The European elections in May are a turning point for the EU as for the first time all major European parties presented lead candidates for the post of Commission president, acting EP president Gianni told European leaders. In a speech to the European Council on 27 June, he said: “The process of lead candidates has deepened a European-wide debate about European issues,” he said. “And without doubt, via this process the EU has become closer to its citizens, more transparent and more democratic.”
Pittella urged the European leaders to back Jean-Claude Juncker for Commission president as he was the lead candidate of the strongest party family.
On 26 June European heads of state and government visited Ypres in Belgium, site of many of the bloodiest battles of 1914-1918, to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. Pittella called the commemoration a sign of how far Europe has come. “Moments like these remind us of the historic value, the raison d’être of European integration, a conquest that is threatened today and that we are called on to defend for the sake of our children.”
The acting EP president urged the leaders at the summit to act on issues such as migration, data protection and boosting economic growth. He reminded them that unemployment rates were still too high in many countries and that further reforms of European economic governance will have to ensure proper democratic accountability and the involvement of the European Parliament.
The signing of an association agreement with Ukraine, along with Moldova and Georgia, at the summit was also welcomed by Pittella, who called for a strategic review of the Eastern Partnership programme and EU relations with Russia.