The president of a body representing bishops in Europe has said the recent elections to the European Parliament are the “beginning of a process of renewal” of the continent’s leadership.
But Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who heads the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), also expressed “concern” at a significant increase in support for those opposed to the project of European integration.
Some of the parties recording large wins at the election “are not only populist but nationalistic and xenophobic,” Cardinal Marx said. Such positioning, he added, “is unacceptable for Christians and is a threat to the peaceful coexistence of the peoples of our continent.”
From 22 to 25 May, elections to the European Parliament were held in the European Union. The vote was the first in which the pan-European political parties fielded candidates for president of the Commission.
The center-right European People’s Party won the most seats, while in Denmark, France, and Great Britain far right groups opposed to the European Union won “unprecedented” victories. Elsewhere, populist parties won significant seats.
Roughly a quarter of all seats went to parties skeptical of the EU or protest parties.
Here below is the full text of the cardinal’s statement:
Major tasks await the newly elected European Parliament
Press Release of COMECE President Reinhard Cardinal Marx on the outcome of the European elections
A large majority of the citizens who participated in the European elections voted for pro-European candidates. In the years to come this will allow the European Parliament to continue its work for the common good of all Europeans with dedicated and competent women and men.
A matter of concern is the significant increase of support for parties which reject the project of European integration. A number of them were even able to secure a majority of votes in some Member States including France, Denmark and the United Kingdom. Some of these parties are not only populist but nationalistic and xenophobic. Such positioning is unacceptable for Christians and is a threat to the peaceful coexistence of the peoples of our continent.
The reasons for their electoral success are certainly diverse and it is still too early for a deeper analysis. Nevertheless, I believe that it will be even more important in the future to lead the debates on European issues that affect all citizens in an open and transparent way. This applies both to the elected politicians as well as to the media coverage of Europe and European politics. It may no longer be enough to make “Brussels” a scapegoat because of one’s own political discomfort. Europe is and remains, despite any criticisms on some specific points, a project of peace and reconciliation and as such is accompanied and supported positively by the Catholic Church.
The announcement of the results of the European elections is not the end but rather the beginning of the process of renewal at the top of the institutions of the European Union.
In the coming weeks, new political groups will be formed in the European Parliament and the Heads of State and Government will propose a name for the new President of the European Commission. He must then be elected and confirmed by the European Parliament together with the new European Commissioners. Finally, in the autumn of this year, the new President of the European Council will be chosen. It is my hope that the political parties and the Member States will come to an agreement on these new appointments without delay.
The programmes presented by the candidates will be a decisive element in the selection of the President of the European Commission. Prior to the European elections, in its election statement, COMECE had already set out proposals for what might be the important topics on the European agenda in the years to come. These include policies that make human dignity a holistic principle for action; a reorientation of the economy in line with the principles of the social market economy; trade agreements that serve the peoples of Europe, without losing sight of the situation on other continents, such as Africa; a dedicated fight against (especially youth) unemployment; a just and fair migration policy, which attempts to prevent disasters such as that of Lampedusa; energetic steps towards a policy of climate protection and comprehensive sustainability; the preservation of peace and security in Europe and in the neighbouring countries.
In the coming months these issues will form the basis for the continual work of COMECE in concert with the EU institutions in the framework of Article 17 of the TFEU (the “dialogue” clause). In the end it will depend on all citizens, not least committed Christians, whether the political work for achieving the common good in Europe succeeds. In Europe these efforts need to start again. I congratulate the newly elected and re-elected MEPs very warmly and wish them God’s blessing for their work. COMECE will accompany, in a critical and constructive manner, the European policy-making on the basis of the Social Doctrine of the Church and with the support of its prayers.