Left to right top down: Council President H. Van Rompuy, Commission President J. M. Barroso, M. Weber (EPP, DE), G. Pittella (S&D, IT), S. Kamall (ECR, UK), G. Verhofstadt (ALDE, BE), G. Zimmer (GUE/NGL, DE), R. Harms (Greens/EFA, DE), N. Farage (EFDD, UK)
EU policy making must heed the call for change made in the European elections, said most MEPs’ group leaders in Wednesday’s debate on the outcome of the 26-27 June EU summit. Heads of state were criticised for their “business as usual” attitude at the summit in this, the first debate of the 8th legislature in the presence of European Council and Commission Presidents Herman Van Rompuy and José Manuel Barroso.
EPP group leader Manfred Weber (DE) opened up with a warning that peace in Europe should not be taken for granted. He also highlighted the "logical link" between democracy and decisions taken in the European Parliament. Underlining priorities for the years ahead, Mr Weber stressed that the EU must be open and ready to reform in order to deliver a bright future.
S&D leader Gianni Pittella (IT) said the Council's nomination of Jean Claude Juncker for Commission President was "a victory for democracy". Listing the challenges ahead, he said "We want the European Council to make the growth pact more flexible. We want practical responses to practical questions, energy infrastructure, project bonds, plus better use of, and an increase in, the EU budget. We want a reversal of growing poverty and social injustice, better protection of cross-border workers and a new immigration policy with burden sharing."
ECR leader Syed Kamall (UK) said the loser in the election was the status quo. He warned that the EU must reform now to face the challenges for the future and that this obligation to change applies to the European Parliament too. "There are still people in this house who cling to ideas of the 1950s", he said.
ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt (BE) welcomed the Mr Juncker’s nomination as a "victory for the European Parliament, democracy, and citizens". Now Mr Juncker needed to look for coalitions within the European Parliament to shape a strategy of change, and the Commission should use its right of initiative if the European Parliament asks for it, he said.
GUE/NGL leader Gabrielle Zimmer (DE) criticised heads of state for being oblivious to the elections. "People have said ‘no’ to an EU of liberalisation and drastic cuts. They want answers to the problems they are facing", she said.
Greens leader Rebecca Harms (DE) stressed that it was time to deliver the changes citizens wanted. "We tried in the last European Parliament but it did not really work out", she said. Ms Harms singled out the need to advance faster on the energy front and criticised EU leaders for showing too little ambition.
EFDD leader Nigel Farage (UK) also criticised national leaders for not changing tack despite the election. "Even the goal of ever closer union remains, although at different speeds. We need to end free movement to the UK but it will not happen unless we exit the EU. We must not get trapped inside this museum", he said.
Opening the debate, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy outlined the national leaders’ priorities for the years to come, notably a digital single market, energy policy, better balanced fiscal discipline rules, and an overarching goal of smarter regulation. He also underlined that although the years ahead would be characterised by change they should also see consolidation of what the EU does well.
Looking at the European challenges ahead, Mr Barroso said “the EU should be big on big things and small on small things" and that "the focus should be on growth and jobs". "In the past there was no lack of decisions, but sometimes there was a lack of implementation", he admitted.
On the nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker as his successor, Mr Barroso said "Juncker's European credentials and experience are beyond any doubt".