Manfred Weber wants EU to demonstrate its 'added value'

The ongoing migration and Greek crises are set to dominate the new parliamentary term, but EPP group chair is confident Juncker can help come up with answers.

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

08 Sep 2015

The new parliamentary year brings with it many crucial dossiers for MEPs, something European People's Party (EPP) group chair Manfred Weber is well aware of. 

He explains, "besides migration issues, some of the other topics that will keep us busy for the next few months and beyond are security and the fight against terrorism."

"Also, EU relations with Russia, transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) negotiations, new initiatives for boosting growth and jobs, following up on the Greek crisis and the reform programme that the Greek government has agreed to implement."


Thousands of refugees continue to die trying to enter the EU - with many having drowned attempting to cross the Mediterranean - yet member states struggle to come up with solutions. Weber says, "migration issues will without a doubt be one of the most widely discussed topics, not only in the upcoming parliamentary year, but also for several years to come."

"We urgently need to find a common European solution; this is not only a problem for Greece or Italy, but also for all EU countries. We need greater solidarity among the member states to help share the burden of this massive influx of people, most of whom are fleeing war-torn areas in Syria and Libya."

"People whose lives are at risk in their home countries are protected under international law and it is our duty to grant them protection."

"However, at the same time", says the German deputy, "Europe cannot welcome everybody. We need to be very clear on the rules that apply: migrants who are not granted asylum and economic migrants should be returned to their countries."

"This is why we need to work more closely with the countries of origin. We also need to step up the fight against people smugglers and stop the traffickers who are exploiting and profiting from the despair our fellow human beings."


Tsipras 'destroyed trust between Greece and EU'

After months of contentious talks, a so-called 'Grexit' was avoided and Athens managed to reach an agreement with its creditors to unlock new bailout funds. Weber is proud that, "both the Commission and the Eurogroup played a major role in trying to find a solution that would make a good future for Greece possible."

"European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, especially, spared no effort and was involved night and day in the negotiations with the Greek government. The problems came mainly from the Greek side. The European negotiators had to deal with a Greek Prime Minister [Alexis Tsipras] who did not tell Greek citizens the truth during the election campaign and who kept making false promises to his voters."

"Tsipras destroyed a lot of trust between Greece and the other EU member states, before making a U-turn and finally realising that deep and ambitious structural reforms are the only way out of the crisis for Greece. For the upcoming early election, I hope he will act responsibly and tell his citizens the truth."


'EPP group wants UK to remain part of EU community'

Another member state set for tense discussions with the Commission is the UK, with the British government promising a referendum on EU membership by 2017. 

Weber insists that the EPP "wants the UK to remain a part of this community, and we believe and hope that most of the British people will choose to do so too."

"In the upcoming months, [Prime Minister David Cameron and his team] will have to outline how they see the UK's position in Europe. I think Europe can benefit from a constructive discussion aimed at making the EU more efficient. We are open to this discussion."

"In return, it would be logical that in areas where the UK has an opt-out, it would no longer have the right to use its veto, nor would it take part in votes by qualified majority. Britain should not prevent other member states from pursuing further integration if they wish to do so. This is only fair."

"But the discussion in the UK should not only focus on these topics. What is much more important is that British voters ask themselves the following question: is the UK stronger or weaker alone than within the EU?"

"In our view, the answer is clear: it is together with the other member states that the UK is strongest. But it is up to British citizens to decide."

Manfred Weber has high praise for commission chief Juncker - also a member of the EPP - explaining that, "thanks to the 'Spitzenkandidaten' process [whereby each European party named its candidate for commission president], he is the first commission president to be elected by 500 million European citizens."

"Never in the EU's history has a commission president enjoyed such democratic legitimacy and parliamentary support. Consequently, never has the cooperation between the commission and the parliament, the direct representatives of EU citizens, been so close." 

Yet, cautions the centre-right MEP, "never, also, have the challenges lying ahead been so enormous. On stability, on growth and jobs, on the fight against terrorism, on security issues and migration, but also on foreign affairs."

"The need for a Europe that is strong and that makes its voice heard in the world is huge. We need to come up with answers and demonstrate Europe's added value. Since their entry into function, the commission president and his team have been actively working towards that goal."

"On migration issues, but also in the negotiations with Greece, Jean-Claude Juncker has shown exceptional political courage, not hesitating to go much further than the member states."

"He is taking his role seriously and he and his team are delivering on their promises. This is what we need in these difficult times. We are looking forward to continuing our good cooperation in the upcoming months."


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