A Europe of responsibility
Jean-Claude Juncker, the candidate of the European People’s Party (EPP) for President of the European Commission, is in Sofia today at the event launching the European campaign of Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB). The event is attended by 15,000 GERB leaders and supporters, including Boyko Borissov, GERB President and former Prime Minister.
I am very glad to be in Bulgaria today.
I am glad to be among friends. Many friends, as I can see!
Thanks a lot, dear Boyko, thanks a lot to all GERB members here today for this unique and powerful demonstration of your friendship.
I remember very well the 25 April 2005, almost exactly nine years ago.
On this day, we signed a very important Treaty in my home country Luxembourg.
I was President of the European Council at the time, and I negotiated this Treaty over many long days and nights. It was the Treaty of Accession for Bulgaria.
It was the Treaty that brought you back home into the European family.
A Treaty that made clear to the world that Bulgaria's place is at the heart of Europe.
A Treaty which the whole of Europe should be proud of.
Because this Treaty finally reunited Europe and reconciled European history and geography.
In less than 30 days, 300 million Europeans will go to the polls to vote in a new European Parliament.
Citizens in 28 countries will directly elect their 751 representatives in the European Parliament.
17 of these European Parliamentarians will be directly elected here in Bulgaria.
And these could be very decisive seats in these elections.
Because this time, we are seeing a neck-to-neck race with the Socialists in these European elections. Every vote counts.
And this is why I am counting on you all to ensure that as many of these 17 Bulgarian seats as possible will go to the European People's Party.
I am very proud to be the lead candidate of the European People's Party in these elections.
The lead candidate to become the next President of the European Commission.
I tell you why I accepted to be elected by the EPP as lead candidate:
Because I believe in European Democracy. Because I believe we will win. The EPP will win these European Parliament elections.
And this means that as of 1 November this year, I will be the next President of the European Commission.
I am proud that here in Bulgaria, we have a strong team of candidates, led by Tomislav Donchev.
I would ask you to support Tomislav and our candidates with all your energy in the last four weeks of this election campaign.
Every vote for GERB candidates will strengthen the EPP in the next European Parliament.
And a strong EPP in the next European Parliament will also make us strong in the European Commission.
And I want to lead a strong European Commission.
When Bulgaria went to the polls five years ago, less than 29% of Bulgarians made use of their right to vote in the European Parliament elections.
I call on you all to change this and to mobilise all our voters.
Let me say it loud and clear: These European Parliament elections DO matter!
Very important decisions will be made in Brussels and in Strasbourg over the next five years.
Over the next five years, the European Union will decide on policies that matter for jobs here in Bulgaria.
Over the next five years, the European Commission will decide on the allocation of over 7 billion euros in European structural funds, all of which is funding projects here in Bulgaria. This amounts to 3% of Bulgaria’s GDP every year.
Over the next five years, the European Union will decide on the future of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM).
I know well how important the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism has been for Bulgaria. I know that it has often been a helpful tool in supporting reforms and an independent judiciary in Bulgaria.
As Commission President, I will work for strong respect of the rule of law and a determined fight against corruption in all 28 EU Member States – including but not only in Bulgaria and Romania.
I believe in the rule of law, but also in the equal treatment of all Member States.
I therefore welcome the initiative of José Manuel Barroso, our current EPP President of the European Commission, to progressively move towards a Rule of Law Mechanism for all EU Member States.
You can count on me: I will continue this important work when I am Commission President. And this will, I hope, allow for the phasing out of the Cooperation and Verifcation Mechanism under my Presidency.
Over the next five years, the European Union will also decide whether Bulgaria will finally become a full member of the Schengen area – something I sincerely hope for.
I, like the European Commission, know that Bulgaria fulfils the conditions for full Schengen membership.
And it is therefore high time that Bulgarian citizens are able to make use of their right to free movement, which is one of the biggest achievements of the European project. And, for me, something that is strictly non-negotiable.
Over the next five years, Europe will decide on the right direction for our economic and fiscal policies.
We need to tell voters this in this election campaign: it matters a lot whether you vote for GERB or another EPP party, or whether you vote for the socialists.
We in the EPP believe in policies that bring about growth and jobs for people. Not by accumulating more and more debt. But by combining fiscal responsibility with policies which allow companies and entrepreneurs to create jobs.
We in the EPP know that companies create jobs in the economy, not governments.
We in the EPP know that small and medium-sized companies are the backbone of our economy. That more than 90% of all jobs are created by SMEs.
The socialists, on the other hand, are a bit like Christopher Columbus in their economic policies.
When they start, they don’t know where they are going.
When they arrive, they don’t know where they are.
And the taxpayer has to foot the bill for these socialist adventures.
We need more responsibility in Europe. More responsibility when it comes to jobs in our economy. More responsibility when it comes to taxpayers’ money. And more responsibility when it comes to our children’s future.
We therefore need the EPP in power in Europe, and not the socialists.
Over the next five years, the European Union will also need to decide on a real common energy policy.
As Commission President, I will never accept that political or commercial conflicts with our neighbours make our citizens suffer. I will never accept that millions of citizens here in Bulgaria will have their gas cut off for weeks on end - in the middle of winter.
If we cannot get sufficient gas from the East, we should be able to compensate this with gas supplies from the West.
We need more Europe in our energy policy.
We need more European solidarity in our energy policy. To become less dependent on third countries which do not always share our European values.
We need to have a stronger voice towards third countries when we negotiate energy prices.
The next Commission will transform Europe into a true Energy Union.
A Union with a fully integrated energy market. And a Union that is united and speaks with one voice on the international stage.
If the price for energy from the East becomes too expensive, either in commercial or in political terms, Europe must be able to switch to other supply channels very swiftly.
This is what I will be fighting for over the next five years – that is, if you, dear friends, mobilise all your voters and help me make the EPP the strongest political group in the next European Parliament!
The developments in Ukraine have made it clear to all of us why we need the European Union.
They have confirmed that we need more European solidarity in energy policy.
They have shown us why we need more European solidarity in applying swiftly deterrent economic sanctions when international law is violated.
They have shown us that one day we will need a common European defence, as called for in the EPP manifesto.
The events in Ukraine also show us that we should not be naive about the intentions of Russia.
Russia is testing Europe at the moment. Putin knows well that we do not want war. There is not a single person in Europe that wants war after what we lived through twice in the 20th century.
But we cannot let him get away with it.
Putin also knows very well that he needs good economic relations with the European Union. The Russian economy depends on this. This is why economic sanctions, imposed by the whole European Union, can inflict a lot of pain on the Russian economy.
Notably if they target the flow of finance, which is so decisive for the Russian economy.
If Russia does not de-escalate the situation, we need to upgrade our economic sanctions swiftly.
And we need to cut the flow of money with Russia. Today rather than tomorrow.
For this, however, we have to be united and not naive.
I find it revealing that these days right-wing extremist parties across Europe are defending and even admiring Mr Putin's actions. This is also the case here in Bulgaria.
Parties who defend and admire those who place the law of power above the power of international law should not be elected into Parliaments and certainly not become coalition partners in government.
We in the EPP, but also all other democratic forces should be very clear about this.
As Commission President, I will fight for a Europe that will not be naive in foreign policy. I will fight for a Europe that is strong, united and that bears its teeth when necessary.
Our European values were built over hundreds of years.
We cannot not sit idly by and see them destroyed in a day in our immediate neighbourhood.
We must give a proportionate but determined European response.
I call on all of you to mobilise our voters in the weeks to come.
To vote for a Europe that is not naive, but responsible.
To vote for a Europe governed by thee EPP, and not the Socialists.
To vote for a Europe all citizens can be proud of.
This is what I stand for: a Europe that citizens can be proud of again.
This is why I want to be the next President of the Commission.
And with all your help, I will be.
Thank you for your attention.