This week and last week the European Parliament has been holding hearings for all those who hope to be part of the next College of the European Commissioners. It has been an interesting process and at times a little bit like a political beauty contest… The new European Commission has been restructured to try and bring the connections between the economy, social wellbeing, and environmental sustainability closer together – all very admirable. However, the policies being presented are not really matching this ambition. There have been no proposals on how to truly reform the economy so that it works for people or look at how economic decisions have a detrimental impact on some of the most vulnerable in our societies.
I imagine it a little like a jigsaw puzzle of 3 pieces – except currently none of the pieces fit together as they all come from different puzzles. Until we are trying to build the same picture the pieces will never fit together. To me that is the bigger challenge of this new Commission. What is their vision for the people of Europe – the ‘picture’ they want to create? It is not about the Union itself (a powerful international player etc. etc. – we have heard all of this before) but for the people living in the territory of the Union. Many of the candidates for the Commission have talked about visiting all the capitals of Europe – but what about visiting the peripheral areas – the areas where traditional industries will face major challenges to undergo a green transition – what about visiting the inner-city areas where social exclusion and disaffection give rise to radicalisation and discriminatory politics among young people ? What about visiting the social and health care services that are struggling to provide quality care because austerity policies are still in place? Why not meet regularly with civil society and faith-based organisations such as Eurodiaconia and our members to understand the reality of life in Europe today?
This week in Oslo there has been a great example of how to reshape and re-create our picture of Europe in co-operation with Diaconia. Our Urban Areas Network has been meeting and looking at how stronger social engagement can prevent radicalisation and terrorism. The focus is on the people who are at risk and the people and organisations who can work positively with them. One of the speakers said “Trust in democracy is what we want to see. People want to struggle for something rather than against something.” Will the new European Commission give us a vision for Europe we can struggle for? Watch this space!
Have a good weekend,