What issues does the EU need to tackle?

The EU elections start today, Thursday, with the votes in the UK and the Netherlands. According to the latest study by pan-European think tank the European Council on Foreign Relations, the economy and the rise of nationalism are the main issues on voters' minds. But Europe's press complains that the election campaigns haven't given enough attention to the issues that really matter.

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El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

What Europe should really be talking about

There has been far too little focus in the election campaign on today's most pressing issues, El Periódico de Catalunya laments:

“A look at the list of tasks the European Parliament faces (from negotiating the EU budget and the reform of asylum policy and the Schengen Area to protecting private communications) gives an idea of the import of the issues that the MEPs will have to address. Add to this the EU's internal problems (Brexit and its consequences, the rise of the far right, the democratic deficit, regulation of the Eurozone) and the big issues that can only be dealt with from a global perspective (the clearest example being climate change), and it's surprising how little focus there has been on these major debates in these European elections.”

Irish Examiner (IE) /

Climate change more dangerous than far right

The fight against climate change should have top priority in the EU, the Irish Examiner stresses:

“This week's European elections are the most important since the EU was built on the ruins of WWII. We will have to choose between business-as-usual candidates or those prepared to act immediately, forcefully, and imaginatively - and equitably - to try to minimise the looming climate catastrophe.We must choose between stasis and survival: it is that serious, that shockingly simple. Despite the Europe-wide swing to the right undermining the European project, climate collapse is the issue of our time and by far the greatest threat facing our children.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

A missed opportunity for the monetary union

Unfortunately the big issues have not been dealt with in the election campaign, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung complains:

“The state and potential reforms of the monetary union are mentioned in a few written electoral manifestos. But they hardly came up in public debates. This is surprising given that at the start of the legislative period that is now drawing to an end Greece almost catapulted itself out of the Eurozone and the entire monetary union was rocked by the debt crisis. ... This collective suppression could come back to haunt us in the next crisis. After all, Italy is still mired in a debt crisis. And the monetary union still lacks a stable foundation. The campaign for the European elections would have been an opportunity to discuss potential reforms and the future orientation of the Eurozone.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Poland ignoring the key topics

Rzeczpospolita is worried by the fact that European topics haven't found their place on Poland's election campaign agenda:

“The European elections will largely decide what the Polish parliament votes on in a few years' time, seeing as the European Parliament will have a say in shaping the EU laws that will later be implemented by the Polish parliament. Unfortunately, the Poles are among the nations bringing up the rear regarding voter turnout. In 2014 less than a quarter of those eligible actually voted for an MEP. ... Poland should fight to secure itself a place in the 'hard core' of the Union and concentrate on topics that will define Europe's future: the fight against climate change, defence and security, the digital revolution, the development of artificial intelligence and the consequences of these trends for society.”

Pravda (SK) /

Social union should not be neglected

Pravda lists several topics that should play an important role in the election campaign:

“Europe urgently needs to look for alternatives to the consumer society, which is incompatible with the limited material resources of our continent and our planet. The loudest criticism of the EU targets its bureaucratic apparatus and excessive competences. By contrast there is little talk of a social union. This should be the next stage of integration, building on the economic and monetary union.”

Alternatives économiques (FR) /

Pan-European minimum wage long overdue

Macron's Renaissance list calls for the introduction of a pan-European minimum wage, as does Germany's SPD. Unfortunately the idea has not gained widespread support, Michel Husson of Attac writes in Alternatives Économiques:

“The European elections could have been an opportunity to discuss a European minimum wage. ... I'm not talking about an absolute value, but a relative one. The idea is to define a joint European social norm that is then adjusted to the situation in each country. ... Nevertheless this project is at risk of never gaining momentum even though it would be at best a very partial response to the intrinsic inequalities in the EU - and particularly in the Eurozone. Is this due to a congenital incapacity of the European construction to overcome the logic of extreme competitiveness?”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

Climate protection instead of farm subsidies

Farm subsidies comprise over a third of the EU budget, Jyllands-Posten notes, hoping that that will change:

“In the best of all possible worlds there are no state subsidies. For the time being, however, one cannot expect the farming industry to achieve full freedom. For that reason it is crucial that Denmark, as an agrarian country, should put farming on the agenda in the European elections. Unlike our French colleagues, the Danes have never avoided a fact-based debate - not even about shifting subsidies to areas that will set the agenda in the next decades: the climate and sustainability.”

Polityka (PL) /

Citzens yearning for security

Europe's politicians need to take a significant social change into account, Polityka comments:

“Until the 1960s the citizens of Western Europe were part of a dense web of social relations that placed restrictions on them but at the same time gave them security. ... The Church provided them with rituals and spiritual development, the multi-generation family protected the people from poverty and helped when they were sick, the trade unions defended their economic interests, the big parties represented their economic interests. ... The collapse of heavy industry, the rise of the service sector and changes on the labour market have led to the disappearance of these traditional institutions. ... As individuals we have become more independent, but we have lost our sense of security and belonging.”