A progressive Europe
In December 2015, a Danish referendum rejected converting the country’s opt-out on the EU’s home and justice rules into a case-by-case opt-in scheme. Since then it has become increasingly clear that we need a far more comprehensive and balanced EU-debate in Denmark. There is a need for easily accessible information about EU-level policy issues, as well as an increased effort to strengthen the EU’s democratic legitimacy. As Uffe Elbæk, political leader of The Alternative said on the evening of the vote: “The result is a wake-up call for us politicians. It’s about time we show the courage to debate our visions for the EU.”
We believe it is necessary that we move away from the oversimplified division between the ‘yes-side’ and ‘no-side’ as it leaves no room for nuances and details. Within that oversimplified framework there is a risk that we neglect acknowledging the great accomplishments of the European integration, and miss the opportunity to put forth our vision for the EU. After all, the only alternative to the EU is a better EU.
The Alternative wants to create a progressive and solidary EU. This is why we want to strengthen the EU from within and from the bottom up. We frequently organize citizens’ meetings, debates and “political labs” in order to develop our EU- and foreign policy.
At the same time, we want to extend our engagement at the European level, and actively take part in the all-European debate so that we can find common solutions to our shared European problems. Therefore, we keep on strengthening our cooperation with other progressive forces and initiatives, such as the new progressive movement DiEM25.
Our EU-vision: Together we can create a better Europe
The Alternative’s overriding vision is to further develop the European integration so that it becomes more sustainable, socially juster, and more democratic. EU structures need to be reformed and the decision-making processes must be made completely transparent. This can be done by, among other things, strengthening the role of the European Parliament.
The only alternative to the EU as we know it is a better EU. We can’t save our planet and make the world sustainable by closing in on ourselves. We need to be engaged in international cooperation forms, and we must work particularly closely together with our Nordic neighbours. We need cooperation within the EU and we need cooperation within the UN. In the UN, the EU must be a front-runner on climate, trade, equality and infrastructure development so that we are constantly furthering shared global objectives instead of escalating conflicts.
We want Denmark to take on a leading role in the green transition. We want Denmark to be a pioneering country once again.
We want to turn the EU into an area where green ideas flourish and the climate threat is positively utilized in creating sustainable jobs. This, however, we cannot achieve on our own. This requires collaboration with all possible stakeholders. We want to be among those who show the way forward, and we want to co-create a broader international collaboration with like-minded progressive forces across the continent.
We want to strengthen open democratic processes, and work for a higher level of social balance in Europe in order to secure peace and progress for the future.
The EU is again a peace project
The EU is currently facing an immense challenge posed by the endless influx of refugees who flee from the Syrian civil war and other conflict areas in the Middle East and Africa. Within that migration pattern, there is also massive influx of irregular migrants from Africa. No country in Europe can respond adequately to these challenges on its own. Therefore, it is crucial that we stand together both in terms of short-term crisis management and long-term responses which should focus on regional conflict prevention and ambitious investment in development programmes.
The EU was formed as a peace and democracy project. This is something we must hold on to and further develop.
Make the EU independent of fossil fuels
Denmark has a set a goal of becoming entirely fossil fuel free by 2050. This could be achieved even faster if the EU were to place higher demands on member states regarding the transition to clean energy. Our ambition for Denmark is to run fully on renewables by 2040
Tighter regulations will automatically create a bigger market for green, zero-carbon solutions. As a result, there would be a boost in developing creative, new technologies, or expanding those already in place. Prospectively, this trend could turn green entrepreneurs into major employers and job-creators in the energy sector. For example, Danish companies have substantial expertise in insulating buildings. This gives us a large market in countries with less experience in this field. Energy efficiency is another area where we have a competitive edge. Thus, getting European citizens and businesses to spare money by consuming less energy offers a range of business opportunities. Another way of boosting the green energy market is to get European, American and other international standard setting organizations to cooperate in order to design unified energy efficiency standards for all products and processes.
Make sustainability the basic requirement for all EU subsidy schemes
We want the EU to simultaneously take into consideration not one but three different bottom lines. Net profits (the economic bottom line) are an insufficient measure if it’s not coupled with a net positive social and environmental bottom line. All too often, the EU subsidizes projects that run counter to sustainability. This must change so that in the future the European Union only funds projects which are screened environmentally in advance. In addition, all subsidy schemes, including green funds, must be time-limited.
EU subsidies should primarily be used to open new markets or kick off the development of new products. Subsidies, however, should not determine choices between wind, solar or any other renewable energy sources. The overall focus is to ensure that we get maximum sustainability for the money invested.
The green transition can be accelerated by imposing higher standard taxes on all non-renewable energy. This will boost the clean energy market, and citizens and businesses will rush to move away from fossil-based energy sources.
Create environmental regulations based on highest standards
There are far too many cases where the EU interferes in national regulations for climate, work environment, security, health, animal welfare and consumer protection, and regard democratically passed domestic legislations as “technical trade barriers”.
We prefer setting high national standards as opposed to total harmonisation which can eventually ban the highest standards. We should, at the same time, strive for turning the highest domestic standards into common EU standards.
Both in the Danish Parliament’s European Affairs Committee and the European Parliament, we will systematically work to achieve the highest possible European standards.
Prioritize organic agriculture
The EU’s Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) allows for the use of pesticides that damage the environment and pollute groundwater. We’ll work toward a European agriculture policy where not a single euro is spent on anything damaging the environment.
The current CAP subsidies cost European taxpayers all too much. CAP must be reformed so that it furthers the transition to organic farming.
Similarly, the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) must be reflect sustainability and protect biodiversity.
Focus on green jobs
The EU has pumped billions in bailouts into the banking sector without effectively managing the financial crises in Southern Europe. An immense number of jobs could have been created, had that money instead been used directly on green investments.
Due to all too tight fiscal policies, many in Europe don’t invest enough in the green transition. A relaxation of fiscal requirements combined with green investments would create workplaces and make Europe less dependent of hydrocarbons imported from the Middle East and Russia.
We need a green and social monetary union
In its current form, the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union (EMU) is an ill-advised project which lacks democratic control, and rests on all too restrictive economic models. We need to rethink and reform the EMU in order to ensure that it promotes the creation of workplaces, green transition and welfare, instead of unemployment, a blind pursuit of one-sided economic growth and rising inequality.
Current deficit requirements to GDP ratio of 3 percent during economic slumps and 1,5 percent during normal times need to be changed so that the funding of green projects are not considered as expenditures but rather as investments in the future.
We wish to maintain the Danish opt-out on the adoption of the euro as long as the EMU is not reformed in such a fashion that it takes social justice and the individual needs of member states into consideration. In the meantime, we will support every initiative, e.g. in the European Parliament, to make the EMU greener, socially juster and more democratic.
Trade policy of the green transition
The EU is the world’s biggest humanitarian and development aid grantor. However, its protectionist trade policy costs the developing countries more than all EU aid combined. The EU’s trade policy actually prohibits economic and social development in regions like the Middle East and Africa, inasmuch it doesn’t allow these countries to export processed products to the EU. Thus, the existing trade policy is also a contributing factor to irregular migration. Therefore, it is essential that the EU gives these developing countries access to the European markets on the condition that all imported goods meet existing health and environmental standards. This would also have the side effect of strengthening consumer protection and environmental standards, as well as climate action, in developing countries.
The EU is a trading superpower having enormous influence on setting global standards. It is important that we act in accordance with this responsibility both in internal trade and when negotiating international trading agreements. If the EU and the US are to create a transatlantic free-trade agreement, we need to ensure that environmental standards are not to be disputed by arbitrators without democratic legitimacy. Trade deals must never allow that democratic decisions be ignored by private, national or supranational systems of arbitration.
Instead of competing, free trade and sustainability must go hand in hand. Free trade should universalize sustainability, and not hinder but promote the green transition.
When the European Commission negotiates trade deals with third countries, the European Parliament must be fully included so that citizens’ interests are safeguarded through the entire process. Simultaneously, future free trade deals must also address immaterial rights, e.g. patent legislation, and ensure that business actors may continue their research and development, and no monopolies be obtained in areas such as nature, health, energy supply and digital infrastructure.
The European Parliament must also strive for all-round transparency for consumers so that sustainable consumption choices are easier to make, e.g. when it comes to choosing energy suppliers.
Transnational companies must pay their taxes
Though most EU-countries impose relatively high taxes on labour, we still need more revenues to fund the transition to sustainability.
The environmental impact of any business activity and the overconsumption of the Earth’s limited resources must be compensated by taxation at joint minimum rates so that environmental taxes in one country can’t be avoided by simply importing from another. The EU should introduce a joint minimum corporate tax rate so that member states can’t compete to attract investments at the expense of nature. Transnational companies must pay their taxes in the country where the respective profits are made. Companies should not be able to move earnings from developing countries without paying taxes. If a company is not able to prove the distribution of profit, taxation should be determined in proportion to the turnover in the respective countries where the company operates.
We want to eliminate all tax havens by simply banning financial transactions to countries that ‘steal’ tax revenues from the EU’s member-states. Furthermore, we want the EU to introduce a joint financial transactions tax.
Danish wages to foreign workers
Foreign workers should always be welcome in Denmark. They must, however, be employed in accordance with existing collective agreements and pay taxes as all other citizens.
The Court of Justice of the European Union has made it all too easy for EU citizens to take up welfare benefits, including child support payments and student grants. We find a thorough revision of these rules necessary.
The goal is to ensure that all citizens have the right to social care in one country. No one should be deprived of this right when relocating to another EU member state, and no one should be able to pick up welfare payments in more than one country.
The Alternative wants to eliminate social dumping in order to ensure that our wages and collective agreement are not undermined. At the same time, we wish to make it easier for young people to take up work or internships in other EU-countries.
The EU should be open, democratic and closer to its citizens
On 2 June 1992, Danish voters rejected the Maastricht Treaty. This outcome had partly paved the way for some of the reforms toward more openness, democratic groundedness and citizens’ participation in European policy which were subsequently adopted.
However, more reforms are needed. Here are our proposals for future work:
Openness: All meetings where EU-legislation takes place should be made accessible for the public and all background materials available online so that citizens have the possibility to follow and influence the legislative process before any new rule gets passed. European MPs should be granted the same level of access to the EU’s negotiating documents as what German MPs had gotten recently concerning the EU-US TTIP talks.
Closer to the citizens: At present, the EU has more than 40.000 regulations and directives in force. These should be examined with a fine-tooth comb and with special regard to the principle of subsidiarity. The EU must focus on the green transition, and not interfere in matters that can be effectively managed locally or in national parliaments. New laws should include repeal clauses making sure that they only apply for a limited period of time unless renewed.
Democracy: The Danish government must secure a specific negotiating mandate in EU matters from the Danish parliament. National parliaments should get an increased role as co-legislators of EU law which in any case should then be adopted by the European Parliament. Within their specific field, the different committees of the Danish parliament should be able to discuss EU-level legislative proposals and provide recommendations for the European Affairs Committee, which, in close cooperation with the government, must have a principal role in setting Danish EU-policy.
New goals: The EU must set clear goals regarding environment, democratic legitimation and social balance. Rights should define further developments of the EU, just like the right of free movement had once largely determined the evolution of the EU.
1) Civil rights: In the digital world certain civil rights, e.g. the right to privacy, are being jeopardized. The EU should commit to taking on a leading role in setting norms and practices that are to secure that the European Convention on Human Rights is fully respected and complied with in Europe. The EU should utilize its position as a soft superpower to set up efficient, global safeguards for the right to privacy.
2) Separation of the legislative and executive powers within the EU: The role of the European Commission should be restricted to being the executive branch whereas the European Parliament should be given exclusive rights to initiate EU legislation.
We believe that a more efficient, legally binding and joint European effort is crucial to successfully manage the refugee crisis. To secure both the human handling of refugees and a concerted EU action, we propose the following:
- A revision of the Dublin Regulation with regards to a fair quota scheme. Acting in accordance with the UN Refugee Convention must be our guiding principle.
- A stronger and more comprehensive all-European humanitarian effort, especially on and around the Mediterranean Sea.
- The establishment of hot spots and reception centres on both sides of the Mediterranean. It should be made possible to seek asylum in the EU while still in neighbouring countries.
- An increased humanitarian effort with massive investments in the neighbouring countries
- Europe must play an increased diplomatic role as power broker in the Syrian peace negotiations.
This is, in short, our vision for Europe. Having read it, you will surely have questions. We would love to hear your thoughts, comments and questions. Please do not hesitate to contact us.