Saturday

22nd Jan 2022

Opinion

The EP presidency: why support the right?

  • Sira Rego: 'The majority looks likely to support a conservative candidate opposed to women's sexual and reproductive health and rights - is support for a candidate whose agenda substantially overlaps with the far-right the only path?' (Photo: The Left)
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In a few days, MEPs will elect a new president of the European Parliament, the top post in the only EU institution elected by direct suffrage.

The election will be marked by the untimely passing of David Sassoli, a president who steered the parliament through an extremely complex and challenging period. During his term in office, he showed that it was possible to reach agreements through much-needed dialogue, and away from dogmas.

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One key problem that characterises the European Parliament is that it lacks power to make legislative proposals.

This makes it de facto a fundamentally deliberative space. An institution that, given its supranational character, serves to debate and alter the frameworks for coexistence.

Parliament is a perfect vehicle for producing new consensus. But what does this mean? Given these times of eco-social crisis, the crisis of the current model, and the rise of the far right, the European Parliament is an ideal place to shape, debate and forge ideas on what constitutes "common sense" in our countries. The ideas that define how we live.

This might seem like a minor issue, but in the current context, it has become crucial. The European parliament is an extremely useful instrument in the battle of ideas: the cultural battle.

One only has to look at the latest debates and glance at the parliament's agenda to understand how it works and how it affects us.

Take the example of the dehumanisation of migrants, the discourse that brands the humanitarian crisis as "hybrid warfare" or the offensive against LGBTQI+ rights and women's sexual and reproductive health and rights.

All these debates, which a few years ago would have been unthinkable because they represent an attack on fundamental rights, are now part of parliament's daily agenda.

Of course, for us to have reached this point requires a certain ideological production to be sustained for years by a majority. On too many occasions, an outdated conservative coalition has strived to determine the boundaries of the debate.

This majority has been responsible for the austerity policies and cuts that have left us with stunted states, aggravating the general perception of insecurity and uncertainty.

With the emergence of the far right and its mud-slinging politics, it is clear that this formula has entered into an irresolvable contradiction. This coalition of the past is a false cordon-sanitaire: the agenda of the far right has already seeped through it.

Foregone conclusion for conservatives?

That is why this election - even if its conclusion seems forgone as the majority looks likely to support a conservative candidate opposed to women's sexual and reproductive health and rights - is still an opportunity to initiate debate on another possible arrangement. Is support for a candidate whose agenda substantially overlaps with the far right the only path?

If the pandemic has shown us anything, it is that there is currently a struggle taking place between a reactionary tendency and a more progressive and social tendency.

In the face of the agenda of hate, fear and retreat, there is a shared need to defend the social state, public services, decent wages, rebalancing the care gap by giving voice to the feminist agenda, in short: defending rights.

It has been proven that in the European parliament another possible sum of forces can exist.

Progressive forces have put forward more ambitious positions than the Commission or Council on major questions such as the recovery fund or vaccine patents. We have shown that an alliance of progressive forces is essential to lead social progress agreements in the European institutions.

That is why we present our candidacy for the presidency.

Because we firmly believe that there is still time for an alternative vision and, above all, that we must prevent the European Parliament from becoming the stronghold of old formulas that allow the far right to gain a foothold.

We, therefore, propose a new pact for the construction of a new consensus. We propose to abandon the old cosy deals of the past and to consider the possibility of new frameworks of agreement between progressive forces, a pact for the future based on the defence of human rights, on the promotion of measures that guarantee decent working conditions, on a productive model adapted to the challenges of climate change, on the defence of public services.

We want to achieve a feminist, environmentalist and fraternal consensus. A pledge to reject and halt the normalisation of hatred. A new pact that offers hope.

Author bio

Sira Rego MEP is The Left's candidate for president of the European Parliament.

Disclaimer

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

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