INTERVIEW. Hannes SWOBODA calls on Romanians to vote. Farage’s statements, “a racist position”

Hannes Swoboda, president of the Group of Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D)in the European Parliament, explained the importance of the European elections, in an exclusive interview for caleaeuropeana.ro.

Q: Mr President, Romania is one of the many countries where the Socialists have many expectations from these elections and we studied it a lot on our website dedicated to European affairs, caleaeuropeana.ro, which means the European Path. We promote the European vision and we analyze very deeply the platforms of  Schulz, Juncker and Verhofstadt and promote the debates between the candidates at European level. My first question is which are your main expectations for these elections with regard to Romania?

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A: First of all, a good participation in the elections. I see there is a lively debate in Romania. And secondly, I expect a strong voice from all the social-democrats, from Mr. Ponta himself and the other candidates on the line of Romania’s connection with Europe and that is a very good orientation, that people are there in the EP for Romania and Romania is working for Europe.

Q-what do you think about the Romanian Socialist Party’s slogan chosen for these elections: Proud that we are Romanians?

A- I think it has to be seen in connection to Europe…proud to be Romanian in Europe, because it is the dirty campaigns of Nigel Farage and others implying Romania is not the same as other countries in Western Europe, but that’s not the case. I think it’s a very good slogan meaning that we are proud to be Romanian in Europe.

Q- you are talking, Mr. President, about the recent statements of Nigel Farage who said he would feel in danger living in a neighbourhood where Romanians would come.

A- it’s a racist position and absolutely unacceptable.

Q- I saw that there is a strong determination to solve the economic problems and have some solutions for jobs ( job creation). How will the Socialists solve this problem in Europe? We are talking about more than 23 million people without jobs. It’s like a country bigger than Romania.

A- I think we have to invest in jobs. We have to spend money for that. We need to find the means to fight against the tax evasion by rich people who, instead of paying taxes, bring the money to differential markets with all the consequences of speculation. There is money and it’s all countries’ concern to invest in European links, which will create a lot of jobs. If you’re going just from Sibiu to Pitesti, you’ll see the need to have a highly efficient link on the road, on the rail…and I think this is what Europe is about: that we have European connections, not only inside the country, but across the borders.

Q-do you think that after this crisis we can say that mostly ordinary people suffered the costs of recovery?

A-of course. Those who have a lot of money can bring the money from one bank to another bank or can buy a property. See cities in Western Europe where the housing prices go extremely up. The rich part of the society don’t get to pay interest rates in the bank, they just build houses in London, Vienna and other places. It is visible that there are parts of the society who are not suffering and who can get some richness and wealth.

Q-do you feel in danger, now that you are in Romania? Because there is a conflict near our borders, in Ukraine. Do you feel safe as a European citizen? Many citizens in Eastern Europe are feeling uncomfortable with this conflict. Maybe those in Western Europe are feeling more secure.

A- of course, Romania is closer by. Last week I was in Kiev and then in Eastern Ukraine and I saw that the deep conflict is not only between Ukraine and Russia, but also inside Ukraine. There are two sides: Russia, who has an aggressive policy, with Mr. Putin, but there are also people from inside the country who are extremists. And I think Europe should have an influence on those responsible to bring people together, to form a unity inside the country. Secondly, we need, for the medium and long term, a common energy policy, which is reducing our dependence on Russian gas. There is a lot for Europe to do, things that countries cannot do individually. We need to go for a European strategy to give security to our citizens.

Q-this is one of the key subjects of this campaign, because, in the beginning, the Socialists seemed to be very close to winning, but after the Ukraine crisis and some misunderstood declarations of Mr. Schulz, the balance changed and some polls talk about the EPP getting a little advantage over the Socialists. Do you think this is real or not?

A-well, I think the Socialists in Romania will be no. 1 because if you look at Mr. Ponta and his government, it’s a clear vision of transforming the country, of modernizing it while respecting the social element. So, I am quite optimistic.

Q-well, this is at Romanian level, but what about the European level?

A-I am still optimistic, because I never bore the illusion that it is some easy way to win. I think it is a very difficult job. Anyway, I think the gap between the Populars and us will be reduced and we’ll be again no. 1. I get information of people… that they will vote for the Socialists, because Martin Schulz is the top candidate. I am very optimistic, but at the same time realistic. Remember that the gap between us and the EPP is quite strong, so if we get close to the EPP, it would already be a gain, but we’ll fight ‘till the end to get to the no. 1 position.

A- We were the first to mention your Tweet regarding putting under charge President Basescu in the summer of 2012. And  you said, that night, after the Constitutional Court decided that it was legal to cancel the results, please stop all campaigns and go to work. We are now talking again about some of the President’s actions promoting the EPP and we saw a lot of debates on it in Romania. Do you think it is necessary to put the President, again, to submit to the judgement of people?

A- as it is now the elections for the EP and there will be the elections for the President next year, I think this will give the citizens a clear view to vote for somebody who will be more constructive, more helpful for Romania. Despite the differences, I think it is more important for the Government to promote Romania’s future and let’s hope for a president who will correct the image and bring the position of president of a country back to somebody who’s promoting the interest of the country and not party politics.

Q- I understand. Do you think Mr. Ponta is suitable for this position?

– I’m not judging an individual person. As for me, I think the Social-Democrats will make the right choice and I hope for somebody who is really leaving party politics behind and is going for Romania, because this is what a president should do.

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