Manfred Weber has called on the EU to focus more on a “new orientation” instead of “crisis management.”
The senior German deputy, who is seen as a leading candidate to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the next president of the European commission, was speaking at a news briefing in Strasbourg.
The EPP MEP told reporters, “The last ten years in the EU have been all about crisis management, including the Greek financial crisis and the Brexit crisis.”
He added, “But there has not been so much about the future orientation of the EU, so we must show we are now ready to open up a new chapter in the EU’s history and produce forward looking ideas for the EU.”
Weber, who said he will start what he calls the “hot phase” of his commission presidency campaign in Athens on Tuesday, also addressed the current Brexit impasse and last week’s EU summit where it was agreed to give the UK an extension to its protracted exit from the bloc.
He said, “Last week, we kept the unity of the EU together. To keep the 27 member states together is a big thing and very positive.”
“we are now ready to open up a new chapter in the EU’s history and produce forward looking ideas for the EU” Manfred Weber (DE, EPP)
However, he also said he was “very sceptical” about granting the UK a long extension as had been proposed at the summit.
With the European parliament elections being held in May, Weber added, “I must underline that I cannot explain to our citizens that a country that is leaving the EU will have a big say in its future.”
“A Brexit cliff edge exit was avoided but there has not been much debate about what all this means for this parliament. There’s a principle at stake and we must take care of our institution but, for now, the Brits are still in the EU, so they have a full right to participate in the elections.”
Speaking at a separate news conference in the Strasbourg parliament, the assembly’s president Antonio Tajani appealed to the media to help publicise the EU’s achievements ahead of the May 23-26 May poll.
The EPP member said, “We need to get out more information about our work in every country and we need the support of the media in explaining our work in these elections.”
Also addressing the elections issue, Latvian PM Krišjānis Kariņš refused to be drawn on the expected influx of members from populist and nationalist parties.
Speaking in parliament, the former MEP said, “Voters will have a chance to send the people they want to represent them here but whether there will or will not be any new groups here is another question. It seems the centre right is expected to do well but we will see. But there is very little point in speculating.”
“We have had our fights, but I have been with you for over 40 years and will miss you” European Parliament President Antonio Tajani (IT, EPP)
Elsewhere, tributes have been paid to German EPP member Elmar Brok, who made his last speech in Strasbourg after nearly 40 years in parliament.
A clearly emotional Brok said, “Europe can go down in history. It had just nine members and a customs union that was not working very well when I was elected. It now has 28 members and a successful single market.”
On Brexit, Brok said “We will revisit the situation in October because, so far, nothing has been resolved. It remains to be seen if Mrs May and Jeremy Corbyn will cut a deal but by then the UK will either have to leave or stay in the EU.”
Brok won applause from other members and Juncker led tributes to him, telling the German, “You have served us well and I hope you do not forget about EU politics when you leave.”
Tajani said he and other MEPs had “shared a long past” with Brok, adding, “We have had our fights, but I have been with you for over 40 years and will miss you.