Christophe Hansen (CSV) at the podium as Carole Thoma (Déi Lénk), Fernand Kartheiser (ADR) and Monica Semedo (DP) look on during an Amcham EU election debate, 14 May 2019
At a town hall style meeting organised by Amcham, candidates from 8 of the 10 parties fighting the European Parliament elections in Luxembourg presented their programme.
There was an inauspicious start to the European Parliament elections town hall meeting organized by the American Chamber of Commerce at the Gare HQ of ING on Tuesday 14 May. Before formal proceedings could get underway, LSAP candidate Nicolas Schmit was angered by the fact that Amcham had invited Charles Goerens, one of two DP lead candidates, to make a keynote speech before the debate. The DP was already represented on the panel by its other lead candidate Monica Semedo. Schmit clearly thought this gave the liberal party an unfair advantage--though none of the other panellists seemed to mind and the presence of Goerens had been advertised well in advance of the event.
At one point Schmit, who is hoping to be Luxembourg’s next European commissioner, told Amcham CEO Paul Schonenberg he was considering leaving if Goerens was allowed to speak. Schonenberg swiftly dealt with the problem and Goerens did not speak--but he left before the meeting began.
Moderated by Lisa Francis-Jennings, the debate began with a three-minute introduction by each candidate. Some, like Déi Lénk’s Carole Thoma and Semedo cited their personal experience of the EU and its advantages of free movement and diversity as their incentive for standing for election. Thoma said her party wants an EU “in the interests of the majority of the people” and that tackling social inequality and climate change were priority. Semedo said the DP’s vision was for a social and liberal EU that provided citizens with a chance to earn a decent minimum wage and take parental leave, for example. And she wanted to encourage more young people to travel and study and work throughout the EU. “If you live Europe, you can only love it,” she concluded.
Fernand Kartheiser of the ADR said that the choice voters faced was between a more federalist EU and a Europe of sovereign nations that can maintain their own culture and identity. “Nobody is in any doubt we have to work together to meet the challenges of today’s world, but nobody wants to lose their own identity.”
Marie-Paule Dondelinger of the Pirate Party struggled to speak in English, but explained that the Pirates thought the EU had a palpable democratic deficit and that it wanted an increase in including citizens in Europe wide decision making.
Marie-Paule Dondelinger (PiratePartei), Meris Sehovic (Déi Gréng), Julia Elisabetta Pitterman (Volt) and Nicolas Schmit (LSAP) speak at the Amcham EU election debate on 14 May 2019. Staff photo
No trade war
Christophe Hansen, who is one of three MEPs representing the CSV in the European Parliament, presented an optimistic take on the elections, explaining that positive perception of the EU was growing everywhere and was generally higher than trust in national governments. But he admitted that the EU could probably never be perfect but cited its big achievements--the single market, the euro and freedom of movement. Addressing US ambassador Randy Evans, who was in the audience, Hansen said the EU wants a good relationship with the United States. “We won’t want a trade war,” he said and cited JF Kennedy’s “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate” line.
Representing Déi Gréng, Meris Sehovic said he was running in the elections because he wanted to save the planet. He said the policies taken by the EU to tackle climate change have included too many compromises. “The next five years in the European Parliament will be crucial,” Sehovic said. He said that economy and ecology didn’t have to be mutually exclusive and that he is convinced that success will come to economies that have access to green technologies, and that opportunities to export these all over the world could be a boon to member states.
Julia Elisabetta Pitterman from Volt, the new pan-European party, said she “hoped that current and future generations will reap the benefits of a new transformation in the political sphere.” She wants citizens to take ownership of politics, and that the EU needs to improve how it tackles global issues such as affordable housing, poverty, gender inequality, homophobia, youth unemployment, lack of access to capital, lack of opportunity, the climate crisis and corruption.
Schmit, the most experienced politician on the panel, was the last to make a presentation, on behalf of the LSAP. He said that although voting for the only transnational parliament in the world was “a fantastic democratic moment”, the EU had lost one essential element, namely the trust of its citizens. Schmit cited Jacques Delors, who said that “you never fall in love with a market”, and said that the EU needs to be more than just a common market and needs a strong identity. Policies need to demonstrate that the EU cares for everybody, he said. Countering Kartheiser, Schmit concluded by saying that he had never wanted to abolish any nation. “We are proud nations, but we are also Europeans, and both go together.”