Presentation and Election of the new European Commission
The two most challenging political priorities for the next Commission are to change the direction of Europe and to finally take action to boost growth, encourage development and create new jobs.
We can proudly say we have contributed to shaping a new and different Commission which is much closer to our values. We want to bring an innovative vision of the economic and social development of Europe and also to get co-operation on all policies linked to sustainable development and the planned investment programmes.
The capacity of public investments for leveraging private funds must be a priority.
We need to bring the European Union closer to citizens, reduce bureaucracy and give a new dynamism to the institutions.
The new European Commission must work in close co-operation with the European Parliament and in the spirit of the community method, in order to give to the EU greater political impact and more visibility on EU foreign policy.
We need a new European Commission who are on the front line in all humanitarian crises, and who can guide an EU-led international response to situations like the Ebola epidemic or the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
We must ensure that European immigration and asylum policy will be based on true European solidarity in terms of real action and strength to manage the reception of refugees and immigrants. We expect the new Commission to uphold asylum-seekers' rights and promote safe and lawful access to the EU's asylum systems.
We expect the new Commission to work hard on the European neighbourhood policy and enlargement, promoting the values of the EU. The enlargement process reinforces the EU's efforts towards achieving prosperity, stability, peace and democracy. In particular, we emphasise the social dimension of both enlargement and neighbourhood policy, and we expect the new Commission to take that seriously.
Data protection and safeguarding EU laws from arbitrary dispute settlement mechanisms in trade agreements with third parties are at the heart of our concerns.
We call for more European action and co-operation in the field of research, science and innovation. It will be crucial to mobilise innovative financial instruments to fund projects which could create long-term sustainable growth and thousands of jobs in Europe.
We ask the European Commission to make sure that health and food safety will both protect and enhance equal access to healthcare, and safeguard food safety.
We need stronger guarantees with regard to net neutrality and we need more clarity about the Commission’s position and plans for action.
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.