An inventory of EP candidates: The way to a Europe for the people…or?

19. May 2014.

Should there be enough political honesty, creativity and dialogue, the EU might yet make a turn towards building a Europe-wide democratic public sphere, a sustainable development model, job security and decent employment, democratic governance of common goods and an uncompromising protection of human rights – this is the attitude of the members of the Platform 112 civil society coalition.

Therefore, in order to keep the public informed on the attitudes of the Croatian candidates for the EP, Platform 112 has staged a debate of the candidates in the Journalists’ Home in Zagreb, entitled A Different Europe is Possible! about "Pre-election activist inventory for the EU by 2020.".

A Democratic Europe: Politics for the people, not big business!

“Europe today should be a Europe for all of its citizens and be based on certain values and principles. We demand of the candidates that five years from now, higher standards of human rights protection and civil liberties are in place in every Member State – less discrimination and less xenophobia, more solidarity and protection of the most deprivileged. In doing so, special care should be given to investment in public education, protection of public space and freedom of the media and journalists, because we want a Europe governed by citizens, not corporate interests”, stressed Dragan Zelić, Executive Director of GONG, in his opening statement on the significance of A Democratic Europe: politics for people, not big business.

Croatia is well aware of what the Progress Report means, making the question of whether they endorse the introduction of such a mechanism in all Member States one of the main questions leveled at the candidates; doing would enhance the European Comission’s competences to sanction Member States who do not implement the acquis and standards of human rights protection established by the European Parliament. Judging from their respective answers, all of the candidates present consider respect for human rights to be unquestionable and support the greater involvement of citizens in EU decision-making processes in order to reduce the democratic deficit and increase the legitimacy of decision-making institutions. The candidates have also stated that they intend to protect public goods like public media and publicly-funded education, while remaining less supportive of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), currently being negotiated in secrecy by the European Commission and Washington and expected to be ratified by the EP, without intervention in the contents of the agreement, by the year’s end.

NIKOLA VULJANIĆ (representative of the Croatian Labour Party) The attained level of human rights protection is in fact the basis of the EU’s functioning. However, greater expediency is needed in advancing the protection of rights and greater participation of citizens in the EU decision-making processes. There is an imbalance between the rights of labour and capital – it is illusionary to speak of particular rights when we are all losing ground to corporations, with the media under control of the most affluent. We are against the TTIP because that sort of globalization is not how we see Europe; the EU should set an example to the United States, not the other way around.

MIRELA HOLY (representative of the ORaH Party) There is a need for a stronger control of how human rights protection is implemented and of how democratic standards are exemplified in practice. Apart from better legal provisions, raising public awareness is necessary in order to abandon xenophobia and other bad tendencies while respecting diversity. No hierarchy should be made among human rights.

OLEG VALJALO (representative of the Social Democratic Party-Croatian People’s Party-Istrian Democratic Assembly-Croatian Party of Pensioners coalition list) Preserving the standards of human rights protection is crucial, especially since they have fallen by the wayside in the last six years due to economic crises and austerity measures. Everything is being reduced to financial management. Why wouldn’t we try to introduce a tax on financial transactions? In the EPO, I will encourage discussion on how to prevent tax havens from forming. Regarding the TTIP, we will not endorse the signing of the Partnership so long as the rules are not on par with those in the EU.

MIRELA HOLY (representative of the ORaH Party) I must say I am a little surprised by this statement, since the Socialists in the EP endorse the signing of the Partnership, and in any case, the final decision is with the European Commission. We will not endorse the Partnership until it sets forth EU-level rules, as its provisions on GMO, for example, can jeopardize citizens and a number of small businesses.

RENATA ŠEPERIĆ PETAK (representative of the National Forum-Croatian Social Liberal Party-The Alliance of Primorje-Gorski Kotar-A List for Rijeka coalition list) The protection of human rights should be an imperative of the society and additional efforts are needed in the protection of asylum-seekers, online rights and referendum rights, as well as strengthening intersectoral and inter-institutional cooperation at the state level.  The TTIP is one of the EU’s greatest political challenges, as it might well undermine the foundations of the EU economy, including agriculture and sustainable development. We will not endorse the guidelines regarding the pharmaceutical industry, freedom movement of people and agriculture.

IVAN SABLIĆ (representative of the Croatian Democratic Union-Croatian Peasants’ Party-Croatian Party of Rights “Dr. Ante Starčević”-Pensioners Together Block-Democratic Party of Zagorje-Croatian Christian-Democratic Party coalition list) The rights of the socially endangered should be stressed and responsibility towards human rights protection should be present both at the EU and at the national level. Civic dialogue and transparency should remain priority areas, as EU functioning begins at the local level. The TTIP should provide for EU-level protection of rights.


source: gong.hr

A Social Europe: Investing in social security and education as a solution, not a cost!

“Today, the EU is faced with the lowest employment rates since the financial crisis began, poverty and social exclusion are on the rise as a result of the worsening labour market situation and limited effectiveness of welfare protection“, warned Darko Šeperić, Advisor for European Affairs of the Union of Autonomous Trade Unions of Croatia, stating further that “a financial market reform is necessary to turn Europe in the direction of sustainable development. Social policies are becoming increasingly important and necessary. The state is losing its power to regulate the market effectively and social protection and solidarity mechanisms are not in place, leading to increasing insecurity. Instead of rivalry, we need common solutions”. Apart from the existing measurements, such as the Youth Guarantee, the trade unions advocate a total change of direction – a new social contract, which would reduce the need to maintain a state of deficit, lead to re-industrialization, introduction of the minimum guaranteed income and strengthening of social indicators, with the exclusion of education from “expenses” for the purposes of the European Semester deficit calculation.

RENATA ŠEPERIĆ PETAK (representative of the National Forum-Croatian Social Liberal Party-The Alliance of Primorje-Gorski Kotar-A List for Rijeka coalition list) Austerity based on professors and teachers is pointless, as continuing investments in education and science are necessary. The employment of educated young people through structural and cohesion funds is our priority, as is putting the state property to good use. Freedom of movement is an important issue and we are especially worried about the prospects of young people without educational qualifications. Regarding the austerity measures, there is the possibility of alternative savings measures, such as holding EP sessions in one location only. We oppose the reduction of the minimum salary and introduction of new taxes. Apart from the young, people older than 50 should be prepared for the market as well, as lifelong learning and minimum crediting are necessary.

OLEG VALJALO (representative of the Social Democratic Party-Croatian People’s Party-Istrian Democratic Assembly-Croatian Party of Pensioners coalition list) Europe 2020 will remain a dead letter and the austerity measures will do no good. We need to tax financial transactions and combat tax havens, which would in turn lead to budget increases. The Youth Guarantee is insufficient and youth education must be excluded from the deficit calculation.

MIRELA HOLY (representative of the ORaH Party) We fully endorse the trade unions’ proposal and wish to foster new employment in the “green” sector, which tend to employ more people than some unsustainable industries, as well as youth employment, with the introduction of traditional collective agreements and minimum salary throughout the EU. In addition, the young should be the target group of an integral – instead of partial – policy, one that encourages their participation in political life. Without respect for social justice, there is no sustainable development in the EU; we support the decrease of tax burden on labour and an increase in taxation of capital and financial transactions.

NIKOLA VULJANIĆ (representative of the Croatian Labour Party) If the EU continues along this course, there will be an explosion. It is not true that the welfare state has died, as the elites would have us believe – it was stolen from us. The cake is still there, such as it is, but someone has taken off with too big of a slice. Common criteria need to be set and the Youth Guarantee significantly enhanced; in fact, the EU needs a People Guarantee. My grandmother taught me that you should save up when you have something to spare, not when you don’t.

IVAN SABLIĆ (representative of the Croatian Democratic Union-Croatian Peasants’ Party-Croatian Party of Rights “Dr. Ante Starčević”-Pensioners Together Block-Democratic Party of Zagorje-Croatian Christian-Democratic Party coalition list) We support social dialogue and learning from other EU Member States’ practices and, as a measure, shorter working hours. We need re-industrialization, the use of EU funds, increasing competencies for entrepreneurship and preparation of young people for the labour market upon leaving school.


source: gong.hr

A Green Europe: Protecting the environment and public goods as means to sustainable development

Europe needs a new energy and fiscal policy, with goals for renewable energy sources, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency in place up to the year 2030, along with an orientation towards innovation in natural resource management by communities and public utility companies. “Up to this day, Croatia has been quite passive in these areas, preferring instead to follow the example of other Member States’ policies as a ‘small country’. However, this is no way to govern natural resources, especially considering non-transparently governed utility companies and the overall trend of international organizations and lobbies proposing privatization with the expressed goal of increasing efficiency, even though experience proves otherwise”, warned Enes Čerimagić of the Green Forum CSO coalition.

Namely, it is a goal of the EU to maintain the average temperature rise at less than two degrees Celsius, which is why the European Commission proposes a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, although a large proportion of MEPs consider this goal to be insufficient and major environmental organizations propose the goal to be a reduction by 55-60 percent. In addition, in the last year a total of 2 million EU citizens have demanded that the right to access to water be guaranteed to EU citizens and that governing of water resources be exempt from business management. How the prospective MEPs feel about these issues:

NIKOLA VULJANIĆ (representative of the Croatian Labour Party) we endorse a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions because the resources we have are not ours to drain; we also oppose the privatization of public goods in Croatia and the EU, as they belong to all citizens and cannot be subject to commercial exploitation. However, these should be a compromise – that magic word in the EP – at the EU level between ambitious goals and realistic possibilities.

MIRELA HOLY (representative of the ORaH Party) we are opposed to the privatization of resources in an absolute sense, and consider that the reduction in emissions should be much more ambitious, in the range of 35 percent by 2020, although we know that this will not be easy to attain.

RENATA ŠEPERIĆ PETAK (representative of the National Forum-Croatian Social Liberal Party-The Alliance of Primorje-Gorski Kotar-A List for Rijeka coalition list) We oppose the privatization of public goods and are especially unhappy with the way concessions are managed.

OLEG VALJALO (representative of the Social Democratic Party-Croatian People’s Party-Istrian Democratic Assembly-Croatian Party of Pensioners coalition list) I do not support privatization as a primary instrument, but the issue of who governs is no less important than the question how it is done.

IVAN SABLIĆ (representative of the Croatian Democratic Union-Croatian Peasants’ Party-Croatian Party of Rights “Dr. Ante Starčević”-Pensioners Together Block-Democratic Party of Zagorje-Croatian Christian-Democratic Party coalition list) The objective is to reduce emissions by 2020, to which end we oppose the construction of power plants on agricultural terrain and investment in solars.

MIRELA HOLY (representative of the ORaH Party) Interestingly, this too surprises me, because that attitude is in contrast to that of the European People’s Party (EPP).


source:gong.hr

Culture as a common good and component of sustainable development

 “Institutions of the EU, and the European Parliament in particular, must make a fundamental turn and actively develop the EU as a political project based on culture and learning, in response to structural problems which are not only financial and economic in nature, but also political, social and cultural. Not only economic, but also social and cultural development must become a priority and a strategic necessity, the fourth pillar of sustainable development”, stated Emina Višnić of Culture Action Europe, in her remarks on “culture as a common good and component of sustainable development”.

RENATA ŠEPERIĆ PETAK (representative of the National Forum-Croatian Social Liberal Party-The Alliance of Primorje-Gorski Kotar-A List for Rijeka coalition list) Stressing the use of EU funds in lieu of culture is unacceptable; multilingualism, multiculturalism and the media are especially pertinent issues.

NIKOLA VULJANIĆ (representative of the Croatian Labour Party) There are two ways out of the crisis: reorganizing the society so that it enables a decent living or the radical way of finding a common enemy. We support the reorganization of society in such a way that cultural rights are equal to all other rights. Multiculturalism is one of the key aspects of Europe and it is not dead.

MIRELA HOLY (representative of the ORaH Party) Introducing culture as the fourth pillar of the sustainable development concept is a commendable initiative and an issue that relates directly to the issue of migrations and certain cultural imbalances in Europe. Therefore, expanding the definition of culture with its social aspect in mind is necessary.

IVAN SABLIĆ (representative of the Croatian Democratic Union-Croatian Peasants’ Party-Croatian Party of Rights “Dr. Ante Starčević”-Pensioners Together Block-Democratic Party of Zagorje-Croatian Christian-Democratic Party coalition list) We support the concept of culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development, since the level of political communication in the Croatian public must be raised.

OLEG VALJALO (representative of the Social Democratic Party-Croatian People’s Party-Istrian Democratic Assembly-Croatian Party of Pensioners coalition list) Culture has always been among the first sectors to suffer budgetary cuts, but Croatia has too much to show for this to be an option.


source: gong.hr

A Europe of human rights – migration policies protecting people, not borders!

“The message of the Platform 112 can be summed up as this: protect people, not borders! It will be interesting to see the direction that that migrations and asylum-seeking debate will take because it has taken a turn towards populism and restrictions where it needs to be returned to serious discourse. Regarding foreign policy, EU is a major donor and has managed to maintain that position throughout the latest budgetary process, but the question of how we spend those funds and how we manage or fail to address the issues of migrations remains”, stated Gordan Bosanac of the Centre for Peace Studies, warning also of the hate speech that tends to surface when minorities are discussed and reminding of the issue of further EU enlargement. The introduction of Civic Education in schools is an unavoidable issue, one endorsed by all of the candidates present except for Sablić, who does not support it in its proposed form.

IVAN SABLIĆ (representative of the Croatian Democratic Union-Croatian Peasants’ Party-Croatian Party of Rights “Dr. Ante Starčević”-Pensioners Together Block-Democratic Party of Zagorje-Croatian Christian-Democratic Party coalition list) Hate speech should absolutely be sanctioned, while funding would be better used to monitor oversea refugees and educate people in the EU with high immigration rates. Regarding EU enlargement, we endorse it, but with every prospective Member State fulfilling all conditions for accession.

RENATA ŠEPERIĆ PETAK (representative of the National Forum-Croatian Social Liberal Party-The Alliance of Primorje-Gorski Kotar-A List for Rijeka coalition list) We shouldn’t limit ourselves to the declarative level when we discuss hate speech. It should be punished with the goal of preventing hate speech from the elementary school level onwards, while bearing in mind that immigrants are usually the first to be targeted by discourse of hate. We are facing an adaptation of everyone who would choose to live in Croatia; we need official immigration paths into Croatia and a policy of immigrant integration, not segregation. We also support the enlargement policy not only for the countries in the region, but also in other prospective Member States, such as Turkey. Peace is priceless and we must do our utmost to help our neighbors in EU accession.

MIRELA HOLY (representative of the ORaH Party) I oppose hate speech strongly; law enforcement institutions must be pressed to sanction hate speech stringently, especially when it is used by public figures. Rules for accession must be respected when considering EU enlargement.

NIKOLA VULJANIĆ (representative of the Croatian Labour Party) Hate speech is the first step to violence, which is why prevention is crucial, especially among children. Everyone has the right to EU membership.


source: gong.hr

Grading the “dress rehearsal” before Sunday, May 25…

The citizens will judge how specific the EP candidates were regarding their attitudes and future actions; anything can be said in the course of a political campaign, which is why subsequent actions speak much more clearly. In the meantime, members of the jury – consisting of Sara Lalić of the Centre for Peace Studies, Luko Brailo, President of the Central Committee of the Croatian Journalists’ Association and Member of the GONG Council, and Helena Puljiz, Foreign Policy Editor at tportal –gave their remarks.

Lalić expressed satisfaction with the absence of hate speech in this campaign and concluded that “the citizens themselves have demonstrated a level of solidarity which crosses boundaries and state borders; I fell that this is precisely the Croatia and EU we want to see every day.”

Brailo warned that he would like to hear more not only about a green, but also a blue Europe and stressed the importance of preserving public media as a platform that the citizens will be able to use to express their grievances.

“This debate has demonstrated all the weaknesses of the campaign”, summarized Puljiz, warning of a lack of contents and their clear communication on part of the candidates, but commending the candidates’ attitudes toward education. She went on to say that Valjalo’s statements couldn’t be used for so much as a heading, while Holy and Šeperić Petak gave the most concrete responses and Vuljanić has demonstrated all the qualities of an experienced MEP. Regarding Sablić, she warned that “it is a sad state of affairs that the Croatian Democratic Union, declaratively endorsing a greater participation of citizens in decision-making processes, opposes Civic Education in schools, as citizens unaware of their rights can hardly be expected to participate“.

Video of the debate is available here (on Croatian):

YouTube video

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