On 7th March in Dublin, we chose the candidate who will represent our political family in the European elections and will aspire to become the next Commission President. The European People’s Party (EPP) must win these forthcoming elections. Let’s make no mistake: the outcome is not a foregone conclusion!
We will have to show that what we offer is different and better than the Left. We must also be able to respond convincingly to all those who use the crisis, unemployment and the democratic deficit in the EU to advocate their populist approaches. We need a credible project and ideas for the future that carry forward the work of our Christian democrat founding fathers. We cannot campaign only on the basis of what we’ve achieved so far. But we can certainly be proud that we have been the party of responsibility in facing the crisis. These last four years, our political family, both in the European parliament and in all the countries where we are in government, has played an essential role in drawing all the lessons of the financial crisis, saving the euro zone, cleaning up public finances and taking steps to improve our competitiveness.
Our party must now build on these foundations and embody new initiatives and ideas for growth on the basis of the values that are ours – freedom and entrepreneurship, the social market economy and humanism – both at the EU level and in each of our countries. There will not be one single European campaign. There will be 29 campaigns! One in each member state and one for Europe overall. Each campaign will need to provide answers to our common challenges: creating jobs and offering better opportunities to the younger generation, deepening the euro zone while consolidating the European project for all 28 member states, strengthening solidarity and cohesion between all of us, inventing new democratic mechanisms to fight indifference and populism, and acting together on the international scene.
It is to answer these challenges that we have prepared the joint EPP platform. It is to take up these challenges with you that I am putting forward my candidacy with a project based on five priorities.
- A stable and more integrated euro zone: The euro zone has been through an unprecedented shock, and there is still work to be done to deal with its economic and budgetary consequences. We need to forge a new balance between discipline, responsibility, and solidarity. We need to consistently implement the European Semester, complete the banking union, simplify the euro zone’s governance and reduce the structural imbalances between member states. This integration must be done while respecting the interests of all member states within the framework of the single market.
- A new “co-ownership statute” for the single market: the integration of the Eurozone must also go hand in hand with the strengthening of the single market for all 28 member states. We are far from having seized all the opportunities of the single market, and we have not yet gotten the right balance between economic freedoms and social rights. We can further improve the opportunities the single market offers to our businesses, for example, by launching a general drive to simplify our rules, in particular for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). We need to launch a “European value added review” so we can identify more precisely where more Europe is essential and where the EU value added is minimal or nonexistent. We can better mobilize our regions to support enterprise, innovation, and creation. The single market must also protect all Europeans, guaranteeing their free movement while securing our external borders.
- A competitive and innovative Europe: based on a strengthened euro zone and single market, our priority must be jobs and sustainable growth. We need to pursue three key strategies: that of strengthening our European industrial competitiveness, that of working towards our energy independence, and that of building a genuine digital continent.
- A safe and strong Europe in the world: together, we must make Europe a global player that counts on the international scene, and in particular a solid partner for our eastern and Mediterranean neighbors. We need to defend our interests as the most important global trading partner, consolidate the European External Action Service, push forward European defense policy in partnership with our industry, and put in place a robust and considerate policy for asylum and immigration in coherence with our development policy.
- A more democratic Europe: in the coming years, if we want to see a Europe that is both strong and united, it will need to be a different Europe. We need to strengthen the legitimacy of European decisions through greater democratic debate in the European Parliament, but also through a closer relationship with national parliaments and the regions and by giving citizens’ debates their rightful place -‐ with social partners, civil society, and religious movements.
We need to change Europe because we need Europe. We need a Europe that is both political and pragmatic, and that focuses on what is essential — an efficient Europe that is less bureaucratic, that privileges rules working effectively on the ground rather than forging ahead with ever more rules.
More Europe where it’s useful and less Europe where it has no value added. A proactive Europe in which the Commission does not try to replace member states but is there to take the initiative and make proposals, guaranteeing equal and consistent application of our common rules and looking for the center of gravity that corresponds to the European general interest.