jean Claude Juncker.

However, MEPs must take their decision on whether he is the right man for the job based on his programme. That is what we intend to do following our hearing with him on 9 July.

The writers are co-presidents of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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