Freedom is about making choices. Choices over who governs us, how we spend our money and how we live our lives, while respecting the rights of others. Thanks to the internet and globalisation, people have more choice than ever before - except when it comes to how they wish to see the EU develop.
Here, they are presented with what seems like a binary choice, of a European political union or of no Europe; the pro-EU consensus or the far right or left. When presented with such a choice, voters in some countries either stay at home or opt for non-mainstream parties.
We formed the ECR to give people more than this binary choice. To show that there is a mainstream alternative to the march of European political union, but that it does not mean voting for irresponsible parties who will tear up the rule book or promise people an impossible prospectus. We want to give people the choice to vote for an EU where countries are treated equally, all points of view respected, and practicality is placed before ideology or dogma.
The other mainstream European political groups all represent more of the same old failed approach of responding to every challenge and crisis with the same prescriptions: more business-stifling laws, more centralisation of power, and more European taxation and spending.
Whenever people speak in referendums or elections, the increasingly-large vote shares for extremists are either dismissed or misinterpreted as a symbol that people just want national populism to be replaced by European populist measures like free inter rail passes for teenagers.
They completely miss the point that, instead of sending a few already privileged middle class kids to the Dordogne, most people want policies that will give them more power over their lives, providing them with the opportunity to have a good job and to provide for their families.
In order to deliver that, we need an EU that does less but does it better. Take the single market. 25 years after its supposed creation, we still see protectionism within the EU’s borders. We want to focus on breaking down those barriers to trade, and to establishing businesses. This should be the EU’s focus, not trying to raise new barriers through harmful one-size-fits-all employment legislation.
Unfortunately, the EU is no longer a rules-based organisation. Instead, it is only a rules-based organisation when it suits the EU leaders.
Take the euro, where there is a clamour to use the recent eurozone crisis to transform a currency union into a fiscal and transfer union. Had the rules of the Eurozone - such as the stability and growth pact - been respected and enforced, the crisis would have been a lot less severe.
Instead, we saw a selective application of the rules to some countries while others, like France, were able to break the rules. Why? Well, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker himself gave us the answer, “Because it’s France.”
But if you are a taxpayer in Finland, the Netherlands or Germany, you would be right to ask why you should now be forced to pay for countries that have not always played by the rules.
Likewise, if you are a voter in the Czech Republic, you might be wondering why you must now join a fiscal and transfer union when all your country agreed to join upon EU accession was a currency union and no more. The obligations on these countries to join the Euro should no longer remain.
The migration crisis was however the biggest calamity of trust in the EU when the German government destroyed the Dublin regulation governing those seeking asylum.
The rules state that asylum seekers should seek asylum in the first safe country. That does not mean other EU countries should not help those on the ‘front line’ such as Italy or Greece; on the contrary, we should all want to assist our neighbours in the hour of difficulty.
However, instead of working together, German Chancellor Angela Merkel decided instead to tear up the rules and extend an open invitation to all. Unsurprisingly, the invitation was answered by hundreds of thousands of people.
Rather than enforce EU rules, the EU instead changed them to suit Merkel, forcing other countries to accept asylum seekers. This policy showed how out of touch, aloof and selective the EU had become, and alienated countries that wanted to help, but in their own way. They wanted a choice.
It should come as no surprise that people are angry with how the EU keeps treating them like fools then turn around and stick two fingers up at the EU establishment. That is why we need to change the establishment and replace it with politicians who are willing to listen to public mood, and respond to it by finding mainstream solutions to their concerns.
That is what the ECR proposes, and that is why we hope people will choose our solutions over the doctrine of both the fanatical political integrationists, and the empty-rhetoric of the extremists.