Helen Campbell: Creating a New Old Together

HelenCampbell2013_largeIt is important that citizens of Europe, of all ages, have a strong sense that the people they elect to the European Parliament genuinely have their interests at heart. As Europe grows, it can be a challenge for the citizens of individual Members State to maintain a strong bond with the European project. The European Parliament elections present an opportunity for citizens and prospective parliamentarians to become connected at national level while focusing on issues that affect people across the EU. While citizens must take responsibility for using their vote – a privilege that we mustn’t forget has been hard won over past centuries; those hoping to be elected must listen to and show that they hear the concerns of the electorate

The AGE manifesto, which represents the concerns of the 165 million older people in Europe, articulates clearly what we as older people want our representatives to campaign on our behalf. Developing an Age Friendly European Union will benefit all ages, as well as those fortunate enough to live into older age. Age friendly environments are about a new way of looking at the built environment, accessibility to public services, ICTs and age friendly work places; an age-friendly environment also recognizes that physical activity, participation in creativity and social connectivity are key ingredients contributing to physical and mental health into older age.

We are now presented with a new possibility, the hope of living to an older age with a better quality of life than ever before in history.

As older people, we look to our MEPs to be our partners in this enterprise; that they will insist on human rights for all ages, that they will work to ensure fairness and sustainability of our social and health protection systems and above all that they will listen to us older people whenever decisions are being made that affect us. Together we can develop a new vision of ageing that will hopefully be available for all of us – together we can create a new old.

Helen Campbell
AGE Vice-President

Le député européen : un profil idéal

Although elected in a country, MEPs represent in principle the whole Europe and are part of an organized political party at European level. They must participate in plenary sessions and working groups, which requires high availability and should normally exclude all forms of “tourism or “consolation prize”. MEPs must be dedicated to this mandate for 5 years. In essence, availability, command of English, expertise, openness, respect for citizens would be good criteria for an eligible position on the list… Let’s wait for May 2014 to see what French political parties decide. 

Bien qu’élu dans un pays, il est en principe un représentant de l’ensemble de l’Europe et s’inscrit dans un parti organisé sur le plan européen. Par exemple, Daniel Cohn Bendit  a été élu en 2009 sur une liste française.  

Il doit participer à des sessions plénières et à des groupes de travail, à Strasbourg ou à Bruxelles ce qui  impose une forte disponibilité et devrait normalement exclure tant le cumul de mandats que le mandat « touriste ou « lot de consolation » Le député européen doit être l’homme d’une seule fonction pendant 5 ans.

Il y a deux langues officielles dans les instances européennes, le français et l’anglais, mais dans un environnement de 24 langues, l’anglais est le plus communément répandu. Une bonne maitrise de cette langue, avec idéalement une troisième langue sont des plus sur le CV qui permettent de dialoguer hors séances et mieux comprendre la pensée de l’autre. C’est aussi un gain de temps et d’efficacité pour ne pas devoir attendre les traductions.

Le travail en commission est important pour l’analyse des textes et faire valoir ses points de vue. Une expertise sur un sujet qu’il soit de politique sociale, de défense, de finances … est un moyen d’affirmer une crédibilité des arguments avancés. Une présidence ou vice-présidence de groupe de travail procure au pays représenté un avantage dans l’organisation de l’ordre du jour, la maitrise des débats et des comptes rendus.

Les partis européens sont des regroupements de tendances où le consensus est de mise. L’ouverture d’esprit doit prendre l’avantage sur l’idéologie et la prise en compte du seul contexte national.

Il devrait aussi avoir le souci de rendre compte régulièrement aux électeurs de l’activité des instances européennes, Commission ou Parlement, et contribuer à l’information du citoyen et à la perception des enjeux européens.

En substance, disponibilité, maitrise de l’anglais, expertise, ouverture d’esprit, respect du citoyen seraient de bons critères pour une position éligible en tête de liste…. Attendons mai 2014 pour en savoir plus sur les choix des partis en France.

Michel Riquier

AGE France

The EP can draw its weight and credibility only from the mandate given by EU citizens’ participation at elections, says Marjan Sedmak, President of AGE Platform Europe

We can claim, without any hesitation,  that this Manifesto for European Parliament elections 2014 represents a strong message to the future MEPs about expectations and concerns of EU older citizens.

But there is much more. From the French revolution to Earl Montesquieu’s idea of division and balance of powers dominated the idea of democracy in general. In the EU, including its predecessors, for decades the councils of ministers have decided on issues that influenced daily routine of the millions of common citizens that not only were never consulted but which on many occasions were not even aware of the decisions made by ministers. And the long distance between national constituencies and high-level decision-makers behind closed door offered a lot of possibilities to the packs of lobbies without any democratic credentials to become a part of decision making processes. The syntagma of EU democratic deficit appeared in EU vocabulary.

The treaties of Maastricht and Lisbon shifted the balance of powers more in favour of EP, and it’s high time that the EU as a »meta-State« (Adam Michnik) gets  a fully operational and highly credible Parliament, both to establish a better balance of powers and to enhance the link between the EU and its citizens. More and more decisions regulating the daily routine of EU citizens are taken on EU level, and therefore it’s imperative for the EU institutions and processes to become more democratic and transparent. One of the messages we are sending with this Manifesto is in favour of supplementing representative democracy with strong elements of participatory democracy.

But there is still more. The average participation in EP elections is low, not exceeding 43 percent, and in some countries as low as 20 percent. More responsibility and better participation would not only convey higher credibility to EP, it would also be the best answer to those movements and parties which misuse the present economic and financial crises to spread anti-European slogans. They don’t have any credible program and they replace the program with provocation, cheap demagogy, hate speech and hatred against those who don’t agree with them.

87 percent of the EU citizens agree with the statement that the EU needs additional tools for the defense of human rights. There is a huge amount of work in this field for the next EP. But the EP can draw its weight and credibility only from the mandate given by EU citizens’ participation at elections. The Manifesto is trying to motivate European seniors to go to the polls but it is a collective work of tens of European older people organisations and therefore at the same time a narrative and message that should restore the enthusiasm which has for so many years accompanied the development and expansion of the European integration.

Marjan Sedmak

AGE Platform Europe, President