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



Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission, offered an interview for, in which he stated that Europe should focus on creating growth that it is not based on debt. Juncker also talked about his priorities as chief of the EC, EU’s relations with Asia, USA and Russia, and his expectations for the right wing political parties in Romania, as the european elections approach. juncker Full interview: 1. Given the fact that Russia is an important issue for the regional situation, do you think that European partner states, like Moldova and Georgia, are in real danger? How do you comment Mr Schulz’s attitude about Russia? Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: In the 21st century, Russia cannot bully its neighbours into its sphere of influence and it must respect international Law. Let’s be clear: Russia will only learn to respect the territorial integrity of its neighbours if it gets a clear, strong and united European reply. No responsible politician wants war. But we Europeans have other common tools at our disposal to put pressure on Russia. And we should not underestimate the effectiveness of economic pressure. In our modern globalised world, no country can afford to live in permanent isolation from the rest of the world. We need to step up – if Russia does not change it’s behaviour – the level of our sanctions and extend their scope, including cutting the financial channels to and from Russia. Putin is testing Europe. And we must not let him get away with it. This is why I firmly support the signature of the Association Agreements with Moldova and Georgia, which should happen as soon as possible.   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: We have to create growth that is not based on debt. We can do so by making stronger use of the best asset we have in Europe: our single market stretching over a whole continent, with 500 million potential consumers. That is why I have made my top priority as Commission President completing the Digital Single Market – making use of the great opportunities of digital technologies which know no borders. To do so we will need to have the courage to break down national silos in telecoms regulation, in copyright and data protection legislation, in the management of radio waves and in competition law. By doing this, we can generate 500 billion Euro of additional growth in Europe in the course of the mandate of the next Commission, thereby creating hundreds of thousands new jobs and a vibrant knowledge-based society.        10 As a specialist in finances, you enjoy working with numbers, percentage and statistics. What is your prediction for decreasing the unemployment until 2019? Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: By the end of the next Commission term, we can be in a much better situation if the EU institutions and national governments intensify their efforts to bring yong people in decent jobs. Our recipe of consolidation and solidarity against the crisis is already showing results and we are starting to see good prospects in the whole EU, with Spain as a particular example, which is now at its lowest level of unemployment since 2006. As Commission President I will devote myself to making sure that by 2019 the scandalous levels of unemployment and youth unemployment that we see today are something of the past. I will work night and day on this. 11.It is largely known that the EU is the main benefactor in Africa in terms of humanitarian  and development aid, but unfortunately the Union failed to give proper assistance in the violent incidents that tore apart countries like Mali and the Central African Republic. The question is how would you push for more concerted action when addressing security issues in Africa? Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: Fortunately, France has saved the honour of Europe in Mali. In the future, we should be better prepared and ready to deploy EU missions to crisis zones in Europe’s neighborhood to stabilize the situation and to guarantee peace. Also here, if not all 28 EU Member States are ready to do so, those who are should be allowed to go ahead. After all, Europe has too often been stabilized and helped by other countries as that it could now shy away from shouldering larger responsibilities for world peace.   12. As a former leader of the Eurozone, you are very familiar with the EU financial sector, but many citizens of the Union can feel the effects of the financial mechanisms, while being oblivious to what triggers them. Therefore, could you explain the implications for the European citizens of the Single Supervisory Mechanism as a pillar of the Banking Union project?   Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: It was the European People’s Party who put in place the architecture to regulate the financial sector better; return public finances to health; and improve the governance of the euro area. We can now prevent, supervise and deal with crises together. During the crisis years we saw how citizens’ money had to be used to save failing banks. We have made sure that this will never happen again. The single supervisory mechanism means that the European Central Bank, with close involvement of national supervisory bodies, will be able to supervise the Eurozone’s 6.000 banks and assure that they do not take part in risky situations that compromise the financial stability of all the countries that share the euro as currency.  13. What do you plan to inovate in the EPP philosophy for the European Commission, after the two Barroso terms, another EPP leadership?   Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: If there’s one thing the crisis has shown is that you’re in safe hands with EPP leadership. EPP-led countries are returning to growth after, often painful, structural reforms. In Socialist-led countries, however, structural reforms are blocked and unemployment is still on the rise. Therefore, the question is less to change the EPP philosophy, but to implement it to the full.          14. Which are the espectations for the elections in Romania?    Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: I hope that centre-right parties of our family will perform well. The EPP has solid partners in Romania, many of them have already been working in Brussels delivering results for the Romanian people and my hope is that citizens will realise this and will place their trust in us.         15. Why is important for European citizens to vote? Why for Romanians?   Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: You should vote in these European elections because this is your chance to have a say about where Europe goes next. In less than 30 days, 300 million Europeans will go to the polls to vote in a new European Parliament. Citizens in 28 countries will directly elect their 751 representatives in the European Parliament. 32 of these European Parliamentarians will be directly elected here in Romania, which is a considerable number that can change majorities in the European Parliament. And for the first time in the history of European integration, we have lead candidates for President of the European Commission, giving citizens a clear choice about who they want shaping and implementing European policies for the next five years. The days of backroom deals are over. All the polls now point to a neck and neck race between the European People’s party and the Socialists in these elections – meaning every vote counts. This is your chance to choose. 16. When should the austerity measures stop in Europe? Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP Candidate for President of the European Commission: You talk of austerity as if it were the 1930s – it is now. At the start of the crisis we acted ’Keyensian’ and injected 250 billion euros into the economy, running a counter-cyclical programme that is by definition the opposite of austerity. But at the same time we also have to address the public debt problem. There is no alternative to these painful reforms. You can not build a future on debt alone, sooner or later you have to pay it back. The painful measures that have been taken to consolidate our budgets and put our debt under control were necessary because during the previous years some governments, and particularly socialist governments in countries like Spain and Portugal behaved in an irresponsible manner spending the money that they didn’t have. The focus going forward now has to be on creating growth that is not based on debt.       .   .


EPP MEP Vasile Blaga: The EU budget for 2022 boosted with significant additional funding for research and health



The EU budget for 2022, the largest in the history of the Union, has been boosted with significant additional funding for research and health, said MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) for

Last week’s session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg approved the European Union’s budget for next year and we are dealing with a first: €169.5 billion for 2022, the largest amount ever approved, €480 million more than the European Commission’s proposal, 

“It is worth highlighting here the €100 million annual budget increase for the Horizon Europe research and innovation programme, a key programme for boosting the EU’s competitiveness and economic development. I also note an increase in next year’s budget in the health sector, with the EU’s pandemic response programme EU4Health being funded by €51 million more than the Commission’s initial proposal, for a total of over €800 million,” the EPP MEP stressed. 

“It is extremely important not to forget that the pandemic is not over and investing in health is a priority for the European Union in the coming year. A joint effort by all member countries is needed to strengthen national health systems. The same is true in Romania – the national health system has the opportunity to benefit from important funds for modernisation and response, not only to the current pandemic, but also in the long term, to the current challenges in the system”, added the EPP MEP. 

The European Parliament last week approved the 2022 budget by 550 votes to 77 with 62 abstentions. The deal, which was agreed by the EU Council on 23 November, is due to take effect from 1 January 2022.

MEPs succeeded in increasing funding for programmes and policies that they believe contribute to post-pandemic recovery, in line with Parliament’s priorities set out in its guidelines for 2022.

These include the Horizon Europe research programme (+€100 million more than the Commission’s draft budget) and the LIFE programme for environment and climate action (+€47.5 million). The single market programme is boosted by €30 million (including €10 million for the tourism sector) and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office by €3.8 million, protecting European taxpayers’ money from criminals.

The Erasmus+ university mobility programme is another programme whose budget is reinforced, with an additional allocation of €35 million. The EU’s flagship health programme, EU4Health, gets a financial boost of €51 million to build a strong European Health Union and make national health systems more resilient.

The Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI – Global Europe) has been boosted by €190 million, with a particular focus on fighting pandemics, including through vaccination.

Humanitarian aid has been increased by €211 million to allow the Solidarity and Emergency Aid Reserve to cover the increased needs of the EU Solidarity Fund in relation to natural disasters in the EU.

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HERA, essential for countries like Romania. European Union can gain strength in health crises



© European Union, 2020

Romanian experts at national and European level argue that the European Health Emergency Response and Preparedness Authority (HERA) can bring important mechanisms, expected and needed at European level, but which need to be developed in complementarity with existing mechanisms that already have very good results.

National authorities, European decision-makers, representatives of the pharmaceutical industry responded to the initiative launched by Calea Europeană and the Romanian Association of International Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (ARPIM) and held an open dialogue on the role of the new instrument launched by the European Commission, the European Health Emergency Response and Preparedness Authority (HERA), in preventing, detecting and responding rapidly to health emergencies, by collecting information and strengthening the necessary response capacities.

The main lessons learned by the European Union from the beginning of the pandemic to date were discussed, as well as the need to achieve a Health Union, which cannot be possible without the implementation of European mechanisms involving all Member States in preparing a joint response in the event of a future health crisis.

The European executive has succeeded in laying another “milestone of a Health Union” by launching a new instrument, the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA). This Authority was launched on 16 September and aims to guide the entire EU health system towards the vision of ‘One Health’. HERA is a key pillar of the European Health Union announced by President von der Leyen in her State of the Union 2020 speech and will fill a gap in EU health emergency response and preparedness.

HERA and its new tasks for a stronger Union in the face of health crises. How HERA becomes a key pillar of the European Union

The Head of the European Commission Representation in Romania, Ramona Chiriac, welcomed the new measures taken by the European Commission to improve the EU’s health security, as this authority is “the result of lessons learnt during the pandemic, which showed the limits of what the EU can do in health crisis situations.”

  • HERA reinforces the EU’s powers on health under the existing treaties. HERA’s mandate is forward-looking. HERA’s aim is to anticipate health crises by gathering intelligence, strengthening the necessary response capacity. So far, action in different policies has been taken reactively and not as part of an overall anticipatory management system.
  • This will be the new task, to ensure that the European Union and Member States are much better prepared to act in the face of a cross-border crisis, because the pandemic does not stop at national borders or even at European borders. HERA complements the agencies already in place.

The Head of the European Commission Representation in Romania, Ramona Chiriac, also stressed that HERA is chaired by the President of the European Commission, but is constantly mandated by the Council, which means that the will of each Member State is relevant in this construction.

Cooperation with industry within HERA will be essential to develop, manufacture, distribute countermeasures. Such a structured, responsive cooperation mechanism is vital for the implementation of robust supply chain strategies and supply chains with strategically autonomous states.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Member States have felt the need for a mechanism such as HERA. Romania must have a work core

Valeriu Gheorghiță, President of the CNCAV, present at the debate on the role of HERA, presented a preparedness and response structure in case of a health crisis, based on three pillars that should represent a working core: the prevention part, the pre-hospital part and the hospital part. According to the Romanian specialist, this preparedness and response strategy should have the following structure:

  1. Prevention strategy: vaccination as an effective means of limiting the spread of contagious disease, complemented by a population education strategy, because accessibility to vaccines is not enough. The population needs to be prepared and to understand that vaccination is a matter of course. Today’s children, who will be tomorrow’s adults, need to understand that vaccination is an added value. For the next health crisis, children must not be exposed to so many misinformation theories. We also need to improve training in diagnostic, surveillance and sequencing capacity: testing and diagnostic capacity is essential.
  2. Preparedness of the pre-hospital ambulatory medicine system for the identification and treatment of most forms of infections, of infectious diseases that can be very well managed in pre-hospital. There is a need for trained doctors and centres for diagnosis, treatment and access to effective therapies. HERA will enable easy accessibility and a centralised supply chain.
  3. Hospital preparedness: In pandemic conditions we need to have a response capacity, which means having modular structures and being able to quickly adapt hospital structures to a pandemic crisis or an epidemiological alert.

Stocks of health supplies and medicines were the main challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic

Călin Alexandru, director in the Department for Emergency Situations, says a unified approach is now needed at European level.

The pandemic has highlighted the need for production mechanisms at European level for medical equipment and medicines to ensure that EU citizens can meet their needs in such a situation. An important element that HERA is aiming for is centralised procurement. Romania has so far made centralised purchases, but only at national level. Centralised procurement of vaccines at European level is a very good example of the fact that in such a situation cooperation is mandatory.

There is a need for collaboration and integration of public health response measures and HERA can bring a plus and a positive element. The measures taken by different countries in the first waves of the pandemic were not coordinated and even created difficulties in collaboration within the EU. Measures must be taken in the future that do not affect collaboration, either economic exchanges or the free movement of citizens between countries.

HERA will be the instrument that will ensure the development, production and distribution of medicines, vaccines and other medical equipment among Member States.

Cristian Bușoi MEP, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Industry Committee, explained the benefits of HERA for the resilience of Member States’ health systems.

  • HERA is a key pillar of the European Health Union which President von der Leyen announced in her annual speech as being of paramount importance for the European Union to be much better prepared in the future against health emergencies. HERA is not the only answer. We also have the EU health programme, EU4Health, which is totally different from the health programmes of the past. Decisions on health remain with the Member States, but the EU and the European institutions aim to contribute more and more in the years to come.
  • HERA will prevent, detect and respond quickly to health crises. HERA will also have to anticipate certain potential health threats and crises. HERA will be that instrument that will ensure the development, production and distribution of medicines, vaccines and other medical equipment among Member States.

HERA, along with other European health initiatives, is essential for countries like Romania

Andrei Baciu, State Secretary of the Ministry of Health, reiterated the importance of HERA for a European Union better prepared to face new health threats, as well as Romania’s essential role in the HERA working groups.

  • HERA can be an extremely good opportunity for Romania because it will accelerate the development of internal mechanisms that mirror the work that HERA does. Romanians expect a high level of performance and Romania’s membership of such a European mechanism will force progress in Romania.
  • HERA, along with other European health initiatives, are essential for countries like Romania and the benefits of these efforts can be seen in everyday life. Such mechanisms are really the ones that have made it possible for Romania to have vaccines at the same time as any other Member State.The European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), essential for countries like Romania.

Romania has started the designation process and is aware of everything that is going on. Work is underway to set up these task forces. There is a lot of activity. Romania is already part of all the mechanisms within HERA and is on track with everything that has been requested so far.

Moreover, the Ministry of Health wants to make the most of these opportunities that this European initiative represents, precisely in order to generate in Romania a health system that can provide European advantages.

The Ministry of Health has said that it is essential for Romania to be part of such mechanisms, but the big problem in our country is that there is no institutional culture to learn from the difficulties we are going through. We have so many things to learn and so many things to improve in European health systems, and the most important advantage of this authority is that it institutionalises this ‘lessons learned’ mechanism and then comes up with concrete proposals.

National legislation must be drawn up to regulate the powers of each institution

The ANMDMR has informed its colleagues in the specialist structures about the HERA regulations. According to the ANMDMR representative, a crucial importance for HERA is the collaboration between HERA and national authorities. Even the Medicines Agency will be involved in this process, but at the moment it is not clear how. ANMDMR argues that a national regulatory act will have to be developed to regulate the tasks of each institution. Different aspects need to be regulated in order to be able to implement the regulation at national level as well. The ANMDMR will indirectly provide support in the working groups within HERA.

In order to ensure a rapid launch and building on the HERA incubator launched in February 2021, HERA will be established as an internal Commission structure and will become fully operational in early 2022. Its operation will be reviewed and adapted annually until 2025, when a full review will be carried out.

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MEP Vasile Blaga: The European Social Security Passport, a first step in protecting the rights of Romanian workers in the EU



© Vasile Blaga / Facebook

The European Social Security Passport is an instrument to protect the rights of workers in the European Union, MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) told for CaleaEuropeană.ro on Monday.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution at last week’s plenary session in Strasbourg calling on the European Commission to speed up the procedures for introducing the European Social Security Passport.

“This passport will play an extremely important role especially for mobile workers in the EU and will actively contribute to the fight against social fraud and undeclared work. Moreover, it will make it much easier to protect the rights of workers and their social security contributions. At the same time, this passport will be an extremely useful tool in simplifying and streamlining bureaucratic and administrative procedures in the area of the mobile labour market”, said EPP MEP Vasile Blaga.

He pointed out that the number of Romanian workers circulating in the European labour market is extremely high and drew attention to the many cases where Romanian workers have been abused, had their fundamental rights ignored by employers in other countries or have not been paid social security.

“This passport can be a first step in protecting their rights much more rigorously across Romania’s borders in the European Union. The complexity of implementing the European Social Security Passport comes from the fact that it will have to take into account all the particularities of the national social security systems, while not becoming a condition for exercising free movement”, added the EPP MEP.

The European Parliament has asked the European Commission for a legislative proposal on a European social security passport before the end of 2022, to reduce the administrative burden on mobile workers.

In a resolution adopted on Thursday by 598 votes to 59 with 38 abstentions, MEPs urged the European Commission to speed up plans for a European Social Security Passport (ESSP) to facilitate the portability of social security rights for mobile workers.

The European Social Security Passport will allow real-time verification of mobile workers’ data by the national authorities of the Member State where they intend to work. It will help combat social fraud and undeclared work, while making it easier to track and claim workers’ social security rights and contributions.

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