19 May, 2014

Main messages of Jean-Claude Juncker during his campaign visit to Athens, Greece

Athens, 19 May 2014









"It gives me great pleasure to be here in Athens, in Greece, in the Eurozone and in the European Union!

Last March I was elected by the European People's Party to be the lead candidate for the position of the President of the European Commission.

My candidacy that was put forward by both the Nea Demokratia and the German Christian Democrats, as well as my own party, the CSV in Luxembourg.

For me this fact is more than symbolic. I take it as a call for the new Commission President to reunite Europe after the crisis: to reconcile Europe. To build bridges between countries and between citizens to make Europe stronger.

I want to thank Antonis for his trust.

It is a privilege to be campaigning in Greece – the birth place of democracy. That is why I have chosen to come here at a very special time for Greece.

A time of hardships: we all know how much Greece has suffered over the last years from this crisis.

But also a time of hope, as Greece holds the Presidency of the European Union and the economic reforms are showing positive results.

Greece holds a special place for me. As an honorary citizen of the Northeastern city of Orestiada I feel the need to stand for Greece. And I do so with love.

I have three messages to share with you today:

First I want to invite voters to participate in strong numbers in these European elections.

European democracy must be built by Europeans showing up to vote on election-day.

We should also remind Europeans that voting for extremist and populist parties is voting for an empty chair in the European Parliament.

A vote for the extremists is a vote for intolerance and a vote against a strong Greece in a strong Europe.

It is easy to be an extremist. It is easy to destroy. It is much more difficult to build and reform. It is more difficult to face a challenge and find solutions to restore trust and solidity.

The task of cleaning up the mess and resolving problems is reserved for responsible leaders.

It has not been an easy ride. Antonis has been showing all of us that leadership is about taking responsibility: finding solutions, taking decisions and not making excuses or delaying what needs to be done.

I call on the Greek people to acknowledge the action of Antonis and of the Government and reward these efforts by voting in strong numbers in for the Nea Demokratia candidates on 25 of May.

Second I want to send a message of hope and optimism by recognising the efforts of the Greek people and the Greek government in exiting the crisis.

This crisis, which originated in the United States, exposed many structural weaknesses of our European economies and of our common Economic and Monetary Union.

We all know how severely it has hit Greece. The GDP of Greece has contracted by 25% and generated unacceptably high levels of unemployment.

As President of the Euro Group I worked day and night to keep Greece firmly in the euro area and in the European Union and to prevent the financial markets from speculating against Greece. I have something to say to all those who bet against Greece and against Europe: You have lost and Greece won. You have lost and Europe won.

Turning this situation around was not easy. It required taking difficult decisions. It meant reform, consolidation and recovery measures. Some of them have been very painful for the Greek people.

Throughout all these years I have been feeling your pain. I know well how much many Greeks have been suffering. But I also know well the resilience of the Greek people in the face of adversity.

The result is that efforts are paying off. The signs of recovery are getting stronger.

Last year Greece achieved a primary surplus (0.7%). Last month Greece came out of bond exile by returning to global capital markets for the first time since 2010.

This improved confidence and recovery are supported by figures. Exports are increasing and the economic recovery in the euro area this year should support also stronger shipping and record level tourism revenues.

As a result it is expected that Greece GDP grows in 2014 for the first time since 2008.

The worst is behind us. This is very good news! But it is no time for complacency or to delay further reforms.

The macro-economic data are good but not yet enough to put all unemployed back to work. The productivity gains are encouraging but more needs to be done to make a better environment for doing business.

The crisis taught us a clear lesson: the economic model based on consumption and borrowing is not sustainable. We need production and productive investment.

And I want to pay tribute to Antonis.

Like Odysseus you have resisted the dangerous call of the Sirens and their alluring illusions of a growth fuelled on debt.

The simple truth is that we cannot tackle the deficit by increasing the deficit. And new debt will just bring more debt mountains and place a heavy burden on the shoulders of our children.

Antonis, and all the democratic forces of Greece: you have acted responsible. You have done it the hard way. There was no any other way. The result is clear: trust is coming back to Greece. Greece is becoming competitive again.

My third message is: the work is not over. We need a stronger and better Europe.

We need a stronger Europe when it talks to its neighbours and to world. To that end we need a meaningful common foreign policy.

The situation in Ukraine shows how important it is for Europe to have a common foreign policy. We have one in name but not yet in practice.

The next High Representative will have to be a strong and experienced player. He or she will have to combine all national and European tools in a more effective way than it has been the case so far.

I also believe that we need to work on a stronger Europe when it comes to security and defence matters.

Europe is a ‘soft power’. But should not be a defence eunuch. Europe needs to develop some integrated defence capacities.

In short we need to match economic might with the responsibility to safeguard and influence the international order.

Member States who want to do so can create synergies in defence procurement. More than 80% of investment in defence equipment is still spent nationally today in the EU. More cooperation in defence procurement would help the fiscal consolidation of the public finances of many of the Member States.

We also need more Europe when it comes to energy policy. We need to build a true Energy Union over the next years.

Europe must connect its energy grid. And develop an effective internal energy market where energy can flow seamlessly from one side of the continent to the other. This will reduce our external energy dependency. When the price for energy from the East becomes too expensive we should be able to switch swiftly to energy supplies from the West or the South.

Keeping a house warm in winter or a factory running the entire year should no longer be at the hands of a leader with the same instincts of past centuries despots.

We also need to have new sources of economic growth in Europe. That is why I intend to strengthen the role of digital technologies. That is why I have set out my plan for a true digital single market that is meant to trigger a new start-up culture in Europe. I want the next Apple, Facebook or Microsoft to be ‘made in Europe’. I want the young people studying in Europe today put pen to paper and hand to keyboard to develop the next big digital big product. We have promising ideas but we must develop a truly European market place so that ideas have room to grow into profitable products.

More Europe is also needed in the Eurozone. We have made bold moves in the past years as regards stronger economic policy coordination and common supervision and resolution mechanisms for banks in the Eurozone. But we need to continue to strengthen the foundations of our single currency.

Yes, I am an advocate of a stronger Europe in some fields. But I do not believe in more Europe for the sake of more Europe.

I want a better Europe. A Europe that is big on big things and small on small things.

When I am President of the next Commission I will work to do just that. This means that we will stop regulating each and every corner and every aspect of the daily lives of our citizens.

Our EU Treaties say that the euro is irreversible. Our action has proved the Treaties right. During the crisis Europeans decided to stand behind our common currency.

It has taken hard work. But more needs to be done over the next five years.

To consolidate and strengthen our Union we need a safe pair of hands at the wheel. Europe needs experience, solidarity and a sense of purpose to the future to tackle the challenges ahead of us.

This is why I am campaigning to become the next President of the European Commission.

I want to re-unite Europe after the crisis.

I want to build new bridges where the crisis has weakened or destroyed them.

I want Europe to emerge stronger from the crisis. And to face the challenges of globalisation together.

I want a Europe that works together again. That gives a clear sense of perspective and hope to citizens. A Europe that our citizens can be proud of again and that our young people can make use of all the opportunities it has for them.

This is what I want to achieve as Commission President.

As Commission President, I want to work night and day for a Europe where the economy grows again and where people find again decent jobs. Growth and jobs will be the most important headline of my Commission.

My final word to you today is this: Greece is not alone.

Voltaire once said: "Defend Greece, because to it, we owe our spirit, our sciences and all our virtues".

I have stood and stand with you. Europe has stood and stands with you.

With you, I will do my utmost to ensure that we, the European People’s Party, will win these European elections.

We are the party of responsibility. We are the party that will put Europe working again and bring growth and jobs to Europe.

We are the party that makes Europe competitive and strong.

Let’s win these European Parliament elections together. And let’s win the European Commission presidency for the good of Europe!

I am counting on your support to achieve this!

Thank you Nea Demokratia!

Thank you Greece!"