21 May, 2014


Brussels, 21 May 2014
"Since I started this campaign to become the next President of the European Commission, I have travelled our continent. In 6 weeks I have visited 35 cities in 18 different countries. I have given 27 press conferences, over 350 interviews and participated in 8 live TV debates in 3 different languages.

I have been North, I have been South, I have been East, West, back and forth to the extent that at times even I wasn't sure which country I awoke in!

I have put many sleepless nights, my blood, sweat - not yet my tears - but certainly my whole heart into this campaign.

It has been exhilarating and gruelling, often in equal measure. And it has been a unique experience.

Many friends asked me why I am doing this - what motivates me to want to be president of the European Commission?

I tell you what I told them: because I believe I can be of service.

It saddens me greatly that the crisis has divided Europe. North against South. East against West. Europe has lost it's sense of pride. Europeans have lost faith in one another.

I want to reunite Europe. That is why I want to be Commission President.

I want to restore people's faith in the project that united an entire continent in peace.

And I want to work to create a Europe people can be proud of again.

In more than 30 days of campaigning across Europe, I have learnt a lot.

I did not have to discover Europe from scratch, as I know Europe quite a bit from my many years as Prime Minister and as President of the Eurogroup. But one never stops learning about Europe.

Only populists want to make us believe that Europe is a simple continent, with simple answers for the future. By contrast, I know that Europe is a complex continent, and that therefore, responsible politicians need to invest time and energy to continue learning about our continent, the diversity of our Member States and new challenges ahead.

Over the past 30 days, I learnt notably from the many young people of the Youth of the European People Party (YEPP) campaigning together and in parallel with me in all EU Member States.

These young people campaigned in smaller versions of my "Juncker for President" bus, and they did so with amazing stamina.

They campaigned from Dublin to Athens, from Helsinki to Lisbon.

They crossed the Alps in a night to be with me for the TV debate in Florence one day after the TV debate in Berlin.

They also covered those countries which I could not reach personally during this short campaign. One bus of young people even went to London to campaign in the only country where my party does not have a fully-fledged member party.

Whenever I met one of the YEPP buses at a campaign stop, I saw that these young people in the small busses had become true teams. These teams were all composed of different nationalities, and their trip throughout Europe can perhaps be compared to a short version of the ERASMUS programme.

The longer the campaign took, the better these teams worked together. Many became friends. And whenever I met these young people over the last days of the campaign, I saw tired many eyes. But I also saw sparks in these eyes. Sparks that showed true enthusiasm for the European project. Enthusiasm for working together across borders, nationalities and languages. Enthusiasm for European democracy - because democracy is what these European Parliament elections we are campaigning for are about.

I discussed a lot with my young campaigners, sometimes at a petrol station and sometimes at a dinner table. And I took from these discussions four key points that will be a very important inspiration for my political programme as Commission President.

First of all, I learnt that all these young people live and work naturally with new technologies. They are permanently tweeting and e-mailing, or posting pictures or messages on social networks. But these news technologies have become essential for modern communication. It would be a mistake for politicians to underestimate the power of social media. This is why also I am on twitter and Facebook today - and if only to follow the pictures and messages that my young campaigners are posting or sending from across Europe.

Secondly, I learnt that you can really make a misery out of the daily lives of our young people if there is no wifi connection during travelling. If there is no 3G or 4G service in a region. Or if excessive roaming charges prevent them from uploading or downloading a picture they would like to post. This is why I have made the development of a truly single market a political priority for my term as Commission President. We need to get rid of roaming charges in Europe, and I want therefore to bring to a successful end the important work started by my Luxemburgish colleague Viviane Reding. To achieve a true digital single market, we need more connectivity across borders, pan-European telecoms operators, trustworthy data protection rules with a high level of protection in all Member States and more modern European copyright rules. All this will be part of my political programme as Commission President.

A third issue I learnt is very important for the younger generation: they do not want us politicians to build the future on debt. They do not want us to spend today the money their generation will need to build schools, hospitals and a reliable social security system. This is why I commit, as Commission President, to work for new growth without debt. For a stable financial system that serves the real economy, and does not endanger it with speculation and too much private debt. Growth and jobs without new debt - this is what I will work for as Commission President.

A fourth point that is of course on young people's minds and should be on every politician's mind, is the dramatic level of youth unemployment in Europe. More than 6 million young Europeans below the age of 25 are currently without a job. I do not want to create the illusion, as some of my competitors do, that Brussels alone can change this situation overnight. Labour market policies are and will remain chiefly a responsibility of national governments. However, as Commission President, I will be a pain in the neck for national governments on this issue and not rest until all these young Europeans have found a decent job. Europe cannot afford a lost generation.

A fifth and final point that I learnt from my young campaigners: Europe must take on a more responsible role in the world. We cannot and must not sit idly by when thousands of refugees desperately try to reach our shores across the Mediterranean while fleeing from political or religious prosecution or from devastating economic and social circumstances. As Christian Democrats, we can and must never accept that the Mediterranean becomes a graveyard!

As even Europe, the richest continent in the world, cannot accommodate the people in need from the whole world, we will need to help and show solidarity so that fewer people will have to leave their homes and family to go on uncertain journeys towards the North.

This is why today, I want to express my commitment and my support for the objectives of the ONE campaign. The ONE campaign is a grassroots campaign of more than 3 million people, many of them young people, who are fighting against extreme poverty. It is a non-partisan organisation, but during this election campaign, they have called on me and others running in this election to support their objectives. This is what I want to do today, and I am grateful to the all the ONE campaigners who have joined us here today.

I want notably to support the ONE call on the next Commission to ensure that all EU Member States step up their efforts to meet the UN Millennium objectives for development aid. The richest countries in the world should invest at least 0.7% of their GDP into development aid to reduce poverty across the world. The 28 EU Member States on average only invest a bit more than 0.4% at the moment. Only 4 Member States have reached the 0.7% target: the first to do this were my home country Luxembourg and Sweden in 2013, followed by the UK and Denmark.

I believe Europe can and must do much better. And I will fight for this as Commission President. I want to lead a responsible Commission over the next five years. But our responsibility does not stop at Europe's borders. We must work together to eradicate poverty once and for all from this planet.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Tomorrow, the European Parliament elections will start in several EU countries, to continue until Sunday evening. More than 300 million European citizens will have to make up their mind about the future direction our continent should take.

I call on all European citizens, first of all to make use of their right to vote in the days to come. The right to vote is a very precious one. In other parts of the world, people are fighting or even dying for this right. Let us all show that we in Europe cherish this right and that we honour democracy. Let's make use of our right to vote!

My second call is: Do vote, but do not give your votes to extremists, xenophobes or fascists, as they unfortunately continue to exist in Europe. If we want Europe to function and to serve its citizens, we should vote for people who will work hard in the next European Parliament. Who will defend European values and fundamental rights, which continue to come under regular attack both at home and abroad. Voting for extremists means at best voting for an empty seat in the European Parliament. Europe cannot afford empty seats in its Parliament at this crucial moment of our common history!

My third call is, of course, give your vote to a member party of the European People's Party. Vote, for example, CD&V or CDH here in Belgium, CSV in Luxembourg, PSD or CDS-PP in Portugal, Nea Demokratia in Greece, CDU in Germany, ÖVP in Austria, Civic Platform in Poland, or Kokoomus in Finland. To make the EPP the strongest political group in the European Parliament. And thereby to make me the next President of the Commission.

Thanks to all of you for having campaigned for me, for our European values and for our European democracy. As Commission President, I will not forget what I have learnt during this campaign. And I am very much looking forward to working with you over the next 5 years."