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What future for Europe?


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What future for Europe?

With the 60th anniversary of the treaties of Rome looming, euronews’ Isabelle Kumar met up with six members of the European Parliament to discuss the future of Europe.

Isabelle Kumar, euronews

“Division and discontent – that’s nothing new for Europe – the difference is that this time, the EU leaders think they might have a plan to change that. And it’s going to be thrashed out by European leaders in just a few days’ time.

“Unity seems to be the byword of the moment. Rather ironically EU leaders will be broaching the bloc’s unprecedented division at a celebration marking the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome that famously called for an ever closer union.

“Well aware of Europe’s multiple crises, the European Commission has come up with a five option proposal on Europe’s future. It presents various levels of EU integration – from an EU stripped down to its bare economic essentials via a two speed or multi-speed Europe to a fully integrated European machine.

“And whether you like it or not eurocrats will play a key role in determining Europe’s future.

“So, we are here at the European parliament to speak to lawmakers to find out how in touch they are with Europe’s changing future.

“We start with two men who have shaped and are shaping Europe’s future –on opposite sides of the political divide- Nigel Farage an almost celebrity Eurosceptic who successfully campaigned to get Britain out the European Union. But first, Guy Verhofstadt, a staunch defender of the European project and the European parliament’s Brexit negotiator.”

Guy Verhofstadt

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: You are seen as one of the flag bearers of federalism, but do you think that your dream of an integrated Europe is dead and that it’s gonna be buried in Rome during the treaty celebrations?”

Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe: “I think it’s an absolute necessity that we go in that direction otherwise this continent will not survive. So I think it’s a good opportunity to remember not only the treaty of Rome but mainly the initial ideas of the founding fathers of the European Union : a political union, an economic union, a defence union, and that’s exactly what we need for the coming decades I think.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “Jean Claude Juncker, the head of European Commission has put forward five proposals. It seems that the multi-speed proposal is gaining the most traction…”

Guy Verhofstadt: “The multi-speed already exists today, let’s be honest.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “So it wouldn’t work?”

Guy Verhofstadt: “Well it wouldn’t work. It will be, in any case, a core group taking the lead. More or less 20 countries, maybe more 25 countries, going forward and then a number of other countries who will come in later on. That I see as a possibility.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “Would you propose kicking out countries that don’t adhere to your vision?”

Guy Verhofstadt: “What I see is the opposite for the moment. After the Brexit referendum, in most of the countries we see that people want more Europe.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “In terms of defence, if we look to this future Europe, how would that work, do you encourage the idea of a European army?”

Guy Verhofstadt: “Yes, look for example what is happening in Syria. What did we do in Syria? Nothing at all. But we have the fallout, all the negative consequences of the conflict in Syria. So I think it’s time now to organise ourselves.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “Could you tell me three issues that you agree with when it comes to eurosceptic politicians?”

Guy Verhofstadt: “When they say for example that we are not capable of managing the refugee crisis, I agree. When they are saying that we have no good results in tackling the financial crisis, I agree. When they all say that the European Union is too bureaucratic, I agree but the response, the solution for that is not to go back in history and fall back into the old style nation states that have created so much trouble and so much tragedy in the 20th century.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “If I were to ask you to look at European integration on a scale of zero to five – zero being zero integration, five being maximum, which would it be?”

Guy Verhofstadt: “Put me in the middle that’s not a problem!”

Nigel Farage

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “Nigel Farage, has Europe reached the point of no return?”

Nigel Farage, Chair of Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy: “I thought so some time ago, i think that if you look at the multiple crises that it faces, firstly Brexit which is the worst thing that’s ever happened perhaps to the EU, secondly the relations with Turkey breaking down completely meaning that with the summer coming the migrant crisis is back on the agenda, let alone Greek repayments coming up in July and some big questions over some of the major Italian banks, and that backdrop against the big presidential campaign in France…. I think what’s clear is this: that the direction of travel is back towards nation state. Now that doesn’t mean people don’t want a European cooperation, they do very much so, but not this kind of centralised government.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “The issue of a defence union is firmly back on the table, it’s something you have warded against, you are worried about a European army.”

Nigel Farage: :“Yes.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “Now with Britain out of the EU do you think that’s a foregone conclusion?”

Nigel Farage: :“I think that what’s interesting is to see the way the Trump victory has been used by Mr Verhofstadt, by Mr Juncker saying, ‘the Americans are leaving Europe, therefore we have to have our own European army, oh and they want nuclear weapons now as well.’ Actually Mr Trump does not want to withdraw from Europe at all, he just wants NATO members to pay their fair share. I would view the full development of a European army with its own foreign policy and its own nuclear weapons actually as being something potentially quite dangerous.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “Why?”

Nigel Farage: “Because we already know the European Union wishes to expand. And eastwards expansion by nations, history tells us leads to conflict. We are on a collision course with Putin’s Russia and I think if these people in these institutions have more power, they are likely to use it.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “Brexit is now firmly on the cards, do you see a massively shrinking European Union?”

Nigel Farage: “I think that the attitude of the European Union right now is they firmly believe that Brexit is it. That no other countries are going to leave. And I think they’re wrong. They will go on defending their model and I am not saying that Frexit is going to happen this year but is it going to happen in three or four years I firmly believe that it will.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “And finally, if we look at the European integration on a scale of zero to five where would you place yourself?”

Nigel Farage: “In terms of integration zero, in terms of cooperation five.”

Ska Skeller

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “Ska Skeller, many thanks for being with us. What future do you see for Europe. If we see young Europeans rallying more and more behind eurosceptic and populist politicians and their movements?”

Ska Keller, Co-President of the Greens/EFA group: “Actually I also see the opposite. I would say that people are now realising especially young people that what they take for granted, European integration, European togetherness, it’s not for granted and they really need to start moving in order to keep it. But that’s happening now.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “I know that migration is a cause close to your heart. Do you think it’s possible to deal with the migration crisis humanely in a multi-speed Europe?”

Ska Keller: “I am not a big fan of a multi-speed Europe because it risks leaving some countries or even regions alone and behind. We should always aim for the whole Union to move forward. But there are things that several member states together can do and that especially on asylum. I am thinking about resettlement for example. There, some member states could say ok others do not want to come along, but we will do something, we will resettle more refugees.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “So let’s look now quickly at the issue of trade. You were against the Canada-EU Trade pact but do you see that now as the future of EU trade?”

Ska Keller: “I don’t see CETA as my ideal for future trade agreements. In CETA there is a lot of problematic points. There we have a privileged court system for investors alone, so investors can go there and sue member states whereas me as an individual if my rights are infringed by a company I cannot do anything really. I would like to see trade happening, but that is fair and that is not harming the planet and is improving the rights and standards that we have and not endangering those standards.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “You mentioned the planet, and obviously climate change is very big cause now but do you fear with all the crises that Europe is facing, the changing face of politics globally, that climate is just going to drop down the agenda?”

Ska Keller: “We are the first generation to really see the impacts of climate change but we are also the last generation that can do something about it. And if we get this wrong then we have a huge disaster in the future so let’s do something about it now while we still can do it.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “Finally if I were to ask you to look at European integration, on a scale of zero to five where would you place your ideal future Europe?”

Ska Keller: “I would then probably put myself into 4 but with a lot of disclaimers.”

Viviane Reding

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “Viviane Reding, there are five proposals on the table to tackle the many crises Europe is facing…”

Viviane Reding, European People’s Party: “It’s first not in order to tackle a crisis. We have been during the last 60 years building bridges and tearing down the walls. I think it is a real example in mankind and so we have to continue with this. Now there are different scenarios on the table my continuation scenario is very clear, I would like to arrive in the end, that means for the next generation at a real federal Europe.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “How would that actually tackle the economic crisis Europe is facing because you are not necessarily going to get everybody on board?”

Viviane Reding: “Europe is the strongest economy in the world so we are facing a crisis temporarily as others also are facing crisis and this is a temporary question of how you do that. So these are the short terms questions we have to solve.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “Do you think the future of the euro is secure?”

Viviane Reding: “Absolutely and I do not see any crisis in the euro. The euro is the second biggest exchange currency and reserve currency in the world. Let the countries who would like to leave leave. I am of those who say I do not keep anybody inside. What is in crisis actually is the national policy of some of the countries who simply are doing a lousy work.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “Justice and fundamental rights issues are very close to your heart, but those kind of rights are being battered in many parts of Europe….”

Viviane Reding: “We poured in billions of euros in order to bring these countries up. Solidarity can’t always be a one way street.

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “Which countries?”

Viviane Reding: “I can quote for instance, Poland – I can quote also Viktor Orban because I don’t believe that his population thinks the same. These countries are opening their hand in order to get something – but not capable of giving something back. We have to change that.

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “And finally if we look to your Europe of the future and we look at levels of integration – zero being no integration at all, five being maximum – where would you place your future Europe.”

Viviane Reding: “I put the future of Europe at 4.5 because nobody can be perfect but that is what we want to achieve.”

Nicolas Bay

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “Immigration is obviously a major issue for you, and one that is causing a lot of difficulties for the EU. What is your point of view?”

Nicolas Bay, Europe of Nations and Freedom: “We are facing massive immigration and this massive immigration is welcomed by the technocrats in Brussels in the name of that famous dogma of free movement. Schengen is a total failure, Schengen is dangerous and it is vital to reinstate control of our borders. There have been controls for centuries and there is no reason why they shouldn’t be re-established.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “Well how would you control immigration? Would it be a clean break?”

Nicolas Bay: “Not only should immigration be drastically reduced, the movement should be reversed. Measures must be taken to return illegal immigrants to their countries of origin, and also certain legal immigrants who don’t necessarily have jobs until their residency permits expire.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “The National Front is advocating an exit from the euro zone, in spite of the fact that the majority of French people stand against abandoning a common European currency.”

Nicolas Bay: “It is clear today that the euro is serving the interests of Germany to the detriment of most of the other countries in the euro zone, so we have to think about developing this system so that it is in our best interest. We must retrieve a national currency and keep a common currency for international exchange which would be made up of national currencies so that each country can adapt to the state of their economy.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “While we can see an increase in the Far Right in the EU, can you imagine an almost mini far right EU where you would have really strong partnerships?”

Nicolas Bay: “I don’t think there is a Far Right, there are just patriots and today there is a resurgence of patriots in every European country. Here in the Parliament in Strasbourg we have a group made up of dozens of nationalities.

“We are in no way extremists and we are above this rather old fashioned left-right divide. What we want is a renegotiation of the european treaties, and if this isn’t possible, and if, like David Cameron, we come up against a brick wall before Mr. Juncker, then at that time the French people should be offered a referendum for Frexit so that Europe can be re-built differently afterwards.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “If I were to ask you to look at European integration, on a scale of 0 to 5, where would you place it?”

Nicolas Bay: “Zero integration but a real policy of cooperation.”

Tanja Fajon

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “There are going to be crucial meetings coming up on the future of Europe, the European Commission President has put some proposals on the table. Do they provide a valid blueprint for the future?”

Tanja Fajon, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats: “I have to say that I was disappointed when the Commission came out with the White paper. I expected some clear direction, not five different scenarios that actually are causing a lot of turbulences now if I speak in my society because people start wondering are we now the second or third class of Union?”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “So do you feel as a small county, Slovenia if the multi-speed option is taken up – you are going to be forgotten about – your voice is not going to be heard?”

Tanja Fajon: “What I would like to say, coming from a small country, this is extremely dangerous. We might then feel we are walking way behind the others.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “So the Treaty of Rome celebrations are just around the corner. What kind of image do you think the leaders there are going to portray if you imagine that family photo at the end?”

Tanja Fajon: “I imagine there will be quite some sparkling events, a beautiful family photo, I hope with some very strong messages to the citizens.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “Europe and the EU in particular have an image problem. The institutions are often seen as out of touch, is that a representative picture of Europe?”

Tanja Fajon: “Certainly citizens are feeling much too far from what Brussels or political elite is doing and I think this is the time when we have to bring this project back to the citizens. I think there are still a lot of positive stories. We have to see Europe today or 50 or 60 years ago, there has been quite tremendous progress also and we have to speak, also media, about positive stories.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “Finally I want you to imagine European integration on a scale of 0 to 5 – where would you place your future ideal Europe?”

Tanja Fajon: “I would say 4 maybe – to have a lot of co-operation there where it is needed.”

Isabelle Kumar, euronews

“Despite all the ideas and proposals on the table – the EU’s future remains quite vague to say the least. And for EU Leaders gathering for the Treaty of Rome celebrations, they will no doubt be aware that change is really no longer a matter of choice – for the EU project, its become matter survival.”

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