|Vol.7, No.46, 13.12.01, p6
FOUR of the five candidates bidding to become the next European Parliament president are to be quizzed by the public at an 'alternative' Laeken summit.
Liberal Pat Cox, Socialist David Martin, Danish eurosceptic Jens-Peter Bonde and French Green Gérard Onesta will face a 300-strong audience in a debate at the European Parliament.
The fifth candidate, French communist Francis Wurtz, cannot attend because he is in Brazil.
The event, organised by the cross-party SOS Democracy group, follows a similar discussion hosted by European Voice and the Campaign for Parliament Reform last month.
Bonde, chairman of SOS Democracy, said he had organised the event because "EU summits have become remote and unrepresentative".
"Most of the work is done behind closed doors so we thought it would be novel idea to have an alternative summit where the views of everyone, not just an élite group, can be aired.
"We will discuss much the same as at Laeken but the key difference is that we have invited both eurosceptics and people who strongly believe in the EU to take part in our summit.
"It may not get the same attention as the one taking place in the north of Brussels but we believe it is just as valid."
The Dane added: "It will probably also be the last opportunity to see the election candidates in action on the same platform."
The debate will be chaired by French deputy Georges Berthu and will follow speeches by guest speakers Jean-Luc Dehaene, the former prime minister of Belgium and possible contender to chair the Convention on Europe's future, and Northern Ireland's First Minister, David Trimble.
Bonde added: "We are particularly pleased that Trimble will be speaking. It will be interesting to hear his views on what direction the EU should take and the ramifications of the Nice Treaty."
Irish Green MEP Patricia McKenna, Danish deputy Ole Krarup and Ulla Klotzer, leader of the Finnish eurosceptic group, Alternative to EU, will debate 'The Euro, Nice and respect for the people's will', while British MEP Dan Hannan and Drude Dahlerup, of the Danish June Movement, will discuss civil liberties in the wake of 11 September. Admission is free but places are limited.
Four of the five candidates bidding to become the next European Parliament president are to be quizzed by the public at an 'alternative' Laeken summit.
|Politics and International Relations