Helga Stevens, the ECR group candidate for European Parliament President, has told Greens/EFA group MEPs how she would take on the leadership of the assembly if elected.
The Belgian deputy said it was time to "break away from the 'good old boys' club' that has been running the EU for many years now - five men from a few small countries - this is not healthy, nor is it democracy, and you can see the result of their work, with many crises taking place in Europe."
She pointed out that, "The European Parliament often talks about the importance of democracy and the participation of citizens, but we need to be practicing what we preach and organising elections that are open and offer actual choices. This is an important step in restoring people's trust in this institution."
Blasting the former 'grand coalition' deal between the EPP and S&D groups, Stevens highlighted that, "It represents about 300 million citizens, but the remaining 200 million are not represented, we are being excluded from decision making. I understand that coalitions are needed, but coalitions should be based on proposals and arguments, not on pre-arranged deals."
In a Q&A session, MEPs asked her how she would be able to represent the European Parliament, coming from a group that is seen as having little support for the EU. Stevens rebuffed these claims, insisting that the ECR group was "Euro-realist" and that no one in her group was "anti-Europe. No one in my group wants to see Europe disintegrate. We want to see Europe work better."
On the topic of Brexit, she said it was important now to "stop the discontent" among citizens who "do not feel listened to."
She said, "I want to solve the problems people are facing, and once we do, they will see why the EU matters. It was supposed to be a collaboration between member states to achieve stability, security and prosperity. At the moment, people aren't seeing that."
Once again reminding her audience that the ECR group was not anti-Europe, Stevens said, "If it was, I wouldn't be running for President on their behalf. That would be ridiculous, I wouldn't have an ounce of credibility and there would be no point in running for this position."
The Belgian deupty insisted that if elected, she would represent the views of Parliament as a whole, saying, "My views as an individual MEP are different than what a President should be doing. These are two different roles. The President is meant to be a neutral participant and I will act in agreement with the Conference of Presidents."