Manifesto of Social Democrats for the European Parliament elections: Strong Estonia in a united Europe

 

Strong Estonia in a united Europe!

Manifesto of Social Democrats for the European Parliament elections

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The European Union was born as a democratic peace project after two devastating world wars. Today, it has become something much bigger: a single market with a monetary union and Schengen, the basic value of which continues to be respected for the principles of inclusion, tolerance, justice, solidarity and the rule of law.

The Social Democrats have always supported the fundamental principles of the EU as laid down in the Treaty of Lisbon and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

European countries have jointly built a diverse union of nation states that protects both our special features and our own right to independence, both for large and small nation states, but also for those European nations that do not have a state of their own. Social Democrats stand for a linguistically and culturally diverse Europe because that is both our wealth and our strength.

Respect for and protection of human rights is a fundamental European value; there must be no place for intolerance and incitement to hatred in Europe. The Social Democrats are firmly opposed to the thoughtless hate speech of the populists and to activities that undermine people because of their nationality, gender, sexual orientation, skin color, or views.

We consider it important to promote democracy and mutual understanding, by involving more and more Europeans in decision-making processes, which requires raising of awareness of the citizens and to the continuous development of civil society. The European institutions must stand for all the people of Europe.

The Social Democrats are convinced that a strong European Union is necessary for Estonia both as a guarantee of security and peace, and of stable economic development and well-being of people. Estonia is strong when Europe is open, equal and secure.

The European Union is sustainable and evolving when all Member States, both large and small, feel that their interests are equally taken into account. If we participate competently and actively in making decisions on common things, we will secure allies for Estonia that protect our interests.

Estonia, as the presidency of the Council of the European Union, demonstrated its ability to play a leading role at the European Union level, which provided a good experience for further action in promoting Europe.

Representatives of Estonia in the European Parliament must each in their group of ambassador’s stand for securing the influential role of Estonia. The Social Democrats have proved that they can do it well. As one of the largest groups of ambassadors in the European Parliament, the Social Democrats are doing their best to increase the role of Europe in the fight for human values, human dignity, democracy and the rule of law, peace and security and sustainable environmental policy in the next five years.

We consider the protection of democracy and the rule of law important in all the Member States of the European Union where it has been disrupted. To this end, we need to monitor developments in Hungary, Poland, and Romania, etc., and, if necessary, resolutely respond to violations of fundamental Community principles.

The Social Democratic MEPs elected from Estonia will focus their efforts on eight tasks:

First, The European Union must continue its efforts and continue to channel its financial resources in order to significantly reduce poverty in Europe and reduce social inequalities between the old and the new Member States. The EU Member States must be treated equally in all areas and at all levels – the rules must apply equally to everyone. There must be no poor countries, regions or groups in the European Union! Estonia has been a model for other European Union Member States with its family policy and child support. However, we will continue to need European support to bring rural inhabitants, the elderly, children and people with disabilities out of poverty.

Secondly, maintaining security and peace, combating the threat of terrorism, violent conflicts and breaches of international law. The European Union must be able to curb the scofflaws and perpetrators and protect its borders and the sovereignty of its Member States. We are firmly in favor of all measures that will help limit Russia’s aggressive ambitions towards its neighbors. We expect the European Parliament to support investments that enhance the protection of the border between the European Union and Russia.

Thirdly, The European Union is particularly important for young people who want to continue their education abroad and appreciate the opportunities to engage in entrepreneurship freely, find agreeable work or sell their products and services in other EU countries. Social Democrats want to expand the opportunities of academic mobility and promote the opportunities of young people to be able to enjoy all the rights and opportunities of EU citizens. We also ensure that young people have every opportunity to come back to Estonia at any time.

Fourth, our ambassadors consider it important that the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights be implemented more quickly and become an integral part of the EU. Fair pay, access to health services, lifelong learning, work-life balance, gender equality and minimum income help to reduce inequalities and regional disparities. The European Union must benefit both large and small Member States.

Fifth, Estonian farmers expect a fair agricultural policy from the European Union, which would equally support the efforts of farmers in all Member States. The Social Democrats have firmly argued that unfair differences in the levels of agricultural subsidies in new and old Member States should be eliminated. Estonian farmers deserve European support in the same volume as our northern neighbors. Social Democrats in the European Parliament will help high-quality Estonian food conquer the European Union market.

Sixth, Europe can only mitigate the catastrophic impact of climate change through joint efforts. The Estonian Social Democrats support the common environmental policy of the European Union, while at the same time ensuring that the specificities of the northern Member States are taken into account more flexibly when drafting common rules. We consider it particularly important that EU investments contribute to the growth of the share of renewable energy and to the development of clean electricity transport and a waste-free circular economy.

Seventh, Estonia is recognized in the European Union as an e-state, who is rightly expected to set an example and provide new ideas for the development of a single digital market in Europe. We need to contribute to opening up wide opportunities for Estonian entrepreneurs in the digital services market in the EU. At the same time, care must be taken to ensure that the Estonian language and the social rights of Estonian people and the feeling of home security do not get lost in the wake of the triumph of digital economy, automation, and robotics.

Eighth, The European Parliament is a unique organization where constant communication is held and legislation is drafted in the languages of all Member States. It is a place where people learn to appreciate Europe’s cultural diversity in everyday cooperation. The Social Democrats are using the tribune of the European Parliament to keep Estonia’s reputation high, spread Estonian culture and build trust in the Estonian state as a democratic, active and innovative partner who firmly defends European values: peace, cooperation, freedom and everyone’s right to a decent life.

Manifesto of SDE for the 2019 election of European Parliament by area

Social and labor market policies

The European Union must be able to protect its citizens from threats, including poverty. Everyone must have the right to work, a dignified life, a fair salary, and a decent retirement. The measure of a strong society is how it takes care of the weakest. When children live in poverty, it has a major impact on their future – today, about one in four children in Europe is facing the risk of poverty. That is why we want to implement the European Child Guarantee, which guarantees every child access to high-quality medical care, childcare, education, housing, and food.

Disabled people, many of whom live in poverty, need equal opportunities and more effective protection. In addition to poverty reduction measures, disabled people need services that promote their coping and enable them to be active members of society. A prerequisite for this is accessible and high-quality education for all. Europe needs strong welfare states with close social safety nets that help people who become ill, lose their job or are excluded from the labor market for any other reason.

We must protect the free movement of labor as one of the fundamental rights of the citizens of the European Union. With decent minimum wages, we will ensure a decrease in wage poverty in Europe as a whole. A fair salary also means equal pay for equal work, regardless of the other qualities of the employee.

At the same time, we consider it necessary to suspend the use of illegal rental work that takes place under the auspices of the free movement of labor. In the European Union, we continue to guarantee the free movement of workers of the Member States, but at the same time, we are preventing the use of illegal foreign labor in the European Union labor market.

In order to truly achieve equality in the labor market, better opportunities for work-life balance must be created across Europe for both men and women. Europe needs a labor force, so it is important to bring disabled people into the labor market and to keep older people in the labor market. This requires the creation of flexible and supportive jobs. We want employees who use different platforms and other digital solutions at work to have solid labor and social rights so that there is no new inequality in the labor market.

European foreign and defense policy

The European Union must also maintain its values on the global stage and support a world order based on international law and agreed rules, based on the global strategy of the EU. The European Union plays a growing global role as the advocate for human rights and peace, contributing to development cooperation, the rule of law, and helping to prevent and avoid their escalation.

Promoting democracy, sustainable development and stability beyond the borders of the Member States are important for Social Democrats. We, therefore, support the continuation of one of the most successful policies of the EU – the enlargement of the European Union to the Western Balkans. We agree with the proposal of the European Parliament proposal not to continue the accession negotiations with Turkey until the latter will start again to comply with the founding values of the European Union. At the same time, we continue to support the migration agreement between Turkey and the EU, and we commend Turkey for its efficiency on accommodating nearly four million refugees.

Thanks to the establishment of the EU External Action Service and its representations around the world, the interests of our citizens in different corners of the world are better represented. The network of EU external representations needs to be strengthened by increasing the number of representations and people working there.

It is our duty, irrespective of our location, to support those who are fighting for democracy, freedom and human rights, and against discrimination and occupation. At the same time, the EU must act more decisively in situations where it is not possible to prevent a military conflict by negotiation, which causes innocent people to suffer.

We honor our commitment to invest 0.33% of GDP in development aid and strengthen our partnership with developing countries. The purpose of development aid is to help developing countries to cope better, not to make them dependent on the aid they receive. The EU could be more flexible with regard to imports of goods of the countries in need and, if necessary, reduce their protective tariffs. We support a long-term partnership with Africa in the areas of trade, development cooperation, diplomacy, defense, energy, and climate policy. We support a development cooperation policy that is in line with the objectives of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Social Democrats stand for strengthening the Eastern Partnership policy of the European Union. Continuing the association and free trade agreements between the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries will help deepen relations. We condemn all external attempts to interfere in the democratic choices of the Eastern Partnership countries to decide their own future. In doing so, the Eastern Partnership countries themselves must be able to carry out sufficient reforms and reduce corruption and the influence of the oligarchs.

On the one hand, with the Southern Partnership countries, the European Union must continue to work together for their socio-economic and democratic development; on the other hand, it must not be forgotten that authoritarian regimes are still in power in several countries. Nor should we forget the great role played by these countries in preventing illegal migration. In the Middle East Peace Process, we continue to support a two-state solution with the Palestinian right of self-determination and a secure state of Israel.

There is a need to maintain a positive dialogue with the world’s great powers, such as China, but at the same time, our relations must be based on our fundamental values.

Transatlantic relations, both in free trade and in defense cooperation, must evolve and enhance so that liberal democracy is better protected in the world.

With regard to our neighboring country Russia, we reaffirm the commitment of Estonia to the common position of the EU to impose sanctions on Russia who is in breach of international law. At the same time, we understand the need for the European Union to engage in dialogue with Russia on global issues.

One of the greatest values of the European Union is that peace has been maintained between the Member States since the Second World War. In addition to political and economic integration, security and defense cooperation must be further enhanced to ensure peace and stability in our region and in the world as a whole. The EU does not have to duplicate NATO and create a new EU army, but in all aspects, it is wise to work together in areas where it is easier and therefore less costly when done together.

Security and migration

The aim of Estonia is to ensure the functioning of the Schengen area, ensuring the free movement of persons and at the same time high security. The Eastern border or the external border of the European Union currently built in the Republic of Estonia must become a standard throughout the European Union. Our goal is, with the support of the European Union, to build a safe border that allows all border crossings to be fixed and responded to. With EU co-financing, we could complete building the border faster and at the same time save money from the Estonian state budget.

In order to ensure that the border Member States do not remain alone in protecting the external borders of the EU, we continue to support the strengthening of Frontex, the European Agency for the Management of External Borders, and the reinforcement of its staff to at least 10 000 border guards. However, strengthening the EU Border Guard should not come on account of the existing resources.

It is necessary to step up the exchange of information between the security services of the Member States and to strengthen the pan-European cooperation between police and border guards. Enhancing cooperation is important both in preventing and investigating organized crime and terrorist offenses. The Social Democrats consider it important and support the joint action of the EU to fight the spread of hostile information operation and false information.

Hybrid and cyber-attacks have become a new reality and a threat to international, regional and national security. Cybersecurity and security have now found universal acceptance and have become an integral part of internal and external security, as the functioning of both the state and the economy depends on it.

We have brought the European Union IT Agency EU-LISA into Estonia, and now we aim to transform this agency into a cross-sectoral IT agency. We can see that in the future, this agency will manage all cross-border services at the EU level and will significantly increase the number of highly qualified jobs in Estonia.

Estonia and the European Union need a balanced migration policy. The Social Democrats admit that migration is a reality that happens regardless of what we think of it. People change their place of residence for a variety of reasons: refugees fleeing war and persecution; those who go to another country to study, work or get married. The Social Democrats do not support illegal migration and consider that migration laws must remain within the competence of the Member States.

At the same time, it is clear that illegal migration can only be combated together, by sharing responsibility and acting in solidarity. Migration needs to be addressed at all levels, from guarding the external borders of the EU all the way to cooperation with countries that are the starting point for migration. We support the creation of regional migration points outside the European Union. This way, we will prevent pressure on the Member States and ensure that the people who contribute to our society and economy come to Estonia. Labor migration to Estonia must take into account the needs and demands of our labor market and support productivity growth in the economy. In doing so, the human rights of all people must be respected, and opportunities must be created for legal migrants to adapt and study in Estonia, including learning the Estonian language and culture, and to work in Estonia.

We consider it necessary to halt the involvement of the illegal rental labor force in the European Union labor market under the auspices of the free movement of labor. In the European Union, we continue to guarantee the free movement of workers of the Member States, but at the same time prevent the illegal use of foreign labor.

Agriculture and fisheries policy

The European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) must ensure that Europe has sufficient food supply and economic and social sustainability in rural areas. Equal treatment of farmers in the different Member States is extremely important in shaping agricultural policy. In agriculture, there must be equal, direct aid to farmers in all Member States. At the same time, in the new EU budget period, national agricultural subsidies must not differ significantly from the EU average – this will exclude unfair competition.

The common agricultural policy of the EU must create equal competition conditions, but on the other hand, it must be flexible enough to enable each Member State to implement a suitable and as reasonable agricultural and rural policy as possible. We support the approach of the Leader program where local people are more involved in the process of making decisions about them.

The CAP is one of the central EU policies, accounting for about 40% of the Community budget. Citizens of the European Union have a legitimate expectation of receiving quality food from their farmers, which is produced in compliance with environmental requirements. To this end, Europe must continue its efforts to produce clean food. The use of harmful plant protection products must be significantly restricted. The European Chemicals Agency and Food Safety Agencies have an important role to play here in providing adequate and scientifically sound feedback on chemicals used in agriculture.

We consider it important to promote organic farming. To this end, more production should be directed towards ecologically sustainable technologies.

Strengthening farmers’ position in the supply chain and joint activities is essential in increasing the incomes of farmers. The Unfair Commercial Practices Directive approved by the European Parliament and initiated by the Social Democrats  and its implementation provides a good basis for this.

In fisheries policy, we support the sustainable management of fish stocks, so that future generations will have a fish to catch and to provide them with a decent income. In the next reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), we will support the replacement of the capacity-based stock-management scheme with the individual transferable fishing opportunities scheme.

When granting euro subsidies and fishing permits, we must take into account the protection of the heritage culture and give preference to coastal people in order to preserve traditions and jobs in the region. We support initiatives in coastal and inland waters that are led by the  community and carried out with the support of the development aid.

The focus of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund support must remain at the heart of achievement of the CFP objectives. Continued support for control activities plays an important role here.

In order to develop the fisheries sector and manage resources in a sustainable way, it is essential to support the introduction of innovative solutions.

Cohesion policy

Through its various measures and funds, cohesion policy is one of the cornerstones of the European economy and its social cohesion.  The Social Democrats consider it important that, in the new budget period, resources should be directed primarily to people, not just to concrete. The role and resources of the European Social Fund must be increased in the light of the European Social Rights Pillar created in 2017 on the initiative of the Social Democrats and performance of the objectives set out therein.

Given the problems and new challenges facing the European labor market, more emphasis should be placed on retraining people and improving the quality of retraining. European grants should be targeted above all where the need is greatest and where innovation is created that would create more profitable jobs.

There should be no peripheries in the European Union: good connectivity between regions and the Member States, high-speed internet and a stable electrical connection must be guaranteed everywhere. A situation in which some Member States, such as the Baltic States, are still being cut off from the rest of Europe in terms of connections, is not normal. Therefore, the share and funding of trans-European projects such as Rail Baltic should be maintained and, where possible, increased. We support the position that that Rail Baltica would be financed by 85% from the EU funds.

In order to make European money more efficient and purposeful, community representatives must be more involved in decision-making, and the solutions that have so far proved to be a successful community must be continued. We support making all decisions at the closest level to people. At the same time, respect for the principle of subsidiarity must be ensured in areas where making decisions at Member State level are justified. The European Union must be great in great things and not over-regulate small things.

Economy and tax policy

European economic policy must be based on openness, the free movement of people, services, capital and goods within the Community.

The Social Democrats prioritize the creation of high value-added jobs in economic policy. The competitive advantage of both Europe and Estonia compared to the rest of the world cannot lay in small labor costs but in the higher added value of products and services. This requires investment in human resources and innovation, closer cooperation and sustainable use of resources. More attention must be paid to the development of small and medium-sized enterprises.

It is important to improve the free movement of services, which would allow for consumption of higher quality and more favorable service, regardless of which Member State it is purchased from. We attach importance to the further development of a single internal market, which is important for the whole of Europe, but also for Estonia with its small and open economy.

Europe needs an even faster and more coherent digital development in industry and services, and these developments must be applied as a driving force for us. Europe needs a digital revolution that focuses on a single digital market. The focus of EU investment must, therefore, be primarily to contribute to the development of education, research, and innovation.

With the development of digital society and digital services, we make sure that programs and machines would not start to dictate choices and decisions. We support responsible development and use of the Internet and digital technologies and a broader debate on this subject in society.

It is clear that a strong budget for the European Union is a prerequisite for the realization of many goals of the Social Democrats. This is necessary in order to create a more equal Europe, where the economic differences between different countries and regions are as small as possible. We support an autonomous EU budget that would not depend solely on contributions from the Member States. The revenue from such a budget could be generated from pan-European taxes, such as the taxation of speculative financial transactions.

In order to avoid economic crises and mitigate their impact, it is important to implement common rules for both the fiscal policies of the Member States and the banking sector and to create buffers to support those in need. We are implementing uniform rules for banks, which include both the collection of a mandatory crisis reserve and pan-European supervision. We support the amendment of the rules in the financial and banking sectors so that criminals cannot use our banks for money laundering.

Environmental policy

In order to halt the deterioration of the living environment resulting from climate change in Europe and the whole planet, the objectives set in the 2015 UN climate agreement in Paris must be followed and implemented. Climate warming must be kept well below 1.5 ° C, which requires a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, fulfilling the goals set does not depend only on the European Union, but Europe must be the driving force here and affect all other countries.

We are increasing the climate ambitions of the European Union in line with the Paris Agreement and the latest research on climate change. Europe must be one of the leading users of renewable energy and become climate neutral by 2050 at the latest. On this basis, ambitious but realistic targets must be set for achieving renewable energy and energy savings by 2030 and 2040.

Europe must protect biodiversity both on our continent and across the globe and stop pollution. Our vision combines the protection of the planet with the interests of our citizens: clean air, clean water, clean energy, and high-quality food must be available to everyone. The EU Member States must ensure that greenhouse gas emissions from land use, land use change or forestry are offset by at least an equivalent removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The reform of the European Union’s agricultural policy must respond to new societal demands, including sustainable production methods, better food, reduced food waste, better animal welfare, climate protection and conservation of biodiversity.

We believe that the European Union must continue to work together to set long-term goals for reducing waste, residual pollution and pollution load, both in the areas of water, mineral resources, energy and transport, forestry, fisheries, and hunting, as well as landscapes and biodiversity.

The EU must vigorously promote the circular economy. One-off plastic products that pollute the environment and can be replaced with more sustainable alternatives must be abandoned. By 2030, all plastic packaging should be recyclable. Steps must be taken to improve plastic recycling, reduce plastic waste and garbage, invest in innovation and apply global measures to reduce plastic waste and other waste. The measures of the EU Circular Economy Package must be implemented.

The Baltic Sea is ecologically unique and highly sensitive to environmental impacts caused by human activity. Baltic Sea protection is organized by the Baltic Sea States in cooperation. We need to increase our capacity to combat environmental pollution and deepen international environmental cooperation. The aim is to establish a control system covering the entire Baltic Sea, through which it will be possible to control the presence of waste on board ships and regulate their transfer in ports.

Gender Equality

The Social Democrats consistently stand for human rights and fundamental rights both in Europe and in Estonia. We attach great importance to the involvement of the European Social Democrats in the fight for women’s rights. Women’s rights are human rights. The participation of women in politics must increase throughout the European Union. The deepest gender pay gap in the European Union continues to be associated with Estonia. While the average gender pay gap of the EU is 16% according to Eurostat, in Estonia, this figure is 25.6%. Our goal is equal pay for equal work. Women’s economic independence is one of the fundamental values of the Social Democrats. We will make salaries transparent so that women get equal pay with men for equal or equivalent work. We ensure that the recruitment process in the European Union is transparent and that wages are public in job advertisements. This will help to reduce the gender pay gap.

Estonia has ratified the framework document on combating violence against women, the so-called Istanbul Convention. In order to reduce domestic violence, we provide immediate emergency assistance to victims and comprehensive support for escaping from the cycle of violence. We are developing more victim-friendly criminal proceedings. We pay special attention to older women in this area. For violent offenders, we provide intervention programs to change their violent behavior. We are fighting virtual violence because we see cyber-bullying and cyber harassment as a modern form of gender discrimination.

The participation of women in making policy and business decisions must increase. We turn the parity principle into the rule in the elected bodies across Europe. We support the initiative of the European Commission according to which at least 40% of both genders are not represented on the boards of state-owned companies. We are in favor of the adoption of the relevant euro directive. 

Youth policy

Better prospects for young people will strengthen society as a whole. We must empower young people and give them the right skills to cope with the competitive labor market. In order for young people to be able to shape their own future and become active citizens, we must ensure equal opportunities for all young people. Young people also need to be more involved in shaping youth policy and making decisions.

Every child must have access to high-quality healthcare, education, housing, and food. To ensure this, we implement the European Child Guarantee, which would allow us to offer all children in the European Union decent living conditions. The income of parents should not be a barrier to young people’s development. As a society, we must allow everyone to have an equal starting position.

We will continue to support and expand the Youth Guarantee  to ensure that all young people under the age of 25 receive a quality job offer, opportunity for continuing education, offer for apprenticeship, or traineeship four months after becoming unemployed or leaving the education system.

We will continue to support and enhance the Erasmus + program. We must ensure that all young people can benefit from the Erasmus + program, regardless of their social background. Popularizing and strengthening student exchange helps young people to broaden their horizons, experience other cultures, and learn new languages.