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Editorial – EU / Elections 2014: decision-time

European citizens will go to the polls on 25 May to elect 751 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in Strasbourg. These MEPs will represent over 500 million citizens in 28 Member States. It is important to choose those candidates whose main concern is developing a Europe of solidarity and fairness.

The Eurobarometer survey carried out every six months on behalf of the European Commission shows alarming figures. The percentage of citizens that have lost confidence in the European Parliament is currently 8 percentage points higher than the percentage of those, that instead, still trust the EU institution. Only a few years ago European institutions’ supporters were 30% more than those people contrary to common policies and institutions. Even greater is people’s loss of confidence in the Commission, the Council and especially the European Central Bank.

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Yet, in Brussels, the destiny of half a billion people in 28 countries will be decided next May. Responsible voting is necessary to make sensible choices of lists and candidates.
Voting on 25 May is the only tool we have to indicate a new path for a different Europe: a Europe conceived as an instrument of equality, common goods, hospitality, solidarity and peace.
As missionaries operating in many parts of the world, who care about millions of people’s existence, especially the poorest and forgotten, we believe that the representatives elected in Strasbourg and Brussels should have among their main concerns at least five major issues: the EPA (Economic Partnership Agreements), peace, arms trade, immigration and international cooperation.

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– The EU wants to force ACP countries (Africa, Caribbean, Pacific) to sign EPAs, in order to remove protectionist barriers in the name of free trade. African nations, by reducing or eliminating duties and opening up to competition, would allow European agricultural products, sold at low cost because supported by public funding, to invade their markets, with potentially dramatic consequences. The EPAs need to be reviewed.

– In order to find its way out of crisis, Brussels intends to boost the EU weapons production. The goal is making the arms industry a key sector for the EU economy’s relaunch, (Europe’s defense industry achieved a turnover of 96 billion euros in 2012 alone). This would make Europe subjugated to those big holding companies involved in the arms sector. That would be unacceptable for those people that believe in dialogue and disarmament instead of tension and hostility. Ukraine’s case is a warning to all countries.

– Peace is not just absence of war, it is a culture of solidarity, tolerance, respect for beliefs. Pope Francis’s messages often remind us that: “Peace must be a common good, shared with everyone. Peace can be achieved and joined by everybody, only if everyone is determined to commit oneself to the common good”.

– With regard to immigration issues, the Dublin Regulation must be reformed immediately. The above mentioned Regulation determines the state responsible (of all EU member states) for examining an application for asylum after a refugee’s entry. The Dublin regulation, introduced in 2003, is inadequate to guarantee refugees rights. Europe must show that hospitality is one among its founding principles.

– The standardization of European laws and policies would facilitate international cooperation. Europe is the biggest donor to Africa. But most of the times, the efforts made, do not achieve important results because of lack of coordination among EU countries.

Spotting the right candidates that really care about these issues, is already a start for a change. North-South economics, peace, arms trade, migrants, international cooperation. Five themes to guide our 25 May vote.

The editor

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