On 29 November 2017, Dara Murphy will address the EPP Group in the European Committee of the Regions in his capacity as EPP Vice-President and Campaign Director for the 2019 European elections. In anticipation of this meeting, he underlines the valued role of local and regional policians in the EU, shares his views on the Spitzenkandidaten process and sends a message to local media that it is their role to holdlocal politicians to account.
As Campaign Director for the European People’s Party for the 2019 European Elections, which role do you foresee for the local and regionally elected politicians?
I had the great pleasure of serving as lord mayor of Ireland’s second city Cork before I entered national politics and I have always believed that the greatest honour a politician can have is to represent their own people. The importance of our local and regional politicians cannot be overstated. Currently, right across the EPP leadership we are hearing very welcome commentary about the importance of keeping decision-making as close as possible to our people throughout the European continent: Nobody is better placed to inform the debate about the needs, hopes and wishes of our European citizens in all of their diversity than the politicians they elect at local and regional level. This benefit will of course apply to large pan-European issues, such as in the areas of broader economic growth, security measures to deal with some of the difficulties from recent migration, but also crucially to show the benefit of the work of European people party politicians in delivering for our cities and for our regions and therefore the people on the ground.
Joseph Daul, President of the EPP, has underlined the party’s commitment to the Spitzenkandidat process. How will this look for the 2019 elections?
Given the complexity of the electoral systems across our 28 Member States and the different views on the pace of progress towards integration across many issues, it is a political reality that we will not see a directly elected president of Europe in the short term. The lead candidate, or Spitzenkandidat, however, gives European voters an opportunity to see the person who will, if the party they represent achieves the largest number of seats in the democratically elected parliament, become head of the European Commission. This is a significant increase in the democratic accountability and indeed the legitimacy that the president of the European Commission has. It is my view that it would be a regressive stepto move away from having the political parties identify their candidate and the policies and visions that they have for the future of our continent. Of course, there will continue to be a very strong national and national party focus towards every election, given the nature of European politics, and that will continue through the European elections.
How much do you think trust will play a role in the upcoming elections and how does the EPP plan to engage with citizens in this matter?
Trust is the most important element within democracy and within any political system. It is the responsibility of our politicians to work through the media and indeed directly with citizens to ensure that they are worthy of the trust of the people whom they represent.
Our local and regional politicians, given the proximity that they have to the people on the ground, play an absolutely vital role when it comes to trust. Greater coordination between European, national and local and regional politicians with the support of umbrella parties like the EPP should work to really ensure that we address the issue of lost trust in some parts of our societies. It is vital that we build on this and continue to ensure that levels of trust increase rather than decrease.
On 4-5 December, the EPP Group in the CoR will host a group of local journalists for the 11th edition of its Winter University for local and regional media (#EPPWU). Do you think that local media still matters in today’s globalised age?
Local media continues and should always, I believe, play a very, very important part in our democracy. It is a vital component in ensuring that local politicians are held to account and that local issues continue to be promoted and supported by the people who are elected to represent their locality. We, in the EPP, and myself as campaign director, are very keen to ensure that the use of fake news throughout elections is carefully monitored to ensure an honest and open debate. I think we must acknowledge that for many, many generations, local news providers have been a source of honest news and news of local interest across Europe.
Given the current proliferation of fake news which is so easily spread through social media and modern media platforms, the importance of local media has never been more obvious.