INTERVIEW. EU Commission candidate Jean-Claude Juncker: You can not build a future on debt alone

Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission, offered an interview for caleaeuropeana.ro, in which he stated that Europe should focus on creating growth that it is not based on debt. Juncker also talked about his priorities as chief of the EC, EU’s relations with Asia, USA and Russia, and his expectations for the right wing political parties in Romania, as the european elections approach. juncker Full interview: 1. Given the fact that Russia is an important issue for the regional situation, do you think that European partner states, like Moldova and Georgia, are in real danger? How do you comment Mr Schulz’s attitude about Russia? Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: In the 21st century, Russia cannot bully its neighbours into its sphere of influence and it must respect international Law. 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. But we Europeans have other common tools at our disposal to put pressure on Russia. And we should 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. We need to step up – if Russia does not change it’s behaviour – the level of our sanctions and extend their scope, including cutting the financial channels to and from Russia. Putin is testing Europe. And we must not let him get away with it. This is why I firmly support the signature of the Association Agreements with Moldova and Georgia, which should happen as soon as possible.   

  1. You have criticized the central role -that some would even call “monopoly” – that larger states of the EU had during the economic crisis. Since the subject is still a reality, what is your solution for this problem?

Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: I have always been a supporter of the principle of equality between Member States, which is a founding principle of the European Union and written into the EU Treaties. This does not mean that I do not appreciate the important contribution that larger Member States have made during the recent crisis to help stabilising euro countries in difficulty. However, also smaller Member States have made important contributions. Per capita, for example, the citizens of Luxembourg have contributed the most to the coordinated loans needed for the rescue of the euro: 3506 Euro per person, while German citizens contributed 2317 Euro per capita and France 2179 Euro per capita. Let’s also not forget that the clear majority of Member States in the European Union are small countries. Small countries have therefore shaped the direction of the European Union at least as much as big countries. As a Luxembourger, I can tell you that the European Union makes small countries big.  

  1. The European Union comes after two Barroso terms, concerning his presidency to the European Commission. Which would be the three main things you would reproach him, in terms of EU’s leadership?

Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: In a very difficult context, Barroso and his Commission have worked continuously to put the European economy back on its feet and to stabilise the euro. As Commission president, I will build on this important and broadly successful work. As president of the Commission, I would furthermore focus my efforts on growth and employment, on strengthening Europe’s energy policy and on developing a truly common foreign policy. I also want the members of the Commission to be politically experienced men and women, who bring clear proposals in order to reach these goals.  

  1. Which are the three main things that make you different, in front of the other candidates, and thus give you the necessary plus, in order to consider yourself the best option for the next presidential term of the European Commission? 

Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: I have gained a lot of experience during my 19 years as Prime Minister of Luxembourg and the 8 years I spent as President of the Eurogroup. I know and I value the importance of listening and of building consensus. I am a bridge-builder, and I want to rebuild the ties that have been damaged during the last years due to the crisis, between north and south, between east and west. I don’t see the other candidates as enemies – only as opponents. Our main differences are in our competing visions for the future direction we want to give Europe and notably the direction we want to give to Europe’s economic and social policies. 

  1. You previously mentioned that it is vital to talk about “the true Europe”, as it was imagined by the “founding fathers” through their political programs written right after WWII.  How would you adapt the original goals to the present-day EU?

Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: Most of the EU’s founding fathers were Christian democrats, like I am. Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer and Alcide de Gasperi thought of a set of values placed at the core of the European project and I hold those values dearly: solidarity between European nations; subsidiarity, in the sense of letting the Member States take care of things they can still do by themselves and overall, the promotion of a Social Market Economy, a market economy with a social orientation in which it is the economy that serves the people and not the other way round.

  1. You addressed the issue of Europe’s Foreign, Security and Defence capacities – and enhancing its ability to act in the world and in cyberspace. Could you please give us an example of such policies regarding the cyberspace?

Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission:  We need to enhance our cybersecurity capabilities. Less than two years ago the European Union established a European Cybercrime Centre within Europol which has been off to a good start. We can use this as a platform to go further and increase our reach. Cooperation between the private and public, between Member States and with our partners outside the EU must also be improved in the sense of pooling and sharing information about potential threats. We also have to stimulate innovation in this area in Europe. Not only can that have a positive effect on our cyber-capabilities but also on our economy. 

  1. What would you do as the president of European Commission in order to enhance European capabilities in defending itself?

Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: I believe that the European Union needs to start paying closer attention to the existing provisions in the Treaties that allow us to progressively build a common European defence among those countries that are willing and ready to do so. I understand this is not a popular idea everywhere but the Treaties also allow for countries who want to do so, to go ahead. Pooling our defence capacities also makes perfect economic sense. 

  1. Which is your vision in the relationships between EU and USA, Russia and China?

Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: We are in the midst negotiating a far-reaching trade agreement with the United States. Concluding that agreement will be one of my priorities as Commission President. It is anachronistic that we still impose custom duties on each other’s products. Of course, it will be also my priority to make sure that we do not sacrifice Europe’s safety, health, social and data protection standards on the altar of free trade. With Russia I would like to re-establish a relation of mutual respect and understanding. We share many things and we could benefit from each other but Russia must respect the European Union as well as its neighbours’ European aspirations. A precondition for better relations with Russia is that Russia fully respects international law and the existing borders in Europe. China is our second largest trading partner and there is room for improvement in our relations over the next years. It would be beneficial for Europe. However, we will only be able to talk to China as equals if we stand together and if we hold a common line as the European Union. Issues like getting fair, equal treatment for European businesses in China, can only be addressed if we speak with a single, strong voice. 

  1. Mr. Juncker, in your confrontation with Mr. Schulz, you said that your priority as President of the Commission would be the solving of the unemployment issue. How would you address this sensitive subject?

Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: We have to create growth that is not based on debt. 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. That is why I have made my top priority as Commission President completing the Digital Single Market – 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. By doing this, 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.        10 As a specialist in finances, you enjoy working with numbers, percentage and statistics. What is your prediction for decreasing the unemployment until 2019? Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: By the end of the next Commission term, we can be in a much better situation if the EU institutions and national governments intensify their efforts to bring yong people in decent jobs. Our recipe of consolidation and solidarity against the crisis is already showing results and we are starting to see good prospects in the whole EU, with Spain as a particular example, which is now at its lowest level of unemployment since 2006. As Commission President I will devote myself to making sure that by 2019 the scandalous levels of unemployment and youth unemployment that we see today are something of the past. I will work night and day on this. 11.It is largely known that the EU is the main benefactor in Africa in terms of humanitarian  and development aid, but unfortunately the Union failed to give proper assistance in the violent incidents that tore apart countries like Mali and the Central African Republic. The question is how would you push for more concerted action when addressing security issues in Africa? Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: Fortunately, France has saved the honour of Europe in Mali. In the future, we should be better prepared and ready to deploy EU missions to crisis zones in Europe’s neighborhood to stabilize the situation and to guarantee peace. Also here, if not all 28 EU Member States are ready to do so, those who are should be allowed to go ahead. After all, Europe has too often been stabilized and helped by other countries as that it could now shy away from shouldering larger responsibilities for world peace.   12. As a former leader of the Eurozone, you are very familiar with the EU financial sector, but many citizens of the Union can feel the effects of the financial mechanisms, while being oblivious to what triggers them. Therefore, could you explain the implications for the European citizens of the Single Supervisory Mechanism as a pillar of the Banking Union project?   Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: It was the European People’s Party who put in place the architecture to regulate the financial sector better; return public finances to health; and improve the governance of the euro area. We can now prevent, supervise and deal with crises together. During the crisis years we saw how citizens’ money had to be used to save failing banks. We have made sure that this will never happen again. The single supervisory mechanism means that the European Central Bank, with close involvement of national supervisory bodies, will be able to supervise the Eurozone’s 6.000 banks and assure that they do not take part in risky situations that compromise the financial stability of all the countries that share the euro as currency.  13. What do you plan to inovate in the EPP philosophy for the European Commission, after the two Barroso terms, another EPP leadership?   Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: If there’s one thing the crisis has shown is that you’re in safe hands with EPP leadership. EPP-led countries are returning to growth after, often painful, structural reforms. In Socialist-led countries, however, structural reforms are blocked and unemployment is still on the rise. Therefore, the question is less to change the EPP philosophy, but to implement it to the full.          14. Which are the espectations for the elections in Romania?    Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: I hope that centre-right parties of our family will perform well. The EPP has solid partners in Romania, many of them have already been working in Brussels delivering results for the Romanian people and my hope is that citizens will realise this and will place their trust in us.         15. Why is important for European citizens to vote? Why for Romanians?   Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: You should vote in these European elections because this is your chance to have a say about where Europe goes next. In less than 30 days, 300 million Europeans will go to the polls to vote in a new European Parliament. Citizens in 28 countries will directly elect their 751 representatives in the European Parliament. 32 of these European Parliamentarians will be directly elected here in Romania, which is a considerable number that can change majorities in the European Parliament. And for the first time in the history of European integration, we have lead candidates for President of the European Commission, giving citizens a clear choice about who they want shaping and implementing European policies for the next five years. The days of backroom deals are over. All the polls now point to a neck and neck race between the European People’s party and the Socialists in these elections – meaning every vote counts. This is your chance to choose. 16. When should the austerity measures stop in Europe? Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: You talk of austerity as if it were the 1930s – it is now. At the start of the crisis we acted ’Keyensian’ and injected 250 billion euros into the economy, running a counter-cyclical programme that is by definition the opposite of austerity. But at the same time we also have to address the public debt problem. There is no alternative to these painful reforms. You can not build a future on debt alone, sooner or later you have to pay it back. The painful measures that have been taken to consolidate our budgets and put our debt under control were necessary because during the previous years some governments, and particularly socialist governments in countries like Spain and Portugal behaved in an irresponsible manner spending the money that they didn’t have. The focus going forward now has to be on creating growth that is not based on debt.       .   .

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