16 April, 2014

New Growth without Debt: My Priorities as Commission President

Speech by Jean-Claude JUNCKER,
Lead Candidate of the European People’s Party
for President of the European Commission
in the European Parliament elections 2014
Suomalainen klub, Helsinki, 16 April 2014
Check against delivery

Jean-Claude Juncker, the candidate of the European People’s Party (EPP) for President of the European Commission, is in Helsinki today. He attended a campaign event with EPP member party Kokoomus and delivered a speech at a lunch hosted by Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen.

Jean-Claude Juncker’s main messages in Helsinki:

 Jean-Claude Juncker’s priority as Commission President:
"My priority as Commission President will be to bring Europe back on track to economic growth and new jobs."

Fiscal Responsibility:
“It seems to me that the Socialists would like to spend money that they do not have. They would like to spend money that our Member States also do not have. We in the EPP do not believe that accumulating more and more debt is the best way out of the present crisis. We in the EPP believe that too much debt is anti-social. Because the debt accumulated today will have to be paid back by our children and grandchildren”.

Digital Single Market:
“Where our single market remains incomplete is when it comes to digital products and services. This is what I want to work for as Commission President: Making sure that Europe creates a truly integrated digital single market in the next 5 years. This could generate additional growth in Europe worth €500 billion - just by intelligent European policy measures, and without spending money we do not have."

"If we ask companies to offer their networks and services not only nationally any longer but now on a continental scale, we should, in my view, also apply EU competition law with a continental spirit. A truly integrated market will need pan-European operators."
 
Regulation:
“Regulating less, better and simpler is a commitment taken by most governments and by many Commissioners. I intend however to make this a clear priority of my Commission from day one and until my last day in office”.

Foreign Policy:
“The Ukraine crisis must be a wake-up call for Europe. Europe is and remains the most important guarantee for peace on our continent. The European flags on the Maidan in Kiev have reminded us very clearly of this”.

Energy Policy:
“If I am Commission President, I will add strengthening Europe’s energy policy to my list of top priorities. This is for me a key lesson of the Ukraine crisis. Europe needs to become less dependent on energy imports. And we need to strengthen Europe’s energy infrastructures between the West and the East of Europe, and between the North and the South”.

 

The full text of the speech is below (check against delivery):

"Dear Jyrki, dear friends,

It is a great pleasure for me to be in Finland today. It is a pleasure because Finland has something in common with my home country Luxembourg: along with Germany, Finland and Luxembourg are the only countries in the Euro zone who have triple A status. We have thus the best reputation in terms of creditworthiness and financial solidity. This is not self-evident after some rather turbulent years on the financial markets.

It is also my pleasure to be in Finland because it is always good to be among friends. And I count you, Jyrki, as a friend. Not only as a political friend. But as a true friend. There is a difference, as we both know!

For me, it is very good news that you, Jyrki, intend to change your current position for a European position this summer.

Of course, this will be a great loss for Finland. But Finland will at the same time win with you a uniquely strong Finnish voice in Europe.

I welcome this and I am looking forward to an even closer cooperation with you as of this summer.

A Commission President needs friends, and I will be very glad to have you as a friend in my new position after the European Parliament elections.

The lead candidate – an EPP invention

Ladies and gentlemen,

As you know, I have been elected as lead candidate of the European People’s Party to become the next President of the European Commission.

The European People’s Party brings together more than 70 European parties of the centre right, with Europe’s common Christian democrat values at the heart of our party political programme.

We are not conservatives, as some journalists write. The conservative party in Europe includes right wing parties which are so conservative and so Eurosceptic that they could not even agree on having a lead candidate in these European Parliament elections.

We in the European People’s Party believe in people. We want to give people a stronger say in Europe. We believe that elections matter. We are not conservative, but quite modern in this respect.

And this is why we in the European People’s Party have fought for many years for a new clause in the Treaties.

A clause that says the following: As of 2014, the President of the European Commission – the head of Europe’s executive – is no longer appointed as a result of backroom deals between diplomats.

But the President of the European Commission is elected by the European Parliament with a majority of its members.

And the candidate for this position is nominated by the European Council in light of the result of the European Parliament elections.

This means that thanks to the EPP, the European Parliament elections from 22 to 25 May really matter this time!

It matters which party will become the largest political group in the European Parliament. Because it is clear that the lead candidate of the largest political group in the European Parliament will be tasked with forming the next European Commission.

In European affairs, the European Commission plays a very important role. It is true that all EU legislation needs today to be agreed between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. But only the European Commission can make proposals for new European laws; only the European Commission can propose to abolish outdated EU laws; only the Commission can prohibit cartels and take on abusive monopolies and regulate company mergers where they have a European dimension; and it is the European Commission that ensures that commonly agreed EU laws are respected equally and fairly by all 28 Member States of the Union, if needed by infringement proceedings at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

It therefore matters a lot who presides the European Commission, who sets the tone and who decides on the direction the next European Commission will take.

It therefore also matters very much who Finnish voters vote for on 25 May. Because the 13 members of the European Parliament which Finnish voters will elect in May could bring the decisive seats in the next European Parliament.

These seats will decide whether the European People’s Party will be the largest political group and get the Commission President; or whether the Socialists will have a couple of seats more, which would mean that a Socialist would become President of the next European Commission.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Some say that it does not matter so much whether the next Commission will be presided over by an EPP President or by a Socialist.

I would like to tell you today: Yes, it matters!

It is true that we in the EPP have some commonalities with the Socialists. For example, we both reject extremist parties.

However, we have clear differences when it comes to the direction of economic and financial policies.

We have clear differences when it comes to being serious about the better regulation agenda in the EU.

And we have some differences when it comes to foreign policy matters, because I have a bit more governmental experience than my Socialist competitor.
 
My priority as Commission President will be to bring Europe back on track to economic growth and new jobs.

The Socialists will certainly agree with this objective. Who would not? However, where the EPP and the Socialists disagree is on the right policies and instruments to achieve growth and jobs.

The Socialists believe that growth and jobs can be created by new debt.

We see this clearly in the Socialists jobs plan, which consists of a lot of new spending, going far beyond what is available under the EU budget and under national budgets.

It seems to me that the Socialists would like to spend money that they do not have. They would like to spend money that our Member States also do not have.

We in the EPP do not believe that accumulating more and more debt is the best way out of the present crisis.

We in the EPP believe that too much debt is anti-social. Because the debt accumulated today will have to be paid back by our children and grandchildren.

Too much debt accumulated today is thus destroying the prospects of the next generation for a proper education, a reliable health system and solid social security.

We in the EPP also believe that too much debt is anti-democratic. Because a country that is over-indebted becomes fair game of the financial markets.

We have seen this with some of the countries in the euro zone where the “sins of the past” led to situations where it was no longer the governments which were deciding policies. Instead the spreads on government bonds were dictating policies to governments.

This is what we in the EPP do not want. We believe in fiscal responsibility, backed up by European solidarity if needed. Because we want our people to be governed by their elected governments. And not by the markets.

For us, a balanced budget is therefore not an ideological request, but a very pragmatic one; because a country balancing its budget can be its declaration of independence from the markets.

We in the EPP also know very well that it is possible to create growth and jobs without new debt. This is what I will commit to as the new Commission President.

“Big on big issues”: A digital single market for consumers and businesses

We can do so by making stronger use of the best asset we have in Europe: our single market stretching over a whole continent, with 500 million potential consumers.

This single market has already brought a lot of wealth and benefits to Europeans.

We can today travel and live everywhere in Europe without any major restrictions.

We can open businesses between the North of Finland and the South of Portugal in a relatively easy manner.

We can even get a court order in a commercial case easily enforced on the other side of the border.

However, where our single market remains incomplete is when it comes to digital products and services.

Have you ever tried to download a song on your iPhone in another EU country?

Have you ever tried to follow a football match on your tablet while abroad?

Are you aware that in spite of the great opportunities offered by the Internet, less than 10% of Internet users buy goods and services online from another country?

You in Finland are a true IT nation, making strides in the gaming industry. But let me ask you this: where today are the European IT companies strong on the world market?

Apple, Google, Facebook – none of them are made in Europe.

Not because we are not good in innovation in Europe. After all, both the GSM standard and the World Wide Web are European inventions.

But because the commercial exploitation of new innovations is much easier and much more attractive in the US than in Europe.

Seen from the perspective of a consumer and of an investor, and in contrast to the US, Europe does not have one, but 28 digital markets, regulated mainly nationally.

The Internet is global, and digital technologies do not know geographic borders. Still, Europe believes it can afford fragmented regulation, 28 times, for digital products and services as well.

Despite some progress made over recent years, we continue to have in Europe 28 national telecoms regulators, 28 national copyright regimes, 28 consumer protections laws for the Internet as well.

This is what I want to work for as Commission President: Making sure that Europe creates a truly integrated digital single market in the next 5 years.

This could generate additional growth in Europe worth 500 billion euro – just by intelligent European policy measures, and without spending money that we do not have.

A first thing we should do is re-think the application of our competition rules in digital markets: I believe that the more the integration of our digital internal market progresses, the more we should Europeanise the application of our common competition rules.

It is certainly very good news for European consumers that the EU has been successfully reducing mobile roaming charges during the past 5 years, altogether by more than 80%. This happened on the initiative of the EPP, of President Barroso and my Luxemburgish colleague Viviane Reding, together with many allies in the European Parliament and in the Council of Ministers.

However, over the next five years, we also need to draw the regulatory consequences of this historic move.

If we ask companies to offer their networks and services no longer only nationally, but on a continental scale, we should in my view also apply EU competition law with a continental spirit.

The idea of national markets appears to me quite anachronistic for an industry with a European or even global dimension.

A truly integrated digital single market will need pan-European operators.

We need fast fibre networks that reach every household in Europe and that do not stop or slow down at a national border.

We need European digital content that can from the beginning be generated and sold for the whole continent, and not only for one country alone.

But for this we will need more Europe in telecoms regulation, in the application of competition law, and in copyright matters.

We will have to break down some national silos of regulation even though they may have become well defended comfort zones for some.

We can certainly flank these policy measures with focussed investment from the EU budget that has been just agreed. The “Connecting Europe Facility’ agreed last year – with an investment volume of 50 billion euro – is now ready for operation. It will allow us to help public and private actors to add the missing links in Europe’s networks and infrastructures, including in digital infrastructures.

This is what the EPP means when we say that Europe has to be big on big issues in the future. The digital single market is such a big issue. Because it is the key to unlocking the door to a European future of innovation, new jobs, new growth and new competitiveness.

“Small on small issues” – the EPP and better regulation

Concentrating on such big issues will at the same time mean that Europe must be smaller on other issues which do not have the same priority for growth and jobs.

As a Luxembourger, I am in regular contact with the citizens on the street in my country. I know well that many citizens are increasingly tired of new detailed regulations that bother them in their daily lives and work - regardless of whether such regulations are decided by their national government or originate in the EU.

The current Commission presided over by the EPP has already reduced red tape and regulatory burdens by 32 billion euro per year. President Barroso has abolished around 6.000 outdated laws during the past five years.

As Commission President, I intend to continue and step up this important work.

Regulating less, better and simpler is a commitment taken by most governments and by many Commissioners. I intend however to make this a clear priority of my Commission from day one and until my last day in office.

However, I also will make clear that this may sometimes require clear policy choices.

Yes, we can ensure that the EU no longer regulates the energy intensity of shower caps and coffee machines. But if we want to be honest about this, we will then have to abolish the EU’s Eco Design Directive, which had the support of a majority of Member States and of the European Parliament.

As Commission President, I will look into this question to see whether Europe is ready to abolish this legislation, in spite of our common commitment to a healthy environment and to fighting climate change.

Yes, as Commission President, I will resist regulating the height of hairdressers’ high heels. But I will also make clear that this initiative has not been invented by Brussels, but results from an agreement between employers’ organisations and trade unions who want to improve safety at work for hairdressers.

For the better regulation agenda, it may be a good thing if the next Commission President is a Luxembourger. Because we Luxembourgers are pragmatic people, with a lot of common sense, and very close to our citizens.
 
Experience in Foreign Policy

Ladies and gentlemen,
 
As we are here in Finland and very close to the Russian border, let me say a few words on foreign policy.

The Ukraine crisis must be a wake-up call for Europe.

We all can see that it is not true what is said very often; that Europe’s contribution to peace is a matter of the past and no longer relevant.

I know well from many talks I had in the last weeks, notably with political leaders in Central and Eastern Europe, how important it is that we all can count today on the solidarity we have in the European Union.

Europe is and remains the most important guarantee for peace on our continent. The European flags on the Maidan in Kiev have reminded us very clearly of this.

It is good that we have a common European voice in the current crisis. It is good to see that we can rely on Europe’s joint economic power when applying economic sanctions; or in helping Ukraine by abolishing customs duties worth 500 million Euro.

However, events of the past days also show that we will need to step up Europe’s response if things do not improve swiftly.

Let’s be clear: Russia will only learn to respect the territorial integrity of its neighbours if it gets a clear, strong and united European reply.

No responsible politician wants war. We Europeans have other common tools at our disposal to put pressure on Russia.

We should also not underestimate the effectiveness of economic pressure. In our modern globalised world, no country can afford to live in permanent isolation from the rest of the world.

I will refrain from commenting in detail on the current developments or the prospects of the Geneva talks. Other people are better placed at the moment to do this.

But we may have to go further in stepping up our economic pressure in the short term. And also draw some conclusions for the medium term.

If I am Commission President, I will add strengthening Europe’s energy policy to my list of top priorities. This is for me a key lesson of the Ukraine crisis.

Europe needs to become less dependent on energy imports.

And we need to strengthen Europe’s energy infrastructures between the West and the East of Europe, and between the North and the South.

If a country such as Bulgaria or Slovakia can no longer get sufficient gas from the East, we should be able to compensate this with gas supplies from the West, and this must also become technically possible. Here, a lot of work needs to be done.

I also believe that we need to take more seriously the provisions of the existing Treaty that allow those European countries who want to do this to progressively build up a common European defence.

I know this is not for everybody. But those countries that would like to go ahead should be encouraged to do so. Pooling defence capacities in Europe makes perfect economic sense.

Conclusion

Dear friends,
 
I am proud to have been elected by the European People’s Party, the largest political force in Europe, as their lead candidate for President of the European Commission. I also want to thank once again Jyrki Katainen for the strong support he has given me over the past months.

I am particularly proud of the fact that I have been elected by the EPP as lead candidate on a proposal of my Christian Social Party in Luxembourg that was joined by the German Christian Democrats and the New Democracy Party of Greece.

This joint nomination shows another important feature of the European People’s Party: we are a party of unity, not of division.

My candidacy for Commission President is supported both by our friends in the North and in the South of Europe.

I am therefore a candidate tasked with building new bridges after the unprecedented crisis we have lived through over the past years.

My task as Commission President will be to re-unite Europe after this crisis.

To make Europe stronger where it needs to be stronger. The digital single market and our common energy policy are important examples of this.

And to make Europe simpler, more efficient in areas where we do not need European, but local solutions.

The next five years will be decisive for the future direction Europe will take.

I am looking forward to working together with you and to taking on this challenge."