25 April, 2014

EU Elections 2014 – delivering growth and jobs in EU’s regions and cities

Poznan, 25 April 2014

Jean-Claude Juncker, the candidate of the European People’s Party (EPP) for President of the European Commission, is in Poznan today with Prime Minister Donald Tusk at a summit of EPP regional and local political leaders. The Summit was hosted by the EPP Group in the Committee of the Regions, with hundreds of European mayors participating.

MAIN MESSAGES:

A Europe of regions
  • As President of the European Commission, I will promote regional and local authorities’ involvement in decision making into the future. I will fight for a strong role for the Committee of the Regions throughout the legislative process and I will work closely with you.
  • For us, and for me personally, people are the core of Europe and during my time as President of the European Commission, decisions will be made close to the people.
A simpler Europe
  • I want a European Union that makes decisions and acts for the benefit of its citizens, wherever they live and work. I want a European Union that is bigger on big things and smaller on small things. I want a European Union that only assumes responsibility in areas in which it can really improve our lives. All other policy decisions shall be left to national, or preferably regional or local leaders to decide.
Overcoming the crisis
  • For me there is no good North and bad South in Europe; no old Europe and new Europe; no net contributors and net recipients of EU funds. As President of the European Commission I will build bridges and unite Europe.
  • The EPP combines solidarity with solidity and sustainability. We stand by countries to make sure they will regain the trust of investors so that they can return to growth, create jobs and allow us to become stronger together. This is Europe! 
  • The Socialists believe growth is created by politicians. We, the EPP, believe growth is created by private companies, by SMEs, by family businesses, by entrepreneurs in the regions and cities of Europe.
  • EPP governments are leading European countries out of the crisis one by one. EPP-led governments applied responsible policies of budgetary discipline and economic reforms. Together, we are all improving economic governance in Europe to make sure that we have the right tools to grow and create jobs and that we also make the best use of these tools.
  • We, the EPP, are the party of job creation in Europe. I will work tirelessly to bring more jobs for Europe’s youth to the regions of Europe.
 
FULL SPEECH:
 
Dear Prime Minister Tusk, dear Donald,
Dear Marshal Wozniak,
Dear Chairman Schneider,
Dear Vice President Saryusz-Wolski, dear Jacek,
Dear Commissioner Lewandowski,
Dear Members of Parliaments,
Dear Members of the Committee of the Regions,
Dear Friends!
 
Thank you all for inviting me to the Summit of EPP regional and local political leaders.

Poland and Prime Minister Tusk

 
It is a real pleasure to be back in Poland. My last visit to Poland was as President of the Eurogroup in September 2011 during the Polish EU Presidency. The next time will be as Commission President!

While Poland held the EU Presidency, the Polish Government, Prime Minister Tusk and his ministers, made a crucial contribution to overcoming the economic and financial crisis in Europe. I want to thank you once again for the important role that you played. In addition to having successfully led Europe, you also did the right things here at home.

Among Europe’s 28 Member States there is only one country which recorded economic growth every year over the past ten years. There is only one European country in which the economy did not contract at the peak of the crisis in 2009. No, it is not Luxembourg, it is Poland! It is important that we are all aware of this. Thanks to Prime Minister Tusk and his Government, Poland overcame this crisis stronger than any other European country. And I also know that Prime Minister Tusk and the Civic Platform are leading Poland today better than any other political party in Poland can!

During my time as President of the Eurogroup I worked closely with your Minister of Finance, Jacek Rostowski. I am delighted that he is running in the European elections. Jacek will be an excellent MEP; he will be a big asset for the European Parliament and the EPP Group.
 

European elections
I met many of you at the EPP Congress in Dublin in March when I was elected to lead the EPP into this European election. I would like to thank you and your parties for the trust that have placed in me.

My message to you today is: I will do my utmost to ensure that we, the European People’s Party, will win these European elections. Please take this message back home to your regions, communities and friends. The EPP is the strongest European political party and we will win these elections.

 
Role of Committee of the Regions
The EPP has the largest Group in the European Parliament, we have the largest number of Commissioners, the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council, but we are also the largest Group in the Committee of the Regions and have the President of the Committee of the Regions. You, the EPP Group in the Committee of the Regions, have shaped the policies of this institution over the past years more than any other political force. You have made sure that Europe’s regions have a say in Brussels today and this was the right thing to do! You have brought Brussels closer to the people and you have put the people at the centre of our decision making.

This is why, as President of the European Commission, I will promote involving regional and local authorities in decision making as we go forward. I will fight for a strong role for the Committee of the Regions throughout the legislative process and I will work closely with you.

 
Poznan Manifesto, policies for the people, cooperation between regions, subsidiarity

The topic that brought us here today is of great importance. It is in Europe’s regions that we enter into contact with the people, that we listen to their concerns. But it is also through direct contact with the people that we often receive the best solutions to their challenges.

I come from a small country. Indeed, the population of Luxembourg is smaller than the population of Poznan. In such a small country, direct contact with the people is essential for a politician. If there is one lesson my 18 years as Prime Minister have taught me, it is this. Mr Schulz would like to pretend he would be the ‘Mayor President’, but writing letters to Commission staff telling them to ‘talk to people’ is not going to cut it.

Coming from such a small country, I have also learned the importance of working closely together with regions from neighbouring countries. For example, in 2007, when Luxembourg was European Capital of Culture, I insisted that we share this honour with the whole Greater Region of Luxembourg.

This includes regions in Luxembourg, France, Germany and Belgium. This made Luxembourg a true European cultural capital. Speaking of the European Capital of Culture, I am very happy that Wroclaw will be the European Capital of Culture in 2016. This presents all of us with an excellent opportunity to return to Poland in two years’ time!

And because regional policy really matters to the EPP, and because I will be a President of every region in Europe, today, here in Poznan, we are adopting the Poznan Manifesto of EPP regional and local leaders: “The Europe We Need. The Europe We Want. A better Europe.”

This underlines our view of people being at the heart of Europe. For us, and for me personally, people are the core of Europe and during my time as President of the European Commission, decisions will be made close to the people. The Poznan Manifesto, which we are adopting today, has my full backing as EPP candidate for Commission President and I will stick to these principles when I become President of the European Commission.

I want a European Union that acts for the benefit of its citizens, wherever they live and work. I want a European Union that is bigger on big things and smaller on small things. I want a European Union that only assumes responsibility in areas in which it can really improve our lives.

All other policy areas shall be left to national, or preferably regional or local leaders to decide. You are closest to the people, you know their needs and you are the best placed to answer most of their concerns. As President of the European Commission, I will attach great value to the principle of subsidiarity.

With me as President of the Commission, the legislative process in Europe will respond to the needs of today and tomorrow, not to the needs of the past. Your voice will be essential in helping me provide simple and meaningful legislation for the people.

For me there is no good North and bad South in Europe; no old Europe and new Europe; no net contributors and net recipients of EU funds. As President of the European Commission I will build bridges and unite Europe. I will build bridges on the strong pillars which exist in each of our countries. Every one of us has many things to learn from every corner of Europe.

Overcoming the economic crisis

During my time as President of the Eurogroup, we had to overcome Europe’s deepest economic crisis. The first value that guided me in all of these decisions was solidarity. To me it was evident, that every European country in difficulty had to receive the support and solidarity of other European countries. No country was left to face its economic challenges alone.

But as a true friend, real help means that we strengthen those countries to make sure that such a crisis can never hit them again. The EPP combines solidarity with solidity and sustainability. We stand by these countries to make sure they can regain the trust of investors, so that they will return to growth, create jobs and become stronger together. This is Europe!

Dear friends, one point that clearly differentiates us from our Socialist competitors is our view on the economy. Socialists believe growth is created by politicians. We, the EPP, believe growth is created by private companies, by SMEs, by family businesses, by entrepreneurs in the regions and cities of Europe.

Too often we speak about growth and jobs, but we rarely point to the essential role Europe’s regions play in achieving this. We believe it is our duty to put forward the framework in which companies can develop, in which they can invest and create jobs.

We believe in the need to reform and strengthen our economies, to invest in innovation and education in order to become more competitive than other regions of the world. We do not want governments to pump more of people’s money into the inefficient economic structures of the past. We want smart, sustainable and green growth which secures stable and well paid jobs!

Especially recently, we have seen EPP economic recipes bearing fruit. EPP governments are leading European countries out of the crisis one by one. Ireland exited the bailout and regained the trust of investors at the end of last year. Portugal will do the same this year. Spain has reformed its banking sector and regained competitiveness. Greece is also making remarkable progress.

EPP-led governments applied responsible policies of budgetary discipline and economic reforms and together, we are all improving economic governance in Europe to make sure that we have the right tools to grow and create jobs and that we also make the best use of these tools.
 

Cohesion policy, social welfare
 
One of the most significant tools at our disposal to shape Europe, to make it ready for tomorrow, is cohesion policy. In our Poznan Manifesto we write that “cohesion policy is the EU’s main investment tool to improve the quality of life for all citizens and contributes substantially to sustainable growth and jobs.”

I fully subscribe to this. Cohesion policy helps us to become more competitive and to reduce disparities between Europe’s regions. Economies in Europe are different from country to country and from region to region.

As President of the European Commission I will work to preserve the specificity of each region, but I want us to be united around the goal of becoming more competitive, of strengthening the European economy and making Europe the most attractive place to invest in.

But I also want a Europe that stands for social welfare. I want the strong and the weak to be taken on board to increase social cohesion in Europe. I want the economy to serve the people and not the other way around.

And I also want a Europe that better supports the work done by regional authorities, as well as cooperation between Europe’s regions.
 

Opportunities for Europe’s Youth
I will place great emphasis on creating more opportunities for Europe’s youth. Europe’s youth were hit hard by the crisis without having created this crisis. This is not fair. I want Europe’s youth to look to the future with confidence again. I want to give hope to Europe’s youth.

Every young European deserves a chance to build his home and start his own family. For this, you need a stable and well paid job. We, the EPP are the party of job creation in Europe.

I will work tirelessly to bring more jobs for Europe’s youth into the regions of Europe. The European Commission, under my leadership, will give more support to young entrepreneurs; we will create and extend programmes to facilitate the exchange of best practices across Europe’s regions; we will encourage young Europeans to bring their ideas to the market.

And if they have tried and failed once, we should make it possible for them to try again. The likelihood that someone who failed with his first start-up will be successful with his second is much higher. We should never waste an opportunity to bring growth and jobs to Europe’s regions.

 
Ukraine and Russia
Given that we are in Poland and many of you come from countries that have common borders with Ukraine or Russia, or have even been part of the Soviet Union, let me say a few words about what is happening at our front door.

The developments in Ukraine and the whole Eastern neighbourhood are a wake-up call for Europe. Freedom, the rule of law and the right of any country to determine its own future are fundamental rights for those of us in the European Union; but they are not so evident for Russia. We see that Russia annexed Crimea by ignoring international law and it continues to provoke in Eastern Ukraine. Now, more than ever, we need Europe to secure a prosperous and peaceful neighbourhood.

 
We need to step up - if Russia does not change it's behaviour - the level of our sanctions and extend their scope, including cutting the financial channels to and from Russia.
We will provide financial support to Ukraine, to mitigate against further negative consequences for the Ukrainian people. But we will do so under strict conditions and by making sure that Ukraine reforms and strengthens its economy so that it can stand on its own two feet again.

I want people outside the borders of the EU to enjoy the same right to freedom and prosperity as you do here in Poland. Because of NATO and the European Union, Poland has its security and prosperity guaranteed.

 
Election campaign

I will have the chance to see many of you again while visiting your countries in the next weeks. Until I come to see you in your home countries, please follow the “Juncker for President” Campaign: we are on Facebook, on Twitter and everywhere else! Please also tell friends in your parties and communities to follow us and spread the word about who we are and what we do.

I will also face my competitors in several TV debates. Please watch these debates and spread the word about our policies. I promise you, I will win these debates, but you also have to let people know that we won the debates and what we stand for.

People have to make an informed decision on 25th May. We are the party of responsibility. We are the party that brings growth and jobs to Europe’s regions. We are the party that makes Europe’s regions competitive and strong.

Let’s show in the coming weeks that we are one political family. That we support each other, regardless from which wing of our party we are from.

Let’s show that the EPP is the party of unity in diversity. Let’s win these European Parliament elections together.

And let’s win the Berlaymont and the European Commission presidency. It is good for Europe and it is good for Europe’s regions!

I am counting on your support to achieve this.