• Listen to the perspectives of these leaders from 3 very different EU member states:

    – François-Xavier Bellamy, EPP Group MEP (Les Republicains)

    – Markéta Pekarová Adamová, Chairwoman of TOP 09 (Czechia)

    – Tasos Chatzivasileiou, Nea Demokratia MP (Greece)

    European People's Party European Union

    Views from the Member States – EPP Rotterdam

    Multimedia - Other videos

    02 Jun 2022

  • Don’t miss the answer given during the EPP Congress in Rotterdam by the following European leaders:

    – Jyrki Katainen, former EU Commissioner (Finland)

    – Antti Petteri Orpo, Chairman, National Coalition Party, Finland

    – Alexander Stubb, former Primer Minister of Finland and Director of the School of Transnational Governance

    – David Lega, EPP Group MEP (Sweden)

    European People's Party European Union NATO

    Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO

    Multimedia - Other videos

    02 Jun 2022

  • Don’t miss the answer given during the EPP Congress in Rotterdam by the following European leaders:

    – Anna Michelle Asimakopoulou, EPP Group MEP (Nea Demokratia)

    – Maria da Graça Carvalho, EPP Group MEP (PSD Portugal)

    – Vladimir Milov, Russian opposition leader

    – Andrius Kubilius, EPP Group MEP (Lithuania)

    – Stelios Kympouropoulos, EPP Group MEP (Greece)

    – Tomáš Zdechovský, EPP Group MEP (Czechia)

    European People's Party European Union

    What challenges do you see for the EU in the years to come?

    Multimedia - Other videos

    02 Jun 2022

  • Don’t miss the answer given during the EPP Congress in Rotterdam by the following European leaders:

    – Seán Kelly, EPP Group MEP (Fine Gael)

    – Barry Ward, Fine Gael Senator (Ireland)

    – Vladimír Bilčík, EPP Group MEP (SPOLU – občianska demokracia)

    – Ivan Štefanec, EPP Group MEP (Kresťanskodemokratické hnutie, Slovakia)

    – Lukas Mandl, EPP Group MEP (Österreichische Volkspartei)

    – Alexander Stubb, former Primer Minister of Finland and Director of the School of Transnational Governance

    – David McAllister, EPP Group MEP (CDU Deutschlands)

    – Paulo Rangel, EPP VP and EPP Group MEP (PSD Portugal)

    European People's Party European Union Ukraine

    What would be your message to Ukraine?

    Multimedia - Other videos - Ukraine

    02 Jun 2022

  • Don’t miss the answer given during the EPP Congress in Rotterdam by the following European leaders:

    – Andreas Schwab, EPP Group MEP, Chair – EEA/EFTA and the North (CDU)

    – Antonio Tajani, EPP VP and EPP Group MEP, Chair Constitutional Affairs (Forza Italia)

    – Averof Neofytou, President of the Democratic Rally (Cyprus)

    – Alberto Barachini, Italian Senator, Forza Italia

    – Arnaud Danjean, EPP Group MEP (Les Republicains)

    – Alexander Stubb, former Primer Minister of Finland and Director of the School of Transnational Governance

    – Jan Peter Balkenende, former Prime Minister of the Netherlands

    – Phil Hogan, former EU Commissioner (Ireland)

    European People's Party European Union

    What should be the focus of a post-crisis EU?

    Multimedia - Other videos

    02 Jun 2022

  • Margaritis Schinas Eleftheria Katsi European People's Party European Union

    Interview with Margaritis Schinas, EU Commissioner for Promoting our European Way of Life and VP

    Multimedia - Other videos

    01 Jun 2022

  • Eleftheria Katsi Stella Kyriakides European People's Party European Union

    Interview with Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety

    Multimedia - Other videos

    01 Jun 2022

  • Roberta Metsola Theo Larue European People's Party European Union

    Interview with Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament

    Multimedia - Other videos

    01 Jun 2022

  • Eleftheria Katsi Kyriakos Mitsotakis European People's Party European Union

    Interview with Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece

    Multimedia - Other videos

    01 Jun 2022

  • Andrej Plenković European People's Party

    Interview with Andrej Plenković, Prime Minister of Croatia

    Multimedia - Other videos

    01 Jun 2022

  • Theo Larue Mairead McGuinness European People's Party European Union

    Interview with Mairead McGuinness, EU Commissioner

    Multimedia - Other videos

    01 Jun 2022

  • Theo Larue Valdis Dombrovskis European People's Party European Union

    Interview with Valdis Dombrovskis, EU Commissioner for Trade and VP

    Multimedia - Other videos

    01 Jun 2022

  • Eleftheria Katsi Manfred Weber European People's Party

    Interview with Manfred Weber, EPP President

    Multimedia - Other videos

    01 Jun 2022

  • Roberta Metsola Federico Ottavio Reho European People's Party European Union

    EPP Congress Panel 2 Day 2 – A European Vision of Democracy

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    01 Jun 2022

  • Streaming of our 3 panels of the second day of our sideline event in Rotterdam:

    1) Future Prospects for EU Migration and Refugee Policy Moderator: Vit Novotný, Senior Research Officer, Martens Centre Discussants: – Tasos Chatzivasileiou, MP, New Democracy (EPP), Greece, Secretary of the Standing Committee of National Defense and Foreign Affairs – Rasa Juknevičienė, MEP, TS-LKD, Lithuania

    2) A European Vision of Democracy Moderator: Federico Ottavio Reho, Senior Research Officer and Strategic Coordinator, Martens Centre Discussant: Roberta Metsola, President, European Parliament

    3) European Ambitions and Geopolitical Realities Moderator: Tomi Huhtanen, Executive Director, Martens Centre Discussants: – David McAllister, MEP, CDU, Germany, Vice-President, EPP – Frances Fitzgerald, MEP, Fine Gael, Ireland

    Vít Novotný Roberta Metsola Federico Ottavio Reho Tomi Huhtanen France Fitzgerald European People's Party European Union Migration

    EPP Congress – Day 2 Streaming

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    01 Jun 2022

  • Streaming of our last 2 panels of the first day of our sideline event in Rotterdam:

    5) How Does EU Tech Policy Shape Up for the Digital Decade? Moderator: Dimitar Lilkov, Senior Research Officer, Martens Centre Discussants: – Mark Boris Andrijanič, Minister for Digital Transformation, Slovenia – Eva Maydell, MEP, GERB, Bulgaria

    6) United for Security and Defence: a Genuine Possibility for the EU? Moderator: Niklas Nováky, Senior Research Officer, Martens Centre Discussants: – Arnaud Danjean, MEP, Les Républicains, France – Henna Virkkunen, MEP, Kansallinen Kokoomus, Finland

    Mark Boris Andrijanič Dimitar Lilkov Henna Virkkunen Niklas Nováky Defence European People's Party Technology

    EPP Congress – Day 1 Afternoon Streaming

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    31 May 2022

  • Streaming of the 3 first panels of our Sideline Event:

    1) Christian Democracy and the Centre-Right Moderator: André Poortman, Researcher, CDA Research Institute Discussants: – Tom Berendsen, MEP, EPP Group (CDA) – Arjen Siegmann, Professor of Valuable Work and Christian-Social Thinking, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Research Associate, CDAbResearch Institute

    2) European Economic Forecast: Priorities for the Union’s Economy Moderator: Eoin Drea, Senior Research Officer, Martens Centre Discussants: – Siegfried Mureşan, MEP, PNL, Romania, Vice-President EPP – Luděk Niedermayer, MEP, TOP-09, Czechia

    3) A Green New Future: Balancing Energy Security, Sustainability, and Social Justice Moderator: Peter Hefele, Policy Director, Martens Centre Discussant: Jessica Polfjärd, MEP, Moderaterna, Sweden

    Arjen Siegmann Siegfried Mureşan Eoin Drea Peter Hefele European People's Party European Union

    EPP Congress – Day 1 Morning Streaming

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    31 May 2022

  • In the spring of 2012, the European People’s Party controlled 17 of the 28 governments in the EU. Ten years on, they control 7. The reasons behind this dramatic drop are manifold, and nobody in particular is to be blamed for it.

    Nevertheless, the reality is that the centre-right family has been removed from the governments of every large member state and, moreover, from every capital west of Vienna. By the end of this year, Ireland will have an EPP prime minister once again, becoming the exception to that rule, and will revert the European Council to the status quo before the Slovene election: 8 seats for the EPP, 7 for the socialists, and 6 for the liberals (7-7-7 as of now). There is the possibility that Swedish elections may also be won by a conservative-liberal coalition in September, making the balance in the Council 9-6-6 in favour of the EPP.

    This would enable the EPP to speak about renewed Conservative leadership of all 3 major institutions: biggest group and presidency of the Parliament, presidency and largest number of commissioners at the Commission, and plurality of seats in the Council. This might sound irrelevant, but it will be an important message to send when Europe enters ‘campaign mode’ by next spring.

    But let us be frank; for the moment, the three biggest EU countries in terms of population (Germany, France, and Italy) are in the hands of other political families, so the hope of truly beginning to come back to strength again rests on Spain and Poland. And, in the eyes of many, without a major Western European, Eurozone country, the political map will remain far too red, yellow, and grey. Psychologically, you need EPP blue covering some parts of the pre-2004 members. That is why ‘bringing home’ Sweden, Finland or Ireland is so important, and why winning back Spain is absolutely crucial.

    Spaniards will be called to the polling stations by November 2023, but it may very well be sooner than that. Current polls predict a fairly robust victory of Alberto Núñez-Feijóo’s Partido Popular, and socialist prime minister Pedro Sánchez might want to advance the general election to May, when the country will have local and regional elections in most of the territories.

    The country is suffering another severe crisis, with energy prices spiralling out of control since last summer already, inflation levels not seen in decades, stagnating salaries, systemic unemployment affecting 20% of the population, while some productive sectors can’t find workers; the list goes on. At the same time, the government coalition is more divided by the day, and increasingly fewer proposals come to life. It is highly possible that they will not be able or even willing to approve a budget for next year, and the country is starting to show that change is desperately needed.

    There is still plenty of time for the Spanish left to recover, and we should never underestimate their capacity to mobilise voters, control the media narrative, and suffer very little electoral punishment for their mistakes and negligence. That being said, like in many other countries, Spanish citizens tend to come back to the centre-right when they are in crisis; we might not be their hearts’ preferred option, but when times get tough, their brains trust us to resolve the situation. Today, Partido Popular offers once again the certitude and proven experience of a great manager, surrounded by a dream team of soon-to-be minsters. Núñez-Feijóo’s brand new leadership has taken the party back to a dominant role in record time, and he is by far the most trusted leader, even among moderate left-wing voters.

    To most outsiders, Núñez-Feijóo is quite unknown and, if you just started listening to his speeches, you might think he’s not that special. However, he does matter a fair bit, especially to the many Spaniards who have had enough of the pretty, camera-friendly, superficial and inexperienced youngsters that ‘new politics’ have yielded in recent years. This man, 60 years old, was until a few weeks ago the only regional president holding an absolute majority and having kept the far-right completely out of the autonomous parliament. He’s serious, efficient, moderate, speaks plainly, and knows how to connect with regular people. But most of all, and this is his brightest quality to many, including myself: he despises polarisation and confrontation, knows how to reach agreements with the left, and doesn’t treat them like the enemy; and that is quite refreshing these days!

    I recently heard someone call him the ‘Sheriff of Galicia’ (the region he comes from, the westernmost region of continental Spain and, alongside Portugal, of Europe). I couldn’t help but to think to myself that he is indeed not unlike one of these Hollywood Western characters that every boy loved in their childhood; the taciturn, serious, charming town Marshall that everybody respects and feels safe around. The man who brings back law and order and finally enables the poor townspeople to go about their lives fearlessly.

    It is time to come back to old-fashioned politicians, those who can talk to each other in a calm way, even be friends with their opponents. It is time to give more importance to ideas and proposals than to tweets and TV shows. It is time to be united, to find compromises and middle ground that benefit a majority of citizens. It is time to put an end to polarisation in Western Europe.

    Can you think of anyone better fit to begin reconquering the West for the centre-right and put a stop to the populist and extremist forces than the most popular sheriff of the most western town in Europe? I can’t.

    Álvaro de la Cruz Economy EU Member States European People's Party

    Álvaro de la Cruz

    Reconquering the West


    24 May 2022

  • Antonio López-Istúriz White Margherita Movarelli COVID-19 European People's Party

    The Week in 7 Questions with Antonio López-Istúriz White

    Multimedia - Other videos

    17 Dec 2021

  • Roberta Metsola Loredana Teodorescu European People's Party Gender Equality

    HER AND EU – Women in EU Politics

    Her and EU

    01 Oct 2021

  • Antonio López-Istúriz White European People's Party

    EIF 21 Closing Remarks – Antonio López-Istúriz White

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    30 Jun 2021

  • European People's Party

    EIF 21 Keynote Speech – Manfred Weber

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    30 Jun 2021

  • We are thrilled to launch our new series #ComeTogether in cooperation with the EPP. With this series, we bring together ideas and policy from our political family to debate them with you! In this first episode, we discussed the #FutureofEurope with EPP Vice-President Paulo Rangel and with WMCES Strategic Coordinator Federico Reho.

    Federico Ottavio Reho European People's Party European Union

    #ComeTogether Ep 1 with Paulo Rangel and Federico Reho

    Multimedia - Other videos

    28 May 2021

  • 29 June, 1995; nearly 26 years ago, the conservative party Partido Popular was elected to the government of the Spanish capital region. They have not left the ruling office since. And they will not do so until at least 2023, with the situation seeming like there is still a long way to go before the left can regain their long-lost centrum.

    26 years is a long time (back then, the PlayStation 1 was still the premier video game console!), and the robust victory by PP’s Isabel Díaz Ayuso this past Tuesday, 4 May, may let us think that Madrid is simply a conservative region and that there is not much to be analysed here. The truth is that only two years ago, Partido Popular fielded the same candidate (for the first time then) and the party’s main competition, the socialist PSOE, ran the same candidate as they did last Tuesday. Back then, the Socialists took 37 seats to PP’s 30 in the regional parliament and took 27% of votes (22% for PP). This week, the conservatives more than doubled their 2019 result, while the socialists dropped by over 10 points.

    What changed so dramatically in just 2 years? A global pandemic happened. In the most decentralised country in Europe, our regions have quite a big autonomous power, and the nearly year-long national ‘State of Alarm’ did not change that much. This made the measures to fight COVID-19 quite heterogeneous among the 17 regions of my Iberian homeland, especially after the first wave of the pandemic. And Madrid stood out in a clearly differentiated way.

    Last Autumn, Madrid’s regional government decided that every business and sector of activity that could remain open would. They launched an original approach, based on massive testing campaigns and small, partial lockdowns by districts. Here is a blog post from two months ago with detailed information on the singularities of the COVID fight in Madrid. This approach made it possible to reach a few important milestones for the region: in the last quarter of 2020, Madrid’s economic growth was 9 times bigger than the national average, it is the only Spanish region to have experienced a solid employment recovery, and it became the richest region in the country for the first time, overtaking Catalonia in terms of GDP, despite having a smaller population. All these benefits, without a worse outcome in terms of COVID-19 deaths, hospitalisations, or infection rate.

    Then, in early spring, Spanish political hormones went a little bit crazy and PP’s preferred partner, Ciudadanos (Renew Europe), aligned with the socialists in a motion of no-confidence against their own coalition governments with PP in the South-eastern region of Murcia and North-western region of Castilla y León. Before it could also happen in Madrid, the regional president and party leader, Ms Díaz Ayuso (or simply Ayuso, as she is commonly referred to), dissolved parliament and called for early elections. 54 days later, Ciudadanos no longer exists in the regional landscape and Ayuso and PP robustly defeated the parties of the national government coalition, PSOE and Podemos.

    Why did so many people vote for the centre-right this time, despite having voted for the left two years ago? Of course, the ‘Freedom’ (Ayuso’s political slogan in this campaign) to continue doing business, socialise, go to bars, restaurants, concerts, or museums, while most of the rest of Spaniards could not, created a major incentive to vote for her. But also the relatively good economic data, not only during the pandemic but also in recent years, during which la Comunidad succeeded in attracting many national and international businesses with its soft taxation on both companies and income, its great infrastructure, and quality of life, have made its citizens appreciate liberal policies much more than in other Spanish regions.

    Madrid is a rich, dynamic, diverse, and socially free society. Capital of the World Pride, not only is it one of the most LGBT-friendly regions in Europe, but also one of the most welcoming destinations for both tourists and workers from around the world. Its model attracts businesses, but also talent, individuals, and families looking for a safe, warm, and prosperous place to call home. Because of all of the above, the strong and direct character of Isabel Diaz Ayuso – who has become a true pop icon- and because of the poor management of the leftist national government, a majority of Madrilenians voted for Partido Popular and sent a strong message to Pedro Sánchez and his party: we are back!

    The immediate future of the party on a national level is yet to be determined. Still, polls indicate that the party is growing firmly and that a national election, if held today, would probably result in a tie between the socialists and Partido Popular, with an uncertain outcome regarding the strength of left and right blocks in the parliament. In any case, two days before the regional election, on 2 May, Madrid celebrated its local festivity, on the anniversary of the uprising against the Napoleonic occupation, marking one of the first ever defeats of the greatest army in the world, La Grande Armée. Back then, in May 1808, the citizens of Madrid lit a flame that would begin the fall of Napoleon and his empire (ABBA did not make a song about it, but it was much more epic, believe me). I am optimistic that this 4th of May of 2021 will also be a historical event, during which the people of Madrid lit another flame, relaunching the centre-right project of not only Partido Popular, but also every EPP member party, whether in Poland, Ireland, France, or Slovakia. Do not let the flame die and join us, Madrilenians, in shouting out: we are back!

    Álvaro de la Cruz Centre-Right European People's Party Party Structures

    Álvaro de la Cruz

    The centre-right flame burns in Madrid


    06 May 2021

  • EPP and EPP Group VP answered questions on the recent #SofaGate, EU-Turkey relations, China, and other EU-related issues.

    Roland Freudenstein China European People's Party

    The Week in 7 Questions with Esther de Lange

    Multimedia - Other videos

    16 Apr 2021

  • The first episode of 2021 is out! Watch Christian Kremer respond to 7 questions on the Capitol Riots, transatlantic relations, Covid-19, economic recovery, the German presidency of the Council, and the EPP Congress in 2021.

    Roland Freudenstein COVID-19 European People's Party Transatlantic

    The Week in 7 Questions with Christian Kremer

    Multimedia - Other videos

    15 Jan 2021

  • Advent has commenced; the historically black year of 2020 is coming to an end; winter is coming.

    Change in the EU Council is also on the horizon: very soon, the strong, conservative leadership of Germany and Chancellor Merkel will be in the EU’s archives, and a very different country, with a very different government, will take the lead: Portugal.

    From the biggest demographic and economic power of Europe, to a medium-small size, struggling economy; from the geographical heart of Europe, to one of the most remote corners of the continent; from the main conservative figure of the 21st century in the EU, to a relatively weak socialist government (in office since November 2015 as a minority government), sustained on several fronts by the Portuguese communists. The switch will be significant, there can be no doubt about it, even if the Portuguese authorities insist on a smooth transition and common-interest projects to be continued.

    2020 will not be remembered for any positive reason almost anywhere on the planet; this will not be any different in Europe. COVID-19 has delivered a health, economic, and social crisis within the EU that has only amplified the fractures and structural problems of an already turbulent Union. Together with a potential ‘No-Deal’ Brexit, the fundamental issues in some Member States around the Rule of Law, the instability in our neighbourhood (Belarus, Ukraine, Turkey, Armenia, etc.), the European Union’s most fundamental principles have been challenged and put to the test, sometimes even being temporarily suspended (Schengen). Therefore, the two European Council Presidencies of the year have had a tremendous handicap to overcome in order to make any progress regarding deeper integration, economic development, or even enlargement discussions. Despite this, both Croatia (first-ever EUCO presidency for the Balkan country) and Germany (led by the ever-popular Merkel) have delivered a great amount of quality work and progress in some key fields, such as Europe’s Security and Defence Policy (Strategic Compass), or a big step towards future enlargement in the Western Balkans.

    Two very different countries, with different leaderships and approaches, but within a common roadmap, vision, and political umbrella: the European People’s Party, the heart of conservative moderates of the continent. They started working long before 2020 to prepare the task they were given and, despite COVID-19 and the global collapse, they delivered, my goodness did they deliver!

    Now, especially after the European ‘Goliath’, by all metrics (economic, demographic, political), we transition to a European Council leadership in the hands of a socialist minority government that took office five years ago after losing the election to a conservative alliance. This was only possible thanks to the votes of the Communist Party and rejection of any possible moderate coalition with the Portuguese conservative coalition of Portugal Ahead (PàF) and Social Democrat Party (PSD).

    Portugal now has the 3rd largest debt burden of the EU, with one of the labour markets most affected by COVID-19, and a rather weak government. Therefore, the country doesn’t seem to be the ‘underdog David’ that would receive the German legacy and overshadow it with an outstanding Presidency. In any case, there are some factors that play in Portugal’s favour, which their EUCO presidency will use to advocate for this ‘David/giant-killer’ condition. Firstly, Portugal will emphasise its satisfactory management of the pandemic, especially during the 1st wave (aided by their natural geographic isolation), and secondly, benefitting from international markets, its positive economic evolution since the announcement of an available vaccine from early 2021. Portugal will probably jump into a current of strong economic recovery, progressive re-opening of all industrial European sectors, and the arrival of the first billions of euros from the EU Recovery Fund. This means that, even if once again only thanks to the great work done by the EPP-family governments and with a great amount of luck (Portugal was able to navigate the post-financial crisis very well thanks to the previous conservative government’s efforts), they will be able to work in a much more stable, optimistic, and economically promising environment.

    We are all used to seeing how the European left takes credit for the hard work done by EPP governments, and this time won’t be any exception. Despite the unfairness of the whole situation, Europe could use a ‘David’ in these turbulent times. Will Portugal or Slovenia embrace that role? Let’s pray they will.

    Álvaro de la Cruz EU Institutions European People's Party

    Álvaro de la Cruz

    From Goliath to David?


    14 Dec 2020

  • I say Europe, you say?

    Christmas Eve. For me, Europe is like home. Like family. Europe is about our traditions and also about our dreams. I can still remember, especially from when I was a child, that Christmas is a time when you dream most intensively.

    In your opinion, what has been Europe’s greatest strength during this Corona-crisis?

    I am afraid that especially at the beginning of the crisis, Europe showed its weaknesses rather than its strengths. We can still remember this time of chaos, of a conflict among member states, this spiral of mutual accusations. All this included typical blame games, partly provoked by the external powers. This is why, in fact, what I consider to be the biggest European strength during this time, is that we were able to at least agree on the Recovery Fund, and that we were able to stop this conflict and the very emotional tensions among member states.

    Do you think the EU will come out of this crisis more united and integrated as it has after past crises?

    No one knows when the crisis will end. But what we do know for sure is that it will have many consequences of a known and of a still unknown nature, in politics, economy, and in our social life. This very fact can provoke fears and a feeling of threat and uncertainty. Sometimes fear is a good reason to seek unity. But of course, I would prefer a Europe which is able to unite around other values than the common threats or fears.

    The EPP has managed to keep its activity running smoothly since the very beginning of the pandemic, how did the party adapt so quickly and make it possible with all of the limitations in place?

    First of all, because we have a brilliant President… I’m just kidding. Seriously speaking, I think our whole team was really disciplined and well-skilled when it comes to new forms of daily work. I was so impressed, because it was absolutely clear for me that our people were extremely well-organised and determined, and yet cautious at the same time. In fact, they worked very intensely despite the pandemic restrictions and rules, while respecting those same restrictions and rules. This was, and not only for me, a very unique experience and I have learned something very positive about my people here.

    What about you? Were you already an advanced technology-user, or did you have to adapt to all of the virtual tools; Webinars, doing conferences on Teams, and so on?

    I was able to use my mobile before the pandemic… Frankly speaking, I will never like those new methods and new forms of work. I will certainly never like politics online. Politics is about emotions. It is not about procedures or simple messages, or institutional preparation. Sometimes I feel that maybe this pandemic is some kind of an anticipation of our new post-pandemic reality, which means that you will have meetings online instead of in person. Maybe our whole life will be online, not in person. It seems to me like a very pessimistic dystopia.

    This leads us really well into our next questions. What do you miss the most about pre-COVID times?

    I am a football fan. Not just about football, I am crazy about all sports. What I miss the most is, first of all, sports events with an audience; crowds chanting and booing. This change is extremely visible and painful. Also, going to the cinema with my family, especially with my grandchildren, or even smiling at people on the streets, because now a smile is covered by a mask. What I also really miss is a Sunday breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien, at Avenue Louise.  It used to be a little ‘tradition’ for me here in Brussels.  

    And what do you miss the most in your political activity from the pre-COVID times?

    As I have said, in politics, direct contact is really important. Especially for me, with my temperament. Sometimes, I  prefer a really tough argument or fight. I really like this part of politics. Online, everything is a little bit artificial. You can prepare this online life and work perfectly, but politics without emotions and without fighting can be very boring. What I really hate in our work is routine, monotony, and the risk that our work may become monotonous.

    This summer, the member states re-opened borders. Did you manage to travel somewhere for your holidays?

    Yes, I did. I spent four weeks in Poland in a small village with my grandchildren in my most beloved Kashubia region, and it was one of the best times in my life. We also went to Normandy and Brittany in France. I have to say that visiting Mont-Saint-Michel, Saint-Malo or Deauville during the pandemic time was something really unique and exceptional.


    COVID-19 has created deep concerns all over Europe. What are your feelings about Central Europe, and especially Poland? Do you think the crisis will bring forth populist narratives in certain EU governments?

    I am very worried about COVID-19 developments, especially in my country. I should say that not only Poland, but Hungary and the entire region, have gone through the first phase of the pandemic quite safely. In my opinion, these are rather fortunate coincidences than good governance. In fact, in my opinion, it is very difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of the Polish, Hungarian, or Slovak governments because of their lack of testing. Without testing, you have no real measures or instruments to assess the situation. For example, in Poland we have almost five times fewer tests per capita than in Germany. Without concrete numbers or statistics, you can make propaganda.

    The recent presidential election in Poland was a big disappointment for many of us, but it gave hope to many Polish and European citizens. What should be the next steps for the Polish opposition after this very close election?

    This optimism is quite justified. In fact, if the presidential elections had been fully fair, the opposition would have won. The difference was really small. You can say that the elections were free, but they were not fair. I am quite sure that if the democratic opposition in Poland were able to unite before the next parliamentary election which is in three years, they would have a chance to win.

    Returning to EU politics, what are the biggest challenges facing the EU and the EPP during this autumn and winter?

    That is a question for a book rather than for our short interview! In a few words, of course the pandemic comes first, for which an effective vaccine is our hope. Unfortunately, migration will remain a crucial issue in the next months. It has received less coverage because of the pandemic, but nothing has changed. The dramatic situation in Lesbos in the migrant camp of Moria is just a signal that migration will be topical in the agenda, no doubt about that. A growing pressure from the illiberal democracy front is not just a seasonal problem. It will be a very long-term process for those of us who believe in liberal democracy and who want to protect it. Rebuilding our transatlantic relations after the presidential elections in the US is another priority. And, of course, relations with China and Russia.

    Another hot topic: Do you believe we will finally have a hard Brexit in January? Is there any way to make the British government come to its senses?

    With Prime Minister Boris Johnson, given his extravagance, everything is possible. As a consequence, every scenario is possible, including a ‘no-deal scenario’. Knowing him – and I know him very well – a ‘no-deal scenario’ is what he prefers. This is why we need to be even more united, the EU27, especially when it comes to the Irish question.  

    In our latest ‘I say Europe, You Say…?’, former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt suggested that we ask you what the plan is with Viktor Orbán?

    As you know, due to pandemic restrictions, we are not able to organise our regular Political Assembly, including the voting on the formal motion from our 14 member parties, to expel Fidesz. I know that it may sound like an excuse to bypass the issue, but this is our reality today in this critical moment. Some of our colleagues still believe that it is possible to convince Viktor Orbán to change his approach as to the principles of democracy and rule of law. I am afraid they are too optimistic. I am much more realistic when it comes to Orbán. My personal ambition is to protect our political family from the new trend of illiberal democracy, nationalism, and semi-authoritarian aspirations. For this, I need a clear majority in the EPP. We will see.

    Happier question now: when are we going to hear you sing again?

    Those who wish me well suggested that I stop singing altogether. And I can understand why. So now I am concentrated on my preparation for my first marathon. Thanks to the pandemic, I have more time to train and prepare myself. Jogging is much easier for me.

    Which EPP colleague or person would you nominate for our next interview, and what questions would you ask?

    Antonio Tajani. And my question to Antonio will be: How can a moderate centre-right be rebuilt in Italy?

    That’s a tough question.

    Life is tough!

    Christian Democracy European People's Party European Union

    I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Donald Tusk

    I Say Europe

    01 Oct 2020

  • Download research paper: https://oy99maarxf.preview.infomaniak.website/publication/towards-a-sovereign-europe-a-centre-right-approach/

    As the debate on European sovereignty has gained traction in recent years, Europe’s centre-right should develop its own distinct vision of European sovereignty, one that reflects its own priorities and values.

    This policy brief aims to develop a tentative theoretical and historical framework that can be used to work out what this conservative and Christian Democratic vision could look like. It argues that it is important for the centre-right to ensure that its vision stands apart from those of both the nationalist populists on its right and social-liberals on its left. Against populists the centre-right needs to show that conservatism and European integration can be compatible. As the historical overview in the paper shows, conservatives throughout history have supported processes of political and economic centralisation as long as these have taken place in piecemeal fashion and the resulting institutions have reproduced in their conduct and outlook the values conservatives stand for. Against the centralisers on the centre-left, who are currently monopolising the slogan ‘more Europe’, the centre-right must articulate more clearly how its own understanding of EU integration is a more pragmatic, effective and viable way forward. Contrary to progressives, who view European and international institutions as instruments of ideologically-driven social change, European conservatives see institutions as expressions and safeguards both of diversity inside the EU and of the distinctly European imprint on world politics externally.

    The paper offers a first outline of how a conservative perspective on EU sovereignty could be applied to a range of policy areas, from foreign policy to economic governance to migration.

    Angelos Chryssogelos Centre-Right European People's Party European Union

    Teaser video: ‘Towards a Sovereign Europe – A Centre-Right Approach’

    Multimedia - Other videos

    27 Aug 2020

  • All eyes on Germany as it takes over the Council Presidency, in particularly challenging times: fighting the pandemic, practising solidarity in the economic crisis, and living up to our ambition to become a global player – these are just the most pressing challenges the Council Presidency will have to deal with.

    Europe is facing the biggest economic crisis since its foundation, with member states having to agree on the next multiannual financial framework (MFF). Although the Presidency will be dominated by monetary discussions, Germany will also take on the issues of the environment, migration and Brexit 2.0.

    Can the EU step up its game and shoulder joint debts, while simultaneously designing the new budget in such a way that it serves as an investment in the future and not as a return of old debts? How can the Rule of Law be strengthened while we need unanimity on the budget? And how can we tackle EU-China relations?

    Roland Freudenstein EU Institutions European People's Party

    Online Event: ‘Berlin Calling: 6 Months to Lead the Union’

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    23 Jul 2020

  • With over 51% of the vote, the incumbent Andrzej Duda of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has won the presidential election against Rafał Trzaskowski from the Civic Platform (PO). This is a narrow victory, but the country’s descent into authoritarianism will continue nonetheless. This result will be taken as a sign of encouragement by all autocrats in Europe. But they shouldn’t rejoice too soon. A closer look at the result, and especially at the dynamics of recent weeks, reveals some cracks in their narrative.

    1. These elections were free, but not fair

    This contest was David against Goliath. Andrzej Duda not only had at his disposal the government (very important during the pandemic), but also state media. During the pandemic, he could de facto campaign while exercising his office, travelling around the country, whereas opposition candidates were literally confined to social media for much of the campaign. What is more, Polish public media, especially television, overtly and consistently endorsed his campaign. True, most governments – in Poland and other formerly communist countries in the last 30 years – have ensured that public media were rather government-friendly. But that is nothing compared to the relentless transformation of Polish public TV into an Orwellian propaganda instrument for PiS since 2015. Another example of the unequal playing field was the deliberately bureaucratic and inefficient treatment of expatriate voters by consulates in those countries where past elections had been unfavourable for PiS.

    2. Rafał Trzaskowski has put himself and his party firmly back on Europe’s political map

    Rafał Trzaskowski will now return to his post as Mayor of Warsaw. But he has left his mark, and sooner or later, will return to national and European politics. Among younger voters, and in medium-sized and larger cities, he clearly beat Andrzej Duda. Two months ago, when PO decided to change their candidate and nominate Trzaskowski, no one would have predicted that he could come even close to half of the electorate. Between the first and the second round, he gained an additional 18 percentage points, meaning he swept up practically the entire left-wing vote, and most of those voters who rejected both him and Duda two weeks ago because they both represented the establishment. Against such overwhelming odds, Trzaskowski, in a breathtaking impromptu campaign, inspired and mobilised half of the electorate in Central Europe’s biggest nation.

    3. The authoritarian narrative about East and West in Europe is a myth

    Europe’s autocrats like to state that not only are Central European societies more socially conservative (which is true to an extent), but also have fundamentally different approaches to liberal democracy, to the rule of law, and checks and balances. Rafał Trzaskowski received almost half of the votes, mainly because so many Poles were fed up with the way PiS has usurped the Polish state, the judiciary, and the public media. Equally aggravating is the party’s use of hatred and bigotry in its treatment of the opposition, and how its actions have isolated Poland in Europe. The culture war narrative about a wealthy, liberal, decadent, overbearing, and Soros-controlled West that wants to lecture a young, dynamically growing, and conservative East about the rule of law has been proven wrong in this election. The insistence of EU institutions, such as the Parliament, the Commission, and the majority of EU Council members on the rule of law is not Western arrogance. It is the insistence on implementing what every country signed up for upon accession to the Union – in terms of values, but also in terms of procedures to safeguard them. To present this effort as a West European or Brussels-based politicised witch-hunt against conservative governments is a distortion that has been exposed by this Polish election.

    The immediate future for Poland is predictable: PiS will expand its control over the judiciary, go after private media and push out foreign owners, and curtail local and regional governments’ power. The European People’s Party should raise its voice against such efforts to destroy liberal democracy, no matter which member state they are taking place in. It should expose authoritarian narratives no matter who voices them. And, as importantly, it should recognise who its real future talents are.

    Roland Freudenstein Democracy Elections EU Member States European People's Party

    Roland Freudenstein

    Poland: A hollow victory for authoritarianism


    14 Jul 2020

  • Without a doubt, 2020 will be a year the world will remember. So will Andrej Plenković. Croatia’s Prime Minister just got re-elected and secured 66 parliamentary seats for his conservative HDZ party, in a surprising outcome to the election. Moreover, this historical win comes only five days after the European Union’s youngest member state passed the Council leadership baton to Germany, not to mention the ongoing fierce pandemic, which Plenković’s government had to combat in its own backyard and on the European level.

    Ambitious priorities based on the slogan “A Strong Europe in a world of challenges” had to be reconsidered during the Croatian EU Presidency. Andrej Plenković’s government had to react quickly in order to adapt to conditions brought on by COVID-19.

    Firstly, high-level meetings in Croatia and Brussels were replaced by video-conferences, and cultural events, geared towards serving the nation’s branding purposes, had to be adapted for social media promotion. 

    Secondly, relating to the allocation of the EU budget, Plenković’s government intended to shape the final draft of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) in order to serve all EU 27. At the same time, it advocated for additional funds for Cohesion Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy, two items which the current MFF draft proposes to reduce. Due to the pandemic and short timeframe, when the conversation shifted towards money, an agreement was reached on an EU Recovery and Resilience Facility worth €560 billion, and three safety nets, including €540 billion in loans in response to the coronavirus’ consequences.

    Thirdly, one of the central aspects of the Croatian Presidency was enlargement policy, and the Presidency’s commitment to opening negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, which culminated in the EU-Western Balkans Summit. The Zagreb Summit was the crowning achievement of the Croatian Presidency. In March, EU Heads of State not only gave their green light for the opening of negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, but they also sent a clear political signal to the region and emphasised its importance for Europe. Although the summit’s initial aim was to address the rule of law and the fight against organised crime, it focused on the coronavirus and €3.3 billion in financial assistance that the EU pledged to the Western Balkans region to help it recover from the pandemic.

    If Member States were to be given marks at the end of each six-month EU Presidency, the criterion for assessment could be the fulfilment of the tasks set out in the Presidency programme, in coherence with the EU agenda. Despite the very ambitious programme and the government’s thorough preparation, not all the objectives set out could be achieved due to the previously mentioned conditions. However, according to Charles Darwin, it is not the strongest that survive, but those most adaptable to changes. And Croatia deserves a petica (meaning an excellent mark) in that regard, because not only did the country adapt well to unforeseen circumstances, but it simultaneously sent out a message of solidarity, unity, and a bright vision of a stronger EU.

    Simultaneously, Andrej Plenković had to fight battles on home court. During a full-blown crisis, he had to reappoint a new health minister, which proved to be one of the key moves for the upcoming elections. Croatia’s National Civil Protection Headquarters, composed of Health minister Vili Beroš and Interior minister Davor Božinović, are perceived as superheroes, who put feelings of trust and safety in the minds of Croats when they needed it the most. It was precisely the term ‘safety’ that was the motto of Plenkovic’s campaign #SigurnaHrvatska, which motivated voters to elect a party that can lead them to brighter days, come hell or high water.

    Even though this was the third time in the past 14 months that Croats went to the polls, and while previous results did not play out well for HDZ, Andrej Plenković took the correct conclusions out of earlier mistakes, choosing the right time and the right people. His newly composed electoral list left nothing to be desired. A balance of experienced politicians with a dash of competent and promising youth, running an election called immediately after a very successful management of the pandemic, and before the incoming economic downturn, was the magic formula. Croats had their say, and they voted for a safe, proven, and ambitious option.

    Nevertheless, there are still five more months until the end of the year, and there are already new problems on the horizon. According to experts, the upcoming economic crisis should hit harder than in 2008. This threat, paired with coronavirus, climate change, existing migration challenges, and growing populism, will cause a lot of sleepless nights in Zagreb.

    Sandra Pasarić Elections EU Member States European People's Party European Union

    Sandra Pasarić

    Finding security in uncertain times: A ‘petica’ for Andrej Plenković


    07 Jul 2020

  • Watch here the 7 answers that Lidia Pereira gives to our host Roland Freudenstein on topics such as the new way of work of the MEPs, changing traveling to books, Digital Technology, or China, among others.

    Roland Freudenstein China COVID-19 European People's Party Technology

    The Week In 7 Questions with Lídia Pereira

    Multimedia - Other videos

    24 Apr 2020

  • I say Europe you say?

    Europe, Europe as well.

    What was the biggest myth about the EU that you had to dismantle during your career? Or to explain to your co-citizens?

    There were many, but I think the most common one, and to some extent, the most dangerous one, is the myth that the EU is going to take away national states and identities. I think that we have to make clear to people that we live in a world where you have different identities. For example, I have a regional identity of the place in Sweden where I was born, a national identity as a Swede, and a European identity as a European. The fact that we can upgrade our identities to double or triple ones is very important but sometimes slightly difficult to get across.

    You often argued that Europe is far behind China and the US in terms of internet governance, global technology, and digital economy.  How can the EU take the centre-stage?

    We are gradually losing that particular race and I’m afraid that when we go to the next stage of the race with artificial intelligence we are going to fall even further behind.  I think what is needed first is that we fund basic research and our universities.  So that’s the number one: fund basic research so that talent remains in Europe. Secondly, we need to have capital markets that work. We need to deepen the digital single market and avoid regulatory digital protectionists.

    Could you share with us one of your favourite visits while you were either the Prime Minister or the Minister of Foreign Affairs back in Sweden and why you picked that specific one?

    When I was Foreign Minister we also chaired the Arctic Council for two years, so I went to strange places where most people haven’t been.  I am going to mention two.  Salekhard in Northern Siberia up where the Ob River meets with the Cora Sea. The Ob River is six kilometres wide at that point. It is frozen ten months a year and Salekhard has no road connection, no railway connection, but it’s still a really important place.

    Second, Iqaluit which is the capital of Nunavut which most people don’t know what it is, but it is one of the northern provinces of Canada, which is a huge area. The northernmost part of Nunavut is closer to Stockholm than to Ottawa and has the population density of northern Greenland.

    After French President Macron has stated that the EU should first reform itself before it considers taking up any new members, how do you see the European perspective for the Western Balkans?

    I think the French have really messed it up, which is based on a certain reluctance that has been there the entire time when it comes to enlargement and a lack of understanding about what is happening in the Balkans. How exactly they are going to get themselves out of this particular hole remains to be seen. The European perspective for the Balkans is extremely important – we have a role and a responsibility there. And if we back off, it is not primarily about the fear that the Russians or Chinese or anyone else will step in.

    It is rather about the fact that the forces of disintegration will take over from the forces of integration and we know from history what that might lead to and why those forces are dangerous. So exactly how we are going to solve this remains to be seen.  I think it will be or rather it has to be one of the key talking points of the Council and the Commission next year. We have a Croatian Presidency in the first part of next year, we have a summit meeting of the EU and the Balkan countries coming up in Zagreb in May.

    Over the years some of the headlines in which you have been featured had named you a Twiplomat. In the world of hyper-connectivity we are living in today does it seem like digital diplomacy could replace the public one?

    Well, it’s already an obvious part of diplomacy. Of course, more and more of the things that we do are an integral part of the digital sphere. So is diplomacy. You have to be there, in the social media sphere, you have to use all the instruments of digital communication. Because that’s where, particularly young people, live. And if you’re not in the digital world, you’re not in the world.

    Speaking of digital, we have seen on your social media that you are a frequent flyer. Do you happen to know how many photos of planes, for example, you have on your Twitter feed, or how many times have you been up in the air?

    When I was Foreign Minister, there were some people who were saying ‘you travel too much’ and I said, ‘it is an unfortunate fact that most of the world is outside of Sweden’. Some people have difficulties accepting that fact, but it is a fact. But yes indeed, I must fly quite often as there are no good train connection from Stockholm to Los Angeles.

    With which EPP colleague would you choose to assemble a piece of IKEA furniture with?  

    Probably my wife, Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, but I’m not quite certain that she’d like to do it with me!

    As the co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations could you maybe choose one favourite project or initiative that you are doing?

    There are two things I would like to outline that I think we have devoted our attention to over the last year. The first is European sovereignty issues, same as the Martens Centre is doing, and this has become much more topical, but still remains fairly complicated. European countries are increasingly vulnerable to external pressure that prevents them from exercising their sovereignty.

    The second we have done is a work looking at the experience of European common foreign and security policy reforms during the last five years, and see what can be done in order to reform it, less the substance, more the mechanism of institutions and the way they’re working in order to make them more effective. So those are two things that have been fairly high up on the agenda lately.

    Which topic would be your favourite one to discuss over Fika?

    Over Fika, I want to discuss…the weather. The news of the day. Fika is a time to be slightly less serious, to discuss what’s on your mind today, things like that.

    What is, in your view, the most effective level of governance at which we could tackle climate change? Is it the local, is it the regional, is it the national, or the supra-national?

    Well, the problem, of course, is that the answer has to be all of the above, I mean we clearly need a global approach. Because if you look at it at the moment, Europe is in the lead, tackling the issue, but we need to do more, we need to implement more consent on what we are going to do. But the main challenge is going to be the coal use of China and India, these sort of rather booming billion-people economies of Asia.

    To get them, or have them to get off coal, and be on a sustainable track to reducing emissions, that is absolutely critical. And that can only be done at the global level. At the same time, we need to continue to demonstrate leadership in Europe. To demonstrate that we are not a utopia in doing it, and to demonstrate that it is actually feasible to be doing it. And some of that will have to be done at the local level. 

    Swedish Krona or Euro?

    Well, it would be the Euro. At the moment, we don’t have any public support for that, so we had to bet it on the krona, yes.

    European Commission or the European Council?

    I very much appreciate the Council as the fora for dialogue with different political leaders of Europe. It is very useful to sit down and listen to the different perspectives that are coming from different nations. If we don’t anchor what we do in Europe on the national level, we are lost. The Commission has its role, which is of indispensable importance, but it is in the Council where we anchor what we do in the different national political cultures.

    Which EPP colleague or person would you nominate for our next interview, and what would be the questions that you would ask?

    Donald Tusk: what he’s going to do with Viktor Orban. That’s got to be an interesting one.

    Centre-Right European People's Party Leadership Values

    I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Carl Bildt

    I Say Europe

    04 Nov 2019

  • I say Europe, you say…?


    What was the biggest myth about the EU that you had to bust during the campaign?

    There are a lot of myths about the EU. I’m a first-time politician, never ran a European campaign, never ran in any campaign. But I am very passionate about people. One of the myths was that if you are not from a political family or with political experience, you would never make it to the European Union. And I am very honoured to be an example that you can kick that myth in the derrière and make a difference.

    You are one of the youngest MEPs in the European Parliament, but it would be interesting to know what your first job was?

    I was 8 or 9 and I used to work in our local market where animals are sold. I used to help farmers load and offload sheep into the trailor. My first paying job was when I was 12, I worked in a local guest hotel, cleaning and serving. This enabled me to build a rapport with different personalities and was fun.

    What was the inspiration behind serving as a member of the Army Reserve in Ireland and volunteering with the Cavalry Corps? What was the most interesting part of that experience?

    This is really important to me. If I could do both, be an MEP and a trooper in the reserves, I would do it happily. I was born American and raised in Ireland, and I always had admiration for our volunteers, as well as towards our fulltime soldiers men and women who put on a uniform and represent our country.

    Now, Ireland is a neutral state and we protect that. But we also have soldiers who are constantly training to protect us in climate issues such as flood relief, or in a bomb squad, special forces, or protecting our dignitaries. Our defence force does a number of jobs even in a neutral state. When I realised I was getting a bit older and if I didn’t go for the reserves when and if I did, it would’ve been one of my greatest regrets. I absolutely adored it. It challenged me, it allowed me to be a better team player and to appreciate my Irish flag much more.

    You mentioned that you spent a part of your life in the United States and I know that you are a member of the delegation for the relations with the United States. What do you think is the future of the transatlantic relationship?

    It is not lost on me that the Commissioner-designate for trade is an Irishman called Phil Hogan, with a breadth of experience, particularly in agriculture. As the European Union, we are constantly negotiating better ways for our citizens and our trade to be protected. And then you asked me earlier, democracy. That is important now in the US more than ever and we need to make sure that our politics and the way our communities are thriving, being built and rebuilt is protected by both sides. There is a lot more to be done and I am excited to sit on that delegation.

    This year we have witnessed the election of the first female Commission president and for the first time, we will have a gender-balanced Commission college. What do you see as the next milestones to further gender balance in Europe?

    When Ursula Von der Leyen spoke in the hemicycle in Strasbourg, I, as a first-time MEP, as a female, as the youngest MEP coming from Ireland – it was remarkable to see history in its making. And I think perhaps it was lost on some, but it wasn’t lost on me.  We need to work better together on the gender pay gap, on gender pension issues, and I would love to see more diversity in the Commissioners college. What do I mean by that? Well, our ethnicity, our cultures, our religions, our orientations, that’s more important, not just gender, because we have a number of words attached to diversity. 

    What are your three favourite Twitter and Instagram accounts?

    This is so hard. I go through a bit of a love-hate relationship with social media. But it’s now more than ever that social media has a great footprint for us on how to translate the information back to our Member States. In terms of politics, I love and I highly recommend people to follow Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – @RepAOC, a first-time Congresswoman. When it comes to diversity there is The Shona Project @shonadotie and when it comes to mental health it would be Jigsaw Offaly @jigsaw_offaly. You can find them both on Twitter and Instagram.  I am a  big sports fan so @MayoGAA would be a big one to follow from my side.

    You’ve just mentioned mental health and I know that this has been of the topics that you have urged the new Commission to take as a priority. What should we focus on first to address this issue?

    All throughout the campaign, I’ve talked about driving the European year of good mental health. I’m not expecting that to happen tomorrow but within the mandate of 5 years, but I personally want it next year. I want it as quickly as possible. Because I think if we are really looking at trade, as we talked about earlier about the US and China, about trade with our neighbour the UK, we’re actually talking about currency and developing skillsets for our labour market. At the centre of every conversation is mental health. And if we have citizens being mindful of the impact of the positive and negative mental health, then nothing moves.

    Our whole communities break down and it frustrates me that it hasn’t been a competency of the EU yet. But that’s why we have passionate people like you and me here to drive that message. We need to get it into our education programmes and get funding for pilot programmes on mental health resources for both our young and old. Education and up-skilling is a great start for that. But I personally need every Commissioner talking about mental health as if it’s bigger than anything else that they’re going to look at.  Everything is a thread into mental health and we need to secure that.

    Speaking of translating topics to citizens, you are already a sitting member on the Employment and Social Affairs Committee. How do you translate complex topics such as social policies and employments to the voters back home?

    Firstly you have to constantly make sure that you are asking the questions that you think the citizens would like you to ask. It’s important that you dissect that and bring it home. When people think of the EU, they think of European symbols like funding. But the EU means a lot more than that. Over the campaign, I’ve challenged voters, particularly young ones to look for European symbols such as EU supported buildings, universities, and roads. When we look at the visible footprint, not just the financial impact, we begin to understand the pro-European stance better.

    Let’s say that you are playing football. You are the captain of “Team Europe” and it’s the last minute of the game. You have to pick one colleague to make the penalty. Whom do you pick?

    I should wear my country jersey and say that Sean Kelly could kick a good penalty. He was the president of GAA, which is the biggest sports organisation in Ireland, so I would say that he would be pretty dissent in taking a pint or a penalty. I’m going to regret saying this though. Yes, I say Sean Kelly.

    Coming back to your home country, agriculture is a big part of life there and your economy relies heavily on this sector. How do you see the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices?

    Actually, I just came from a call with a young constituent that I have in my area, a man called Kevin Moran who won ‘Young Farm of the Year’ a couple of years ago. He is not only planting trees but he’s also targeting his herd emissions, aiming to be close to 0%  emissions as soon as the next 2-3 years. We need to start listening a little bit more to our younger and older farmers who farm the land.

    All throughout the campaign, I’ve talked about a transition period. We cannot point fingers and say ‘you’re not green enough and this hasn’t happened enough’, but we need to help our citizens along on this transition and it can’t happen too fast because we can’t leave people behind. Our first female Commission President has tasked herself with the Green Deal and all eyes are on that. It’s my job as a new MEP to keep the pressure on my government and to make sure citizens are heard.

    Heels or army boots?

    Army boots.

    Pizza or fries?


    Hozier or U2?


    Which EPP colleague would you suggest for the next interview and what would be the question you would ask?

    I would choose Polish MEP Magdalena Adamowicz. She is a phenomenal woman tackling hate speech through her own personal circumstance and also a first-time MEP in the EPP Group. She could kick a good penalty too if needed! My question to her would be: what is the one thing that we could do tomorrow in the EU to reduce hate speech?

    Centre-Right EU Institutions EU Member States European People's Party Leadership

    I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Maria Walsh

    I Say Europe

    10 Oct 2019

  • 5 things to remember from the last four weeks:

    1. OMG. Turnout increased, for the first time in years, reversing decades of decline. In some member states, like Germany and Poland, the increase in the number of voters going to the polls was spectacular. With more than 50% turnout, the European Parliament elections performed better than the US midterm elections.

    This will certainly give a boost to the legitimacy of the European Parliament, but the effect will be short-lived, as in half a year nobody will talk about it anymore. If you’re not convinced of this, ask yourself: did the low turnout in 2009 affect the European Parliament, except for in the immediate post-election analysis season?

    2. Wow. The opinion polls were right. A Green wave was expected, but only in the North-West of the Union. Similarly, the Liberals grew, but only because of electoral doping, not because of winning the elections: the extra seats won by the LibDems (a temporary effect that will wear off once Brexit has taken place) and the alliance with Macron’s Renaissance.

    Also as predicted, the Grand Coalition of EPP and S&D is not so grand anymore, since it lost its absolute majority for the first time since the direct elections of the Parliament in 1979. But here too there is more continuity than change, as the Grand Coalition already ceased to exist in the second half of the 2014-2019 legislature. Remember that Antonio Tajani was elected President without the support of the S&D Group.

    3. Relax. The populists caused a wave, but not a tidal wave. Matteo Salvini and his friends gained seats but have not been able to put together the 3rd largest EP Group. This is basically because of internal disagreements in the ‘populist’ family and because of the decreased popularity of parties like FPÖ and the Danish People’s Party. In other words: the populists are here to stay, but with winners and losers, like everyone else.

    4. More representative? Seriously? Some claimed the new European Parliament is more representative. Fine, but wait, more representative vis-à-vis what or whom? Thanks to the Green and the populist wave, the new Parliament is certainly differently composed – and much more fragmented – compared with the outgoing Parliament; but that is exactly what elections are for.

    Or are some claiming that the votes in 2014 were not representative? Or that voters in 2014 did not vote for the right parties? If it means that a new parliament is more up to date with the voters’ opinion, then it applies to every election, not only this one, and as such the statement is meaningless.

    5. Stability versus change. During the campaign, but also when the votes are cast and the battle for interpretation starts, some favour stability, while some favour change. Interestingly, on election night EPP Spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber made a plea for stability, stating that now it is not the time for revolution.

    ALDE Spitzenkandidat Margrethe Vestager, by contrast, reminded the audience that as the Commissioner responsible for Competition Policy, she worked to break corporate monopolies, and announced her intention to do the same with political monopolies. Clearly, Vestager wants to oust the EPP from the Commission Presidency.

    PES Spitzenkandidat Frans Timmermans was much more diplomatic – after all, that is his profession. He had probably already foreseen that an anti-EPP-coalition of Socialists, Liberals, Greens and the extreme-left would still narrowly lack a majority.

    5 things to look forward in the coming days and weeks:

    1. The informal European Council two days after the elections resulted in a draw. Neither the heads of state and government nor the European Parliament group leaders were able to impose something, neither a Spitzenkandidat nor the end of the Spitzenkandidaten system.

    While the Europarty delegations meet in order to help forward the search for a package deal (Commission, European Council, Parliament and European Central Bank presidents), Donald Tusk has the formal task of finding a majority within the European Council for the nomination of a new Commission President. If he fails to do so by 20-21 June, there is still some time left for an extra Summit before the new Parliament meets on 2 July.

    2. The first thing the European Parliament has to do, however, is to vote on a president. Likely, this will indicate the composition of the working majority for the 2019-2024 legislature.

    3. Next, onto the positions, where there is an ongoing battle over content. Formally, the Commission is in charge of setting the agenda for the next five years, given its prerogative of legislative initiative. However, both the European Council and the European Parliament want to have a say on this strategic agenda. In other words: will the new deputies or the member state governments decide what the priorities of the new Commission will be?

    4. Once the Commission President-elect is known, national governments will be asked to nominate their Commissioners. This raises the question: what kind of strategy will the governments of Poland, Hungary, etc. follow? Will they oppose the Commission by sending candidates with clear Eurosceptic profiles, relying on these Trojan horses to undermine from within? Or will they accommodate the new Commission President, hoping to receive powerful portfolios for their Commissioners in return?

    5. Brexit. Exactly in the same period, the Tories will choose a new leader. He (there are no female candidates left) will become the new UK Prime Minister. In any case, October 31st is the new Brexit deadline. Preparing for a no-deal scenario or granting another extension will be the responsibility of the ancien regime, but whatever the outcome will be, it will be an issue on the table for everyone taking up political responsibility in the EU for the forthcoming 5 years.

    Steven Van Hecke Brexit Elections EU Institutions EU Member States European People's Party Leadership

    Steven Van Hecke

    4 weeks after the European Elections: what to remember and what to watch out for?


    19 Jun 2019

  • I say Europe you say..?

    More Europe! More solidarity! More communication! Why not, more humanity?

    You have said that education is an often-overlooked element in emergency planning, and the EU has recently increased its budget for education in emergencies.What would you say are other key areas that fly under the radar in crisis management?

    Education is the foundation of everything else. It is a human right, but it has also become a basic need. Over the last 4 years, increasing the EU humanitarian aid budget for education in emergencies has been my number one priority. Because education in emergencies remains one of the most underfunded sectors in humanitarian aid. I am proud to say that in 2019 we are investing 10%, compared to 1% in 2015, of our humanitarian funding to education in emergencies.

    The European Union is leading by example. One other key area where we have to do more — and we are doing more — is gender-based violence in emergencies. Gender is already an essential component of the EU’s humanitarian actions, through our Gender Action Plan, for instance. Putting an end to gender-based violence is a precondition for gender equality.

    We demonstrated the EU’s engagement to fight gender-based violence by undertaking the leadership of the Call to Action on Protection Against Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies for 1.5 years. Under our leadership 18 new partners joined the initiative, raising the number to 82. But much more needs to be done. Only international partnerships will turn words into actions. In this spirit, we have set up, together with the United Nations, our important “Spotlight Initiative” which addresses gender-based violence at the global level.

    As a commissioner, you spend a great deal of time travelling. What’s your go-to meal when you get back home to Cyprus?

    I miss the taste of many Cypriot delicacies. I am fanatical about Mediterranean cuisine! I miss the meze plates like seftalia, grilled halloumi, Cypriot ravioli and the unique taste of Cypriot vegetables.

    What role will rescEU play in adapting to increased natural disasters brought on by climate change?

    You are absolutely right in raising this issue: because of climate change natural disasters have become more frequent, more intense, more unpredictable. And they often happen simultaneously. rescEU is a sensible evolution of our current EU civil protection system which, admittedly, has reached its limits. It was created in another time for another time. Business as usual is no longer an option. European citizens expect action.

    rescEU is an investment in disaster response. We are upgrading our response equipment through increased EU funding which reinforces our collective ability to prevent, prepare and respond to disasters. Equally important, we are cultivating a shared culture of prevention. Without strong prevention and preparedness no amount of response equipment will ever be enough. rescEU is a “safety net” to be activated in exceptional circumstances, when national capacities are overwhelmed. Ultimately, with rescEU we are strengthening European solidarity.

    You worked as a dental surgeon before you entered politics. Which is more important, flossing or brushing?

    As you know, now I am a Commissioner. So, it would be a “conflict of interest” to give professional medical advice! But, all ads recommend the value of both. So, do both! And “follow the rules”!

    The EU just announced it will provide 120 million to Yemen and 50 million to Iraq in humanitarian and recovery aid in 2019. What are the EU priorities for the humanitarian and recovery aid in non-EU countries over the next number of years?

    Syria remains one of our main priorities. We recently organized the Third Brussels Conference for Syria. I am proud that, under the leadership of the European Union, the international community came together and mobilized a record 8.3 billion Euros for 2019 and beyond, out of which, 6.79, is the contribution of the EU and its Member States. We are committed to continue helping the Syrian people for as long as it takes.

    One of the biggest challenges is, of course, Africa. In Africa, we see a massive humanitarian crisis with multiple dimensions, including poor governance and corruption. I have been on the ground in many places hit by conflict and disasters such as droughts. I spoke to the victims of armed conflict and rape. Devastating conversations.  Ones you never forget. 

    I will never forget my visit to the Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo and my conversations with my friend Dr. Denis Mukwege— the recipient of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize. A doctor that does an admirable job under extremely severe conditions. Africa needs a global strategy to address these immense challenges. A comprehensive plan that mobilises the best ideas from the best minds from every sector of society. 

    We must address, for example, Africa’s demographic explosion. What some call “a ticking time bomb”. Africa as a whole is projected to nearly double in size by 2050. And, of course, we remain vigilant about Ebola. We are following the latest Ebola outbreak in the DRC very closely. I am in a regular contact with the Director General of the World Health Organization.  Here again the European Union is leading by example, providing the necessary support in terms of funding but also of expertise. I assure you that we are not complacent.

    What is the most interesting myth about the EU you needed to bust in your career?

    The myth that European integration destroys, on purpose or by default, national identities! That the European project is an enemy of our distinct identities. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our Europe is rich and blessed because of its diversity. This is our strength.  Yes, as Europeans we have two kinds of patriotism. Our national patriotism, our national identity and at the same time, our European identity, our European patriotism. These by no means contradict each other. On the contrary, they perfectly complement each other.

    In a recent speech, you said that “steady progress is possible by joining forces”. How can the EU reduce obstacles to cross-border cooperation in responding to increasingly frequent flooding, forest fires, etc that do not respect national boundaries?

    In today’s complex global reality it’s an illusion, a dangerous illusion, to think that a single state can face challenges and make progress alone, in isolation. This principle applies especially to climate change and its devastating consequences. When it comes to climate change, we are all in the same boat.

    With rescEU we are fostering greater solidarity among our Member States, through collaboration. We are building a shared culture of prevention from the ground up by streamlining our communication networks, and by sharing innovative techniques and best practices all across Europe. Moreover, through rescEU, we are offering new financing opportunities for cooperation projects in prevention, preparedness and response.

    Our a new Union Civil Protection Knowledge Network, for example, offers opportunities for cooperation on training, research, innovation and knowledge-sharing. We are also building on the already strong record of cooperation in place in regional exercises, like the Modex Exercises in Romania and Austria in 2018 and the upcoming one in Croatia.

    Which NGOs have been the most pro-active ones in helping on the ground with the aid delivery?

    I am very pleased with the cooperation and coordination we have with all our humanitarian partners on the ground. Each one, based on their capacities and expertise, provide an invaluable service in making sure aid is delivered, even in the most hard-to-reach areas. Many times under extremely difficult and dangerous conditions. Aid delivery is a big responsibility and a big challenge.  I pay tribute to all the humanitarian workers who risk their lives, on a daily basis, to save the lives of others. Their bravery is unparalleled. 

    Could you name 3 Commissioners you would invite to dance syrtaki?

    All of my fellow Commissioners are excellent dancers! I have seen it with my own eyes. So, all would be eligible partners to dance syrtaki with me. This College of Commissioners is the “crème de la crème”, even on the dancefloor!

    This year we took our Economic Ideas Forum to Cyprus and one of the panels will reflect on the economic success of Cyprus as a template from the Eurozone to the MENA region. Could you tell us what were, in your view, key ingredientsto the Cyprus success story?

    We all came together: the government, parliament, civil society, the business community, the workers. We saw the necessity to work together. Through our painful experiences, we realised the value of the European framework. We really focused on the implementation of the programme. Cyprus realised that Europe is our only shield in our most difficult times. It is our family. We are proud to be part of the European family.

    Choose one of the following: halloumi or belgian fries?

    Halloumi. But I can’t resist Belgian fries!

    OSCE or UN?

    Both. The UN is the umbrella of the multilateral system. Both together are parts of the safety net for peace, prosperity and stability in the world.

    Cypriot wine or Belgian beer?

    Cypriot wine in Old Town Nicosia and Belgian beer in Place Luxembourg in Brussels.

    Which EPP colleague would you suggest for the next interview? What would be your question for her or him?

    All of my EPP colleagues are very knowledgeable, spontaneous and excellent communicators. Ready to answer any question, any time. So, feel free to interview any one of them!

    European People's Party Leadership

    I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Christos Stylianides

    I Say Europe

    25 May 2019

  • The Martens Centre is pleased to announce that this year’s awards for “best cooperation” and “best activity” during the year 2018 have been awarded to Kós Károly Akadémia Foundation (Romania) and Wetenschappelijk Instituut voor het CDA (CDA Research Institute) (Netherlands), respectively. Now in their seventh year, the annual Martens Centre Action Awards underscore outstanding cooperation in all aspects and serve as recognition of the immense quality and impact of projects in cooperation with the members of our Europe-wide network. While the competition for this year’s awards was fierce, given the sheer quality of our member foundations and the projects to choose from, in the end the decision was unanimous.

    Throughout 2018, KKA has worked diligently and effectively, forming synergies throughout our network and beyond, to deliver smooth-functioning joint activities with the Martens Centre. Their exemplary work was particularly highlighted in a jointly organised training seminar in Cluj-Napoca, “Millennial Leaders: Effective involvement of the touchscreen generation”, where 19 participants from 7 countries were trained in cutting edge communication techniques, with the overall aim of encouraging greater political participation of the millennial generation.

    For the category of “best activity” of 2018, CDA WI has been awarded for their exceptional work on Het Midden (The Middle Class: The middle class as the moral core of society). This timely edition, a follow-up to the 2017 research No Robots: The position of middle-class households in nine European countries, explores the current state of the middle class in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe and what impact this has on civil society as a whole and on European politics. This impressive publication is already having an impact and is gaining traction among policy makers.

    With these awards, both political foundations have become strong examples to our other members, raising the bar of the quality of our joint projects while illustrating the sheer talent of the Martens Centre’s network. Working closely with national partners in 2019 and beyond will continue to allow us to bring the European debate where it matters the most: closer to the European public.

    EU Member States European People's Party Leadership

    Two Martens Centre member foundations rewarded for outstanding achievements in 2018

    Other News

    08 May 2019

  • I say Europe you say…?

    Home. That’s what I say when you say Europe. I am Irish, I live in Ireland, it is my home. I work in Brussels, but I very much see Europe, the European Union, as also home. I hope that people look at it that way.

    You have been nominated by Marianne Thyssen and her question was: “What is your message to European citizens ahead of the upcoming European elections?”

    First of all, thanks to Marianne for nominating me. I think my message is a consistent one: to try and understand what Europe is rather than looking at what its failures are. I think we look only where the European Union is weak, but tend to forget where it is strong.

    I would say to people to look at the values the European Union has brought to their lives and the value of peace, the difficulty of working together, but also the importance of countries working together. The value of being around a table is much greater than when countries operating completely separately or drifting off, as it is happening with the United Kingdom. I think we are greater when we are together.

    You’ve been a presenter of the show “Ear to the ground” in Ireland. We wanted to ask you how do you manage to keep the ear to the ground and listen to the needs of your constituency?

    Wherever I am or whatever I am doing either working in plenary or in this office, I’m always thinking of the people I represent. When I am in Ireland, I am with the people I represent. So I never lose touch. I even use the phrase ‘keep my ear to the ground’ all the time, because it makes people connect with my past and with the television programme I worked on but it also says a great deal about the work I do and how I do it. I mean what would be the point of being in this job if we didn’t work tirelessly for and on behalf of the people who have elected us!

    Do you think that we are looking at a no deal Brexit and if so do you think that the EU is ready for possible scenarios?

    I think for all of us a no-deal Brexit is almost unthinkable. The EU and individual Member States and especially the United Kingdom, are putting plans in place for that possibility, but I don’t think there is anybody wishing for a no-deal Brexit, because every single aspect of all our lives will be negatively impacted. Sometimes I get the impression that some in the United Kingdom think that they will be

    immune to the negative impacts of no-deal, but in fact they will be hurt by a no-deal. I am really hoping that good politics will prevail over mediocre or bad politics and that we can see the value of the withdrawal agreement that is on the table and that it will be ratified, I hope, by the House of Commons in January.

    What is the most interesting myth about the EU you needed to bust in your career?

    Funnily enough, I think a lot of myths have been busted because of Brexit, which to some extent happened because there were so many myths out there that got oxygen in the UK press and that were never discredited. I think the expression I find most distasteful is ‘faceless Brussels bureaucrat’ – I have been called that when I have been on British media. It is a generic term of disrespect for anyone involved in the EU, elected or not.

    I am not faceless and I am not a bureaucrat. But I have great respect for bureaucrats. The people who work in this office with me could be termed faceless bureaucrats and in their work every day they have people front and centre in their minds, assisting them on an individual basis where required and collectively through work on legislation.

    How do you think that digitalisation and robotisation are impacting health systems of European countries? What is the EU doing to use the technological advancement to ensure healthy and active life for its citizens?

    I recently visited a company in my own constituency, a new company that was developing a robotic production line for sale to the US. I was mesmerized by the technology. These robotic production lines are going to replace some of the difficult jobs that individuals were doing. So I think at that level you are going to see a displacement of people by robotics and hopefully those people can be trained to do other work, which may be more stimulating and more beneficial.

    When it comes to the health systems, I recently had someone I know undergo surgery with robotics. So I think for our health systems and for the quality of the health care, robotics will be more common in diagnosis, treatment, and surgeries. The biggest challenge for the European Union and Member States is to ensure that our legislation and our rules keep up to speed with the pace of change in new technologies – this is part of our Medical Devices Regulation, which is currently being implemented. I think these issues will have huge impacts and what we all want to know is that they will be positive.

    As the VP of the European Parliament, could you share with us your favourite anecdote from a plenary or committee session? Which MEP has the best sense of humour in your view?

    What I love about chairing the session, especially when there are votes and there are issues, is the challenge of maintaining control. I think it is quite a mind game and I enjoy that. Funnily enough, I did use a gavel in the chamber recently, which was produced by a voluntary group called Men’s Sheds Ireland, who had won a European Citizen’s Prize. I bought the gavel from them and opened the voting session with it. I got a great warm round of applause.

    I think the Irish have a great sense of humour. And we have the ability to make people laugh, to laugh with others and laugh at ourselves. I hope we have scattered a little bit of our sense of humour across the Members States. Frankly, I think the more laughter we have, the more humour we have in our work in the plenary, I think the easier it is to get work done, because sometimes being too serious and too methodical and too rigid all the time doesn’t get the best for people. We all need to laugh more.

    Could you pick your three favourite Twitter Accounts?

    The Grand Auld Stretch (@theauldsthretch) is certainly one of my favourites. My next one would be an account dedicated to Seamus Heaney (@HeaneyDaily), one of our very famous poets. Every day somebody somewhere puts out a few lines written by him. On one occasion when I was chairing the plenary and it was a bit tense, I took an eye to what was up that day and I decided to read it at the end of the debate, and it fitted quite perfectly with the debate that was going on.

    The third one, well there’s a very interesting dairy farming family in Cork in Ireland. Their user name is @Peterhynes15, but it’s not just about Peter, but his wife Paula and their 3 daughters. They tweet all the time from their milking parlour, from their car, from their kitchen and it’s absolutely fantastic.

    Who of your colleagues would you team up with to sing Christmas carols?

    We were doing a picture with the EPP and Deirdre Clune, Eva Paunova and myself decided to sing along as well. So, the three of us have already sang, so we could do that again! I do like singing, I don’t have a great voice, but again I think in Ireland we sing regardless of the quality of our voices! Though there are some fantastic Irish singers.

    With a post Brexit pressure on the CAP budget, what can be done to create funding for new policy initiatives in agriculture?

    I think the problem Europe faces is that the more we do together, the more we want to do together. I think we’re going to have to have a very honest conversation amongst ourselves. If we’re going to have less money for those policies, what we need to do, and we’re doing it, is look at what the market failures are when it comes to food. We just signed off on legislation banning unfair trading practices in the food supply chain. I hope this legislation will help reduce the relentless pressure on producers and hopefully give them a better share of the final retail price.

    What it comes to getting more money for the EU budget, it is down to the member states. They will have to look into their hearts and ask themselves if they will match their words of support for agriculture and rural regions with hard cash. The more we have moved away from linking support payments to production, the more difficult it has become to find a system that is sustainable, that meets the needs of farmers and is fair.

    What made the top of your New Year’s Resolutions list for 2019?

    I am going to be kinder to myself, to ourselves in the office. We work hard and we work long hours. We are very committed to do the best we can. I think that sometimes in all of that delivering and trying to answer everybody’s needs, we forget that we’re all human beings and that we need a little time off. And I suppose because of the elections, I’m going to have to make sure I don’t run at too fast a pace. I’m saying this knowing I’m going to fail in my own aspirations. But it is no harm to set out this, at least as an objective.

    Choose one of the following: radio or print journalism?

    Radio for the drama and communication. Print for endurance.

    Leprechauns or smurfs?

    I mean there is no choice here! Smurfs aren’t real, but leprechauns are.

    Guinness or Stella Artois?


    Which EPP colleague would you suggest for the next interview? What would be your question for her or him?

    I think you should interview Esteban González Pons. Maybe you could ask him about the Smurfs versus the leprechauns. Not as the first question, but just don’t forget to ask him that. I won’t explain why.

    Agriculture Brexit European People's Party Leadership

    I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Mairead McGuinness

    I Say Europe

    20 Dec 2018

  • I say Europe you say..?

    Peace, freedom, good living standards, protection without protectionism.

    You have been nominated by Alexander Stubb and his question was: Marianne, you had a fantastic career in Belgian and European politics. You have been a role model for many of us in the EPP. What are you going to do next?

    Next year I will continue to focus on my job as Commissioner and work hard for a stronger social Europe. It is not enough to launch proposals in order to achieve results for citizens; we also need to finish them. The planes in the air must land.

    This is my big priority until the end of the mandate. Afterwards, I hope my life will take on a new dimension. But I’m not thinking of that yet because my focus is on the next 12 months.

    What was the first job/gig you had before entering the world of politics?

    My very first job was assistant at the law faculty of my alma mater, KU Leuven. Then I worked more than 10 years for the most representative Belgian SME organisation UNIZO, one of the founding members of SMEunited (former UEAPME).

    By defending the interests of SMEs and the value of strong social dialogue, I came into close contact with the political world. Herman van Rompuy, party leader of CD&V at that time, asked me to participate in the European elections and I became a member of the European Parliament in 1991.

    What is the most interesting myth about the EU that you needed to bust in your career?

    That Europe only works in the interest of big banks and companies. That’s a myth. We work for people. People is what Europe is about.

    You are the first female commissioner from Belgium and a strong advocate for equal pay. How far do you feel the EU has come in achieving equal pay?

    Europe has always been a pioneer in creating equal opportunities and fighting discrimination between men and women. We should be proud of that. The principle of equal pay was already an objective in the Treaty of Rome! Is that enough? No. There is still a pay gap of 16% and that’s unacceptable. We need to make it easier for women to choose both children and a career without being penalised.

    A very important step towards achieving this goal is to distribute the caring responsibilities between women and men in a more balanced way. That’s why my proposal for better work-life balance is so important.  In the context of demographic ageing and shortages that we face on the labour market, we cannot afford to leave the huge talent of women untapped. Our initiative can help to closing the pay gap. 

    We’ve witnessed a reform of Erasmus+ with new funds allocated to new opportunities for adult learning and vocational training. If you could picture yourself starting over and taking up a course, what would it be?

    Had I been given the opportunity, I would have definitely wanted to go on Erasmus! It’s a unique chance to learn another language, new skills and to become independent. That’s why I also created the newest baby in the Erasmus+ in the family: ErasmusPro. I want to make long-term mobility also possible for students in vocational and educational training.

    You’ve had an extensive career in Belgian politics and end your political career on a high note as European Commissioner. Would you say European politics was more challenging than national politics?

    Politics is challenging at all levels. I’ve been locally active for 14 years, I was a Member of the European Parliament for 23 years and I have been a Commissioner for five years now. We work on the same issues everywhere. Growth and jobs. Security. Innovation. Climate change. The challenge is to create a framework in which every person has the opportunity, freedom and responsibility to make something of his or her life.  To make sure we leave nobody behind. If all those levels work well together, we have the biggest chance at being successful.

    How to abolish the practice of social dumping whilst enabling the free movement of workers on European level?

    By making the rules clear, fair and enforceable. And that’s exactly what we did with this Commission’s work: to ensure fair labour mobility. With the deal on equal pay for equal work at the same place. And with our proposals to update the rules on social security coordination and to create a European Labour Authority.

    What was, in your personal view, the most interesting report or piece of data produced by the Eurostat during your mandate so far?

    Timely, consistent and reliable data is essential to develop and support our policy making. All data is important, but one of the things I always look forward to receiving is Eurostat’s monthly unemployment data. Every month, since I started this mandate, the figures are getting better. All our efforts are geared towards making sure we can sustain that trend.

    Whilst preparing for this interview I came across the fact that you are still cheering for your local football club and visiting their matches. Who was your favourite “Red Devil” this year in Russia?

    Football is a team sports so I have to disappoint, I don’t have any favourites. I think the Red Devils did an incredible job precisely because of how they played as a team.

    As you were the president of the European Parliament’s beer club for 15 years — may I ask you in the capacity of an expert to tell us which Belgian beer is your favourite one?

    Though it was a European club my favourite beer is of course Belgian – Orval.

    Choose one of the following: law or politics?

    Politics. Because first you need a vision and conviction to turn values into rights.

    Fries or waffles?

    Do you also offer pancakes?

    Leuven or Brussels?

    I’ll always be grateful to my alma mater.. so Leuven!

    Which EPP colleague would you suggest for the next interview? What would be your question for her or him?

    My dear colleague from the EPP, Mairead McGuinness. My question to her would be: “What is your message to European citizens ahead of the upcoming European elections?”

    EU Institutions European People's Party European Union Leadership

    I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Marianne Thyssen

    I Say Europe

    29 Nov 2018

  • I say Europe you say…?

    Next generation.

    What is the most interesting myth about the EU you needed to bust in your career?

    There are probably hundreds of myths, lots of misinformation, fake news, but probably the most classic one is about curved cucumbers – the one about how the EU, through its legislation, controls the producers of cucumbers. The logic behind the idea was that the EU wanted to help producers to fit as many cucumbers into the box as possible.

    With a euro-sceptical government in Italy, we’ve witnessed an increase in the discussion about the eurozone’s debt and deficit rules, as to are they befitting for crisis-fighting. What is your view on the current rules?

    Since the last financial crisis, we have advanced the leaps and bounds by introducing two pack, six pack ESN, Banking Union. They all take us in the right direction. It is important that the rules are followed and that we have mechanisms to ensure that everyone follows them. As our economies integrate and converge, we can, step by step, move towards more mutualisation.

    Right now, do you think we are looking at a no-deal Brexit scenario and if so, how could this affect the EU?

    I think we have three options – soft Brexit, hard Brexit or no deal (which could be called a cliff edge option as well). I would wish for a soft Brexit, but I think we will end up with a hard Brexit and I honestly hope that a no deal Brexit scenario will not take place. It would be economically and politically disastrous, both for the European Union and the United Kingdom.

    You often tweet about different projects EIB implements across Europe. Could you share your favourite one so far and explain why you picked that specific project?

    There are hundreds of favourite ones, but for instance we gave a loan to a Danish company which was working on a revolutionary antibiotic cream, that will help the lives of many people in Europe and across the world. But it can’t be slimmed down to a single project – for example every airport in Europe which we use to travel across our continent has been funded in one way or another by the EIB.

    Can you name your three favourite Twitter Accounts?

    As you might know already, I am a sports fan, let’s say I’d go for Tour du France for cycling, I would follow Jean-Claude Junker on European politics and from the media side, let’s say Politico.

    Speaking of your social media, you participated in a TEDx conference in Finland last year, you explained your 1+1+1 day rule for the year ahead of you (1hour for a book, 1 hour for exercise and only 1 hour for social media). Following your activity on social media one has to wonder have you been breaching it?

    Yes, I succeeded for over half a year to read a book for one hour. I had a little bit of a break, but now I am back at it. I have always succeeded in exercising for one hour, but my biggest problem indeed was staying away from social media and going over the one hour a day.

    What would be in your view a must-see in Helsinki, since we are less than a month away from the EPP Congress which will take place there?

    Ah, we are not going to see much because it is going to be so dark in November, but I would definitely check out the new Helsinki library, which will open in December.

    In your capacity of Chairman of the Crisis Management Initiative you’ve recently shared that only 8% of the peace negotiators are women. What can be concretely done to bring more women to the negotiating table in this regard?

    The worst joke I’ve ever heard in this context was “What is the similarity between flowers, a table, and a bottle of sparkling water, a notebook and men; they are more often in peace negotiating tables than women.” Having said this, I think we must raise awareness to the fact that women are not just needed at the peace negotiating table but are quite often better peace mediators than men are! And if we do that properly ourselves, I think we could end up getting more women at the peace negotiating table.

    In the process of preparing for this interview we learned that you always wanted to learn how to play guitar. If you could pick any person in the world to give you guitar lessons who would it be and which song would you like to master first?

    Bono. Well, I am a big fan of U2 and I have always been. I guess I belong to that generation. I like his way of thinking about Europe and I think he is doing a great service to Europe by waving the European flag in his concerts.

    The proposal for the EU Copyright Directive has been in the public eye since it has been initiated. It has received lot of criticism, especially from tech giants. What do you think about the proposal as it is now and do you think it will be adopted in January?

    I think it has a fairly good balance between copyright, privacy and tech giants. This is what Europe is and should be about. We are a regulatory superpower and it is challenging to find a right balance in between different stakeholders, but in this case I think it was done well.

    Choose one of the following: Twitter or Instagram?

    I’d have to say Twitter… Maybe I am a slightly more verbal than visual type of person.

    Politicians or bankers?

    Haha, the choice between two evils – probably politicians.

    Triathlon or trialogue?

    Oh, definitely a triathlon.

    Which EPP colleague would you suggest for the next interview? What would be your question for her or him?

    Marianne Thyssen: Marianne, you had a fantastic career in Belgian and European politics. You have been a role model for many of us in the EPP. What are you going to do next?

    Brexit European People's Party Leadership

    I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Alexander Stubb

    I Say Europe

    15 Oct 2018

  • I say Europe, you say…?

    Our future. A lot of people focus on the past and the fact that Europe has brought us peace; today Europe is about our chance at having a voice in the world and being able to properly face the challenges of the future. Europe is our future. 

    You have been nominated for this interview by EPP Group Chairman Manfred Weber and his question was: “What do you think could be the best way to open up what is sometimes perceived as the black box, the European decision-making process, to the people?”

    Chairman Weber has announced that he is entering the race within the EPP for the nomination for Spitzenkandidat. This nomination process is a clear-cut example of transparency in the run-up to the election of the President of the European Commission.

    Secondly, and I say this as Vice-President of the EPP for Relations with National Parliaments, we have to inform but also be informed by national parliaments. We need to know: what do they find important, how is their European debate taking shape and thirdly to take into account that there is a lot of frustration in Member States or amongst citizens about Brussels.

    These frustrations are caused by what are sometimes very technical things and not even political decisions. Therefore we should be a lot clearer in communicating to our citizens who makes which decisions here in Brussels and back home: we would have to clean up the comitology procedure to make it more transparent. 

    What do you perceive as the main long-term repercussions of the trade war with the US as regards to the Future of Europe?

    A trade war is always lose-lose. Trump, in this case, is not helping the people who actually voted for him and who work, for example, in car and steel factories. However, you do notice that Trump’s arrival in the White House coincides with  a more assertive policy from China when it comes to direct investments in Europe, and together with Putin’s divisive rule, in a way they are forcing Europe to take a more adult approach. That’s a good thing!

    There was a great Dutch football player, Johan Cruyff, who always said that every disadvantage has an advantage. The advantage of the current disadvantage, which is the difficult trade relationship with the US, is that Europe is growing up quickly.

    What is the most interesting myth about the EU you needed to bust in your career?

    I had to bust many, I have to admit; I even had municipalities in the north of the Netherlands saying that they have been forced by the Commission to collect their garbage in a certain way. Obviously, this was not true at all.

    Perhaps the one that I got angry about recently is a funnier one. It was around Christmas time and in the Netherlands you often have the Salvation Army collecting money for people in need. So, for years, in a big shopping centre in Utrecht we had a Salvation Army guy dressed up as Santa Claus collecting money for the charity. And then, I saw an article in the local newspaper saying “Europe bans Christmas, charity fundraiser” and I thought: that can’t be true! I got really angry, got to the bottom of it and it turned out that it was the new owner of the shopping centre (a hedge fund, by the way), who in reality didn’t want the money raising to take place in his shopping centre. So we immediately busted that myth and corrected it.

    Having had an Erasmus-experience as a student yourself, in your view, what would be the main benefit of increasing the funding for the programme?

    Well, what is so healthy about Erasmus is that you are forced to look at your own Member State from the outside and see things from a different perspective. That’s always a very positive experience. I would like for as many people as possible to be able to have that opportunity. This is why the Parliament has always been pushing to increase its budget and the Commission got on board to initiate the increase for the next period.

    Personally, I would love to extend this experience not only to those who go to university, because they are the exception to the rule. In fact, most people don’t. They go to technical colleges after completing secondary school. So why not maybe come up with another format of Erasmus, find a way to also provide that experience to all the young people, not just university students.

    One of your Instagram posts shared an amusing insight into the experience of being a trainee in the Brussels bubble. Namely, you posted a photo of notes written by your intern having difficulties identifying between 751 MEPs. Recently, the EP Bureau voted on banning unpaid internships, what is your take on this?

    I have a bit of a double feeling about that because I started as an intern myself. I was working in Brussels part-time and I really wanted to work in the European Parliament, so I wrote to all the MEPs of my political party and I offered, on a part-time basis, to work for them for free just because I wanted this experience so much, next to my part-time job. In the end, one MEP offered me a paid internship, though initially I offered to volunteer.

    Therefore, I don’t think there’s a problem if someone is willing to do it on a voluntary basis and if it’s a really short period of time and a first working experience. However, I always pay my interns. What we have to tackle furthermore is abuse. There has been abuse in the sense that people are full-time working, either not paid for a long term or on a very low wage under the excuse of being hired as an intern, and this is not the way to go! We want to be a social market as well, so we have to give the right example ourselves.

    We are already less than a year away from the European Elections. Over the past few years support for the far-right has been increasing, as has been the case in the Netherlands. What can be done to counteract them and bring centre-right politics closer to the people?

    In a way, you actually saw this support going down after Brexit, same as the support for Nexit actually decreased after people saw what it actually means to leave the EU. But populism is on the rise everywhere in Europe, so also in the Netherlands. What helps is to show that a lot of these people, these politicians, they actually copy what voters say, which means that they are good at understanding, or like Clinton would say at “feeling the pain.” But they are not actually providing answers and delivering solutions, and we need to show that.

    I think a lot of people will grow tired of these new populist politicians rather soon, because people understand that though it’s nice that somebody feels your pain, you might want them to address the issues at stake as well, in which case they should maybe look at a trustworthy political party like the EPP.

    In one of your previous interviews, reflecting on Brexit, you have stated that Europe has always been sold as something economic, where you can calculate the benefits. Which vision for the Future of Europe should be championed to portray the EU as more than just that?

    That was pretty much a paraphrase of Delors saying that you don’t fall in love with the market. That’s just a part of the problem. One British colleague also said to me “we always told the Brits that they were entering a market”, but Europe is just so much more than that. I really think that Europe 1.0 was the Europe of 1945, 1952, 1957. It was really about war and peace between France and Germany and it was such a huge achievement.

    But, for the younger generation the European project is something they take for granted. Europe 2.0 emerged basically after the Wall fell. Indeed, that was the completion of the market and there was an enlargement and the zeitgeist was very economic.

    The Europe we’re in now is very much about the “European way of life”. How do we position ourselves, with a more assertive China, Trump starting a trade war, how much gas do we want from Russia, do we want to be so dependent? These questions will make Europe 3.0 much more about our voice in the world and assuring that we can maintain our “European way of life”.

    Considering that you are a passionate advocate of principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, how far have we come in adapting our EU corporate tax system to reflect these?

    The problem with the whole tax issue (don’t mention the “T” word) is that it is not a European competence. Small and medium enterprises have to pay their taxation, while the big tax giants pay in a very limited way or not at all and people are angry about that. So here you actually see a clash between something that is not a European competence and people asking us to make it a European competence.  So I think in these cases where these companies make a lot of money, some of them get our data for free, etc., they should take their responsibility as well with regards to paying tax, so that we can continue to be a social market economy.

    As a working mum, what are your “must haves” for your children’s schoolbags?

    Actually, I am pretty organised in getting their bag ready in the morning. What I essentially need is my phone because my phone is my lifeline to everything that goes on at home.

    Once during an EP Plenary I was seated in the front row, and there was a debate taking place with the Belgian Prime Minister, and I got a message from the babysitter asking about my son’s football training equipment.

    Not to complain, but I really think this doesn’t happen too often to my male colleagues. But the advantage of being a woman is that actually without even looking, I knew exactly where it was! So as long as I have my phone, the issue will get solved.

    If you had to spend your summer vacation with one colleague from the Parliament who would it be and why?

    You know, I think my colleagues are absolutely fantastic, but I did enjoy the fact that I didn’t see them for 3 whole weeks and I actually managed to catchup on my reading, enjoy nature and lovely French cuisine. So no, in that regard, I can’t imagine spending my holidays with them, I think it would be very unhealthy if I did!

    Choose one of the following: Belgian waffles or stroopwaffels?

    Cheese from all over Europe. I do not have a sweet tooth. Cheese anytime instead!

    ETIAS or Copyright Directive?

    Both are very important, but I would choose ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System). Because it is of fundamental importance to actually show our citizens that we can be strong in protecting our borders, while simultaeously upholding our soft values, like bringing assistance to the refugees that really need it.

    Home baking or policy making?

    Policy making, of course! I am a politician after all, but, in a way, they have a lot in common. At home, baking helps me relax after all the policy making. Both can be messy jobs. But what counts is the end result, both in home baking and policy making. So that’s what you should judge us on.

    European People's Party European Union Leadership

    I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Esther de Lange

    I Say Europe

    17 Sep 2018

  • I say Europe, you say…?

    Democracy, rule of law, freedom, peace, our European way of life: the best continent to live in.

    You have been nominated by MEP Roberta Metsola and her question was: “What do you think is the one issue which challenges every single EU Member State and individual EPP parties in each member state?”

    Migration. If we do not manage to provide a comprehensive and united answer on this issue this year, radicals and populists across the EU could gain more ground for their activism.

    If we don’t, the consequences are clear: the next European Parliament would be made up of even more anti-European members than there are now. We must solve the issue before the elections and deliver on it.

    As the Chair of the EPP Group in the Parliament you recently had the chance to ask Mark Zuckerberg questions about data privacy breaches and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which the public/we could watch online. Was there a follow-up after the hearing and what do you intend to do next in order to ensure the privacy of European citizens and to enforce GDPR?

    Indeed, there was a follow-up. Additional questions were posed to Facebook and the answers were sent to us. Another hearing with Facebook officials took place. What conclusion have I drawn for the Zuckerberg hearing? Facebook only seems to take data protection seriously only if the legislator decisively intervenes or if there is a public scandal.

    That is why Europe must continue bearing its teeth and discuss further regulations. We all know that trust is the currency in social media. Zuckerberg has responded to us because it is about the sustainability of his business model. Most probably, we cannot expect voluntary measures from this tech company.

    A positive prejudice which majority of Europeans have about Germans is that you are super precise: why then is Oktoberfest in September?

    Good question! As far as I know there are historical reasons for it. The first Oktoberfest took place at the beginning of the 19th century and was organized in honour of the wedding of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig with Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. This really happened in October.

    Later they changed the beginning date because of the weather. It is not unusual to have a snowstorm in Munich in October. So this is more a Bavarian solution. Just for the sake of precision – yes I am German! – the last Oktoberfest weekend is always in October.

    You have been quite outspoken on the EU-US trade conflict. The imposition of steel and aluminium tariffs by (President) Donald Trump could have a strong impact on the economic recovery of Europe. Do you think Europe should retaliate or what strategy would you advocate for?

    The trade measures taken by the US against the EU can’t be justified. What security threat are we talking about? There is no dumping in the European Union, our prices must be kept uninjured. This is why I am advocating for a clear and firm yet proportionate European answer. Europe must defend its industry, jobs and interests.

    Which is the most interesting myth about the EU you needed to bust in your career?

    The most recurrent one: Germany is the “paymaster of the EU”. Facts and figures show that this is not true. In 2016, Germany transferred a total of 23.3 billion euros to the EU, of which 10.1 billion euros were returned to Germany as aid for structurally weak regions, for agriculture and for numerous training and employment programmes.

    When it comes to payment per capita other countries like Luxembourg, Belgium or Ireland pay more to the EU budget than Germany. I always mention that no other European economy benefits from the EU internal market as much as the Germany’s. Almost two thirds of German exports go to Member States, and exports to the new Member States have developed much faster than exports to the rest of the world.

    This year for the first time 15,000 18-year-olds will have the chance to travel around Europe with a free interrail pass, thanks to your flagship initiative. What place in Bavaria would you recommend they visit and why?

    There are many exciting places to visit in my home region Bavaria: for example, the World Cultural Heritage City Regensburg or certainly Munich with its wonderful Biergarten places. For sure I would suggest visiting one of the jewels of my home region Lower Bavaria, the Weltenburg Monastery with its famous Asam church.

    This is probably, besides the Neuschwanstein Castle, one of Bavaria’s well-known spots. As a personal tip: Visit the Bavarian and Bohemian Forest in Bavaria and the Czech Republic, which includes a national park crossing the borders. It is truly a beautiful region.

    In the framework of the recently held EYE in Strasbourg we witnessed a lip-sync battle between MEPs: If you were to participate in a similar setting, whom would you like to team up with and which song would you pick?

    Great that I would only have to move my lips! Anyway, for this kind of challenge I would like to team up with my EPP Group colleague Tomas Zdechovsky from Czech Republic. He is a very good singer and a rapper. I am sure that he would not let me down. As for the song: maybe “Smoke on the water” from Deep Purple.

    You attended the summit on the Western Balkans in Sofia in May where you outlined the importance of putting the region at the forefront of the EU decision-making process. Do you think that in the scope of the enlargement policy, countries should be assessed case by case or you are more prone to assessing the region as a whole?

    Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are part of Europe and therefore need our support and stabilisation. However, EU accession is only possible if the countries fully meet all criteria and standards. There is still a long way to go and we hope that the Western Balkans will deliver.

    Already, we are less than a year away from the European Elections. Recent polls have indicated that pro-EU sentiment is growing but also that the younger generations remain more reluctant to participate. You have been politically active since a very young age so I would be curious to hear what type of strategy Europe could employ to increase the overall turnout of youngsters, regardless of the political affiliation?

    I have the impression that young people are very interested and even enthusiastic when it comes to Europe. Yet the challenge will be to get them to vote, but I am quite confident. The last Eurobarometer shows that the trust in the European Parliament has never been higher than it is now.

    It is great that we have now the DiscoverEU project, which allows 18 year olds to travel for free throughout Europe. If they see the beauty and diversity of this continent, they will want to get more engaged and may vote. However, the important point to make is that the European elections are about the future of this continent, about defending our way of life and the European project itself.

    Choose one of the following: apfelstrudel or waffle?

    Apfelstrudel! Yummy! One of my favourite desserts.

    Facebook or Twitter?


    European Parliament or European Commission?

    European Parliament of course, because the parliamentary democracy is the future of Europe. 

    Which EPP colleague would you suggest for the next interview? What would be your question for her or him?

    I am nominating my Dutch colleague Esther de Lange. And my question is: What do you think could be the best way to open up what is sometimes perceived as the black box, the European decision-making process, to the people?

    European People's Party Leadership

    I say Europe, you say…? Interview with EPP Group Chair Manfred Weber

    I Say Europe

    16 Jul 2018

  • I say Europe, you say…?

    Peace. Prosperity. Opportunity.

    Commission Vice President Katainen’s question to you was: “What do you think are the three most important themes for the future development of the European Union?”

    We need stronger action to protect the rule of law. There are fundamental values in our treaties that some Member States often find convenient to ignore.

    Second, we need to focus more on trade and job creation. I strongly believe that if we further open up our markets we can finally eliminate the problem of poverty we have in Europe and provide better opportunities for the more vulnerable classes of our society.

    Third, migration is the challenge of our generation. Mid-term goals which show solidarity with Member States which are facing migrant influxes are needed. In the long run it is essential that we, the EPP Government, attempt to aid the countries from which migrants are fleeing to help them get back on their feet – to show people there can be life without fear.

    As one of the most active MEPs on social media and EPP Coordinator for Justice and Civil Liberties, what is your take on the Cambridge Analytica scandal and its ramifications on EU citizens? Have you thought about leaving Facebook yourself?

    For our generation, data is the new gold. I think that the recent revelations have been shocking! What we have to understand is that social media is used by unscrupulous politicians and people who try to sell propaganda as facts.

    I still believe that Facebook is a good tool; it is useful for me personally to reach a large number of people, both in my constituency and across Europe. The EU’s regulatory response to privacy concerns was the introduction of GDPR and privacy shield but some loopholes remain that must be worked on, and it is our responsibility to make sure that potential abuses are stopped.

    Everyone who follows your work knows that you are quite outspoken when it comes to defending freedom of speech, particularly in light of the murders of journalists in Malta and Slovakia in the last six months. What should the EU do to comprehensively ensure that these travesties do not happen again?

    The assassinations of Daphne Caruana Galizia and Jan Kuciak must be seen as a watershed moment in the development of Europe. What we have realised after these assassinations is that we still do not have enough tools to ensure that the protection of journalists in Finland is the same as it is in my country, or Slovakia etc.

    At the same time, we don’t have the right mechanism at European level to ensure that the corrupt, the criminal and the complicit bear the political responsibility for their actions, whether directly or indirectly. We are currently pushing for the introduction of mechanisms that will remedy these issues. If we don’t do that, those who orchestrated and carried out these murders will win and we cannot allow that to happen.

    Bearing in mind that you are a Vice-Chair person of the Petitions Committee in the European Parliament, one has to ask which was the most interesting petition/initiative you came across during the last 5 years?

    I truly believe that this committee is the answer to the disconnect that many citizens feel, in being too far away from the EU and its institutions. We have people coming to us and saying: “look, you in Europe are not doing enough” or “I feel like my rights as a European citizen have been breached, what can you do?” These queries range across a wide variety of issues- the quality of drinking water in a small town in a member state, discriminatory or denial of pension rights and services in other member states.

    Perhaps one of the most interesting cases was a man who was not allowed to take his pet dog on a plane to Ireland by a particular carrier. The excuse the carrier used was that it was an issue with national agricultural policy. This man came to us and we provided him with facts which demonstrated that this was not true.

    As a mother of four, what is your favourite cartoon show that you enjoy watching with your children?

    With the younger ones, classics always work, like Tom and Jerry. With the older ones, Lego Batman and Japanese cartoons. Obviously, I try to limit the amount of screen time, but I also want to ensure that they are not exposed to too much violent imagery.

    Which is the most interesting myth about the EU you needed to bust in your career?

    Perhaps the one that the EU and President Juncker can help us address parking issues in our country. I had to say that this is something that Juncker cannot do, although he can do a lot and he has done a lot for us.

    You have been politically active since a very young age and as you were Secretary General of European Democratic Students: would you advise your kids to join the world of politics one day and how you do believe that the EU could motivate youngsters to get more involved?

    Well as you can see my son is now shaking his head very vigorously. In my case, I think I joined politics because my parents taught me it is useless to complain unless you try to change something. There are too many “arm chair critics” in our society. The people need to be the ones to advocate the changes we want.

    This means you should be active, not necessarily on a European level, but also on a local level or a national level. It is a pity that the younger generations don’t remember the battle Malta had to fight to actually join the EU, as we are proud Europeans. We can’t take our membership for granted and we must have enough young voices to be able to push the most important European issues forward.

    Which song do you like to carpool karaoke to and with which colleague from the Parliament would you like to have a duet?

    (Laughs) He is not going to like this but it would have to be Esteban González Pons, who is my direct superior as Chair of the Legal and Home Affairs working group in the EPP, and also Vice-Chair of the Group. I think it would have to be a Spanish ballad and it would definitely go viral but for all the wrong reasons.

    How do you think the EU could help to put an end to the uncertainty on Post-Brexit citizens’ rights?

    It has been a red line for the European Parliament that the rights of EU citizens currently residing in the UK, but also for UK citizens currently residing in the EU, must have water tight guarantees of their status, post-Brexit. We cannot allow a second “Windrush” situation, whereby you have people who have been legally residing in the UK or member states for decades, finding themselves in an unstable situation with non-secure status.

    I reiterate this also as a member of a Commonwealth country: we are looking for watertight guarantees for all EU citizens, in the UK post-Brexit. Without such guarantees, we will not green light any Brexit agreement!

    Choose one of the following: Ftira or baguette?

    Ftira always!

    EPP Congress in Malta or EPP Congress in Helsinki?

    Malta, just don’t tell my husband!

    Bruges or Brussels?

    Brussels definitely (although I loved living in Bruges)

    Which EPP colleague would you suggest for the next interview? What would be your question for her or him?

    I would like to nominate Manfred Weber, the Chairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament. My question to him: “What do you think is the one issue challenging every single EU Member State and individual EPP parties in each member state?”

    Centre-Right European People's Party Leadership

    I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Roberta Metsola

    I Say Europe

    08 May 2018

  • Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says: I’ll try again tomorrow! Mary Ann Radmacher

    In May 2019, about 400 million EU citizens are called to elect a new European Parliament: A Parliament which may seem physically remote from most of them but whose decisions increasingly affect their daily lives, as its decision making powers have consistently grown over recent decades.

    In this context, it seems completely logical to me that, as a Dutch citizen, I should be able to elect by direct universal suffrage a Spanish member of the European Parliament, or that a Greek could elect an Estonian – just as in most EU member states, I can elect at least part of the representatives to national or regional legislative assemblies on the basis of values, principles and political programmes, irrespective of where precisely they hail from.

    This is why the growing importance of the EU in general, and the growing competences of the European Parliament in particular sooner or later had to lead to a debate about transnational lists in European elections, too. It began in earnest in 2009 with the own initiative report of Andrew Duff (MEP) in the AFCO committee of the European Parliament. At the time, all major political parties applauded the idea of the introduction of a pan-European constituency. The core of his proposal was to create a legal basis for members to be elected to primarily defend European values, not some narrow locally or nationally defined interest.  

    But at the time, too many questions marks remained open and there was no time also for the national legislations, election lists and national campaigns to adapt to a new proposal. Nevertheless, the underlying logic of the Duff report was perfectly reasonable – and remains so today, even though basic elements such as the Europe-wide constituency have been blocked by the European Council.

    Fortunately, after the Duff report failure, most of the European political families, based on an ambitious interpretation of the Treaty of Lisbon, adopted and promoted the so called Spitzenkandidaten (lead candidate) process without any formal decision by the European Parliament and rules elaborating on this process.

    The Spitzenkandidaten are so important in this context because they help to polarise, politicise and personalise the European elections, thereby at the same time increasing the democratic legitimacy of the Commission President and the Parliament. This success story shows that, if the political will exists, ‘Just do it!’ is sometimes the right formula. And learning by doing often really works.

    In 2014, the issue of transnational lists resurfaced, with much the same result as before. And sure enough, in the run-up to the 2019 elections, this year the debate started again. The goals were the same as before: Further closing the gap between the citizens and the European Union and fostering democracy by giving more decision making power to the citizens – all long-standing expectations by citizens from the EU institutions.

    But the overall situation has changed fundamentally: While the economic and financial crisis is over, populism and anti-European behaviour are still on the rise, fuelled by the migration crisis. Brexit is coming. Again, the same reluctance as in the past has halted progress on transnational lists.

    The EPP political family is, in principle, a strong defender of this idea, as we were in the Spitzenkandidaten process that was also new in 2014. But it seems that the incomprehensible technicalities of the difficult and complex proposal were the factor that really made the idea of transnational lists fail again this time round.

    The proposal, as it was, threatened to fuel Euroscepticism and parliamentary candidates more known for their harsh, noisy and loud statements than for the European spirit. The proponents of this project also lost the media battle, increasing fears among moderate Europarty candidates of losing the battle against Euroscepticism, endangering their future jobs.

    The debate will continue: Europe always needs more time to digest bigger changes. One only needs to remember the debates on a common currency before finally adopting the Euro: They took 17 years. The next proposal, for the 2024 elections, must be better prepared, easier to grasp and tabled in time for national parliaments to adapt their legislation for the European elections.

    Most importantly, Europeans need to increase their knowledge of each other and of the EU institutions: More education on Europe in schools, extending the Erasmus programme, introducing free Interrail tickets for 18-year-olds. I believe we will see the day in which it is not only possible, but a normality for European voters that French can vote for Latvians, or Irish people for Swedes.

    Meanwhile, it is up to us in the big European party families to maintain and nurture, with a special kind of courage and persistence, the enthusiasm for an ever closer Union – because to that, there is no alternative.

    Juan Magaz Elections EU Institutions European People's Party Political Parties

    Juan Magaz

    Transnational lists: a wonderful idea in an EU without wonders


    27 Apr 2018

  • I say Europe, you say…?


    In our last interview, Eva Maydell’s question to you was: what is your vision for Europe in 2040?

    In 2040 the European Union will be more integrated in some areas, such as defence and security. Europe will be stronger as a trading block, and its role in the world political scene will also be strengthened because of increased unity. We have improved considerably our internal market, so that it generates more prosperity and jobs. There has been a significant convergence between the Member States in terms of social justice and fairness – mostly because of the measures the Member States have taken themselves, but also because of what the EU has done.

    Do you think now is the time to push for an EU defence co-operation? Why?

    Yes, it is the right time to further develop EU defence cooperation, because no country can on its own afford to invest sufficiently in security and defence. It makes sense to pool resources together. Also, more efficient use of existing resources can strengthen security in Europe. Furthermore, there is a whole range of new threats, such as terrorism and cyberattacks, which need more European cooperation.

    Is there any Finish foods which you love but find it is impossible to get anywhere else?

    Warm-smoked salmon.

    The autumn season ahead is sure to be a busy one, what will you be mainly focused on?

    I will be focused on 2 things: the EU defence policy and the trade agenda.

    What was the last movie you saw?

    It was a children’s movie, Inside Out.

    What is your biggest Brexit worry?

    That there is no solution.

    You have now been 3 years as Vice-President of the Commission – what do you enjoy most about the job?

    I enjoy the most the feeling that I can work for a more integrated and unified Europe. The feeling when I can see that concrete measures open up new opportunities for people and companies throughout Europe.

    What do you think is the single greatest benefit of being a citizen of the EU?

    The whole Europe, it’s all 28 Member States are as free and as achievable for everyone as one’s home country.

    If you could share a meal with one celebrity you haven’t met yet, who would you pick?

    President Trump.

    How is the #investEU plan working? Can you give us a couple of examples?

    The European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) functions well. Already over 460 000 European SMEs can get financing through EFSI. The Investment Project Portal is up and running to match investors with project promoters, so that projects can find financers. We have lowered capital charges of insurance companies so that they can invest easier in infrastructure.

    Are you keeping up with any TV series at the moment?

    House of Cards. 

    Do you like to cook? Are there any signature Katainen dishes?

    I love cooking. My signature dishes are wild game food and warm-smoked salmon.

    What do you remember most fondly about your Erasmus experience and why would you recommend young students to go on an Erasmus today?

    Erasmus changed my life completely. It gave me a view from living in a multicultural environment, surrounded by fellow students from various countries. It also strengthened my self-confidence and gave me a feeling that Europe is open for me.

    Which EPP colleague would you suggest for our next interview? What would be your question for her or him?

    I would like to suggest MEP Roberta Metsola. My question to her is: what are your 3 key themes for the future development of the EU?

    Centre-Right Economy European People's Party European Union Leadership

    I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Jyrki Katainen

    I Say Europe

    18 Oct 2017

  • I say Europe, you say…?

    Achieving Europe. Europe of Success. Europe of the Youth.

    Ramón Luis Valcárcel’s question to you was: how do you think the EU could better contribute to equipping our youngsters with the digital skills needed to thrive in the digital economy?

    There are two significant areas where additional effort is urgently needed. Firstly, improving teaching quality and equipping educators with the instruments and skills they require is key to offering an effective 21st century learning environment and promoting digital literacy. The way governments and communities recruit, prepare, support and retain teachers has a direct impact on the kind of training young people receive and how prepared they are for the demands of the modern labour market.

    Secondly, the traditional, tired 20th century education model with its standardised assessment  tests, memorising and regurgitating facts, and subject knowledge disconnected from real-life context, is no longer enough. The learning experience of the future should be based around student empowerment, building key competencies, fostering an open and flexible learning environment and ensuring actual business and life opportunities are being presented and taken advantage of.

    If you could have dinner with ANY European leader right now, who would it be and what would you ask them?

    Sebastian Kurz.

    Digitalising the EU is one your passions in parliament, what obstacles remain to achieving a European digital single market?

    The Digital Single Market Strategy is about transforming European society as a whole and making sure it can face the future with confidence. It is true that both technology and our daily lives are often changing at a much faster pace than policymakers can keep up with. However, we have been very quick in legislating on the Regulation for Portability of Online Content, which is a clear victory for consumers. 

    We have also worked on a report on digitising European industry, intended to lay the groundwork for a new Europe of technology, innovation and a skilled workforce. What lies ahead still are the e-Privacy regulation, the Directive on Digital Content Contracts and the Single Market Information Tool regulation, among others. It is our responsibility to resolve the remaining obstacles to a fully-functioning Digital Single Market and make sure that any legislation is as future-proof as possible.

    If you were not an MEP right now, what do you think you would be doing instead?

    A combination of two things, probably: helping communities get access to quality education and skills, in whatever capacity, and something more creative on the side – art or interior design, perhaps? 

    As we continue to grow and innovate the European data economy, do you think it is possible to strike a balance between digital innovation and protecting a citizen’s right to privacy online?

    In my work I have always sought to strike a balance, so I don’t consider reconciling concerns around online privacy and the data economy to be impossible. Online privacy is of huge importance, of course, but it is also important to communicate what it actually means and how users can protect themselves. Many people, for instance, do not like the so called “cookie banner” and believe that all cookies out there are ‘bad’ or at least intrusive. This stems from a lack of understanding of what they are actually for.

    Digital literacy is one of the main characteristics of a thriving modern society, and the process of raising awareness of our digital footprint and personal data should be led by businesses and NGOs as much as by the European Institutions. As we are trying to move forward, talking to citizens and businesses is a priority – we need to think carefully before introducing any legislation that could change the user experience of the internet as a whole.

    Summertime is upon us, so please share with us your favourite holiday destination?

    The Mediterranean blue mixed with Bulgarian natural green. 

    Bulgaria takes over the Presidency of the Council of Europe in 2018, what are the key priorities and challenges for Bulgaria during this 6-month tenure?

    It has been proven that successful presidencies are based on effective administrative execution and extensive coordination with the other two members of the trio, as well as with the European Commission. In this regard the key priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency, due to be officially announced in the coming weeks, include security and migration, the debate on the Future of Europe with a particular focus on the Cohesion policy after 2020, and the future of the Western Balkans. Recent political developments in FYROM and Montenegro have pushed the region back to the top of the EU agenda, and being in immediate proximity, the Bulgarian government intends to bring up the topic and advocate for a decisive but forward-looking EU policy on the subject.

    For a European perspective, what do you see as the key takeaways from the recent French presidential election?

    Undoubtedly the loudest, clearest message from the recent Presidential and the first round of the Parliamentary elections in France is that people chose Europe. Their individual preferences for left- or right-wing domestic policies notwithstanding, the French did not fall in the trap of anti-EU populism. Another emerging trend in Europe, solidified by the French elections, is the rise of a new generation of young and dynamic pro-European politicians.

    What albums and artists are on your phone right now?

    I’m currently on a relaxation kick – a lot of Ludovico Einaudi, as well as a very old traditional Bulgarian folk song called ‘Yovano Yovanke’, performed by renowned cello player Ian Maksin.

    As a young politician, how do you think we can better engage young people in the electoral process both domestically and at a European level?

    Let’s seek to engage the bright and best young people of Europe not only through party ideologies but through issue-based projects. Young people today are much more practical and a lot less traditional. They dream, create and commit themselves to concrete initiatives, sometimes regardless of their political orientation. When we want to get the young passionate about Europe we have to tell the story of Europe and engages with both – their hearts and minds. They need to feel European in order to achieve for Europe. 

    Brussels or Strasbourg?

    Strasbourg is a beautiful city. I particularly admire its architecture, friendly people and young character. But I’m also a practical person and when it comes to functionality I believe the European Parliament could function better only from Brussels. 

    The West Wing or House of Cards?

    House of Cards. Haven’t watched the West Wing. 

    Which EPP colleague would you suggest for our next interview? What would be your question for her or him?  

    Vice President of the European Commission Jyrki Katainen. I would like to ask him: what is your vision for Europe in 2040?

    Centre-Right European People's Party Leadership Youth

    I say Europe, you say…? Interview with MEP Eva Maydell (Paunova)

    I Say Europe

    22 Jul 2017

  • I say Europe, you say…?


    Hans-Gert Pöttering’s question to you was: How do you see the relations between the regions in Spain and the Spanish state in the framework of the EU?

    The Autonomous Communities and the Autonomous Cities of Spain count on a wide variety of institutional solutions, such as the Conference of Presidents, together with the Conference for Matters related to the European Communities. They serve as a valuable platform to coordinate and represent the interests of the regions at the EU level.

    Likewise, the Committee of the Regions provides for a framework within which local and regional authorities can make their voices heard at the European level. In this sense, the relations are dynamic and can be incremented anytime there is a special issue or concern on either side.

    What was the most interesting myth about the EU you needed to bust in your career?

    Some think MEPs are always flying first class, with the most renowned airlines. Well, I am an MEP and I can tell you that, 90% of the time, we fly economy class or use low-cost companies.

    What is your strategy to improve the way in which the EU is being communicated?

    The European Parliament efforts towards engaging millennials through apps such as Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook are indeed remarkable.

    However, many citizens still use printed media, radio and the vast majority still gets its information from the television, so we have to make sure that we keep providing both with the sufficient high-quality content. We have to focus on translation: not all citizens speak English or French, and therefore more effort should be put on making information available for them in their own language.

    Simultaneously, in times when fake news are the new propaganda technique, the EU should not just focus on unmasking the so-called “alternative facts” but also on offering a resilient counter-narrative. We have a myriad of good stories to tell, of success examples to share. So let’s all tell them, let’s all share them!  

    What was the last book you borrowed from the Parliament’s library?

    It was Resolving Cyprus: New Approaches to Conflict Resolution. I borrowed it in December and I have already renewed it twice. Achieving a comprehensible solution for the Cyprus issue would benefit not just the population of the entire island, but also the EU as a whole. It is something we all need.

    Tell us a not-that-good movie that is a “guilty pleasure” for you. 

    A Man for All Seasons is definitely my favourite movie. But I would like to draw the attention to the films of “Paco” Martínez Soria, as they are emblematic of post-war Spanish cinema.

    I am referring to the genre of the 50s, 60s and 70s that was endearing, warm, considerate, homey. These movies never won Oscars, but have always accompanied us, Spaniards, in our path to reconciliation, peace, democracy and prosperity.

    What was your first job?

    At the young age of 20, when I was still in university, I opened my own art gallery in my hometown, Murcia. I did not have money, but I was lucky enough to share a passion for art (I’m an Art History graduate) with a friend who did. He put the money and I put the knowledge. Our gallery, which we called ‘Mica’, eventually became one of the most prestigious in the region.

    Which should be, in your opinion, the main targeted areas in which the European Structural and Investment Fund should create jobs and growth?

    At the core of this policy are the Smart Specialisation Strategies. By fine-tuning our regions’ specialisation priorities –encouraging local, regional and national authorities to pursue evidence-based policy strategies- we improve the efficiency of the way in which public money is spent.

    If I had to pick two flagships for job creation, I would go for SMEs and youth. As well as boosting our SMEs’ competitiveness, effectively responding to the high levels of youth unemployment in Member States is vital to enhance a sustainable and inclusive model of growth.

    If you would need to participate in a karaoke contest which song would you sing? Which MEP would you pick for a duet?

    Singing is not my strongest point. But if I had to pick someone to sing with, that person would definitely be my colleague Carlos Iturgaiz. He is a real music master. And we would go for something from It’s happening! featuring Diana Ross and Neil Diamond.

    Why should defence research be a strategic priority for the Union, in your opinion?

    In a world constantly evolving, where change comes rapidly and in which uncertainty is now a commonplace, advancing in research and technology in all areas but especially in Defence and Security is of vital importance for the EU to remain autonomous, to maintain independence from third actors. Strategically speaking, research should be a priority in all areas but especially within the EU’s defence package.

    What is your life moto?

    Call it a life moto, call it a way to face life on a daily basis. When someone asks me how I am, I always respond: “I’m good, and feeling signs of improvement”. Looking at the bright side of life has always worked out to be the best possible approach.

    How did you manage to make it on the Kremlin’s blacklist?

    The reason for me being (still) on Putin’s blacklist is pretty simple: standing with the people of Ukraine and not with those who were giving orders to kill them. In 2014, at the beginning of the Euromaidan movement, I travelled to Kyiv in my role of President of the Committee of the Regions, the post that I held at that time. The official programme of my visit included a meeting with government representatives, but the dramatic events that happened at the Maidan while I was there changed the course of things.

    What should the EU’s strategy in tackling the situation in Eastern Ukraine be?

    The European Union is with the people of Ukraine. It is at their side. And it remains committed to trying to make sure that the conditions in the country improve. The EU has repeatedly called for the full implementation of the Minsk agreements in order to provide for a real beginning of the peace process.

    The role of the EU is to actively engage in supporting and assisting Ukraine in its remarkable reform effort, while trying to achieve a better security situation for its people, especially in the East.

    Sailing or cycling?

    Sailing. Just for the sake of feeling as free as a drop in the ocean.

    Gazpacho or Paella?

    I could not possibly choose one. It would be like asking a parent to choose his favourite child. So I would say gazpacho for starters and paella as main course.

    Analogue or digital camera?

    As a photography lover, I go with both and decide on the spot depending on the situation. Analogue works better for portraits, probably. But when it comes to editing, digital photography is a must.

    Which EPP Group colleague would you suggest for our next interview? What would be your question for her or him?

    Eva Paunova. First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate her on her recent marriage. And second, I would like to ask her how she thinks the EU could better contribute to equipping our youngsters with the digital skills needed to thrive in the digital context. 

    EU Institutions European People's Party Leadership Regionalisation

    I say Europe, you say…? Interview with EP Vice-President Ramón Luis Valcárcel

    I Say Europe

    23 Mar 2017

  • The discussion about strengthening the European economy is very timely. Although the EU is facing urgent challenges now, we have to learn to tackle more than one crisis at a time. We still need to make efforts to improve the competitiveness and thus resilience of our economy when facing shocks, I have asserted today in the debate “Do or Die: Political and Economic Reforms for a Stronger EU”, organized within NET@WORK Forum of the Martens Centre. The completion and strengthening of the Economic and Monetary Union is essential to ensure the stability of our common currency. In order to strengthen our economies, we have to tackle the root causes of the current crisis: Too much debt and too little competitiveness. It is necessary that the banking system returns to its mission of supporting the real economy, like financing entrepreneurship and SMEs. Progress has been made regarding the governance of the Eurozone, where the ECB monetary policy has been constructive. However, this help is limited and can only function as a bridge. There is no way around improving competitiveness through economic and political reforms, and I believe an appropriate tool for this can be a fiscal capacity of the Eurozone. The capacity should incentivize reforms especially in good economic times, when it makes sense to implement them, such as reforms already laid down in the Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs). An evaluation of the CSRs implementation rate could steer us towards reforms whose transposition require financial incentives through the fiscal capacity. What kind of reforms do we need to make our economies more competitive? On the one hand, we have to reduce deficits and limit public debt, return banks to their initial function, allocate more financing to research and innovation, further invest in roads and railway infrastructure as well as improving energy and digital markets. On the other hand, we need to reform labour markets to be more flexible in order to offer more opportunities to young people. We have to support entrepreneurship, start-ups and SMEs, further develop the single market, provide predictable and reliable tax and legal systems as well as insuring the functionality of the rule of law. In addition, there is need to reform the budgets. The limited financial resources we have at public level should be allocated to those areas which strengthen our economies. The budget should be a reflection of our political priorities. Moreover, we must invest in education. Schools and universities have to prepare the students with the necessary skills to be successful in the labour markets of the future. Many jobs of the future will require new skills, such as digital and e-skills. Furthermore, the development of the governance of the Eurozone is necessary, but more important is the impact on the real lives of the citizens. We have to show how our actions in Brussels really help the economy, and more specifically, how they benefit entrepreneurs and SMEs. European citizens are rightly interested in the final results. As pro-Europeans we have to talk about the achievements of European integration and present the EU as something which is still responding to the present and future needs of the citizens. In the past, the most urgent need was peace. Today, the challenges of the future are manifold, including the refugee crisis, increasing Euro scepticism and international conflicts. If the European idea is challenged and questioned by populists, it is our obligation, besides defending the European idea, to improve and further develop it. [originally published in Siegfried Muresan’s blog]

    Siegfried Mureşan Economy Education EU Institutions European People's Party Innovation

    Siegfried Mureşan

    Do or Die: Political and Economic Reforms for a Stronger EU


    20 Apr 2016

  • Mikuláš Dzurinda, former prime minister of Slovakia, has today been elected President of the Centre for European Studies (CES), the political foundation and official think tank of the European People’s Party (EPP).

    Reacting to his election as president, Mikuláš Dzurinda said: ‘The late President Martens was committed to the work of the CES and I intend to build on the continuity and creativity of his great work to develop an even stronger and more prominent CES in the future.’

    EPP President Joseph Daul warmly congratulated Mikuláš Dzurinda on his election as president of the CES, ‘I know him to be a person of integrity and clear principles and he is the right person to take this responsibilty in such a crucial time for the CES and the EU.’

    Mikuláš Dzurinda was prime minister of Slovakia from 1998 to 2006 and is credited in enabling Slovakia begin the process of joining the EU and NATO following the implementation of far-reaching reforms prior to the country’s admission in 2004 . Previously, Dzurinda has been Minister of Transportation and more recently was Minister for Foreign Affairs from July 2010 to April 2012.

    Dzurinda is a founding member of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union – Democratic Party (SDKÚ-DS) and was chairman of the party from 2000 to 2012. He was elected to the Slovak Parliament following elections in 2012 and is currently a member of the Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Relations.

    Centre-Right European People's Party Leadership

    Mikuláš Dzurinda elected new CES President

    Other News

    03 Dec 2013

  • Wilfried Martens, CES President and long-standing President of the European People’s Party (EPP) sadly passed away last night at the age of 77. The CES team would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to the Martens family at this difficult time.

    CES Director Tomi Huhtanen said: “Not only have we lost our founding president and a central pillar of our political family, we have also lost a person who was part of our everyday work for years giving guidance, advice and support. ‘Thinking Europe’ was the motto under which the Centre for European Studies started its activities five years ago. For Wilfried Martens, ‘Thinking Europe’ was a long-life motto.”

    President Martens was a strong believer and promoter of political foundations, which he considered instrumental in advancing European integration and co-operation. Inspired by the role national foundations had played in their respective countries, he took an active role in founding the first centre-right political foundation at European level, the Centre for European Studies. “His leadership, insight and vision will be greatly missed not only by us, but also by all of those who became part of our project, our ever-growing network of likeminded foundations across Europe”, Mr Huhtanen added.

    President Martens was deeply committed and engaged in CES activities, not only as a strategic leader, but also as an inspiring speaker and author. His autobiography Europe: I Struggle, I Overcome has been translated in several European languages and launched in his presence in capitals across Europe and beyond. The book offers the inside story on the intricacies of European politics, but above all its guiding ideas, values and principles. Antonio López-Istúriz, CES Secretary Treasurer and EPP Secretary General said: “Strong values always guided President Martens in his political career. The EU is today a strong project thanks to his contribution, and we need to continue this work.”

    A State Funeral will take place on Saturday 19 October at 11:00 in the Sint Baafscathedral in Ghent, Belgium.

    European People's Party

    CES team mourns the loss of President and founder Wilfried Martens

    Other News

    10 Oct 2013

  • The topic of this year’s Economic Ideas Forum (EIF), organized by the CES in Helsinki, was “From Reform to Growth: a Roadmap for Europe”. We chose this title because we are convinced that it is the combination of budgetary AND structural reform that will create the conditions in which lasting growth is possible. And only lasting growth will lead to more and better jobs for Europeans. It is difficult to image a better place than Finland to organize a conference with this in mind. The country successfully reformed itself after an economic crisis 20 years ago and today it is a prime example of good economic governance.

    “Both more Europe and more national responsibility”, these are the words spoken by Prime Minister Katainen when addressing the European Parliament’s plenary session in April, and I could not agree more. To the populist voices claiming that Europe cannot find common solutions: I say that’s simply not true. To the populist voices saying that European institutions are a threat to their countries I say, quoting Prime Minister Katainen, that strong rules and strong European institutions are the protectors of the member states, especially the smaller ones.

    The EIF was a great opportunity to emphasize the idea of cooperation between different Member States. At the European People’s Party (EPP), we have always felt that the EU is much more than a partnership. The EU is a community, and it brings together countries of different size, economic power and wealth, and different cultures. However, the aim is to find, and strengthen, the things we have in common and to value the richness and opportunities of our diversity.

    At the EPP we believe in the power of individuals and the importance of union and solidarity. We believe that a European community exists an adds value to people’s lives. It is an antidote to both egoism and populism. This is why, when citizens and states show initiative to cope with difficult times, this European community should show its solidarity. The strong have to help those who are weakened and the weakened have to make the effort to get back to economic growth. This means reaching a careful balance. We must give our members the freedom to follow their own paths to success, while maintaining a common goal and vision.

    We do not believe in the artificial growth defended by other parties. We profoundly disagree with their proposals to create unsustainable, short-term growth by increasing public spending and refusing to present credible measures for fiscal consolidation. This is an irresponsible and populist approach, which will lead us deeper into the crisis.

    I should make a small mention of my own country: Spain. It has been a tough few years: reforms were unpopular and often misunderstood, but we have been patient. We held the course and the economic fundamentals are starting to paint a better picture. Unemployment has decreased for three months in a row, inflation has been kept under control and the competitiveness of our exporting companies has increased non-stop. I believe that we can feel prudently encouraged, and all my colleagues in the EPP, Prime Ministers, Finance Ministers, have shown their admiration and encouragement for our reforms and efforts.

    Maintaining social cohesion is a priority, but we must achieve this in a responsible, sustainable way, with emphasis on the “sustainable” part because this is where we differ most from the Socialists. We know that growth is not something that a government, or the EU, can decree. Growth is created by people: by entrepreneurs and consumers who act within a stable and predictable framework. In order to create this framework, market confidence in politics has to be restored, and that means fiscal consolidation and economic reform. In the long run, it means a stronger economic and political Union.

    There is no silver bullet for resolving the current crisis. Its causes are complex and the solutions cannot be simple, which is why conferences like the EIF are necessary.

    Antonio López-Istúriz White Economy European People's Party Eurozone Growth

    Antonio López-Istúriz White

    The Economic Ideas Forum: a roadmap to sustainable growth


    26 Jun 2013

  • Five years ago, when the Centre for European Studies was founded, we set out four main goals to guide our activities: to advance centre-right thought, to contribute to the formulation of EU and national policies, to serve as a framework for national political foundations and to stimulate public debate about the EU. To achieve these goals, the Centre and its young, dynamic staff started organising conferences, seminars, training events, as well as producing research in the form of policy briefs, research papers, books and collaborative publications with like-minded partners.

    The fifth anniversary of our foundation provides an excellent opportunity to look back and take stock of some of our milestones, highlights and achievements. Our research to date now covers all of the major topics of European policy-making; we constantly strive to examine burning issues and cover pressing topics, whether it is the Arab Spring, new ways of political organisation or the increased role the internet and social media are currently playing in politics. We have travelled to almost every European capital to host events, welcoming many distinguished speakers, including Prime Ministers, European Commissioners, Members of the European Parliament and renowned academics. We have also managed to expand our network of member foundations and like-minded organisations, acting as a bridge between them and as a catalyst among them.

    We are of course delighted and honoured when members of our political family acknowledge our work and endorse our mission; this was the case during the last European People Party’s Congress in Bucharest, when EPP leaders stopped by our stand, wished us “Happy Birthday” and shared their views on our work and future role (you can watch a highlights video on this topic on our new homepage). At the beginning of this year, we were equally thrilled to see that our results have also been recognised internationally: according to the prestigious Global GoTo Think Tank Index released yearly by Pennsylvania University, CES is ranked 31st in the Top 150 Think Tanks Worldwide (you can read more about the results of this ranking in our news section).

    However, we do believe that now is the perfect time to be Thinking Europe more than ever: the European Union is still recovering from the economic crisis, while the next European elections are approaching fast. Citizens, voters and policy-makers alike need to be able to access quality research in order to take informed decisions and grasp the long term consequences of their options.

    Our new website aims to provide you with a valuable resource: we wanted to give our stakeholders and target audience a state of the art platform, with easy to access content, as well as a user-friendly way of keeping updated about our past and upcoming events; last, but equally important, we wish to encourage interactivity and dialogue and offer tools for feedback. We believe our new website to be an online mirror of our offline efforts: connecting people, organisations, publications and events in order to create the best research out of these synergies. We thus invite you to take a tour, discover the new features and send us your feedback so that we can fine tune the website further!

    Welcome once again and keep Thinking Europe!

    Tomi Huhtanen European People's Party European Union Leadership Party Structures

    Tomi Huhtanen

    Welcome to a new way of Thinking Europe!


    06 Feb 2013

  • Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are an indispensable part of civil society. However, NGO influence on policymaking is not always positive. A large number of well-connected NGOs explicitly aim to influence trade and investment policymaking. Some of the most influential NGOs that have campaigned against vital EU trade and investment policy objectives have received substantial funding from the European Commission and national governments.

    This study calls on EU policymakers to ensure that NGOs financed by the EU do not fundamentally contradict the EU’s basic principles. Among other things, the study calls for a comprehensive reform of the EU’s Transparency Register and Financial Transparency System. This should include the introduction of a single, centralised system for recording and managing NGO grant funding.

    European People's Party European Union Society Trade Transatlantic

    NGO Lobbying on Trade and Investment: Accountability and Transparency at the EU Level

    Policy Briefs

    08 Nov 2019

  • Our think tank is celebrating its tenth birthday! It started off small, with just three people on board. Today we have a team of over 20 talented and dynamic individuals at our Brussels headquarters, and we cooperate with more than 40 member foundations and partner organisations across Europe. Every year we organise over 100 events. In this way we have developed a platform for centre–right decision-makers, experts and thinkers to discuss and exchange views on current issues and to debate proposals to address the foremost challenges facing Europe.

    EU Member States European People's Party European Union

    Activity Report 2017

    Activity Report

    09 Apr 2018

  • The European Union as a whole has seen the share of the elderly population rise progressively. Over 18% of the population is currently aged 65 years or over, a figure that has risen by 2% over the last ten years and is expected to increase to 28% by 2050. This trend holds across all of Europe. Confronted with demographic ageing, the question arises as to whether this changing structure of the population is also having an impact on politics and elections. Despite the increasing share of seniors in society, few if any studies have focused on seniors’ voting behaviour.

    This paper aims to examine the voting behaviour of European senior citizens in the 2014 European Parliament (EP) elections. It is structured along three main questions. The first part will deal with the question of whether and how the increasing share of seniors in the overall population affects voter turnout in elections, considering age, generational effects and political knowledge and opinion as the main explanations.

    The second part deals with the question of whether and how the increasing share of seniors in the overall population affects election results, considering political opinion and party loyalty as main explanations. The third and final part will assess the representation of seniors in the EP, 
    considering the share of senior Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and the inclusion of representation of seniors’ interests.

    The paper finds that the seniors’ share in the population is increasing, and that they are also the most active voters. Additionally, they generally vote for centre–right parties that belong to the European People’s Party (EPP) family. Their decision to participate in the elections, however, seems to have been driven more by generational effects-that is, party loyalty and voting habits-than by active campaign mobilisation.

    Centre-Right Elections European People's Party

    Seniors in the 2014 European Parliament Elections: Turnout, Voting Intentions and Representation

    Policy Briefs

    01 Jul 2015

  • The European People’s Party (EPP) examined its values at the Bucharest Congress in October 2012. The result of this reassessment, the Bucharest Party Platform, affirmed the six core values of the EPP: the dignity of human life in every stage of its existence, freedom and responsibility, equality and justice, truth, solidarity and subsidiarity. These values are inspired by the Christian Democratic philosophy. Although today’s EPP includes also parties that do not consider themselves Christian Democratic, all member parties of the EPP draw inspiration from these values. After an exploration of the foundation of the EPP, this paper examines the party’s core values, tracing their origins to religious writings. The paper outlines how these values translate into the practical policies of the EPP: the party’s response to Europe’s economic crisis and addressing issues around free movement and access to social benefits in the EU. The paper demonstrates that values underpin the party’s policies but also that practical politics leaves room for interpretation.

    Christian Democracy Ethics European People's Party Religion Values

    The Christian Democratic Origins of the European People’s Party

    Policy Briefs

    11 Dec 2014

  • Looking back at an eventful 2013, the CES continues to expand its network of like-minded organisations that now includes 29 members, as well as its strategic partnerships with organisations (International Republican Institute, Hudson Institute). Our online reach has quadrupled from last year, while our experts face daily requests from policy-makers and international media to provide opinions and expertise on the latest European developments.

    Centre-Right Christian Democracy EU Institutions EU Member States European People's Party

    Activity Report 2013

    Activity Report

    30 Dec 2013

  • 2012 was a pivotal year in European politics. The economic crisis reached a peak, but after four years of non-stop crisis management it would appear that the worst is behind us. While parts of Europe still face a long road to recovery, a consensus seems to have emerged on the necessity of the measures that have been taken and the positive effect they are having. Beyond our borders, the Arab revolutions and transitions to democracy in North Africa and the Middle East continue to be a foreign policy issue which requires constant and close attention.

    Centre-Right EU Institutions EU Member States European People's Party European Union

    Activity Report 2012

    Activity Report

    31 Jan 2013

  • In 1961, a group of five students founded the “International Christian-Democratic and Conservative Student Union”. In 2011 this organisation celebrated its 50th anniversary as “European Democrat Students”(EDS). For decades, EDS, the largest political student organisation was the starting point of many political careers and could be proud to be the oldest pan-European organisation of the centre-right. By 2011, it became the biggest organisation of young people in Europe, representing 1,600,000 students and young people. The authors recount not only the complete history of the EDS since its foundation, but also describe and interpret the various reasons for its existence. By reading this book, the deeper roots of European integration become visible, outshining daily European business and creating a European identity EDS has contributed so much to.

    Centre-Right Education European People's Party Values Youth

    Students on the Right Way: European Democrat Students 1961-2011


    01 May 2012

  • The European Factbook, now in its fifth year, is the consolidated annual publication with all relevant data and documentation about the European People’s Party (EPP), the largest EU-level Party which represents the political family of the centre-right. The  2012  edition  includes  the  latest  updates  and information from both European level and national level politics. With the Lisbon Treaty now in force, the EPP is currently the leading Europarty  in  the  three  main  EU  institutions:  the  European Council  with  16 out of 27 heads of state and government,  the  European  Commission with  13  Commissioners,  and  the  European Parliament  with 271 out of 754 MEPs. Apart  from  the  structure  of  the  EPP  and  its  role  in  the  EU institutions,  the  European  Factbook  includes  information about EPP member-parties in EU and non-EU countries, EPP parliamentary  groups  in  the  Council  of  Europe,  the  OSCE and NATO,  EPP member associations, as well as information about EPP’s think-tank the Centre for European Studies (CES) and its member foundations. Finally,  the  European  Factbook  provides  readers  with  a set  of  important  supplementary  documents  including  the ‘Giannakou Report’.

    EU Member States European People's Party Party Structures Political Parties

    European Factbook 2012


    01 Apr 2012

  • 2011 proved to be a year of change and uncertainty, a challenging time both for decision-makers and political analysts. In the European Union, austerity measures became a painful but nonetheless necessary step towards tackling the sovereign debt crises, while a wind of change blew across North Africa with new calls for freedom. At the Centre for European Studies we believe that visionaries can turn times of political upheaval and change into opportunities. This is why we have focused our activities and research efforts on the Arab Spring, particularly through our ‘Springeneration’ initiative, which is an innovative online tool designed to create a bridge with people in Arab countries who are experiencing profound political and social changes. Through its research and policy papers, the Centre for European Studies contributed significantly throughout 2011 by enriching the discussions taking place at the European level from a centre-right perspective. Research projects covered a variety of issues ranging from European economic governance to populist movements, among others. Working independently or in close collaboration with its member foundations, the Centre for European Studies organised more than 70 events throughout Europe in 2011. With the aim of contributing to the academic arena, two issues of the European View journal were published in 2011. These editions were devoted to protest culture and populist movements, on the one hand, and to the rise and fall of states in the international arena on the other hand. Committed to the values of the EPP political family, the Centre for European Studies will build on its successes of 2011 and will keep working hard by ‘thinking Europe’ in the years to come.

    Centre-Right EU Institutions EU Member States European People's Party European Union

    Activity Report 2011

    Activity Report

    27 Feb 2012

  • The founding of the Youth of the European People’s Party (YEPP) in 1997 was a remarkable event. After decades of division among the Christian Democrat and Conservative youth in Europe, which were split between two organisations-the European Young Christian Democrats (EYCD) and the Democratic Youth Community of Europe (DEMYC)-the critical mass of organisations finally decided to unite the centre-right youth in Europe in one single organisation in the mid-1990s. From the very beginning YEPP was a success and has developed into the largest centre-right youth organisation in Europe, bringing together 57 organisations from 39 countries. YEPP has also become the sole youth organisation linked to the European People’s Party, and in this way it has clearly contributed to the strengthening of the EPP political family. This book on the history of YEPP is based on primary written and oral sources. Documents from the YEPP archives have been used, along with a number of interviews with former YEPP Presidents and a number of key figures in YEPP’s history that were conducted specifically for the purpose of this publication.

    Centre-Right European People's Party Party Structures Values Youth

    United by one conviction: The history of the Youth of the European People’s Party


    06 Feb 2012

  • Immigration into the EU and the integration of those who have immigrated constitute two multifaceted and highly complex policy areas. These topics feature prominently in current political debates, which have been taking place at all levels within European society and government. These debates have also been held within the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and are playing a prominent role in many election campaigns. There has been a need to illuminate the ongoing debate on immigration and integration, inform national and European policies, and highlight areas of EU-wide importance. The Centre for European Studies (CES), the political foundation of the EPP and its member foundations, has therefore created the book “Opening the Door? Immigration and Integration in the European Union”, which was published in January 2012. Written by 24 academics and policy experts, this book covers 13 EU countries and one region, as well as the EU itself. Most of the authors of these country and region chapters were appointed by CES member foundations; the remaining authors were appointed by the CES. The authors and their appointing foundations are listed in the Appendix. This Policy Brief is entirely based on this book. It consists of two parts, Analysis and Policy Recommendations.

    European People's Party Immigration Society

    Immigration and Integration in the European Union

    Policy Briefs

    01 Jan 2012

  • Wilfried Martens has devoted his entire life to politics: as student leader, youth activist, President of the Flemish Christian Democrats, Prime Minister of Belgium, President of the European People’s Party and European statesman. In his autobiography Martens offers the inside story on running a complex country like Belgium, fighting for European integration and unification, and transforming the European People’s Party into a strong, united centre-right movement and leading European political family. Above all, this is book about the intricacies of European politics and its guiding ideas, values and principles.

    Centre-Right Christian Democracy European People's Party Leadership Values

    Europa: Lluitar, Sobreviure


    01 Dec 2011

  • Wilfried Martens has devoted his entire life to politics: as student leader, youth activist, President of the Flemish Christian Democrats, Prime Minister of Belgium, President of the European People’s Party and European statesman. In his autobiography, President Martens offers the inside story on running a complex country like Belgium, fighting for European integration and unification, and transforming the European People’s Party into a strong, united centre-right movement and leading European political family. Above all, this is a book about the intricacies of European politics and its guiding ideas, values and principles

    Centre-Right Christian Democracy European People's Party Leadership Values

    Europa : lupt şi înving


    01 Sep 2011

  • The European Factbook, now in its fourth year, is the consolidated annual publication with all relevant data and documentation about the European People’s Party (EPP), the largest EU-level Party which represents the political family of the centre-right. The 2011 edition includes the latest updates and information from both European level and national level politics. With the Lisbon Treaty now in force, the EPP is currently the leading Europarty in the three main EU institutions: the European Council with 17 Prime Ministers, the European Commission with 13 Commissioners, and the European Parliament with 264 MEPs. Apart from the structure of the EPP and its role in the EU institutions, the European Factbook includes information about EPP member-parties in EU and non-EU countries, EPP parliamentary groups in the Council of Europe, the OSCE and NATO, EPP member associations, as well as information about EPP’s think-tank the Centre for European Studies (CES) and its member foundations. Finally, the European Factbook provides readers with a set of important supplementary documents including the ‘Giannakou Report’, which was adopted earlier this year by the European Parliament.

    EU Member States European People's Party Party Structures Political Parties

    European Factbook 2011


    25 Jul 2011

  • The European People’s Party, the largest political party in Europe, has roots that run deep in history. Founded in 1976 as a Christian Democratic federation, the European People’s Party is now a strong centre-right movement and a leading European political family. It has member parties in almost all European countries, and it is very well represented in the institutions of the European Union.

    This book tells the story of the European People’s Party: why it was founded, how it is currently organised and what its guiding ideas, values and principles are. It gives an up-to-date account of the party’s contribution to European integration, its work with its member parties and its central role in organising the centre-right in Europe. Above all, this book is for everyone who wants to know what a European-level political party looks like, how it is structured and how it acts.

    Centre-Right Christian Democracy European People's Party Integration Values

    At Europe’s Service: The Origins and Evolution of the European People’s Party


    04 Apr 2011

  • 2010 proved to be a successful, while at the same time challenging year for the European centre-right. While addressing challenges and struggles over a new model of economic governance and the future of the Eurozone, Europe had to accustom itself to the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty. The functioning of the European Union had been affected by the need for better cooperation between the institutions and had created many constructive debates in our society. The Lisbon Treaty reinforced the role of European political parties; therefore these parties and their foundations had to keep up their political efficacy and use to a larger degree the capacity for action and influence that the Lisbon Treaty gave them. In view of reinforcing civil society and awareness about the EU, think tanks started to play a more significant role. The Centre for European Studies in cooperation with its member organisations had an impact on crucial political debates in Europe as well as on the citizens of Europe. Through our successful activities in 2010 we made a further step in our ambitious path towards “thinking Europe”.

    EU Institutions EU Member States European People's Party European Union

    CES Activity Report 2010

    Activity Report

    01 Feb 2011

  • The European Factbook is the consolidated annual publication with all relevant data and documentation about the European People’s Party (EPP), the largest European level Party that represents the centre-right political spectrum. The 2010 edition includes the latest updates and information from both European level and national level politics. With the Lisbon Treaty now in force, 2010 finds the EPP as the leading Europarty in the three main EU institutions: the European Commission, the European Council, and the European Parliament. Apart from the structure of the EPP and its role in the EU institutions, the European Factbook includes information  about  EPP  member-parties  in  EU  and  non-EU  countries, EPP parliamentary groups in the Council of Europe and the OSCE, EPP member-associations, as well as information about EPP’s think-tank the Centre for European Studies (CES) and its member-foundations. Finally, the  European  Factbook  provides readers  with  a  set  of  important supplementary documents.

    EU Member States European People's Party Party Structures Political Parties

    European Factbook 2010


    31 Dec 2010

  • The mission and aim of this book is to reflect on values of centre-right parties. It provides a clear view of the history, intellectual basis and values of selected member parties of the EPP. This volume provides the first overview of the binding fundamental values as well as the traditional elements of the EPP. It includes portraits of the EPP parties from Sweden Poland Austria, Hungary, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Italy, France and the special case of the British Tories show the varying traditions and approaches of the individual member parties. The parties presented in this publication provide an insight into the different historical and ideological development of the individual EPP members. The fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 made it possible for new democratic parties to be established and historical ones revitalized in Europe’s formerly Communist countries.

    Enlargement European People's Party Values

    The European People’s Party: Successes and Future Challenges


    02 Dec 2010

  • In the 2009 elections, the European centre-right emerged victorious, thus affirming its political domination in contemporary European politics. The aim of this book is not to provide an analysis of the factors that contributed to the EPP’s political prevalence. Instead, it is to help this large political family maintain its vigour of political thought and policy prescriptions. The book provides a forum for prominent centre-right thinkers to debate the major European problems of our times, with particular emphasis on the management of the financial crisis and the next institutional steps regarding the European integration project. It assembles the views of politicians, academics and think-tank fellows from different national backgrounds and dissimilar ideological perspectives (Christian Democrats, conservatives and neo-liberals) who unfold their vision for Europe’s future. Moreover, it reflects the origins of contemporary European centre-right parties in order to reaffirm the core values and main priorities that have historically informed their policies. Overall, the book attempts to both highlight and stimulate the centre-right contribution to the discussion of Europe’s main contemporary challenges.

    Centre-Right Christian Democracy Crisis European People's Party European Union

    Reforming Europe: The Role of the Centre-Right


    18 Dec 2009

  • At the heart of this study is the nexus between intercultural dialogue and religious peacebuilding in the policy-making of the European Union (EU). The paper attempts to analyse the possible benefits for political agencies of the EU from extending their cooperation with religious actors to the prevention and reconciliation of violent conflicts

    Ethics European People's Party Religion

    From Dialogue to Peacebuilding? Perspectives for the Engagement of Religious Actors by the EU and the EPP

    Research Papers

    01 Apr 2009

  • Wilfried Martens has devoted his entire life to politics: as student leader, youth activist, President of the Flemish Christian Democrats, Prime Minister of Belgium, President of the European People’s Party and European statesman. In his autobiography, President Martens offers the inside story on running a complex country like Belgium, fighting for European integration and unification, and transforming the European People’s Party into a strong, united centre-right movement and leading European political family. Above all, this is a book about the intricacies of European politics and its guiding ideas, values and principles.

    Centre-Right Christian Democracy European People's Party Leadership Values

    Europe: I Struggle, I Overcome


    11 Nov 2008