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Most of the candidates are convinced that Europe at last has a new opportunity to move forward, and that is the message they are giving the voters. "We shall have the big stars of European politics in the Parliament," says France's Edgard Pisani, a former Minister of Agriculture under Charles de Gaulle and now a Socialist candidate. "That is one reason why this Parliament can have great political influence. It has the power to analyze, inform and publicize, and it could give a European opinion on the great issues of the day."
That was part of the dream of the founders of postwar Western Europe, who envisaged economic cooperation leading toward ever closer political unity. Yet on paper, the powers of the European Parliament remain pitifully small. It will be essentially a consultative body with limited budgetary powers. But it could challenge the European Council, the Community's real lawmaking body, and the European Commission, its administrative arm. Such efforts could threaten the E.C.'s inner workings.
To be effective, the new Parliament will have to depend on the prestige of its members and public opinion. Says Candidate Leo Tindemans, former Premier of Belgium: "Did you ever hear of any parliament that got all its powers on a plate by itself?" One plan is to organize public hearings on major issues and invite national Cabinet ministers to testify publicly. "It will be politically impossible for ministers involved in European policy to refuse to come," says Tindemans.
The new assembly will be organized not on national but on party lines. The Socialists, led by Brandt, are expected to win about 130 of the 410 seats. The Christian Democrats, with Tindemans bidding for leadership, are counting on around 100 members. Italy's Altiero Spinelli, a former Common Market commissioner and now a Communist candidate, says that parliamentary majorities will be formed "by country on some issues, by party on others, and on others by Europe itself."
Spurring the Euro-Parliament on will be Europe's increasing sense of frustration that its economic strength has yet to be translated into more decisive voice in world affairs. "The major questions of the day are being decided by the superpowers," complains Tindemans. "The Middle East, the source of our oil, the SALT signing in Vienna, raw materials. All these things are being done over our heads, and we Europeans must have a voice."