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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 membru al programului #TT27 Leadership Academy organizat de European Political Strategy Center, think tank-ul Comisiei Europene.

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MEP Vasile Blaga: EU must create solid programs in order to rebuild the labor market

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MEP Vasile Blaga, a member of the EPP Group in the European Parliament, stresses that the European Union must create solid programs for consolidating and rebuilding the labor market after the COVID-19 period.

“Economic data for the second quarter of 2020 show a worrying decline in the labor market across the European Union. In Romania, the number of closed employment contracts has increased alarmingly – we are approaching one million closed employment contracts, and the number of closed contracts on 15 July is double compared to 1st June 2020. The most affected sectors are manufacturing and it is possible that in the next period we will see a massive increase in contracts in the hospital industry, still affected by the restrictions generated by the pandemic “, said the MEP for Calea Europeană media platform.

According to the Liberal MEP, protecting jobs must be the number one priority for the European Union.

“It is clear that the European Union must be massively concerned with protecting existing jobs and financially stimulating the creation of new ones ”, he added.

Private sector employment must also be a priority for the European Commission: “Direct funding through various forms of private sector employment must be a priority for the Commission in the next period, complemented by the stimulation of sectors severely affected by pandemic – the hospitality industry and the arts and entertainment sector are a priority in this regard “, said the EPP MEP Vasile Blaga.

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MEP Vasile Blaga: The European Parliament was divided between East and West in the vote for the Mobility Package

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© Vasile Blaga/Facebook

MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) points out that the European Parliament was divided between East and West in the vote for the Mobility Package during the week’s plenary session and criticizes protectionism in a market declared “free”.

“The East lost the vote even if, this time, the ideological separations were erased and it voted in corpore for the defense of the rights of the eastern carriers. All amendments tabled to address some of the discriminatory provisions contained in the legislative proposal have been rejected. Anyone with common sense understands that thousands of trucks that drive even empty every eight weeks to the country where they are registered are a major source of pollution, a substantial addition to traffic, and an aberrant waste of resources. Some provisions appear to be dedicated to Eastern carriers, which do nothing but operate fairly and honestly in a freely competitive market. In essence, protectionism is practiced in a market declared free “, the MEP said in a press release.

The Liberal MEP hopes that the analysis of the European Executive will turn the whole process upside down: “There is still hope that the European Executive will show the truth in the impact analysis it has to carry out by the end of the year “, added Vasile Blaga.

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EC Communication chief warns: Disinformation is a real threat to public health during COVID-19 crisis

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Disinformation has presented itself as a real threat to public health during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, the head of the DG Communication of the European Commission, said on Wednesday.

During the conference “Communicating Europe: corona, recovery and beyond”  the director of CaleaEuropeană.ro platform, Dan Cărbunaru, asked the Director-General of DG Communication of the European Executive, regarding the European Union instruments used in the hybrid warfare, but also how the European Commission intends to act through its expertise against misinformation and to protect the citizens against fears.

Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, as Director-General DG Communication, explained to CaleaEuropeană.ro the steps that the European executive has taken, in order to take effective measures against disinformation and mitigate the real threat to public health.

 

Dan Cărbunaru: ”As you finished your presentation, initially, talking about misinformation, I would like to ask you something about it, because each crisis that hit Europe was treated as an opportunity usually to develop new tools for providing an increased European approach in solving European citizens problems. And in the last years, we saw the pressure, we felt the pressure heavily put by the propaganda and the tools of hybrid war. And my question for you is, as we know that we have some tools; EU is stuck on the task force, for instance, do you intend does the Commission intend to protect the public’s fears, using this expertise, this kind of expertise already, let’s say tested in combat, and which is on the European Union, the major risk identified so far in terms of hybrid war in Europe.”

Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen: Thank you very much for this very important question.

”Of course indeed as you also stressed there are several actors in this at the institutional level in the European Union. You are right,  that it’s absolutely something that has grown very rapidly since the beginning of the crisis, and it has continued to spread, as we saw the crisis the coronavirus crisis, playout and indeed, it has been playing very much on people’s fears, in relation to this particular crisis and, and the increased use of social media. And it has, in the context of the coronavirus crisis, it has really even presented a real threat to public health, as well as, indeed, and that’s not new. Those who have propagated this information have taken advantage of the situation to sometimes push political agendas. As far as the action that we have been taken. We have definitely reverted also in this crisis many myths, a lot of misinformation because there’s misinformation and then there’s disinformation this deliberate malign attempt to manipulate opinion and information, but I mentioned, everything that has been circulating about the health aspects of the disease, of course, or the, the disease itself or the treatments or the vaccines I referred to it already, as well as also. And there are, indeed, some foreign actors have come in as well. When it comes to the perceived lack of EU response or perceived lack of solidarity.

Our president was very conscious of this from an early moment and asked us to have as part of this website that she asked us to create, to communicate what Europe is doing to fight the coronavirus crisis. She also asked us to have a disinformation section there.

So that we actually in all languages, and in a format that makes it very easy also to share these stories setting the record straight if you like on social media.

This is one part of the, of the strategy, it is of course to provide the stories, and the facts in a very accessible way also when it comes to the crisis but in a broader frame when it comes to dealing with this information it’s also about informing and educating the public about this disinformation itself, how it works as a phenomenon, and indeed the danger that it poses in this case both to public health, and to democracy, and this is something that this commission is also very concerned about, you will have heard our vice president Jurova also in addition to the president herself and other members of the college have been very strongly voicing their concern in this area. So, communicating actually very actively and regularly, about how you actually identify disinformation, and how a typical online user can protect himself from disinformation is also part of the response. So, without having the time to go into all the details, a very multifaceted approach is needed. Also involving working with platforms as we do and we have done for some time now, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and since this month, also Tick Tock on developing standards to maintain the online information environment clean from harmful misinformation and disinformation.

And then we have our code of practice which is actually the first of its kind of a self-regulatory effort in this area which is definitely called upon to grow even more important and ambitious as we as we go along, and we will see to which extent, it needs to be complemented with with with regulation.

We also need to fund, and that’s what we’re doing, we’re funding researchers and civil society organizations that are dedicated to studying also the phenomenon of disinformation and to finding solutions and, and fact-checking is also very independent fact-checking of course it’s not something we do, but we support it, as well as developing new technologies we will also be able to be helped by artificial intelligence in this respect, definitely. And therefore, and then also protecting elections and public information to do this.

You refer to the EEAS and it’s true that the EEAS has played a truly a crucial role in fighting disinformation as a foreign policy threat, you refer to that and that has expanded to now, including more teams that are focusing on different regions outside the EU, where this information might originate, and you will find in relation to the corona crisis, which quite comprehensive information on where we are stepping up the action, and this includes also doing more on social media in the debate and the Member States.

On the 10th of June when we published a document on how we intend to step up the action and learn the lessons, from the coronavirus crisis when it comes to disinformation. But by the end of the day, it’s also about building trust in institutions having a strong communications environment, and this support to independent media that I mentioned, in addition to because it happens, it starts with ourselves and how do we actually explain things that we know to our friends and families and how do we think about sharing social media posts that we see, this is something that all of us have to pay very much attention to. So, checking your sources and thinking before sharing I think is also the part of the reflex that everyone needs to embrace so promoting that is very important as well.”


OpenEUDebate is a Jean Monnet network of academic institutions (Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Spain; the National University of Political and Administrative Studies – SNSPA, Romania; Institut d’études européennes de l’Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium; The Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium and Agenda Pública, Spain.
”We intend to create a self-sustainable network of experts of varying degrees of seniority working as mediators with national communities of beneficiaries and users that will influence the public debate. The OpenEUdebate community will address two types of fragmentation: between the local-national and the European public sphere, and between specialized knowledge and public debate.”
OpenEUDebate ”will be an accessible and inclusive community where issues are debated critically with a wide range of views. It will “translate” expert knowledge (about contents and procedures) into relevant information for public debate; it will explain the terms of its politicization (above partisan lines); and will enhance the level of public deliberation about it.”
Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen sits at the meeting point of EU communications and policy. She has been Director-General of DG Communication (COMM) since March 2019 and has been overseeing the communication around the European Commission’s response to the coronavirus crisis. Previous roles have included Deputy Secretary-General of the European Commission and Chief Spokesperson of the European Commission. She holds a Master of Science in International Business Administration and Modern Languages, Copenhagen Business School, with a dissertation on European Identity.

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