Interview with EUP candidate Kati Piri: „Battles in Brussels“

In the run-up to the  elections to the European Parliament the Sektion 8 features interviews with candidates of from different social democratic parties. Kati Piri (@KatiPiri) is a candidate of the Dutch PvdA (S&D). This Interview is also available in German.

Kati Piri, Kandidatin für das Europaparlament der niederländischen PvdA

Kati Piri, Kandidatin für das Europaparlament der niederländischen PvdA

Kati, you know Brussels as the political heart of Europe and the European Parliament very well. How do you assess the current role and competences of the European Parliament and what do you think should be the Parliament’s role in European legislature and political decisionmaking?

Given the opportunities offered by the current Treaties, the European Parliament should continue to sharpen its profile as key legislator next to the Council. It has shown in the last years to be able to make a difference in areas like setting up the banking union and the measures taken to deal with the crisis in the eurozone. Looking to the future, it is important that the European Parliament keeps a dominant influence on the work programme of the European Commission, and using for that purpose also the nomination and election of the future EC President.

At the same time, and perhaps even the most important task for the European Parliament is to not get lost in interinstitutional battles in Brussels, but to make sure to connect with the European citizens. It is very worrying to see that the turnout for EP elections since the first direct elections in 1979 has been steadily declining and euroscepticism is more widespread than ever before. So there is a big challenge for the EP to re-connect with the people -especially when we consider it is the only European institution which has been directly elected by the European citizens.

In June 2013, the Dutch Government published its review on EU competences under the slogan “European where necessary, national where possible”. The paper, supported by Frans Timmermans contains 54 pointsfor „corrective action“. What is your opinion on this “Dutch list of points for action”, which was acclaimed as “attack on ‘creeping’ EU powers”?

There is an ongoing debate in the Netherlands about striking the right balance between the EU institutions and the member states. The question is about who should do what, what is the best division of tasks. I fully agree with Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans that the EU should focus on the main, most important issues that have to be tackled at the European level. Whatever can be dealt with at the local, regional or national level, should stay at that level.

The Dutch list cannot be explained as an anti-EU exercise, it actually reflects the idea ‘more EU where necessary and less where possible’. This is the principle of subsidarity: that decisions are being taken at the level that is most approriate. Less EU where possible therefore doesn’t necessarily mean that decision-making should occur at the national capital, because in given cases the local or regional level would be best -and vice versa. The Dutch social democrats strongly supported during the recent years more European cooperation in the monetary and economic area and believes that Europe should coordinate its efforts more in foreign policy.

The Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU seems to become more and more important but at the same time more and more contested. What do you think should be the European Union’s geopolitical role? What can and should the EU achieve?

The first priority for the EU must be its neighbourhood, both to the East and the South. These countries should be able to develop into stable, democratic and prosperous countries governed by the rule of law -and should be strongly supported in their efforts by the EU. In these regions, the EU is most influential and a majority of the people their welcome close cooperation with the EU.

At the same time, the EU should continue the accession negotiations with the western Balkan countries -which has already turned the region far more stable than one could imagine a mere 20 years ago. For Turkey there is still a theoretical possibility of membership, but the most recent developments in Turkey show that its current government is moving further and further away from European values and standards -e.g. the Twitter veto by PM Erdogan.

Doe the EU more and more become a military security organisation such as the NATO?

It is not to be expected that the EU will be a military security organisation like NATO any time soon. Internationally the EU can wield strong civic power. Therefore, its focus should be on the political and economical support of third countries, while opting (if possible) for dialogue processes in the time of crisis. Good examples of these „soft power“ practices are the EU initiated dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo and the Iranian disarmament talks. However, the EU’s potential for strong economic leverage should be turned into wielding more political influence.

What are the implications for development politics?

The EU is the world’s biggest development aid sponsor. It should focus its efforts on security issues, closely related to fragile states and sustainable development: the goal should be that a receiving country should emancipate from its aid relation with the EU as soon as possible. Development aid should always take into account the strenghtening of democracy and the rule of law -which is basically the only road to further development of a country.

Finally, the EU can only act strongly and legitimately on the world stage in the above described issues, if it takes its own values more seriously. The rule of law and the democratic principles should be adhered to by every Member State. In this regard the policies by Hungarian PM Orbán, which for instance seriously restrict the freedom of press, should not be without consequences. I therefore warmly welcome the recently announced policy by the European Commission to set up an internal mechanism on the rule of law and human rights in the EU member states. Because the EU will only be able to be a credible player at the world stage, if it is able to upkeep its own values internally.

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