A new responsibility

The democratic debate, the answer to a European project under threat

Thomas Oppermann, Bruno Le Roux and Ettore Rosato

As the European Project seems to be more and more in need of evaluation and re-thinking, Bruno Le Roux, Thomas Oppermann and Ettore Rosato insist on the importance of reinforcing the democratic debate. The launch of the website “Progressive Europe” aims to contribute to the success of this dialogue and cooperation between the socialist and social democratic parliamentary groups in the European member states.

The decision of the British people for the Brexit on 23 June will leave its mark on the history of the continent. This event is as significant for us as the citizens of continental Europe as it is for the British citizens. Even if the referendum result to a large extent can be explained with the British tradition and history, it is a symptom of the general state of opinions among citizens in many EU member states regarding European integration. In the upcoming negotiations with the United Kingdom about its future relationship with the EU, it is of utmost importance for the EU-27 to speak with one voice and not giving in to attempts of cherry-picking. Access to the single market is only possible if the fundamental freedoms of the EU are fully respected.

However, the Brexit also undoubtedly marks the beginning of an inexorable recasting or realignment of the European project. It is up to us as socialist and social-democrat leaders to determine its course and direction.

We, the presidents of the parliamentary groups, have a new special responsibility. More than ever, it is through greater engagement in democratic discourse across our parliamentary groups that we shall be able to build bridges between the public debates in our respective countries, increase mutual understanding of the issues and interests of our partners and thus help forge robust, long-term compromises fit for the challenges we currently face.

Today, we have reached the outer limits of European integration policy, where a stronger cooperation is needed fall largely within the sovereign prerogatives of the State (budget, taxation, foreign policy and defence). These prerogatives have to be protected. At the same time, however, these competences require much more concerted cooperation. This is a fact which must now be given practical expression. To some extent, national parliaments are the missing link in the chain of European integration. They have to contribute to exercising sovereignty jointly – especially with regards to shaping the globalisation – and thus reclaiming it. At the same time, we want to intensify the cooperation with the European parliament and strengthen its role in the European decision-making process.

It is in this sprit that the ‘Progressive Europe’ website plans to work to promote the emergence of a European public space and to help socialist and social-democrat parliamentary groups to become stakeholders in the future of the European Union.

2017, which will mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, will undoubtedly be an opportunity to take stock of more than half a century of Community integration, but also and above all to forge an ever closer Union between the peoples of Europe. This is what we have set out to achieve.

Bruno Le Roux is President of Socialist, Ecological and Republican Group in the French Assemblée nationalph.

Thomas Oppermann is President of the SPD Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag.

Ettore Rosato is President of the Parliamentary Group of the Democratic Party in the Italian Camera dei Deputati.