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INTERVIEW| Antonio López-Istúriz, EPP Secretary General: Romania, electorally speaking, is a key country that could balance majorities in the European Parliament



Romania is a key country that could balance political majorities in the European Parliament, EPP Secretary General Antonio López-Istúriz said in an interview for Calea Europeană. Asked on the EPP plans for the upcoming European elections, Lopez underlined the importance of talking to citizens about major issues in a „simplified language”.

„We speak about things that are affecting them (n.r. the citizens) today, questions like immigration, security, jobs and economy, things that everybody is thinking about. So instead of speaking about complicated European treaties or laws, we want to simplify the language, make it more adaptable to the social reality nowadays, that we become defenders of the European Union in a language that is understood by everybody, that is the principle aim of EPP”, Lopez said.


Asked on who is their main political competitor, Lopez said that he considers it to be „his duty” to explain to people that choose to vote for populists that they only ask questions, without offering answers to the citizens. The biggest threat is „ourselves, if we are not capable of translating to our voters what are the good things about the EU”.

„I am not a politician that considers that I have enemies around; even people that vote for the populist parties or have extreme options, I don’t consider them enemies or guilty. My duty is to convince them to vote again, for our options which are the most reasonable, which want to work for the European project. It is very easy to be on the populistic side for politicians, but not for people who are voting for them because they are searching for answers to beat questions. We have to be capable to regain them because they have gone through very difficult situations, especially people that have been left without jobs or that have suffered for many reasons. We have to be capable to regain them to the European Union”, Lopez said.

„I think in the end, Brexit will be a setback for the populists”

„Time will say if this was a big victory. I want to see the real effect, next year, of Brexit, on the UK. I think that is going to be tougher than they expect and now that they are realising it, many of them, many Brexiteers resigned from their positions after the referendum, scared because they knew perfectly well what are the bad consequences of leaving the European Union for the UK. I think, in the end, it will be a setback for the populists”, said the EPP official on Brexit.

„It’s always the same: populists create the problem and then it’s up to us to find the solutions”

The MEP criticised the politicians that pleaded for Brexit, saying that the populists later ran when facing the consequences of their actions, leaving the problems to the European institutions. 

„So it’s always the same: populists create the problem and then it’s us to find the solutions. Where are the solutions from the populists? Where are the solutions of Boris Johnson for the situation created? no, he quitted. He ran away – these are the populists’ solutions. When they are confronted with the reality, they leave. When they want to criticize, they are first. It is very easy in politics to criticize, I can do it tomorrow morning, and we have to be auto critical with the European Union institutions, of course we are in a continuing reform process and we have to do so. It is not a perfect system, but you have to do the fight from inside, not the outside. The least brave thing to do is to go outside, the brave thing is to stay inside and try to change things for the better security of our people”, Secretary General said.

„Brexit is going to happen”, but it is early, at this point, to say what kind of influence it will have on the European elections Lopez said.

„We’ll see afterwards what are the consequences, very bad ones for the United Kingdom. My worry is 400.000 Romanians living in the UK and working there, that is my worry now, and the 300.000 Spanish, also. This is what I have to worry about, the rest is for them. They are leaving? Ok, goodbye, it’s us 27 that we have to worry about and our citizens also living there”, EPP official added. 

„800 delegates from all around Europe will elect the EPP candidate for President of the European Commission”

„Both candidates are great, the deadline is still open so I can not tell you if this is a close list”, Lopez said, adding that the deadline „it is on the 17th of October, next week at noon”. „Meanwhile, these two officials have presented their candidatures – Manfred Weber and Alex Stubb. And they both have fantastic curriculums, very well known European national and also local politicians in their countries and in the regions which both of them have great postures in campaigning in Europe and it is the Congress. 800 delegates from all around Europe, from our member parties, in the case of Romania from PNL, that will decide at the end who will be our candidate for becoming the next president of the European Commission if the EPP has a good score during the European elections.

„That promise will be accomplished”, Lopez said, asked on a statement from the EPP regarding a future presence of the EPP’s lead candidate (Spitzenkandidat) in Romania, during our presidency of the Council of the European Union. Romania is a fundamental country and our PNL party for us, here in Brussels. So it is going to be, I am sure, a presence of the candidate in Romania during the campaign. (…) Romania, electorally speaking, is a key country that could balance majorities or not in the European Parliament and we are taking very seriously our roles, our friends”.

„Who best to speak about Europe than mayors, local counselors, regional ministers or politicians? Or members of the European Parliament. Because the are hundreds of political positions and on local and regional they have direct contact with the citizens everyday. It is better that they speak about Europe and explain Europe much better than I can do it. Because I am a European politician (…) And I believe that people who speak the same language and have the same culture have to translate the European ideals to the people. And I am very respectful of that, that is why I believe in the principle of subsidiarity which means that local politicians are the ones doing this job for the European Union.”, Lopez said regarding the EPP Local Dialogue Series. 




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



©Vasile Blaga/ Facebook

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



© 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



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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