EU reform essential before Ukraine and Moldova join bloc, MEP says – EURACTIV.com
The EU needs institutional reform before Ukraine and Moldova can join, Green MEP Daniel Freund tells EURACTIV, as EU lawmakers set out key priorities ahead of the upcoming EU elections in 2024.
“At the last Council, we made Ukraine and Moldova candidate countries, and if there is to be a viable prospect, for these countries joining the EU, we must reform the Union and prepare it to really accept these Member States while remaining able to act,” said Freund, a German MEP.
Freund believes that it is essential to face the consequences of the war in Ukraine, to accelerate the ecological transition, to defend democracy and the rule of law, to seize the opportunity to introduce transnational lists during the presidency Czech Republic and to put at the center of the electoral campaign to debate the voice of European citizens, as a lesson learned at the conference on the future of Europe.
The latter is an experiment in transnational deliberative democracy where citizens have been involved in shaping EU policies, alongside national and European politicians.
Midway through the conference, the war in Ukraine began and some of the citizens’ demands approved last May reflect their concerns about the new geopolitical landscape.
On these topics, citizens recommend becoming energy independent, accelerating the ecological transition and better equipping schools for emergency situations, such as wars and pandemics.
“Accelerate” the green transition
“The war in Ukraine and its aftermath will unfortunately continue to be very high on the agenda. We see inflation returning to the continent in a way we haven’t seen for many decades,” Freund said.
The latter is “to a large extent powered by fossil fuels at the moment”, explained the European lawmaker, adding that the transition to renewable energy is not only environmentally friendly but also economically sensible in the long term. “I think this link will be a priority on the agenda,” he said.
The energy transition can be accelerated because of the war, thinks Freund, instead of slowing down.
“If the prices are high, the incentives to switch to heat pumps, electric vehicles or installing solar cells on your roof are even stronger. The social repercussions will also be very significant,” said the MEP.
Irish MEP Ciarán Cuffe, also a member of the Greens/EFA group, also stressed the importance of a just transition.
“We have to make sure we get everyone on the path to climate action,” he told EURACTIV.
“We need to listen carefully to the most vulnerable communities, whether it’s those who are unemployed, whether it’s young people who can’t find work at first, whether it’s people living in homes they don’t can’t heat up in the winter…” Cuffe added.
Freund also stressed the need to seize the opportunity to approve the transnational lists before the next EU vote. “We need an agreement now, during the Czech Presidency, so that it can still come into force for the 2024 elections.”
The European Parliament approved a legislative report in early May to revise EU electoral law, introducing a system in which voters will have two votes.
In the first, citizens elect MEPs from their national constituency, while in the second, an additional 28 seats will see MEPs elected from an EU-wide constituency.
According to the legislative process, the report must be voted by the Council unanimously, before returning to Parliament for approval before being transmitted to the Member States.
Need to modify the treaty
“I think the European elections will be the election where we decide whether we really listen to what citizens have to say and how they want to see the future of the EU,” Freund said.
Some citizens’ proposals called for the reform of the EU treaties, such as the removal of the need for unanimity in foreign policy.
Freund said he was “rather optimistic” about the possibility of opening the treaties, as more and more governments hint that they support the opening of the treaties, a marked change from the situation of he a few years ago.
At the beginning of June, the European Parliament formally called for a treaty opening convention.
According to Article 48 of the Treaty, national governments must decide by simple majority whether they wish to open a constitutional convention.
[Edited by Benjamin Fox]