This is a rush translation of the address by Podemos MEP Pablo Iglesias to the European Parliament this morning, on the occasion of presenting his candidacy for President of the European Parliament. Original text via Público.
It is an honour to speak to you all in presenting my candidacy for the presidency of this chamber. This parliament is called upon to represent the sovereignty of Europe and we must, fellow deputies, live up to what that means today.
The dream of Europe has been buried many times but it always managed to awake once again. This is what happened nearly 70 years ago: Europe awoke again in the resistance of its peoples against fascism, in the survivors of the extermination camps, in those who gave their lives for justice and for freedom. Thousands of my own compatriots, who had struggled to defend democracy in Spain, took part in that struggle and that dream of justice. You cannot imagine the pride I have as a Spanish person that the first tanks that entered Paris to liberate it were manned by Spanish combatants. Today, as intolerance and xenophobia threaten us once again, I want to call upon Europe’s memory of antifascism, and that of all those peoples who love freedom and democracy.
My fellow deputies, the best of our continent and our common history was forged in the revolutions that made the people the subject of rights, above kings, gods, noblemen and major property owners. The best heritage of Europe is the will of its citizens to be free and to be the serfs of no-one. To be no-one’s serf, my fellow deputies, that is democracy.
That is why I must tell you today that the peoples to whom we owe our social freedoms and rights did not struggle for a Europe in which its people live in fear of poverty, of exclusion, of unemployment or of abandonment when faced with illness. The expropriation of sovereignty and subjection to the rule of financial elites threaten the present and the future of Europe, they threaten our dignity, they threaten equality, liberty and fraternity, they threaten our life in common.
The creation of new supranational entities does not have to come at the price of leaving the citizens helpless. Our peoples are not children, nor are they colonies of any investment fund. They did not win and defend their freedom so as to hand it over to a financial oligarchy. These are not abstract terms, my fellow deputies: all of you are well aware of the problem.
The ease with which lobbies in the service of major corporations move around here is scandalous, as are the revolving doors that turn public representatives into millionaires in the pay of big businesses. We have to say it loud and clear: this way of operating robs the peoples of their sovereignty, attacks democracy, and turns political representatives into a caste.
My fellow deputies, democracy in Europe has been the victim of authoritarian erosion. In the European periphery the situation is tragic: our countries have almost become protectorates, new colonies, where powers that no-one has elected are destroying social rights and threatening the social and political cohesion of our societies.
We learned from Latin America that external debt is designed in order to be unpayable, and that the countries that have grown the most did so with a substantial write-down and a public audit of their debt. All of us in this chamber are aware of the debt forgiveness that was granted not so long ago to Germany. This is not merely a question of justice, it has to do with European integration and with democracy: debt today is a mechanism of control and robbery of the peoples of the south. This is what is happening in those countries that some, with a certain racism, name as PIGS. But I suppose that you are aware that there is no Europe without its peoples of the South, just as there is no Europe without its peoples of the East, who are also subjected to the harsh conditions of the Troika, whose direction threatens to destroy the European project, leaving a trail of misery, poverty and violence.
But there is another way. There is an alternative to the policies of impoverishment and taking sovereignty hostage. This Parliament, at this critical hour for Europe, must live up to what is expected of it, it must show responsiveness and become the epicentre of a democratic shake-up of the European Union, a shake-up that puts a stop to the Troika’s authoritarian course. This Parliament must express the basic democratic legitimacy that brings us all here, the voice of the citizens, and not deals struck among elites. The European Parliament can not be a consolation prize, nor a golden retirement.
My fellow deputies, today I am not addressing a chamber of five, six or seven parliamentary groupings. Nor am I addressing the party machines. I am addressing you, fellow members of the European Parliament, because you have a contract of political responsibility signed with your peoples. I am addressing the democrats and their consciences. Our first fidelity, to which all others must be subordinate, is to the citizens who have elected us. These people are not in the corridors of this building, nor in the hotels that surround this chamber. But remember: they are the sovereigns and sooner or later they will seek accountability for what has been done in their name.
I am also especially addressing my MEP colleagues from the countries of the south of Europe. You have seen the real consequences of the policies imposed by the Troika. You know that austerity policies have failed: our countries today are poorer, their economies destroyed, with societies wounded by injustice and institutions crumbling in corruption and discredit. You know that it is time to help our countries stand up again. I ask you today that you vote as Greeks, as Irish, as Portuguese, as Italians, as Czechs, as Polish, as Romanians, as Spaniards. Not only so that you can look your people in the face when you return home, but because in this way you will be defending Europe. I seek your vote conscious of the fact that many of you are not in agreement with this taking hostage of democracy, knowing that many of you are sincerely committed to the wellbeing of your peoples. I ask for your vote to put a stop to the grand coalition that is imposing austerity and financial totalitarianism.
I want to address my final words to the citizens and peoples of Europe who have gone out onto the streets during these years in order to defend social justice and democracy. To the millions who have said enough in the squares of Europe, I want to say to you that you are the pride, the democratic heart of Europe. Keep the flag of dignity flying high. We peoples of Europe have gone through worse situations and we have shaken off the despots. I do not know if today we will be able to take the presidency of this parliament away from the grand coalition but if you keep on pushing us I assure you that we will win. Tomorrow is ours.