‘Shaping the next five years in Europe, the European Elections 2009′ is the title of the stateent from the Standing Committee of the Irish Bishops’ Conference.
To vote is a concrete way of fulfilling the Gospel challenge to serve our neighbour
MEPs should promote respect for freedom of religion and religious expression as a fundamental right and a defining value of the Union
In the Republic of Ireland citizens will vote in both the European and local elections on 5 June. In the European elections they will return twelve members to the European Parliament (MEPs). In Northern Ireland three MEPs will be elected on 4 June.
Citizens in all twenty-seven member states of the European Union will have the opportunity to elect a new European Parliament from 4-7 June next. The final results EU wide will be known on 8 June.
The work of the European Parliament will have important consequences for every citizen and State within the European Union. Voting in these elections is a civic duty. Going to the polling station and voting is a key action in shaping tomorrow’s Europe.
On 14 July the newly elected MEPs will convene in Plenary session to elect the President and Vice-Presidents of the Parliament and appoint the numerous committees and delegations where, as our elected Euro parliamentarians, they exercise most of their influence and responsibilities.
In voting it is important to keep in mind the range of critical issues those elected to the European Parliament will be able to influence.
The First Tasks of the newly elected European Parliament
The Parliament’s first major legislative challenge will be to debate and amend a proposal by the European Commission (to be issued at the end of May) for a stronger and better regulation of financial markets. Insufficient regulation of financial industries allowed a culture of greed and irresponsible financial decision-making to grow over the past several years; this ultimately led to the current financial and economic crisis. It is the responsibility of the next European Parliament together with the other EU institutions to re-establish sound principles for the dealings of banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions.
In the second half of the first year of its mandate the European Parliament will elaborate a new strategy for the European economy. The current economic crisis, with its loss of jobs and bitter consequences for families and individual citizens, shows how crucial it is to devise a coherent and viable plan for job creation in Europe as well as in the emerging economies.
From June 2009 until June 2014
Other issues on the agenda for the next mandate of the European Parliament include European laws in the area of migration, the protection of the environment and research policy. In these areas in particular we urge the new MEPs to act out of respect for the dignity of every person and for God’s creation.
Likewise over the next five years major decisions have to be taken regarding the revision of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and the perspectives which set out the framework of the next EU Budget from 2014.
This overview shows the importance of the forthcoming mandate of the European Parliament for our future and for the future of Europe as a whole.
Given the role of the European Union at the international level, especially in the areas of trade, development aid and climate change, the outcome of this election will impact on the lives of millions of citizens around the world, especially the poorest.
Respecting the Christian contribution to Europe and the Right to Religious Freedom
The newly elected MEPs will need the political competence and skills necessary to deal with the above mentioned challenges. They will need the qualities of mind and heart to work in the multi-cultural, multi-lingual and politically diversified environment of the EU and its institutions.
This includes giving full recognition to the contribution of Christianity to the construction and values of the European Union and to the importance of religious faith in the lives of its citizens.
MEPs should promote respect for freedom of religion and freedom of religious expression as a fundamental right and a defining value of the Union. They should hold strong convictions on promoting respect for human dignity, upholding the right to life and the rights of the family. They should be committed to shaping a political order that provides justice to everyone, especially the poorest.
It is on these political, personal and moral criteria that candidates should be selected to “serve the common good, one of the essential and indispensable goals of political authority.”
The significance of voting
As Catholic bishops we encourage Catholic citizens and all fellow citizens to vote in the forthcoming European elections and to encourage others to do so. Participation in these elections was low in the past. The European Union is an integral dimension of our national life and governance. The European Parliament is the voice of the citizens in its decision-making processes. It is the right and responsibility of every citizen to shape it.
We all share responsibility for Europe, for the quality of life of its citizens, for its future policies and its role in the world. Every vote counts. To ignore this is a failure to serve ourselves, our neighbour and our children. To vote is a concrete way of fulfilling the Gospel challenge to serve our neighbour.