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2013 State of the Union Martin Schulz, EP president, speaks at the EUI | 2013 State of the Union

Martin Schulz, EP president, speaks at the EUI

Written by webunit on . Posted in SoU2013 material

Martin Schulz at the European University Institute.JPGA cross-border approach is needed in the 2014 European elections in order to restore citizens’ confidence in the EU, the European Parliament’s president has said.

“The people should have the feeling that their vote matters. The next president of the European Commission will be elected by the European Parliament and not behind closed doors by heads of government,” said European Parliament President Martin Schulz, speaking after The State of the Union conference in Florence on 9 May.

The European Commission president will be elected in July 2014, just weeks after citizens go to the polls to elect their representatives in the European Parliament.

Schulz called for national parties to take a regional approach to the upcoming elections, promoting candidates in other EU member states rather than focusing on a national campaign. “Imagine if in Italy the left-wing parties say, ‘We support an Austrian,’ and the right-wing parties say, ‘We support a Bulgarian’…That’s exactly what we need.

“We need a campaign and debate about how Europe should be organised – left-wing, right-wing, liberal, green. This is a chance not seen in the Lisbon Treaty,” he said.

Schulz’s position is part of a wider European Parliament strategy to encourage citizens to vote next year. Turnout at the last parliamentary elections in 2009 was just 43 per cent; half of Europeans think that having candidates from other EU countries could attract more voters.

The president also said that the EU must do more to help citizens understand the structure of the Union: “In an election campaign, my experience is people don’t understand what we are talking about, because of the structure of the European Union. From time to time, my feeling is that people who are working within the structures of the European Union increase this lack of understanding.”

More information about the EU’s impact on citizens’ lives would increase voter turnout, 84 per cent of Europeans said last year.

This approach is essential to regain citizens’ trust in the idea of the European Union, Schulz said. “If we create transnational sovereignty then we must create transnational democracy. In the foreseeable future the European Union needs more visibility and more accountability.”