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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW Joseph Daul, EPP President: “If there is one goal Russia shares with the populist parties in Europe, is to weaken and divide Europe”

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Different sorts of messages and rhetorics underscored by populist and Eurosceptic forces in Europe find themselves in a common goal with Russia: to weaken and divide Europe, strongly points the European People’s Party, Joseph Daul, in an exclusive interview granted for CaleaEuropeana.ro. The view of the European leader comes before important electoral moments in Europe: this year Romania will hold its parliamentary elections, while in 2017 the presidential elections in France and the legislative ones in Germany will be the headline for the political future within the continent. Nonetheless, the European Elections from 2019 are not that far.

Simultaneously, the leader of the largest political family in Europa has explained how the European Union can rise out of its crises that have brought the European project in uncertainty and which are the necessary measures for a better cooperation in fighting against terrorism.

Robert Lupițu (R.L.): We had in the last years as followed: national debt crisis, Greece debt crisis and its inability of payment on the financial markets, challenging and revisionist security environment in the Eastern Neighborhood. Now, with the migration crisis, UK’s agreement and referendum and the danger of terrorism, is proven that Europe cannot cope with multiple crises. What is your diagnosis on this and your overview for the near future?

joseph-daulJoseph Daul (J.D.): On the contrary, the EU has proved that it can cope with any crisis if it stays united. We should always see a crisis as an opportunity to take bold steps ahead and make the necessary changes to become more resilient. The answer to each of these crisis is more European integration. 

For example, during the financial crisis we were able to stay united and implement drastic reforms at the European level in a record time, like the Banking Union or the European stability mechanism to protect our citizens’ finances and prepare the EU economy for future challenges.

At the national level, the EPP governments in countries such as Cyprus, Latvia, Ireland, Spain, and Portugal showed courage and leadership and together with the sacrifices from their citizens succeeded in putting their economies back on track. Even if these government understood that unpopular measures will turn away many voters, they still put their interest of their citizens first. Every EU member that encountered difficulties has received help to overcome the crisis. EU solidarity exists and it functions.

As regards ongoing challenges, like Greece, migration, or Brexit, I believe we can find a solution but only if we stay united and respect the rules. For instance, the European Commission has put forward the necessary measures to help deal with the refugee crisis and alleviate the burden on the member states. But it was also up to each country individually to implement the Commission’s proposals.

Whatever the future has in store for us, we must always embrace every challenge and turn it into an opportunity. We live in an ever changing world and Europe also needs to constantly adapt to these new changes. Only by working towards finding solutions together, we will be able to overcome our problems. Europe is not the problem but the solution despite what the populists are saying. The populists are a threat to our values as they can only offer simple solutions to complex problems but none of their answers are sustainable at the end.

R.L.: On the terrorist threat: different locations (Charlie Hebdo, Saint Denis, Bataclan, Zaventem, Maelbeek) the same result – panic, deaths, insecurity and no prospective. Does Europe, as a whole, need to learn that this is our new modus vivendi? If not, what are the concrete actions in this direction? Passengers Data Flight directive, Schengen Information System update, EUROPOL enhanced capabilities etc.? If intelligence services cooperation is possible, what should be the driving force for that to happen? It seems that political consent is not enough?

J.D.: While I condemn all terrorist attacks against innocent people, I strongly believe that we should maintain our way of life and not yield to terror. Our societies are based on democracy, freedom, and tolerance, and we must stay united in front of these threats by defending our values and fight any type of extremism. 

It is clear that we are facing new security challenges in Europe with foreign fighters returning from Syria and Europeans becoming radicalized by terrorist organisations. This new reality requires more efforts from the member states on all levels. One of the EPP’s priority has been to ensure the safety of our citizens. In order to achieve that, we believe that the EU should have a real and functional security and defence policy, including a European army, as we already stated at our congress last autumn in Madrid. We need a European army not to make war but to maintain peace.

EU countries’ intelligence services are already cooperating among each other and I am confident that such collaboration will continue to increase. Apart from internal cooperation, we should also work closely with our neighbouring countries to prevent and identify these threats.

The EPP has also been the driving force in the European Parliament to pass legislation that would help EU countries prevent more terrorist threats, like the European Fingerprint Database (EURODAC), the Schengen Information System II (SISII), or the European Criminal Record System (ECRIS) and the Directive on Terrorism. The EPP group in the European Parliament also advocated  for months to adopt immediately the law on the Passenger Name Record (PNR) but the process got delayed as other political parties blocked it until recently.

The EPP will continue working towards making Europe a safe place.

R.L.: Europe’s relation with Russia has divergent views: The European Parliament has a consent for keeping the sanctions up, in the Council the Member Countries seem divided, at the Commission President Juncker had criticized declaration Passau last year about Russia. Now, with the Panama Papers, there are data that reveal suppositions: Russian financing through off-shores Euro-sceptic and populist factions like Marine Le Pen’s National Front. How should the European Union continue to act regarding Russia and how the foreseeable future looks for EaP countries, like Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine – is it a European one?

J.D.: One of the preconditions for the EU to let go of the restrictive measures against Russia is the fulfilment of the Minsk agreement by the Russian Federation. As long as these conditions are not met and the Russian aggression against Ukraine continues, the EPP will not support lifting the sanctions.

It is no secret that Russia has been financing National Front of Marine Le Pen in France as well as fully supporting the European extreme-left and extreme-right. If there is one goal Russia shares with the populist parties in Europe, is to weaken and divide Europe. 

EU enlargement has been one of the most successful European policies and an effective tool in promoting democracy, reforms, and economic development. The EPP family has always been supportive of the Balkan and Eastern Partnership countries that are seeking to join the European Union and will continue to advocate for enlargement until these countries are ready to join our Union.  In the meantime, these countries must implement the necessary reforms and put in place the rule of law, fight corruption and achieve an independent justice system. Only then they will be able to offer a stable economic environment to foreign investors, which will lead to more jobs and prosperity for their citizens, and ultimately a place in the EU family. 

We also call for Russia to respect the territorial integrity of every country. The annexation of Crimea and the pressure it exerts on the Eastern Partnership countries with embargoes and geopolitical games is unacceptable.

Read other CaleaEuropeana.ro interviews on similar topics:

Special Interview. Paulo Rangel, EPP MEP&leader of the European Ideas Network: “Europe isn’t empowered enough to answer and to respond to crisis. We have to take steps towards a more federalist model in Europe”

EXCLUSIV INTERVIU Jean-Claude Juncker, candidatul PPE la şefia Comisiei Europene: Nu poți construi un viitor numai pe datorii

EXCLUSIVE Interview given by the President of Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. HANS-GERT PÖTTERING’s message for a united Europe: ”Together we are strong. Unity in diversity!”

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Robert Lupițu este redactor-șef, specialist în relații internaționale, jurnalist în afaceri europene și doctorand în domeniul reasigurării strategice a NATO. Robert este laureat al concursului ”Reporter și Blogger European” la categoria Editorial și co-autor al volumelor ”România transatlantică” și ”100 de pași pentru o cetățenie europeană activă”. Face parte din Global Shapers Community, o inițiativă World Economic Forum, și este Young Strategic Leader în cadrul inițiativelor The Aspen Institute. Din 2019, Robert este parte a programului #TT27 Leadership Academy organizat de European Political Strategy Center, think tank-ul Comisiei Europene.

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Foreign Affairs Minister Ramona Mănescu: The Strategic Partnership with the US is the central focus of the Romanian diplomacy, while the accession to Schengen remains a priority

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Foreign Affairs Minister Ramona Mănescu said on Thursday that Romania’s accession to Schengen remains a priority of the Romanian diplomacy.

“Evoking the period when I was MEP, I can certainly tell you that (…) all the time both [the European] Parliament and the Commission said Romania was prepared to join Schengen, from a technical and logistical point of view. (…) Practically, we function de facto as a Schengen member state, but de jure we are not regarded as such. Romania doesn’t ask anything but the observance of the Treaty, we are members with full rights, we met our commitments and we seriously continue to meet them, no one can challenge Romania’s contribution to the security space, because we are not talking only about the eastern flank of NATO, we are also talking about EU’s eastern flank,” Ramona Mănescu told Antena 3 private television broadcaster on Thursday, quoted by Agerpres.

She maintained that the Romanian citizens “have all the right to get this well-deserved position of Schengen member state.”

“This is not something we must beg for, or be made a favour. It is provided in the Treaty and it must be observed. (…) I assure you we keep this on the agenda as priority topic, and all bilateral and extended discussions will include the Schengen accession component, we won’t stop from telling our colleagues in the EU that the Romanian citizens have the same rights,” Mănescu underscored, mentioning that, at present, in the Council half of the states support Romania’s accession to the free movement area, and the others oppose.

The Foreign Minister also pointed out that the Strategic Partnership with the US must remain the central focus of the Romanian diplomacy.

She also showed that Romania has the same position towards Russia as NATO and the EU.

“Romania’s position towards Russia starts in the first place from the vicinity we are in, but it is also part of the EU’s position regarding Russia, as we are part of the EU, we must get in line with EU’s stand. I am referring to sanctions, to certain limitations that we have in the dialogue and cooperation with Russia and I am particularly referring to the firm position we have as EU member, which we have always had, of observing the international legislative framework. We don’t ask too much from Russia as an actor on the geopolitical stage if we ask them to respect the international legislative framework. (…) It is the principle which we start from and which we cannot fail to keep not even for Russia, which is here, close to us. We have no reason to make an exception, because nothing is negotiable in this story,” Ramona Mănescu said.

According to the Minister, the relation with Russia represents “a key point in the stability in the area, in securing NATO’s eastern flank, in the manner in which we can further manage the discussions in the Black Sea. “The threats and gestures which Russia has repeatedly done in the Black Sea space, from a military stand, have been sanctioned all the time. (…) Both NATO and the EU have the same discourse. Romania cannot have a different discourse, because it is both part of the EU and NATO, and we are at the Black Sea,” she added.

Mănescu also said that she expected “the energy diplomacy to have its word,” in regards to the resources in the Black Sea.

“Our desire is for a partner such as Exxon to stay here and continue to work together as much and as well as possible. This entails our making some steps in an expected direction. I believe things will settle in the end, enter the right track and I even want to clarify this position shortly and the US partners must be convinced that we’ll be keeping the same line. (…) Mrs PM wants this as well,” Mănescu said.

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Romania has a new Foreign Affairs Minister. Ramona Mănescu took the oath of office

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Ramona Mănescu, Nicolae Moga and Mihai Fifor took the oath of office on Wednesday in the presence of President Klaus Iohannis for the Interior and Foreign Affairs Ministries office, Deputy Prime Minister for implementing Romania’s strategic partnerships office respectively.

The head of state wished success to the new three members of the Dancila Cabinet.

The swearing-in ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, ministers, Deputy Speaker of the Deputies’ Chamber Florin Iordache, Government Secretary General Toni Grebla and presidential advisors.

President Klaus Iohannis signed on Wednesday the decrees appointing Nicolae Moga as Interior Minister and Ramona Mănescu as Foreign Affairs Minister, according to a Presidential Administration release.

Through another decree, Mihai Fifor was appointed Deputy Prime Minister for implementing Romania’s strategic partnerships.

Furthermore, Iohannis took note of Carmen Dan’s resignation from the Interior Ministry and signed the decree dismissing Teodor Meleșcanu from the Foreign Affairs Minister office.

Ramona Mănescu is a Romanian politician and lawyer. She was a Member of the European Parliament serving 2007 to 2013 and 2014 to 2019 from the National Liberal Party (till July 2017), active within the European People’s Party group in the European Parliament.

As part of this group she is a member of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, vice-chair in the Delegation for relations with the Mashreq countries and a substitute member in the Committee on transport and tourism and in Delegation for relations with the Arab Peninsula.

Between 2007 and 2014 she was part of the ALDE group in the European Parliament, where she also held the position of Vice-President (11 November 2012 – June 2014) of the ALDE Party (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party). As a member of this group she is a coordinator in the Regional Development Committee and a member in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs.

At the European Parliamentary elections from June 2014, Mănescu renewed her mandate within European Parliament, where she became a member of the European People’s Party group in the Parliament European.

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Romania: President Klaus Iohannis appoints former MEP Ramona Mănescu as the new Foreign Affairs Minister

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President Klaus Iohannis signed on Wednesday the decrees appointing Nicolae Moga as Interior Minister and Ramona Mănescu as Foreign Affairs Minister, according to a Presidential Administration release.

Furthermore, Iohannis took note of Carmen Dan’s resignation from the Interior Ministry and signed the decree dismissing Teodor Melescanu from the Foreign Affairs Minister office.

Through another decree, Mihai Fifor was appointed Deputy Prime Minister for implementing Romania’s strategic partnerships.

The swearing-in ceremony takes place on Wednesday at 11:00hrs, at the Cotroceni Presidential Palace. 

Ramona Mănescu is a Romanian politician and lawyer. She was a Member of the European Parliament serving 2007 to 2013 and 2014 to 2019 from the National Liberal Party (till July 2017), active within the European People’s Party group in the European Parliament.

As part of this group she is a member of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, vice-chair in the Delegation for relations with the Mashreq countries and a substitute member in the Committee on transport and tourism and in Delegation for relations with the Arab Peninsula.

Between 2007 and 2014 she was part of the ALDE group in the European Parliament, where she also held the position of Vice-President (11 November 2012 – June 2014) of the ALDE Party (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party). As a member of this group she is a coordinator in the Regional Development Committee and a member in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs.

At the European Parliamentary elections from June 2014, Mănescu renewed her mandate within European Parliament, where she became a member of the European People’s Party group in the Parliament European.

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