Jean-Claude Juncker is the candidate of the European People’s Party (EPP) for President of the European Commission in the 2014 European elections.
What makes you the best candidate to become the next President of the European Commission?
Having been President of the Eurogroup for 9 years, I know what it is to govern in times of crisis. In this position, I fought against the crisis, helping troubled countries to get back on the path of growth, both through a financial assistance programme based on the principle of solidarity and a fiscal discipline essential to economic recovery.
I sometimes had to take difficult decisions but this dual approach based on financial strength and solidarity is now paying off: Greece has gone back to the markets, while Ireland and Portugal have exited their assistance programmes… It is no coincidence that their governments are run by members of my party, the EPP!
Prime Minister of Luxembourg for 18 years, a country which was a founding member of the Union anchored at the heart of Europe, I myself have Europe at heart and I will work hard to put it back on the road to prosperity.
How would you bring citizens and the EU closer again?
The provisions of the Lisbon Treaty, which now enable citizens to have a real influence on the choice of the President of the Commission through their vote, will help restore confidence in the EU. Then, as President of the Commission, I will ensure that decisions are taken as close to the citizens as possible and that the EU does not encroach on the powers of States and local authorities. Nothing annoys citizens more than a Europe that interferes in every aspect of their daily lives. That is why I want a Europe that focuses on major strategic projects and intervenes only where its action is the most relevant.
What is your preferred solution to spur growth and tackle unemployment?
Restoring growth and employment in Europe is my priority. For me, the unemployment rate in many countries is unacceptable, especially among young people. I want to support Member States in developing apprenticeships and give every young person the opportunity to exploit their entrepreneurial potential, or make sure they get a second chance after a first failure. The Youth Guarantee is good, but it is not enough: we do not only want internships for young people, but decent, well-paid jobs. I have also not forgotten the serious problem of unemployment among older workers. I will work tirelessly to help Member States create jobs for all.
Regarding growth, I think it first requires sound public finances; there is no sustainable growth based on debt accumulation. This is the meaning of structural reforms undertaken by the EPP governments across Europe. I believe Europe needs something that is very valuable but cheap: ideas! One idea I will prioritise is the completion of the digital single market: digital technologies can transform our economies as profoundly as the steam engine did in the eighteenth century or electricity in the nineteenth century. This digital single market will bring 500 billion euros to the European economy in 5 years and 4.8 million people employed in the sector in 2018, which is to say, twice more than today. This is indispensable, I want the next Googles and Facebooks to be ‘made in Europe’.
What are the main changes you would like to achieve over the next five years, if you become President of the Commission?
First of all, it is the Commission itself I would like to strengthen. I want a Commission composed of politicians, both men and women, not officials. I would also like the portfolios of Commissioners to be grouped under the authority of several vice-presidents, who would be tasked with boosting growth and fighting legislative inflation for a simpler and more effective Europe.
Then, I repeat it, my priority will be to get Europe back on the path of growth and employment. It is in this sense that I propose creating a digital single market, but also a “European Energy Union” which will ensure affordable energy prices, a key element for the competitiveness of our industries. A European Energy Union will also enable us to reduce our reliance on third countries and, with investments in research and innovation, enable Europe to become the champion of renewable energy.
Finally, I will be the President of the Commission who successfully completes the commercial transatlantic partnership. This treaty is a great opportunity for both the United States and for us: it is estimated that the agreement could bring 120 billion euros to the European economy, i.e., 545 euros per year for each European household and, for example, 140,000 new jobs in Italy and Spain. However, as President of the Commission, I will not compromise with our European standards on food safety, cultural diversity, respect for the environment and the protection of personal data. On these subjects I will be uncompromisable with our partners.
Finally, what does your ideal Europe look like?
In Europe as I conceive it, there is no “saintly North” and “sinful South”. We need to reunite Europe. The world is changing. New poles of power are emerging. As President of the Commission, I will work night and day to make Europe an influential power at the heart of this new world and to ensure that Europe embodies the values of peace and democracy better than anyone else. I want it to be at the forefront of innovation and to become an ideal destination for talent of all origins. But above all, I want a Europe which cares about the well-being of its citizens and which continues to have high standards in terms of social benefits and quality of life.
Thank you very much for your participation in our project!
Pierre-Antoine KLETHI (also responsible for the translation of the French original version in English)