05/05/2010 20:10 – Updated: 05/18/2019 09:10
“Vote for anyone, but vote”. And know what is at stake, should have added the socialist candidate to the European elections, Josep Borrell. The most unknown elections for a large part of the population will be held next Sunday, May 26, coinciding with regional and municipal elections that will get all the leading role in Spain.
But the ‘brain’ of policies affecting such important issues as the environment, the competitiveness of companies or taxes on big technology is in Brussels, an unexplored territory for many candidates who go on the European lists of different political parties. To the point that more than one of them does not even master the languages (English and / or French) that he will have to use in his new job, nor does he know how the European institutions work.
Political parties often ‘reward’ their MEPs with a well-paid seat in the European Parliament (almost 8.500 gross euros per month, let aside subsistence allowances), even if that means ignoring their lack of preparation in EU community issues. “It is a reflection of the low importance given to Europe. Our country is not setting the agenda, unlike the United Kingdom, Ireland, Holland, Germany, Italy or the Nordic countries”, the director of the Spanish Association of Distributors, Self-service and Supermarkets (ASEDAS), Ignacio García Magarzo, says in an interview with El Confidencial.
“We are not talking about European issues” despite their direct influence on Spanish companies or consumers, either due to ignorance, indifference in the media or lack of interest. We only talk about it afterwards, when the problem is already here (see the stevedores’ strike) and there is no possibility of going back. The fact that EU directives are approved two years before their application in the Member States also influences, a time span which does not help Spaniards pay attention to what is happening in Brussels. What does each party think about ‘the forgotten big ones’ in the electoral campaign?
The European Union has declared war on plastics by way of a directive prohibiting the sale of disposable products such as cutlery, glasses, plates, ear swabs, straws, bags or other products with biodegradable substitute from 2021 The European Parliament has also focused on plastic bottles, which will have to be recycled by 90% in 2025. The priority is to eliminate pollution of seas and oceans, although the application of this and other measures “will determine the competitiveness of our companies”, in the eyes of García Magarzo. Not to mention waste management and possible changes in infrastructure or polluting emissions, one of the biggest environmental challenges.
While the ‘popular’ are committed to emission neutrality in 2050, review the rules governing the domestic gas market or enable recharging points for electric cars, ‘socialists’ advocate a tax on emissions, create a European fund for ecological transition or reduce food waste. ‘Podemos’ wants to allocate 2.5% of GDP to a European climate plan, lower taxes on registration for electric cars or eliminate ‘fracking’, while ‘Vox’ places hunting as an axis for the preservation of the natural environment and demands that the other countries comply with the same environmental commitments.’ Ciudadanos’ has not yet presented its electoral program for the European elections.
The likes of Amazon have revolutionized traditional retailers, forced to wake up from their lethargy to face an unstoppable reality. Every time there are more voices asking for a tax on the activity of the great technology companies, in order that all the operators (physical and online) play in equal conditions. One of the first to publicly denounce the “absolutely advantageous taxation” of such platforms was Dimas Gimeno, former president of El Corte Inglés to whom Mariano Rajoy bought his discourse. Moreover, the former president of the Government undertook to seek an effective and fair regulatory framework that suits the digital age. But this game is to be played in Brussels.
The political groups tiptoe through this challenge in their electoral programs, where they restrict themselves to highlighting the development of ‘big data’ and artificial intelligence (PP) or the need to avoid hyper-regulation to leave as much freedom as possible to corporations (Vox). Podemos proposes a European tax of 3% for digital companies and the creation of a European robotics center based in Spain, and the socialists do not specify with that level of detail, but also want to tax the turnover of the large technology platforms (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple). None of the parties mentions the future regulation of online sales to avoid discriminatory practices in some countries with respect to others.
The taxation of Amazon is only in the electoral programs of PSOE and Podemos. (Reuters)
• R + D + I
Innovation is another of the pending subjects, with special repercussion in this continent. “Europe is in demographic decline, companies believe that it does not compensate them to make certain launches here and they go to Asia because of their enormous potential, which limits our capacity for growth (…) We run the risk of becoming the caboose of innovative countries, so we must be leaders in the design of European policies”, explains Magarzo. So far we have not achieved it, although we do lead on specific issues such as food security or the negotiation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Not so in domestic trade, practically ‘abandoned’ by the representatives of Spain in Brussels.
The PP is committed to promote studies related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as to promote the creation of business clusters financed with European funds, especially taking into account that the contribution of industry to European GDP has fallen from 23% to 19% in two decades. The proteccionist threat from third countries and the growing competition from emerging countries are the biggest challenges. The PSOE will fight for an increase in the budget of the Euro zone to finance investments in infrastructure or R + D + I, while Podemos is committed to relocating production and supporting the local economy. For its part, Vox highlights the need to move forward in the agricultural sector to reduce the gap with cities and simplify the European regulatory network.