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Presented by Isabelle Kumar

Obsession with austerity is dangerous – EU Vice-President
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Miguel Angel Martinez Martinez a vice-president in the European Parliament has been answering questions on I talk.

Alex Taylor: “The European Parliament has more and power, it also has more Vice-Presidents.
One of them, Miguel Angel Martinez is with us today to answer your questions on I talk.
Miguel Angel Martinez, thanks for joining us. In two words what is the role of the Vice-President of the European Parliament?”

Miguel Angel Martinez Martinez: “In two words partly the general management of the parliament and then there are also specific responsibilities.”

AT: “Which are what?”

Miguel Angel Martinez: “I am in charge of relations with national parliaments, relations with candidate countries for accession, everything that has to deal with multilingualism, interpretation and translation for the only institution in the world which works in 23, 24 languages. And I’m also involved in a fascinating project, the European History Museum which is progressing well and will be inaugurated in the next two years.”

AT: “Very good. Lets take some questions now.”

“I’m Marta Pont, from de la Pobla de Segur, Catalonia. I would like to know what your reaction is to Commissioner Almunia’s words in relation to independence for Catalonia, when he declared that you can not assert with an emphatic “no” that if a region such as Catalonia, achieves independence, it would be excluded from the European Union. What is your opinion? Thanks.”

AT: “It is a question at the moment not only in Catalonia but also in Scotland.”

Miguel Angel Martinez: “Yes, anyway, the answer is quite simple and that is to say, if a new state appears on the European stage – a new state that is not a member, by definition, since it has split automatically it becomes a third country. Therefore, membership or not would, in my opinion be judged in the same way that we judge accession of any other candidate countries. You know that I am responsible for candidate countries, a country which may be called Scotland or Catalonia would have to go through the same process that currently Turkey and other countries have to go through.”

AT: “You who are Spanish, do you agree with the President of the Catalan Parliament who said that in 2020, Catalonia will be an independent country?”

Miguel Angel Martinez: “I think nothing can be excluded from what has happened, but I do not think Catalonia will be independent. In the current situation, Catalonia should be able to decide on its status, but Spain should also decide. But I tell you, there are times when I think a referendum in Catalonia would not get a majority and a referendum in Spain could get a result which says “Yes, they will go away once and for all! “ So we don’t know what is going to happen.”

AT: “Another question for Mr. Martinez.”

“Hello, my name is Sara, I come from the Basque Country and my question is why does the EU not pay more attention to minority languages ​​such as Basque. Thanks.”

AT: “More countries, more languages, it becomes unmanageable, it is already difficult to manage from the linguistic point of view.”

Miguel Angel Martinez: “We have 23 languages, we are the only organisation in the world that works with 23 official languages ​​and we will have 24 in a few weeks when Croatia becomes a full member of the European Union. The status of a minority language could apply to sixty languages. And then, really, it becomes very difficult to manage.”

AT: “What’s the definition of a minority language?”

Miguel Angel Martinez: “A language that is co-official in a territory where a different one is already the official language of the EU. So there may be regions that have a language, but this language is not the only official language. The country where this region is already has an official language. So for now, this is the process that works and people from these regions may apply to the EU authorities in their own language that is the stage we are at and I think for now, it is sufficient and reasonable.

AT: “Let’s hear another question.”

“Hi, I’m Ana Maria Núñez and I want to know what is your view on the situation we are in now with budget reductions, austerity, and how this might affect to the pro-European feeling. Above all, what effect do you think it could have in the next European elections?”

AT: “We are losing the European vision, the optimism in Europe.”

Miguel Angel Martinez : “ Well, listen, a process which was born and has worked for decades with an identity of fundamental solidarity is shifting dramatically to become one which has lost that solidarity. The solidarity project did have huge social support.”

AT: “Yes but obviously it has not been seen to work.”

Miguel Angel Martinez: “Yes, yes it worked for many years. Yes it worked. Go to Spain and say that it did not work. And so yes it worked for years, except because of the crisis – and it would take a long time to explain, the process is going to veer off course and lose that fundamental solidarity. And automatically the widespread social support will mutate into social rejection and I think that is extremely serious.

‘I think this obsession with austerity is a dangerous obsession and which must be recovered. I think the Nobel Prize says something. The Nobel Prize recognises what we did, but warns – “be careful, do not change, hold that level of democracy and solidarity,” which is synonymous with unprecedented social progress within our region compared with any other country in our region and globally.”

AT: “Another question on I talk.”

“I am Yves Leblanc a professor of history at St. Louis Institute in Namur, we have just been visiting the Parliament this morning and I wanted to ask you this, Mr. Vice-President: do you think that the Parliament today is truly independent, what is the power of lobbyists over that independence which all parliamentarians should have. Thank you.”

Miguel Angel Martinez: “I believe sincerely that the European Parliament is not dependent on lobbyists. They play on their influence and I think it’s more important to see the independence of the European Parliament in relation to the governments of member countries, in relation to the Council in relation to the Commission moreover in each of our countries.

‘I was a national deputy for 22 years. I was in power, I was in opposition and for me the independence between the legislature and the executive – that is an independence which in my opinion is absolutely in question.

‘It is this independence then that is in question, it is not so much independence vis-à-vis lobbyists that exists at national level, it is mainly the independence of Parliament and its powers, the exercise of its powers in relation to the Council and the Commission.”

AT: “A last question for Mr. Martinez.”

“Hello, my name is Bruno Verlaet, I live in Brussels and I was wondering what the European Parliament can do specifically for young people in Europe?”

AT: “Big question, short answer.”

Miguel Angel Martinez: “Yes it is, as the question raises a complicated issue. What we can do is to first make them understand that Europe has never been what it is now and that the problems facing young people today have in the past been much more serious.

AT: “But how can you tell that to young Spaniards?”

Miguel Angel Martinez: “I say to young Spaniards, there were young people who were killed in the wars that took place continuously between member countries. That was bad because young people who were killed during conflicts between neighbours in the 20th century for interests that were not theirs, that was something!

‘Therefore, it is necessary to understand what the reality of European vision is and it should especially give young people a chance to participate in political decisions that they also understand what is the point of democracy. And above all we must ensure that the dramatic problems that we are currently experiencing – including unemployment – can not go on forever because it will inevitably lead young people away from the hopes and progress of Europe.”

AT: “Thank you for your answers, Mr. Martinez. The next guests are on our website. Thanks to the European Parliament in Brussels here for their technical support. Join us again soon for another I talk on euronews.”

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