I HAVE delved back into the writings and interviews of Jacques Delors in recent months, pondering his insights into what it takes for Europe to truly thrive. Sadly, Delors, a beacon of European wisdom, passed away last month at the age of 98. His words linger, especially as I contemplate the upcoming European Parliament elections.

Delors once said: “Between Europeans, we need true mutual understanding as bequeathed by the Fathers of Europe and not just common interests. We must keep this flame alive. I once said: ‘Europe needs a soul.’ This may have shocked some believers, but I said it in the secular sense. Even today, Europe needs a soul.”

Delors, an architect of Europe, left an enduring legacy during his presidency of the European Commission from 1985 to 1995.

A transformative force, he navigated the common market’s evolution into the single market through the Single European Act of 1986, effective in 1992. The subsequent Treaty of Maastricht in 1993 solidified the foundation of the European Union.

This transformative era introduced iconic programmes like Erasmus and Leonardo, fostering student mobility and cultural exchange. It marked the rise of a regional cohesion policy akin to a perpetual Marshall Plan, providing support to regions facing economic challenges.

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Delors also laid the groundwork for a well-funded European research and development policy, giving rise to initiatives such as PCRD (Programme cadre de recherche et de développement), Esprit, Eureka, and groundbreaking projects such as Airbus and Galileo. His leadership extended to chairing the body that conceptualised the euro, setting the stage for the European currency.

This year is a significant year for European citizens in the UK, with two elections impacting our lives – the UK General Election, where I don’t get a vote, and the EU elections.

As the gears turn for the upcoming European Parliament elections, a profound sense of foreboding overwhelms me. These elections, I feel, rank among the most pivotal in my lifetime.

If I were to pinpoint my top three influential votes, capable of drastically altering our trajectory, this one undoubtedly holds a prominent position.

This moment demands channelling the spirit, ambition, and vision epitomised by Delors. The stakes are high, and with two wars at our borders, the June European elections stand as a critical juncture addressing immediate issues of common security and beyond.

The period between 2019 and 2024 thrust Europe into a new era, marked by the climate crisis, the pandemic, and geopolitical conflicts. The dreaded US presidential election in November could potentially bring about a concerning comeback for Donald Trump.

We stand at a crossroads where the European Union must make a decisive choice – between evolving into a genuine political force or risking irrelevance.

Delors’s message resounds more than ever: resist the illusion of absolute, undivided sovereignty. Viable solutions require a critical mass, transcending national boundaries, making decisions at the European level.

Despite its imperfections, Europe has showcased its resilience in recent times. Examples abound, from negotiating Brexit and establishing a new deal with the UK (2016-20) to the Green Deal for climate and energy transition, the European recovery plan financed through the unprecedented issuance of European treasury bonds, and the creation of industrial and vaccination policies to combat the health, economic, and social consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, which claimed the lives of nearly 1.4 million Europeans in 2020. 

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However, the challenges we face demand a more comprehensive response from Europe. These are extraordinarily difficult times, and Europe needs to rise to the occasion with an expanded sense of purpose.

More than ever, I feel there is a collective awareness of the power Europe holds to protect its citizens and tackle the challenges ahead. It is a moment where discussions about a more politically engaged Europe, one that transcends its market-centric identity, are gaining traction.

Therefore, the imperative is clear – it is time to embark on a new phase of European construction that embraces both political and budgetary power. This necessitates allocating dedicated resources for Europe and granting the European Union the authority to levy taxes.

Grabbing this opportunity with both hands is essential. The traditional beliefs guiding European policies – like extensive free trade, unrestricted competition, and budgetary austerity – are being reevaluated because of the clear issues they cause, such as dependence, insecurity, and a loss of sovereignty.

Yes, the current polls paint a grim picture, predicting a surge in far-right Eurosceptic parties. However, this adversity could present a window for the European left to assert itself, illustrating that Europe is not a distant bureaucratic mammoth but a forum where significant decisions are collectively made with our neighbours, outlining a path for mutual thriving.

As the echoes of Delors’s call for a united Europe resonate, even in the post-Brexit era, the relevance of the European Parliament elections for the Scottish people, especially those advocating for independence, remains profound.

Although Scotland is no longer a member of the European Union, the significance of actively engaging with these elections transcends borders.

For those who support Scottish independence with an eye on rejoining the European Union, the June elections can be seen as a chance to shape the path of a progressive, socially conscious Europe.

While the UK’s departure has shifted the political scene, the idea of Scotland aligning with a progressive EU remains a strong argument. The election results can be a beacon of hope, re-inforcing the idea that connecting with a forward-thinking Europe isn’t just a dream but a real way to build a thriving and inclusive Scotland.

The European Parliament, as a democratic institution, not only looks out for member states’ interests but also embodies co-operation and shared values.

For those supporting Scottish independence, a progressive, social agenda in the European Parliament aligns seamlessly with the aspirations of a nation seeking a way forward.

A Europe where progressive ideals flourish not only fits the vision of an independent Scotland but could also boost the case for rejoining the European Union.

The joint commitment to social democracy, environmental responsibility, and inclusivity within the EU resonates with the progressive values cherished by many in Scotland.

Furthermore, a European Union embracing a progressive agenda becomes a valuable ally in navigating the challenges of change.

Facing global issues such as climate change, economic uncertainties, and geopolitical shifts requires joint efforts. In this context, an independent Scotland aiming for EU membership could find understanding and support in a Europe that champions solidarity and collective action. This is definitely the kind of Europe that I want to see flourishing.