General budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015
The S&D Group underlines the need to move to a more ambitious and long-term investment plan in line with the investment needs outlined in the Europe 2020 strategy, and to combine a broad range of financing sources.
The multi-annual financial framework (MFF) for 2014-2020 should be reviewed as soon as possible in order to increase funding from the EU budget for infrastructure projects.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) should be given a greater role and its capital increased by an additional €10 billion to raise its annual investments. In addition, existing fiscal rules should be revised to make them investment-friendly.
The EU must co-operate with the UN Special Envoy to support Libya in securing a ceasefire between the warring parties and putting the country on the path to peace. The international community must focus on helping Libya build state institutions and that requires support to build up national security forces. Without security, the prospects for a true democratic transition will be further jeopardised and the suffering of the people will increase.
EU security interests are at stake as well. The EU should actively promote a partnership with regional players, namely Egypt and Tunisia, to help bring governance and help rid Libya of violence, terrorism and crime, and deliver on the expectations of the February Revolution.
EU response to the Ebola outbreak
We seriously underestimated Ebola. Right now, it seems that the epidemic will continue to worsen in the next six months with about 20,000 people infected in Western Africa. In the long run, only a comprehensive strengthening of health systems will stabilise the situation in a satisfactory way.
It is not only about the disease however. Ebola also has consequences for food insecurity as trade and food harvesting are severely limited. The Western African countries affected fear an economic drop of up to 4%. We have to look seriously at food supply if we want to avoid chaos and even more deaths.
Preparation of the Eurozone summit
Following the European Council's decision to organise the first ever Eurozone summit in October, the S&D Group requested a plenary debate to discuss the issues. The sheer fact that such a summit is happening should be 'recognised and valued' by the European Parliament with a proper preparatory debate, as is the case before European Councils (at least by those who are in favour of strengthening economic and monetary union (EMU) at political level).
Considering the importance of pursuing efforts to strengthen EMU democracy, it would be illogical for the Parliament not to get involved in this debate during the preparatory phase leading up to the summit.
Islamic State threat
The extreme and unprecedented violence deployed by the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria is extremely worrying. Our group was deeply shocked by the executions of James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and we believe the EU and its member states must do everything necessary to help free all the other prisoners.
In addition, we are concerned about the large number of European jihadists involved. The EU countries should find a common solution to bring them all to justice. In the meantime, it is important not to forget that IS represents a minority group of fundamentalists. Islamic and Arab countries are our allies in the fight against these extremists.
In Palestine, there is political stalemate and a desperate humanitarian situation. The Gaza war has caused 2138 Palestinian deaths – 490 of them children – and 70 Israeli deaths in 50 days. Moreover, there are 36 Palestinian members of parliament – elected by citizens – imprisoned in Israeli jails. Many have been judged by military courts and others held without charge or trial. This is unacceptable and the European Parliament must speak out on this very important issue.
We recognise the good work of many civil society organisations and political parties in Israel that are working for peace and reconciliation with Palestine, and we believe in the legitimate right of Israel to live in security. However, this cannot be the only argument to be taken into account in this conflict and it cannot be used as a pretext to commit a humanitarian massacre like the one in Gaza. This is the worst political and humanitarian situation in Palestine I have seen in the last 20 years. The people of Palestine live under daily threat of death and destruction, and the Palestinian political leaders are exhausted and at the end of their patience.
Thus, the S&D Group and the European Union have a responsibility and a role to play in helping both sides to come back to the peace process. The only possible way to do it is to support the efforts and strengthen the position of Mahmoud Abbas, the best peace ambassador in the Middle East.
Situation in Ukraine and state of play of EU-Russia relations
As the crisis in Ukraine has unfolded, EU-Russian relations have reached their lowest point since the end of the Cold War. We welcome the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and ask all sides to respect it. Further sanctions should be implemented only if Russia continues to escalate the crisis in Ukraine.
However, the EU should focus on supporting direct talks between Ukraine and Russia, as well as OSCE (the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe), in its efforts to assist Ukraine with regaining stability and implementing crucial political and economic reforms.
The territorial integrity of Ukraine must be respected. Russia's international partners still expect Russia to cease supporting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and to stop the flow of military equipment and soldiers through the Russian-Ukrainian border.
We are proud to welcome the S&Ds new Bureau
We are proud to welcome our new Bureau, elected on 25 June 2014. The team has a clear gender balance and reflects European diversity with members coming from the south, north, east and west of Europe, as well as from both small and larger countries.
The S&D Group’s Bureau co-ordinates its political activity. It is made up of the president, nine vice-presidents and the treasurer.
Individual vice-presidents are in charge of specific EU policy portfolios and supervise cross-committee issues.
Two others are responsible for the S&D Group’s communications and for the co-ordination of parliamentary affairs.
Situation in Iraq
The territorial advances of the jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant are extremely concerning. The internal conflict in Iraq is having serious consequences, threatening the already fragile stability of the entire region.
The number of displaced Iraqis is increasing as hostilities escalate and the major objective for the government and the army should be protecting Iraqi citizens – from all ethnic and religious groups.
A united, federal Iraq where Kurds, Sunnis and Shias are all granted their rights is the best long-term solution for Iraq and for broader regional security and stability. We call on all important regional and global players, such as the US, the EU, Iran, Turkey and Israel, to support this solution.
Situation in Ukraine (resolution to be voted on Thursday 17 July)
The current situation in Ukraine means the Ukrainian government must make sustained efforts to strengthen economic stability and the political integrity of the country. The EU must give the maximum support to the Ukrainian president’s peace plan and the initiatives for an inclusive national dialogue, as well as to the work done by the OSCE (the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe). Therefore the EU Commission and the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs should reinforce the EU’s commitment to supporting Ukraine. Russia bears a particular responsibility in helping to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine’s eastern regions.