Press conference: 30 days to go until the elections: This time it’s different
Extracts from a press conference by Jean-Claude Juncker, European People’s Party candidate for President of the European Commission in the European Parliament elections from 22-25 May 2014
Brussels, 23 April 2014
On the elections:
“In 30 days, more than 300 million EU citizens will take to the polls in all 28 EU Member States to elect a new European Parliament. Direct elections of the European Parliament have taken place since 1979. However, this time, these elections are different.
These elections are different because they are the very first elections that take place on the basis of the Treaty of Lisbon. The character of the European elections is fundamentally changing.
This means that the next President of the European Commission will no longer be appointed by the governments of the Member States, as it was the case in the past. He will no longer be the result of backroom deals among diplomats.
The candidate of the political group that will be the strongest after the European Parliament elections will become the next Commission President. Anything else would make a mockery of the democratic process that is now explicitly foreseen in the Treaty.”
On why Juncker chose to run as a candidate:
“To me, the crisis has made it more urgent than ever to reacquaint our citizens with the European project.
During this crisis, support for the European project has fallen to historic lows.
Today, only 29% of citizens believe that their voice counts in the EU.
While here in Belgium, 47% of citizens feel that they have a say in European affairs, this figure stands at just 13% in Greece.
This is why I decided to be the EPP’s candidate for Commission President in these European Parliament elections.
Over the next five years, I want to work night and day to get Europe out of this crisis.
To make sure Europeans, notably young Europeans, get a decent job. And to heal the wounds that the crisis has inflicted upon our citizens and our whole continent over the past years.
The crisis has divided Europe. North against South, East against West. And in addition into an “austerity” camp versus a “growth camp”.
I am convinced that I have the experience to re-unite Europe after this crisis.
Within the EPP, I have been nominated as candidate for Commission candidate on a proposal from my own party in Luxembourg and in addition by the German Christian Democrats and the Nea Demokratia of Greece. This is to be of more than only symbolic importance.
Over the next five years, I want to work for a Europe that finds acceptance both in Germany and in Greece, and in all other EU countries.
I want to re-build bridges where the crisis has destroyed them.”
On his priorities as Commission President:
“As Commission President, I will set myself five priorities.
1. My first priority will be to put policies that create growth and jobs at the centre of the policy agenda of the next Commission. As a key ingredient for this, we must create a digital single market for consumers and businesses – making use of the great opportunities of digital technologies which know no borders. To do so we will need to have the courage to break down national silos in telecoms regulation, in copyright and data protection legislation, in the management of radio waves and in competition law.
If we do this, we can ensure that European citizens can soon use their mobile phones across Europe without having to pay roaming charges. We can ensure that consumers can access music, movies and sports events on their electronic devices wherever they are in Europe, and regardless of borders. And we can generate 500 billion Euro of additional growth in Europe in the course of the mandate of the next Commission, thereby creating hundreds of thousands new jobs and a vibrant knowledge-based society. I will work on this project from day one of my Commission.
2. As a second priority, I want to reform and reorganise Europe’s energy policy in a new European Energy Union. We need to pool our resources, combine our infrastructures and unite our negotiating power vis-à-vis third countries. We need to diversify our energy sources, and reduce the energy dependency of several of our Member States.
I want to keep our European energy market open to our neighbours. However, if the price for energy from the East becomes too expensive, either in commercial or in political terms, Europe should be able to switch very swiftly to other supply channels. We need to be able to reverse energy flows when necessary. And we need to strengthen the share of renewable energies on our continent. This is not only a matter of a responsible climate change policy. It is at the same time an industrial policy imperative if we still want to have affordable energy at our disposal in the medium term. I therefore want Europe’s Energy Union to become the world’s number one in renewable energies.
3. Third, under my presidency, the Commission will negotiate a reasonable and balanced trade agreement with the United States of America. It is anachronistic that in the 21st century, Europeans and Americans still impose customs duties on each other’s products. These should be swiftly and fully abolished. I also believe that we can go a significant step further in recognising each other’s product standards or working towards transatlantic standards. However, as Commission President, I will also be very clear that I will not sacrifice Europe’s safety, health, social and data protection standards on the altar of free trade. Notably, the safety of the food we eat and the protection of the personal data of Europeans will be non-negotiable for me as Commission President.
4. A fourth priority for me will be to continue with the reform of our monetary union, and to do so with Europe’s social dimension in mind. I believe that in the next five years, we will have to consolidate and complement the unpre-ceden¬ted measures we have taken during the crisis, to simplify them and to make them socially more legitimate. I see three main areas of change:
a. We have to re-balance the relationship between elected politicians and the European Central Bank in the daily management of the Eurozone. I admire what Mario Draghi has done to save the euro. However, he had to do so in a clearly exceptional situation. The ECB neither wants nor can govern the Eurozone. The Eurozone should instead be managed by the Commission and by the Euro Group, which in my view should be chaired by a full-time President. The responsibility of the Euro Group includes issues related to the exchange rate. We should not forget this in case the euro exchange rate should increase further and become a problem for growth.
b. We should also re-balance the way in which we grant conditional stability support to Eurozone countries in financial difficulties. I propose that in the future, any support and reform programme goes not only through a fiscal sustainability assessment; but at the same time through a social impact assessment. The social effects of structural reforms need to be discussed in public. My party, the EPP, believes in the social market economy. It is not compatible with the social market economy that in a crisis, ship-owners and speculators become even richer, while pensioners no longer know how to pay for their daily needs. In this context, a targeted fiscal capacity at Eurozone level could be developed to work as a shock-absorber if needed.
c. Thirdly, I am convinced that we have to strengthen the external projection of our monetary union. A proposal for a joint representation of the Eurozone in the IMF was already made by the Commission in 1998 – but was never followed up. Today, the Treaty allows for the adoption of such a proposal by qualified majority by Eurozone countries, and no longer by unanimity. I believe it is high time that we move ahead with this proposal and strengthen the Eurozone’s voice in the IMF, and as Commission President, I will take care of this. The euro must not only be stable on the inside, but also have a strong common voice on the global stage.
5. A fifth and last priority for me as Commission President will be to give an answer to the British question. No reasonable politician can ignore the fact that, during the next five years, we will have to find solutions for the political concerns of the United Kingdom. We have to do this if we want to keep the UK within the European Union – which I would like to do as Commission President. As Commission President, I will work for a fair deal with Britain.
A deal that accepts the specificities of the UK in the EU, while allowing the Eurozone to integrate further. The UK will need to understand that in the Eurozone, we need more Europe, not less. On the other hand, the other EU countries will have to accept that the UK will never participate in the euro, even if we may regret this. We have to accept that the UK will not become a member of the Schengen area. And I am also ready to accept that the UK will stay outside new EU institutions such as the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, meant to improve the fight against fraud in the EU, but clearly rejected by the House of Commons and the House of Lords. We have to respect such clear positions of the British Parliament, based on the British “opt out” Protocol. David Cameron has recently written down a number of further key demands in an article published in the Daily Telegraph. As Commission President, I will be ready to talk to him about these demands in a fair and reasonable manner. My red line in such talks would be the integrity of the single market and its four freedoms; and the possibility to have more Europe within the Eurozone to strengthen the single currency shared by so far 18 and soon 19 Member States. But I have the impression that this is as important for Britain as it will be for the next President of the Commission. A deal that accepts the specificities of the UK in the EU.