As Europeans elect a new European Parliament, Manfred Weber, the chairman of the European People's Party (EPP) and lead EPP candidate for the presidency of the European Commission, tells Kathimerini that tighter border security, combating terrorism, streamlining the European Union and boosting employment are among his top priorities if elected.
He also expresses his support for the leader of Greece's main opposition New Democracy party, saying that Kyriakos Mitsotakis is a “powerful member” of the EPP.
If you are elected president of the European Commission, what would you like to achieve in your first 100 days?
My priorities are to build a Europe that protects its borders from illegal migration and smugglers with 10,000 new border guards by 2022; a Europe that combats terrorism and organized crime with a European FBI, which will have teams that will combine information to find terrorists before they attack; a Europe that stops accession talks with Turkey; that establishes a new rule of law mechanism to ensure that the European Union maintains the independence of the judiciary, the freedom of the press and the fight against corruption.
I will start a European plan to unite our forces in the fight against cancer. I am committed to developing smart homes for the elderly, where they can continue to live independently and close to their families; to creating 5 million new jobs for our young people; to cutting over 1,000 outdated regulations and reducing the number of EU employees, cutting red tape, increasing efficiency and citizens' access to Europe.
I want to create a Europe that can ensure that internet giants are paying their dues, where new mortgages that are co-funded by the European Investment Bank are helping young people who no longer want to stay in their childhood rooms and want a home of their own; a Europe that continues the ambitious fight against climate change by upholding the Paris and Katowice agreements. Where we invest jointly in low-emission airplanes and where we demand a global ban on single-use plastic.
All of this cannot be accomplished in 100 days, of course, but in the next five years.
Why should voters support the EPP?
These elections are historic because they will determine to what degree the European Union is able to improve the lives of Europeans by ensuring their safety and the prosperity of their economies. It can maintain the sustainability of our social model or be permanently paralyzed and divided. For a very long time, the European project has been built at a great distance from the people: I want to re-establish that bond between the union and its citizens. My priority is to build a strong Europe that will protect its citizens and its values, a smart Europe with ideas and innovations, a kind Europe that takes care of its citizens.
Apart from a good friend, Kyriakos Mitsotakis is also a powerful member of the EPP family. We share the same sense of responsibility on a national and European level. On Sunday, the Greek people need to know that if they want to have a powerful voice in Europe, they should vote New Democracy.
What has the Greek crisis taught us?
That Europe needs to put people first and not just budgets and debt ratios. Everyone needs to keep their home in order, but I want a Europe that is closer to the people in the good times and the bad. I think we could have done more to consider the human consequences of such a crisis.