The European Parliament Elections 2004 provide a valuable opportunity for having a democratic debate about what kind of European Union we want. A European Union close to its people must not only be about economics and technical regulations but must be based on social values and democratic participation.
The Elections come at an important moment in European history with the Enlargement of the European Union to a Union of 25 and in the process of establishing a Constitutional Treaty for the European Union.
These elections also come at a time when the influence of the European Parliament in decision making has strengthened vis-à-vis the other two major European Union Institutions: the European Commission and the Council of the European Union. The outcome of the elections will have a strong bearing on the establishment of the next European Commission and in particular the choice of President of the Commission.
In the period of tenure of the present Parliament important steps were taken regarding the fight against poverty and social exclusion, including the adoption of an EU strategy for Social Inclusion, based on National Action Plans for Inclusion. Yet despite this progress, more that 55 million people, in the EU of 15 Member States and many millions more in the new Member States, live their lives facing poverty and social exclusion. The Members of the European Parliament, as the representatives of all the people, must ensure that they also represent and defend the interests of these citizens and residents in the EU. To achieve this it is clear that social solidarity and the fight against poverty and social exclusion must be moved higher up the agenda of the EU.
EAPN will seek to be active and make visible a debate on social solidarity in the context of the European Union election campaign and in particular the contribution that the European Union can make to the eradication of poverty and social exclusion.