EU elections: now more than ever, people and the planet must come first

European Parliament building
Blog by Evelien van Roemburg, Oxfam EU Head of Office
Publié: 10th juin 2024

Europe faces a shift in the political landscape, marked by a rise of far-right and euro-sceptic political parties. While the next few weeks may see some political jostling, centrist parties are set to hold their majority. However, the European Parliament will likely see more fragmentation and less consensus building, as the increase of the far-right will lead to a focus on short-term, self-serving agendas or even political gridlock. But we cannot let that happen. There is simply too much at stake.   

While these elections are widely touted as being about national politics and protest votes, we cannot forget that many of the issues we face every day are only solvable through a strong, resilient and socially just European Union. Despite the new balance of power in the European Parliament, working together, not apart, is key to address the issues facing Europeans, such as a just economy that leaves no one behind, the climate crisis and managing migration in a way that puts human rights first. 

The economy. Inflation has surged to unprecedented levels in Europe, and inequality is rife. Since 2020, 99% of the EU’s population has become poorer, while the five richest billionaires in the EU have increased their wealth by 76%, at an astonishing rate of 5.7 million euros per hour. It is clear as day: while most of us are pinching pennies, there are some profiting off crises. Yet, EU governments do not tax Europe’s wealthiest fairly. As a result, European societies are missing out on 33 million euros an hour in unpaid taxes from Europe’s multimillionaires. Governments can no longer excuse their ‘lack of funds’ for not tackling poverty. The money they need is in the pockets of the super-rich. 

Climate. This vote is not a backlash against the European Green Deal. While farmers are out on the streets, so are people demanding climate action. We need to urgently stop the climate crisis, while also changing agricultural policies and commercial practices in order to eradicate food insecurity and guarantee a living income for farmers across the world, including European farmers. Climate. Inequality. Hunger. It’s all the same fight. 

We do not have the luxury to ignore the climate crisis. It will not ignore us either. The recent floods in Germany, as well as the scorching heatwaves and droughts seen in Europe last year, are a harrowing reminder of the urgency we face. Europe must be a leader in the fight against the climate crisis and work together with other countries to ensure we save our planet. 

Human Rights. In recent years, the EU and EU countries have undermined the EU’s treaties by exporting arms to countries that violate human rights and applying double standards to clear violations of international humanitarian law. This has eroded the EU’s credibility globally. The next mandate needs to take a different turn - it should be obvious that the EU must uphold the rule of law, human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL) in all its external action to avoid exacerbating conflict and risking complicity in crimes under international law, such as those in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

How Europe spends aid. Europe’s reputation as a principled donor is at risk. Humanitarian aid - meant to save lives and help disaster survivors get back on their feet – faces a global funding gap of nearly €30 billion. Development aid – which is for lifting people out of poverty - is becoming increasingly transactional as the EU prioritises its own geopolitical and economic interests and relies more and more on the private sector. This top-down approach ignores those in need and threatens to destroy decades of progress. The new Commission must urgently reconsider this pivot towards a flawed design and instead work together with civil society to ensure the impact of the EU’s external action is effective.

Migration. Let us not be fooled, the EU’s migration pact was not ‘historic’. The EU squandered the opportunity to make better rules to manage migration and asylum in Europe, instead opting to rely on striking up dubious deals with non-EU countries to outsource Europe’s responsibility for migration. The new Parliament looks set to continue in this fashion, failing to recognise that arrivals to Europe will not be limited as long as there is forced displacement, in and around Europe. With more than 80% of all refugees worldwide being hosted in low- and middle-income countries, Europe should instead up its responsibility-sharing. It should also use its development funding for what it’s meant: to end poverty and boost partner countries’ economies, not to end migration and boost borders.

As we wait for the next stages of the formation of the EU, let us keep these points in mind. Europe’s future cannot be built on policies underpinned by short-termism, insularism nor denial. Our EU leaders must face challenges head-on and create a future that puts people and the planet first.