Parliament president insists he won't let new EU chief 'forget his promises'

Parliament president Martin Schulz and commission president-elect Jean-Claude Juncker faced journalists for the first time together following the election of the new commission by MEPs.

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

22 Oct 2014

Describing the result of Wednesday's vote as "outstanding", Schulz said that this was "a key moment at the start of a new phase in European politics". He pointed out that this is the first commission elected entirely on the basis of the Lisbon treaty.

All previous commission presidents were appointed by the European council and then approved by the parliament. Under the Lisbon treaty, the council must take into consideration election results in the parliament before appointing a candidate.

Schulz reminded his audience that only a year ago, he and Juncker were both vying to become the next president of the commission, but that despite their past rivalry and political differences, he supports the former prime minister of Luxembourg and believes he will be a success.

"We cannot use greater deficits to finance [my investment package, therefore] the private sector must be greatly involved in the overall effort" - Juncker

Juncker thanked Schulz for "the good cooperation over the last few weeks and months, talking to each other virtually every day". He stressed that the two presidents must "work hand in hand". He noted that following last May's elections, the new parliament "is composed in quite a different way from its predecessor, yet this vote shows it is a convinced parliament" and described himself as "extremely happy with this result".

Juncker had previously announced a €300bn investment package to boost growth and employment in the EU. He insisted that he would start working on it straight away, and that the actual programme would be presented by the end of December.

Considering the current delicate economic climate throughout the EU, he explained that "we cannot use greater deficits to finance [this investment package, therefore] the private sector must be greatly involved in the overall effort".

When questioned on immigration and UK prime minister David Cameron's wish to limit the influx of immigrants from member states into Britain, the president-elect stated that the freedom of movement "is a basic principle of the EU […] and we are not prepared to change it, because if we destroy freedom of movement, other freedoms will fall".

He said that the commission was "not ready to compromise in an irresponsible way, but member states having to deal with [the problem of immigration] are free to take the initiatives they want as long as they are in line with the treaties".

In terms of entering into negotiations with Britain on the issue of its membership, Juncker reminded the audience that he had already announced in July that he wanted "a fair deal with Britain", but that as "the commission is not currently in a position to see what the UK will propose, it is not in a position to see how it will respond". Furthermore, he described the situation as "not as dramatic as it seems".

On the overall question of immigration, and especially refugees, Juncker said that this is a problem that requires solidarity on the part of all member states. He has designated a commissioner for migration, who will deal with both illegal and legal migration. Specific policies and budgetary aspects, however, remain to be determined, and no specific timeline was given.

"Schulz reminded [Juncker] that he himself had declared over the summer that 'the country where a company makes its profits must be the country where a company pays its profits'"

Schulz described the issue of immigration as "a permanent problem". He highlighted that "most refugees or asylum seekers want to go to three countries [Germany, France and Sweden] out of 28", and that the problem must be dealt with jointly by all EU states. He noted that it is important to provide refugees and asylum seekers with "the necessary treatment for a decent life" and that "they should have access to a job and finance their own lives".

As the former prime minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker was also asked about the investigation launched by the commission in June, looking into the tax treatment of multinational companies in several member states.

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is accused of questionable tax treatment of Fiat's financial branch, which is based within its borders. The events occurred at a time when Juncker was head of state.

Asked if he would be involved in the investigation, either overseeing it or even as a defendant, the next commission president insisted he would not be "a party in any such case" and that he would be "very careful not to have any involvement in proceedings".

Schulz interjected and reminded his commission counterpart that he himself had declared over the summer that "the country where a company makes its profits must be the country where a company pays its profits", and that taxation and the assignment of profits to specific countries was an important point he had committed to.

Schulz insisted that he would not let Juncker forget the promises he has made.

 

Read the most recent articles written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli - MEPs vote against beginning negotiations on updating EU copyright laws

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