Dods EU Briefing: Greens/EFA group hearing with Jean-Claude Juncker

Written by Milenia Matkowska, Dods EU Monitoring consultant on 11 July 2014 in EU Monitoring
EU Monitoring

Greens/EFA group's MEPs discussed with Jean-Claude Juncker his EC Presidency program in view of EP vote on his candidacy next week.

Please note that this does not constitute a formal record of the proceedings of the meeting. It is dependent on interpretation and acts as an unofficial summary of the debate.

Before the European Parliament (EP) decides on July 15, political groups will address their questions and concerns to Mr Juncker as nominated candidate for the European Commission (EC) Presidency.The Greens/EFA Group held a hearing on July 9 with Mr Juncker. The Group will base their decision on how his priorities match with the Group's vision for the European Commission over the coming 5 years.

Jean-Claude Juncker, Commission President Candidate started by noting that he has always seen the Green Group as a natural part of a pro-European majority.

He then said that the election campaign is the only political reference he has. During the election campaign he felt disadvantaged as he had to defend what the Council has done. He had to defend the track record of the Commission. He could see what was good and what was not good. Some of the errors were easily accepted under the previous Commission term.

One of his main priorities is growth and jobs, he stated. There is a massive gap that has been broadening over decades. It is not just a question of time. There is a need to speak about Europe in a different way. He is very much in favour of the Council of Europe. It should be admired for what it has done. He then said that the European Union (EU) is not Europe. Not everything that happens in Europe has to be a problem of the EU.

He is in favour of the principle of subsidiarity as part of the social doctrine. One needs to respect old principles of subsidiarity, he added.

The EU is judged by adjustment programmes. Growth and jobs are at the heart of concerns of all Europeans. He is in favour of the budget discipline, but against exaggerated austerity measures that cause injustice, he said. For adjustment programmes there should be studies on the applications of these programmes.

The EU should consider replacing the Troika with basic principles. The EC does not have the capability to launch adjustment programmes. The Eurogroup should be involved in the work of the Troika. He would fight tax evasion and tax dumping. He will continue his work on the financial transaction tax. There is a need to take a new look at corporate taxation. It might be not good for some countries but it would be good for Europe. The governments should not be victims of tax competition. There should be a minimum stage in Europe. He added that the financial perspective should be looked at.

As for investment, Europe needs investment, he said. Public and private investments have dropped very seriously. Public investment cuts went even deeper. He wants to make Europe a private and public investment place again. He decided to wait for the hearings with the Parliament groups before talking to the European Investment Bank. This is to see if the EU could invest in new legal financial instruments to boost investment. It should be focused on small businesses and it should be innovative. The EU should be taking account of investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy. That could be part of a new investing economy. Investment and linear bureaucracy are priorities in Europe. Debate is needed on this.

Josep-Maria Terricabras (Greens/EFA, ES) talked about independence in Scotland and Catalonia. How would EU institutions react if there is a yes in the two referendums?

Jean-Claude Juncker said that he is very much in favour of democracy expression, but he would not be arrogant or foolish enough to pre-empty the debate. It is something that has to be debated in Spain and the UK. He would respect the outcome of the referendum. Subsidiarity needs to be kept in mind.

Democracy

Yannick Jadot (Greens/EFA, FR) said that one of Mr Juncker’s priorities is to achieve a free trade agreement with USA. His Group is against this. As for investment agreements, companies would be able to take countries to supranational courts. Will you make it possible for citizens to be in charge, he asked. Would Mr Juncker make public documents related to major decisions?

Jean-Claude Juncker said that looking at the arrangements that exist he does not understand why great democracy would not have faith in judiciary. There are courts that are able to deal with cases that are brought to them. He is not in favour of private courts. He is in favour of rule of law and the application of law.

On transparency, he does not know what the situation is. Once he has further information he will be able to answer the questions. ‘I am a citizen like you, I do not know what happens, he said’. The EU needs to be able to conclude the negotiations. It is important to bring the democratic powers closer. As for the EU and USA, it is important to have transparency, but it will not be good idea to constantly reveal negotiations. Some documents could be made public but certainly not all of them. All documents that could be made public should be made public. Consumer rights and food security are really key issues, he added. On data protection, he does not want the EU to be in the situation of negotiating data protection. It needs to be outside the scope of negotiations.

Tamás Meszerics (Greens/EFA, HU) said that change could be needed at the institutional level. How to make sure that more transparency will be present if there are treaty changes? He also enquired about enlargement.

Jean-Claude Juncker in the first phrase there will be no new Member State. This does not mean that the negotiations will not be pursued. They could not be concluded in the next period though. There is a need to maintain the European perspective in particular for Western Balkans, one of the most complicated regions in Europe.

Treaty changes will depend on the internal debates. If treaty changes are open for debate the EU has to re-insert all governmental changes. I would not exclude treaty changes, but he would not like to make a promise.

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