The European Parliament was first elected through direct elections in 1979. Since then, its powers have been gradually – though only modestly and in a complex form – increased in the treaties of Maastricht, Amsterdam and Lisbon. The strengthening of the European Parliament has been a source of inspiration for other initiatives of regional parliaments especially in Latin America. Frequently, it has also been considered a suitable model for a global parliament.
A problem is that the turnout has constantly fallen in every EU election since 1979, standing at 42.61% in 2014. The European Parliament does not seem like an ideal example of a democratic body. It has been created from above by elites, not through citizen pressures. The low and falling electoral participation of the EU citizens indicates that we are not talking about a body that the people find particularly relevant for their lives. The powers of the European Parliament are not only limited but also difficult to grasp. Partly because of these lessons, I have proposed a fairly different model for a world parliament. Instead of a law-making body, the world parliament should have real powers in interpreting the international (and later cosmopolitan) law and in coordinating and framing the economic policies of various global functional organisations.
Despite its problems and limited powers, the European Parliament and its elections do matter. Even if the European Parliament does not formally possess legislative initiative, in most areas it shares legislative and budgetary powers with the Council. It can influence the election of the President of the Commission and in principle it approves or rejects the appointment of the Commission as a whole. It can also constitute a de facto ethico-political mandate to transform the Union.
In Spring 2014, I was running for the European Parliament, getting 3 628 votes (no:6 on the Left Alliance list, and no:60 on the national list). Merja Kyllönen was the only candidate elected from the Left Alliance list in Finland, getting 58 611 votes. More important than my personal success (or lack of it) was the election platform that was adopted by the Party Council on 24 November 2013. Particularly in the final phase of the process, I took actively part in writing it. A few highlights indicate the transformative nature of this platform (please note that in some cases I have tried to improve the “official” translation, which is far from perfect):
• A general Europe-wide referendum should be organised on the future development of the EU.
• The powers of the European Parliament should be increased by giving it the right to introduce legislation.
• The European Commission should be made subject to tighter parliamentary control.
• Decision-making in the European Union should be supported by new democratic bodies such as citizens’ deliberative forums, which could be delegated the right to introduce legislation or given other real powers.
• The European Central Bank should be placed under direct democratic control and guidance [my own vision: directly elected governing body, following the Senate-principle of classical federalism].
• The primary duty of the European Central Bank should be the promotion of growth and employment, and thus the EU Treaty should allow for functional central bank funding.
• Banks that are “too big to fail” should be dismantled into smaller entities or nationalised [possibly by the EU as a whole].
• The public debt of the Euro crisis countries should be reorganised and restructured in a fair manner; their impoverishment should be stopped immediately.
• A large-scale European public investment programme should be created and targeted to support ecologically sustainable infrastructure and production as well public and social services, including education and research.
• Minimum levels of salaries, social welfare benefits and working conditions and the minimum rises in these payments should be set at the European level.
• The minimum levels of taxation should be harmonised in order to stop international tax evasion and tax competition, and supranational taxes on banking should be introduced.
• There should be a general European capital tax; legislation on maximum income should be developed.
• In all member states, foreign workers should be paid salaries and wages according to the stipulations of the collective agreements in those countries. Compliance with this principle should be strictly monitored.
• Instead of strict border controls, the position of paperless immigrants should be improved as should people’s legal right to enter the European Union area; free mobility and immigration both within and outside the European Union must be promoted.
• The EU must promote global debt relief in its foreign policy.
• The Common Security and Defence Policy should not be militarised; Europe must be made free of weapons of mass destruction.
• The EU should take the place of the UK and France in the UN Security Council.
• The EU must promote a global tax on greenhouse gas emissions.
On the other hand, the platform also declares, importantly:
• If the crisis in the Eurozone or, more generally, problems of the Euro cannot be solved in a sustainable manner, a referendum should be organised in each member country and the euro should be dismantled in a controlled way.