This is a Guest Post from Stephanie Beecroft, Advocacy Officer for EU-CORD, a network of 22 Christian Organisations in Relief and Development of which Tearfund is a member.
If you’ve kept up with any of the news coverage or the party campaigns for the May elections in recent weeks, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the future of the UK within Europe will be wrapped up that day.
Whether the UK should be ‘in’ or ‘out’ of the European Union is clearly an important issue for voters, but the question won’t actually be decided at the European elections. Thursday, 22 May won’t provide the backdrop for a final showdown on membership of the EU.
What the election campaigns probably haven’t told you is the importance of the European Parliament elections for the global fight to end poverty. And yet, they will have far-reaching consequences, impacting on the EU’s ability and willingness to support communities living in poverty or victims of disasters around the world.
The European Union as a whole is the world’s biggest donor of development and humanitarian aid and the world’s largest trading bloc. Policy and funding decisions made at EU level have a significant impact around the world. The European Parliament can play a strong and decisive role for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
It can be the difference between an EU that takes aid funding seriously and one that consistently fails to live up to its commitments. It can be the difference between an EU that cares about conflicts and crises around the world and one that turns its back and pretends not to see. It can be the difference between an EU that promotes transparency, accountability and development that works for people, and one that puts business and profits first.
Back in 2012 I supported Tearfund to lobby the European Parliament, calling on MEPs to support new laws demanding that European extractive companies publish the payments they make for oil, gas and precious minerals in countries where they operate. The EU passed this legislation last year, providing communities in natural resource-rich countries with the opportunity to see how much money their governments are receiving and hold them to account.
The European Parliament played a big role in pushing through this unprecedented legislation. If the Parliamentarians had been less favourable to the plight of those living in poverty around the world or unwilling to listen to the likes of Tearfund campaigners and partner Bishop Stephen Munga from Tanzania, that legislation might not have been passed. A European Parliament whose members are less favourable to development for the next five years might lead to the failure of policies and legislation that could be equally important for the communities that Tearfund supports.
Whatever your position on the European Union it is important to realise that decisions made by the European Parliament can have a big impact on people living in poverty and at risk of disasters around the world. Your vote and your choice of candidates in the European elections can make a difference to the direction of those decisions. Before heading to the polling station on 22 May, it’s important to know what the different candidates and parties in your constituency stand for. If you’re unsure what they think, www.electio2014.eu can help you find out.
As you head to vote in the European elections, ask yourself what kind of Europe you want to see. If that Europe is a Europe that puts people first and stands against inequality and unfair policies in the world, use your vote wisely.