Political Guidelines of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group

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1 Political Guidelines of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group

2

3 Political Principles of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group Political Principles of the ECR Group submitted by the Working Group under the leadership of the ECR Group Vice-Chairman, Jan Zahradil

4 content Introduction... 5 The Way Ahead... 7 Part I: A balanced system of institutions, budgetary discipline... 8 Part II: The economy and development Part III: The social model Part IV: Europe and the world Conclusion... 18

5 Introduction The European Union must be reformed The way in which European policy has been tackling the challenges which face it, handling the problems of the European Union according to the principle of even more Europe has ended in defeat. Neither the bigger, the better nor one size fits all are valid concepts any longer. The federalist method envisioning a further strengthening of relations, over the last 50 years the driving force in the process of European integration, does not provide a long-term solution. The old post-war Schuman- Monnet concept does not fit the new challenges of the 21st century The European Union is at a crossroads, yet a large number of people still hesitate to acknowledge the fact. The federalist idea of ever closer union, which has been driving force of the European integration process for the last 50 years, has proved not to be a sustainable way forward. It has been exhausted. The responsible reaction to the current state of affairs is to find a new definition of cooperation among European nations. There is a need for a new equilibrium between powers exercised at EU level and the responsibilities of Member States. This approach should strike the right balance between ensuring the EU has the means and ability to deal with the issues that affect all Member States and protecting their national sovereignty. 5

6 Nonetheless, the intellectual momentum behind EU integration remains federalist. This situation seems unalterable since debates on the future of the EU lack courage and fail to offer a fresh approach. What is more, the conduct of EU institutions only reinforces this situation. Both the European Commission and the European Parliament have turned into self-affirming institutions, promoting their own interests and agenda at the expense of the general public. Their main effort has been to grab even more power and jurisdiction at the expense of EU member states and EU Council. Also, the number of various EU agencies has increased substantially over recent years, making EU functions even less transparent. This makes the perception and reality gap between the EU and the citizens of its member states even wider. Ever decreasing turnout in EP elections since 1979 is good evidence of this phenomenon. Public perception of the EU is rather poor. European integration is turning more and more into an elitist project barely understandable to the public. If we continue like this, the very fundamentals of the EU will be gradually undermined, unleashing protectionist and nationalist tendencies. However, the decision about how to go forward and in which direction is still before us. We face a choice between two possible approaches. The first represents more or less the status quo, with further attempts to confer national powers on Brussels, implying more central planning and a tighter grip of the EU regulatory framework under the banner of fighting the economic crisis etc. This will lead us sooner or later to deadlock. The other option is towards a more open, flexible, transparent, efficient, and accountable EU, able to provide the citizens of its Member States with a high quality of service whilst refraining from further encroaching on Member States competences. We are convinced that a new European Union strategy must consist of a return to a programme of political realism and must respond to real problems that Europeans face, instead of trying to construct for them a new life according to an utopian master plan. The ECR disagrees with the current rules of European policy, with the concurrent conviction that integration makes sense if it reflects, and makes the best of, the fundamental rules which made our continent a pillar of civilization and a dynamic source of change worldwide. If the European Union is to regain enterprise, citizens trust and international prestige, it must stand up as a free community of free nations, an equal community of States having equal rights, a common market of free enterprise, and a strong voice of traditional values. 6

7 The Way Ahead We should find the courage to present new and strong leadership that is ready to redefine the current EU paradigm and to articulate a new EU vision to prove that we are not trapped in the thinking of the past but rather that we are willing to propose positive solutions for the future. Such leadership must be facilitated with the appropriate institutional and political background. The creation of the ECR group - the genuine reformist force - in the European Parliament is the first step towards a reform of the European Union. It is an attempt to break through the political status quo in the Parliament, in response to the desire to change the workings of the European Union institutions as expressed by European voters. The Prague Declaration, on which the ECR Group was founded, has established core principles for such a realistic approach to the EU and ways in which EU should be reformed. Now is the time to continue with more detailed work. The ECR must endeavour to take forward a sound programme that is true to its founding principles. Within the European Parliament, the ECR Group should focus strongly on how it will deliver results, taking account of the electoral timetable in the countries of its members, the European Elections of 2014, and the programmes of the European Commission and the Parliament over the coming 4 years. The Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists (AECR) will advance these principles, assisting its member parties within the EU and identifying and enlisting like-minded parties in other countries. The think-tank, New Direction the Foundation for European Reform, through its research, seminars and conferences will play a key role in raising the profile of the ECR family, providing material for members and shaping the views and attitudes of governments and key opinion formers in EU member countries and beyond. The political priorities for the years ahead are threefold: 1. Demonstrate the importance and relevance of the ECR message; 2. Consolidate and widen ECR membership; 3. Maximise the electoral success of our members. This paper focuses on the role of the ECR Group and the first of these priorities. It identifies key areas of political activity on which we should focus our attention. We will then need to set out the practical steps that need to be taken the campaigns, the parliamentary work, the co-ordination of our resources in order to bring success. The Conservative Reform Programme is an opportunity to redefine cooperation between European nations and to rebalance the power at the level of the EU with the competences of the Member States. This approach should ensure the EU has the necessary means and abilities to deal with matters affecting all the Member States and, at the same time, to guarantee their national sovereignty. The Conservative Reform Programme strives for a more open, more flexible, more transparent and responsible EU, able to provide the citizens of its Member States with first-rate services without encroaching upon the competences of the Member States. The political lines set out below guide the activities of the ECR Group, aiming to facilitate change to put into practice the Conservative Reform Programme in what are, in our opinion, the most important areas of European policy. 7

8 Part I: A BALANCED SYSTEM OF INSTITUTIONS, BUDGETARY DISCIPLINE 1. THE ECR SUPPORTS EQUAL RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS OF THE EU MEMBER STATES The European Union must continue to be a community of the national states which created it. The ECR Group considers that the fundamental element of the Community idea is equality between its Member States. The internal differentiations of states into groups of small and big, rich and poor, situated in different geographic parts of continents, should be naturally respected in the implementation of the Union policy, but it must not become a pretext for according individual States a different status. Through its activities the ECR Group will defend the conviction that all the Member States are equal in their fundamental rights and obligations. To go further, the equality rule requires the support for smaller and objectively weaker countries in relation to the major Member States. We believe that the rule of equality between States has to be applied not only to the internal policy of the European Union, but also to its external activities. Within the Union this means that we cannot agree to any hegemonic orders promoted by any group of States considering themselves to be leaders of the entire Community and making known their dominant position, or unequal demands placed on different Member States concerning the fulfilment of their obligations. Whoever has assumed the obligation to meet certain criteria must discharge it and must not hide behind political power. In external relations, equality between states means that the Union as a whole and each Member State in itself must, in relation to third countries, treat equally the interests and reservations of the other partners in the Community. A course of action aiming to fragment the united European voice in the name of the particular advantages of a single Member State is unacceptable. 8

9 2. THE ECR STRIVES TO BUILD A BALANCED INSTITUTIONAL SYSTEM OF THE EUROPEAN UNION AND RELATIONS BETWEEN THE MEMBER STATES AND THE UNION BASED ON THE PRINCIPLES OF SOVEREIGNTY, SUBSIDIARITY AND PROPORTIONALITY Since the ECR Group is firmly convinced that the core of European policy will continue to be the sovereign national States, it is crucial to create an institutional system for the European Union and define the scope of its competences in conformity with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, taking into account the fact that the primary competences rest with the Member States as they have the competence to have competences. Principles of subsidiarity and proportionality should never be regarded as an instrument to increase competences of supranational structures, under the pretext of their supposed greater efficiency, but must lead to permanent guarantees that these higher levels of power are active only in those areas where necessary. Since subsidiarity consists of creating the Union from the foundations national states, we disapprove of manifestations of excessive European bureaucratic centralization and assuming positions without the possibility of democratic control on the part of society. The ECR Group will oppose all attempts of supranational structures to appropriate competences, and in particular, to exploit the economic crisis in order to exaggerate out of all proportion the role of the central institutions for market interventions that are not beneficial for further development. The ECR Group supports the role of the national parliaments and grassroots civic initiatives helping to create a system of democratic control over the policy of the European Union. Our programme believes that the system of the Community institutions must be balanced, with embodied checks and balances between intergovernmental and supranational institutions. The ECR Group holds that for transparency and the democratic character of the Union decision-making process, the voices of the national governments are of the same importance as the voices of elected MEPs, with supporting voices of European Community institution officials. No European institution should strive for hegemony within the system, and in particular, the role of the Council must not be degraded in favour of supranational institutions. 9

10 3. THE ECR SHOULD PROMOTE THE REDUCTION OF THE COSTS OF THE EU INSTITUTIONS AND FOCUS ON ECONOMY AND EFFICIENCY IN THE NEXT EU FINANCIAL FRAMEWORK The budget of the EU for 2010 estimates income of billion, drawn from its four primary sources: contributions based on VAT (11.35%) contributions based on gross national income (GNI) (75.94%) tariffs (11.55%) other sources (1.16%) The budget is capped at 1.24 per cent of EU GNI. The ECR should oppose any proposals to increase the EU budget. On the contrary, the ECR should promote more effectiveness and efficiency within the existing EU financial framework. ECR attention should focus particularly on the costs of the European Parliament. It should seek to reverse the increases in numbers of staff and aim for a significant reduction; it should seek the closure of the Parliament s information offices in Member States and beyond; and take the lead in the continuing demand for closure of the Parliament s second seat in Strasbourg. Clearly, careful thought must be given to how support on these issues can best be developed and how to refresh the message - the aim is to achieve some success rather than merely make political statements. As agriculture spending continues to account for more than 40% of the EU budget, the ECR should strongly promote the continuation of CAP reform from a production based policy to an increasingly market-oriented one. There are expectations that agriculture will receive substantially less in the next financial framework as the EU moves towards funding new priorities such as energy security, climate change, and immigration. A substantial reduction in the agricultural budget will necessitate a far broader reform of the CAP. The overriding priority for the ECR group is for a fairer CAP for new and old member states. Currently the EU-15 Member States (members prior to 2004) receive significantly more funding than countries which joined the EU subsequently. These countries remain on transitional arrangements and even by 2013 they will not be on an equal footing with the EU-15. The ECR should also concentrate on relatively less expensive but nonetheless highly symbolic cases to save money related to the work of the EP: The ECR should be a strong advocate of the one seat campaign for the EP. In the same vein, the ECR should demand the assessment of the EP information centre network in respective EU member states on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis, possibly resulting in a substantial reduction of their numbers. The ECR should promote a sound balance amongst EU institutions with special focus on the reinforced role of the EU Council, as a representative of democratically elected national governments. 10

11 Part II: THE ECONOMY AND DEVELOPMENT 1. THE ECR SHOULD ENSURE THAT TAX COMPETITION REMAINS INTACT WITHIN THE EU, AS THIS ENCOURAGES LOWER TAXATION The EU s role in taxation is still limited. Principally, it can set policy in respect of tariffs on goods entering the EU, minimum rates of VAT (and how much VAT should be charged), and minimum levels of duties on certain goods. The Union does not have a role in corporate taxation, income tax or property taxes. Nevertheless, in the field of corporate taxation there is clear pressure to act. Corporate tax levels and conditions vary greatly throughout the EU and there are ideological complaints of a race to the bottom or fiscal dumping whereby the member states with complicated taxation systems or high levels of corporate tax lose out in the contest to attract new business. For this reason they support EU action to harmonise taxation and to halt the slide in average corporate tax rates. An initial response has been to propose the creation of a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB), although owing to the unanimity requirement in EU tax legislation this is only likely to go ahead under enhanced cooperation provisions. Nevertheless, once in place a CCCTB could lead to pressure to harmonise rates as well. The ECR should vehemently oppose any steps that might imply a harmonisation of corporate tax rate in the future. Parallel to that, the ECR reaffirms its commitment to fight tax fraud and tax avoidance. A competitive tax environment in the EU and healthy tax competition amongst EU Member States must not be abused by various subjects in order to avoid paying any tax anywhere. In addition, the European Court of Justice has been playing a pro-active role in this field. There have been a number of cases in recent years where the Court has anticipated corporate taxation within the context of the single market. The ECJ is thus gradually and implicitly extending the EU s role in taxation through case law. The ECR should critically assess and draw public attention to such pro-active precedent-setting judgements of the ECJ in this field. There is also pressure from many supporters of a stronger EU to increase the budget and to introduce a enhanced system of own resources whereby the EU has its own sources of finance independent of its member states. A recent development of the EU is to focus on innovative financing, an example of which is the idea that the EU could levy a tax on financial transactions, popularly known as a Tobin tax and generally regarded as impossible to impose successfully on a unilateral basis. The ECR should be strongly opposed to the creation of any new EU budgetary own resources. 11

12 2. THE ECR SHOULD PIONEER THE COMPLETION OF THE COMMON MARKET AND SUPPORT STEPS LEADING TO LESS REGULATION The single market is undoubtedly the greatest achievement of the European integration process. The ECR has to maximise its potential for expanded trade, new business start-ups and job creation; to unleash the power of innovation in public markets with the maximum participation of small businesses to improve the quality of public services; and to accelerate the drive towards less and better regulation by improving the quality of impact assessments and more independent adjudications. Last but not least, the ECR supports the completion of the internal market aims to promote and encourage best possible practices and standards across member states, not the opposite. In practical terms this can include the following measures: improved implementation and enforcement of the rules of the single market by member states including the completion of the single market for goods and services, and the principle of mutual recognition; the implementation of the Directive on the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications and the development of an EU Professional Card; the speedy establishment of the Community Patent; and the Small Business Act, to be at the forefront of all proposals. The ECR must insist that initiatives and proposals by the European Commission do not undermine the principles of the single market and that they comply with the internal market compatibility test. The ECR should support the policy of mandatory impact assessments of EU legislation. The ECR must ensure the Commission is held more to account during the post-legislative process and for the end result of its proposals. The ECR must insist that subsidiarity and national jurisdictions must be respected when it comes to social policy as this remains largely in the domain of national governments. The ECR will not support the communitisation of social policies. However, the ECR is aware of the pressing need to introduce structural reforms to pension systems, health care, the labour market as well as education systems by member states. The ECR should assert that the so-called European social model, often cited as an example for the rest of the world, has proved unsustainable and can no longer be a reference point for others. 12

13 3. THE ECR SHOULD SUPPORT STEPS LEADING TO A COMMON ENERGY MARKET AND PROMOTE THE PRINCIPLES OF A SUSTAINABLE CLEAN ENERGY SUPPLY WITH AN EMPHASIS ON ENERGY SECURITY EU energy security is of the utmost importance for all members of the ECR. The field of energy security is one area where the EU should act in the most united and coordinated way possible in order to achieve goals of common interest. Most energy sources and key suppliers come from politically and socially unstable regions. Thus any responsibly managed and planned energy policy, both at national and EU level, must deal with grave energy supply restraints and interruptions flowing from abroad, and simultaneously plan for supply crisis management. On the global level, the decisive factors in energy security are: the changing structure of the international economy; relative economic growth in Asia; unstable energy markets potentially threatened both by global security risks and by political motivations of state-owned energy producers. The European Union still lacks an effective common energy policy. The primary reasons are: differences amongst energy mixes of member states; different views on the future role of nuclear energy; and an insufficiently interconnected energy network. The energy market in the EU is fragmented as respective states support energy monopolies or dominant national energy corporations by retaining their ownership in state hands. Thus they resist any attempts for deregulation or privatization in strategic fields for energy security (mainly extraction and distribution). The creation of a common energy market has been hampered and its liberalisation therefore remains incomplete. The ECR should support the creation of the common energy market as it would strengthen the position of member states towards major suppliers, while at the same time respecting the national specifics of energy mixes. In the argument over the completion of energy market the ECR should stand beside those who promote free competition within EU common rules and against those who support energy monopolies being authorized by state authorities. Relative energy security is very much dependent on EU-Russia relations. One of the main issues in bilateral relations is Russia s position as the main supplier of gas and oil to the EU, with some member states importing up to 100% of their resources from Gazprom. Currently Russia is developing several new infrastructure projects, most importantly the Nord Stream and South Stream, which aim to lessen Russia s dependence on transit states like the Ukraine and Belarus, but also the Baltic states and Poland. Both of these pipelines raise numerous concerns in some member states both on economic and, particularly in the case of Nord Stream, environmental grounds, and at the same time they emphasise the urgent need for the diversification of energy sources. Therefore the general policy of the ECR should aim at supporting both political and practical steps that would eventually ensure alternative supply channels to Europe - such as the Nabucco pipeline project. 13

14 Part III: THE SOCIAL MODEL 1. THE ECR EMPHASISES A VALUE OF PERSONAL LIBERTY WITH INHERENT RESPONSIBILITY, THE NEED TO SUPPORT THE FAMILY AS THE BEDROCK OF SOCIETY AND CIVIC COMMUNITIES. European society is faced with a crisis today, as manifested by demographic problems and an increase in criminality, extremism and social alienation. The effects of demographic problems on the labour market lead to a growing importance of inter-generation solidarity as the cultural basis for social peace and security. To ameliorate this difficult situation we need to return to the basic rules of European social culture resting on three pillars: the free and responsible individual, the family as the bedrock of society, and civil communities as the material for collective action. The ECR Group will endeavour to make sure that Union policies always bear in mind these three pillars, respecting the autonomy and dignity of individuals, families and communities, so that they support the traditional model of society that is a guarantee that the citizens are aware of their roots, and a guarantee of their cohesiveness, as well as creative activity. At the same time, we are convinced that the specific dimensions of the social model - healthcare system, pension system and social security - should remain strictly within Member States competences. 14

15 Part IV: EUROPE AND THE WORLD 1. THE ECR BELIEVES NATO IS THE CORNERSTONE OF EUROPEAN SECURITY AND SHALL FOSTER ITS SECTORAL COOPERATION WITH THE ESDP NATO remains a cornerstone of stability in the Euro-Atlantic region even in the post-bipolar world. The Alliance retains its pivotal role thanks to its relative political cohesion, to the steady commitment of its Member States to mutual defence, and to the common values of the transatlantic community. Last but not least, NATO s leading role has been preserved as it has retained flexibility in a wide range of capabilities mainly due to the strong military, financial, technological and personnel presence of the United States. The ECR will therefore not support any political steps and projects within the ESDP that would draw critical resources away from effective transatlantic cooperation. In the same vein, the ECR should reject European initiatives that would undermine, duplicate, and undercut NATO s military and political solidarity. However, the 21st century security environment poses new threats whose scale and demanding character could potentially divide members and weaken collective resolve in NATO. These risks are analysed in the new strategic concept and compel the Alliance to take on new challenges such as cyber-attacks, missile attacks, and risks posed by non- state actors. As a result, this implies not just broadening political consultations within NATO and making fuller use of Article 4 of the Washington Treaty, but also engaging more intensely with NATO s global partners. In the practical execution of operations this trend renders a comprehensive approach that combines military and civilian elements (a key lesson learnt in Afghanistan). At the same time we agree that NATO s traditional role, namely the defence of the territories of the Allies, was not given proper emphasis recently. Therefore we should support the right for contingency planning for those allies that wish it. In this context, we stress also that for various reasons we do not believe that the mutual assistance clause from any piece of the EU primary legislation, including Treaties, might be a viable alternative for North Atlantic Treaty Art V. Such a security environment of the 21st century requires the NATO-EU partnership to be cost-effective and based on a sensible division of labour, with the EU focused on civil tasks. The character of it will evolve and develop over time, requiring a response that includes both coercive and non-coercive elements. NATO and the EU should therefore each focus on having capabilities which respectively add the most value to common efforts to find solutions. The ECR should promote NATO-EU arrangements that are more likely to be attainable and offer a more flexible response to current security risks, fostering healthier and more trusting relationships between these two organizations that are currently evolving both in terms of functions and membership. 15

16 2. THE ECR BELIEVES THAT THE DOOR TO EUROPE MUST REMAIN OPEN FOR NEW MEMBERS AND THAT EUROPE MUST BE OPEN TO THE WORLD Europe must preserve one of its key characteristics, the ability to positively affect its geographical neighbours by stabilizing the area of neighbourhood and promoting reforms introducing rules of the free market and democracy. The European Union must never become an exclusive club of the chosen few; it must pursue a policy of openness to its further enlargement which will be transparent and will meet the set criteria. ECR Group adheres to the principle of an Open Door to Europe for all those who want, and are ready, to meet the obligations of a Member State and follow the rules of European policy. We believe that the European Union should actively develop good neighbourhood policies, including Eastern Partnership, which should turn into a strategic instrument to prepare the participants for membership of the Union. We also believe that the EU and Member States should be active in those parts of the world where their economic and political interests lie and where the processes important for the global scene are taking place. 16

17 3. THE ECR SHOULD PROMOTE EFFECTIVE CONTROLS ON IMMIGRATION Europe is too diverse for one common immigration policy. Economic and demographic structures and developments vary greatly from one country to another. For the ECR, it must be imperative that the Member States can decide whether immigrants are allowed to settle, taking into account their particular needs and capacities and that therefore there must not be a European quota system for immigrants. However, the EU is increasingly becoming one economic area, and the Schengen agreement provides for free movement of people, goods and financial flows across much of the continent. The EU should have a coordinating role and act as a point of information exchange in order to prevent individual countries undertaking actions that may adversely affect other European countries. On the other hand, combating illegal immigration must be one of the EU s main priorities for the coming years. On the ground this means more intensive controls at Europe s external borders. Border control is a competence that must remain with the Member States, but the financial and material burden must be shared and the EU must decide on binding rules for setting and managing contributions. In order to combat illegal labour, this type of activity must be penalized in all Member States. Trafficking in human beings must be actively fought by all European countries, with a strong coordinating role for the EU. The EU must use readmission agreements and a coherent visa policy to ensure the willing cooperation of the countries from where (illegal) migrants originate and transit countries. The ECR Group should support the further development of such agreements as a tool. In asylum policy, the EU and its Member States can and must do more to prevent people from becoming refugees. The EU and its Member States have a combined development aid budget which is more than half the global development aid budget. Part of this budget already goes to conflict prevention and good governance programmes. The EU will also have to commit financial resources and practical assistance to make the reception and resettlement of asylum seekers in their region of origin possible. EU member states should generously receive people who are persecuted in their own country. This must be coordinated effort, making use of best practices, with clear rules and fair procedures. 17

18 Conclusion The political lines set out above should guide the activities of the ECR Group, aiming to facilitate change to implement the Conservative Reform Programme in what are, in our opinion, the most important areas of European policy. The Conservative Reform Programme strives for a more open, more flexible, more transparent and responsible EU, able to provide the citizens of its Member States with first-rate services without encroaching upon the competences of the Member States. As our work progresses, new topical issues arise from the initiatives of other EU institutions and national governments as well as through interaction with our voters. This document will be regularly updated and revised to reflect the reality of European politics and policy. 18

19 Notes: 19

20 European Parliament Rue Wiertz ATR 07K 066 B-1047 Brussels Belgium tel.: European Parliament Allée du Printemps LOW T F Strasbourg France tel.:

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