Most of the governments of the European Union’s 27 member countries are conservative, as are the bulk of the European Council and the president of the Commission, José Manuel Barroso. The current European Parliament, which is to be reshuffled within a matter of days, is for the most part centre-right.

Some of the older generation in Spain, who have always associated Europe with the freedoms we lost under Franco and with the creation of the welfare state and who have always equated Europe with a progressive project, seem to forget this ideological reality. The European elections are an opportunity to curb that ideological drift, since more than half the legislative initiatives that affect the day-to-day lives of Europeans hinge on the outcome.

Furthermore, the shared public realm of the EU is afflicted with a severe economic crisis involving a drastic decline in economic activity, soaring unemployment (over 20 million jobless), and zero price growth, which some analysts see as a portent of imminent deflation. Compounding this situation is an adverse structural misfortune factor – the failure of the Lisbon Agenda, which sought to make the EU the most advanced region on the planet – as well as a curious paradox: although most of the governments in the region are conservative, the economic policy they are implementing is Keynesian, designed to increase demand, and in no way resembles the neoliberal model they had been flirting with prior to 2007.

Recalling the nature, depth and momentum of the Great Depression, Europeans (according to private-sector opinion polls and the Eurobarometer) apparently assume a fact that politicians in some EU countries (like Spain, for example) have yet to admit: no political force by itself is capable of pulling its populace out of such a global, systemic economic predicament. So at what point will it be unequivocally clear that we need a failsafe pact to replace the one Social and Christian Democrats signed after World War II, which turned Europe into a global role model of integration, progress and success? The postwar pact gave rise to the Golden Age of Capitalism (the period of the fastest, and longest-lasting, economic growth up to the mid-1970s) and to the creation of the welfare state as the best feasible human utopia.

Felipe González, now presiding over a think tank on Europe’s future, suggests overturning five aspects of that new pact: 1) Consolidation of an anticyclical economic policy to reverse the recessionary trend and proposals for a new financial order to keep us from repeating past mistakes and abuses (more and better regulation). 2) A new strategy to replace the Lisbon Agenda, inseparably tying the economic model to the European welfare state (how to be an economic and technological competitor in the age of globalisation, and how – and how much – social cohesion can be financed to uphold the social model that is a hallmark of European identity). 3) An energy policy to safeguard supply whilst accepting the constraints imposed by the fight against climate change. 4) Common immigration policies involving the cooperation of countries of origin and addressing the root causes of uncontrolled immigration. 5) A security policy targeting not only terrorism but also organized crime.

Is there time to agree on these policies that cut across ideological divides? That will depend partly on the outcome of the European Parliamentary elections. And that’s why it’s absolutely essential to vote.