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Flemish political pundits debate on EU elections and their policy roadmap beyond June

, by Nico Segers

On 28th April, Leuven was not only the scene of an EU education summit (following-up the Bologna process), but also the venue of a cross-party debate between six representatives of mainstream Flemish political parties. JEF Leuven, the Europe Direct office of Flemish Brabant and the Association for International Relations Leuven (KIB) joined their efforts to arrange this vivid debate setting.

authors

  • Co-chair of PC3 External Affairs & Global Governance, JEF Europe. Member of JEF Belgium and Board Member of YATA Belgium

Amongst the six speakers, Saïd el Khadraoui (SP.A) was allowed to open the floor. He promptly moved to indicate the variation in importance between local, regional and European politics. The debate remained rather balanced and non-provocative for the first half, as Jean-Luc Dehaene (CD&V), Bart Staes (Groen!) and Gwendolyne Rutten (Open VLD) debated on the ‘added value’ of the European Parliament as a responsive (and responsible?) institution to act on the ongoing crisis. Eventually, a serious deal of rhetoric clashes did submerge from the arena. First between Staes and Derk-Jan Eppink (Lijst Dedecker), but even more evidently when far-right polemic arguments about EU legislation on future immigration had Philip Claes (Vlaams Belang) isolating himself from the other politicians. When the lack of responsiveness by José-Manuel Barroso was brought up, and was coupled to the question whether other and stronger candidates would be better to replace him, Mr. Dehaene simply circumvented the trap by stating that an ‘implied preference for Barroso was not a centrepiece of the debate’. When he also warned against unpremeditated mythmaking – specifically of the European founding father Jacques Delors – he was promptly accused by liberal Mrs. Rutten of being complacent about EU policymaking, ‘giving proof of succumbing to sceptic fatalism’. Mr. Eppink followed suit in the attack as he confronted Mr. Dehaene with an old quote of the CD&V heavyweight as he ‘used to feel on the verge of a burnout and perceiving his presence in the parliament to be often of little use’. Mr. Dehaene afterwards fiddled a rather moderate ‘allegro’ in respect of heavy tones of criticism on the Commission’s purpose, in an effort to ‘correct’ his fellow panellists’ anti-Commission sentiments.

One would expect the extreme right and extreme left to favour a sceptic and accusing perspective, but such sentiments did not dominate the debate.

In the current context of malaise, one would expect the extreme right and extreme left to favour a sceptic and accusing perspective, but such sentiments did not dominate the debate. In fact, another rather brave statement made by Mrs. Rutten, was that no liberal in the EP could be considered to be eurosceptical. One quite memorable argument, was that the EU should make an immediate jumpstart and further push for affirmative action to reverse the effects of climate change (i.e. lowering the carbon-output of human consumption and traffic, encompassed by improving waste management), before the ambitious plans of U.S. Foreign Secretary Clinton would set a scenario where Europe’s limping behind in its efforts. Where the U.S. lacks legislative and factual initiative, Europe already has an established ‘legacy’ in paving the elementary steps to achieve a sustainable ecological-economical balance.

But nonetheless, certain barriers in terms of drawing on renewable energy resources (the 30% mark is for Belgium unattainable if one surveys the plain geophysical conditions, argued Mr. Staes), migration and the borders of Europe (Turkey’s accession being in a prolonged stall, due to a lack of resolve to remove human rights violations) still remain. For sure, it’s up to the citizen to decide which party constituents or representatives should take the lead in n ambitious, long-term and (above all) harmonious reform of the EU, and its larger role in the world, at the June elections.

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Image: Leuven University, source: google images

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  • On 15 May 2009 at 15:33, by EMI Replying to: Flemish political pundits debate on EU elections and their policy roadmap beyond June

    The European Movement and Euronews collaborate within the project “Questions for Europe” that encourages Parliamentary election candidates to answer questions addressed by citizens via YouTube.

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