Star appeal: EU Commission Vice-President urges celebrities to mobilise young voters

Star appeal: EU Commission Vice-President urges celebrities to mobilise young voters
Copyright euronews
Copyright euronews
By Oleksandra Vakulina
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EU Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas joins Euronews Correspondent Sasha Vakulina on the Global Conversation to discuss newly agreed migration policies and the upcoming European elections.

Has the European Union got it right in its recent migration pact with Egypt?

According to the United Nations, some 34,000 people have entered the EU so far this year outside of regulated channels, mostly across the Mediterranean Sea.

Brussels announced the signing of a €7.4 billion agreement with Egypt on 17 March, which includes provisions to curb migration amid concerns that conflicts overseas could aggravate the refugee crisis.

While rights groups have criticised this pact and other deals with Mauritania and Tunisia for ignoring humanitarian law, the EU maintains these agreements will allow for greater cooperation with the Middle East and Africa and help stabilise cash-strapped economies.

A deal with Lebanon might also be on the cards following reports that Cyprus is struggling to cope with a surge of migrant arrivals from the Middle East.

But how will these pacts affect voting behaviour in the EU Parliament elections and what will the next administration look like amid fears of heightened polarisation? EU Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas shares his insights.

To watch this episode of the Global Conversation, click on the video in the media player above or read the full interview below.

Sasha Vakulina, Euronews: Let's start with one of the most burning issues when it comes to the EU policies - migration. When you became the Commissioner in 2019, it was already an important issue. The crisis is now in a different dimension - there are more conflicts and there is the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. How do you see current EU migration policies, given the recent agreements signed with Egypt and Tunisia, do you think we're going to see more agreements of this kind?

Margaritis Schinas, EU Commission Vice-President: In the current political cycle, with migration, we had to work like firefighters and architects. Like firefighters, in dealing with the many crises, both at our external border but also within the union, running from crisis to crisis, from incident to incident, ship to ship. And I would dare say in most cases, successfully managing the many migration emergencies. 

Next to that for the first time, after decades of failure, we managed to produce a major European agreement on a new EU pact for migration and asylum.

Since 20 December last year, Europe, at last, has had a comprehensive, holistic migration policy that starts at our borders, rather, starts with countries of origin and transit (I will come to Egypt in a second) then on a more federalised control of our external border, and finally on solidarity.

When it comes to the external dimension of migration policy, we have invested lots of time and effort, and many of my colleagues from the president down - President Michel, also very helpful in that - we tried to establish partnerships with the 25 countries of origin and transit that mattered to us on migration. We will never be able to cope internally unless we're able to cope externally.

 And I think that now with a landmark agreement with Egypt, which is following the line of our earlier statement with Turkey, following the agreement with Tunisia, now we have a web of partnership agreements with major migration partners that will undoubtedly help us to improve the situation in managing migration flows in a cooperative way.

The rise of populism

Sasha Vakulina, Euronews: Let's talk a little more about the elections. Migration, of course, has always been one of the most divisive issues for national politics and European politics. We have seen over the past years that across Europe, the governments are shifting to the right. Are you worried about the possible swing from centre to right ahead of the EU elections in June?

Margaritis Schinas, EU Commission Vice-President: First of all, I think that we have to be collectively proud of the European Union because we are a union of democracies. Elections are a good thing for us. This is why people envy us, this is why we are so admired in the world because we have elections, free open elections. The European election is the second most numerous electoral process on the planet after the Indian elections. So, no, I'm not particularly worried.

I think what matters is for Europeans to vote and attribute praise or blame on what works and what doesn't. I don't think we have to jump to a conclusion that this will be a triumph of the extremes or the extreme right which would paralyse everything.
Margaritis Schinas
EU Commission Vice-President

Okay, 24 per cent of the Dutch people voted for Geert Wilders, but 76 per cent did not. And he will not be the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. And if you look at Poland, it was not the populist right that won, it was Donald Tusk and his moderate allies.

If you look at Rome, I don't see Giorgia Meloni as a catalyst for the extreme Putinophiles, I see her as a barrage to the extreme right and the friends of Putin. So let's wait a bit. Let's not jump to a conclusion. We still have two months. Let's see what happens.

Sasha Vakulina, Euronews: Do you consider your political group having an alliance with the far right? And where would be the red line that your political group would not cross when it comes to making possible alliances?

Margaritis Schinas, EU Commission Vice-President: Well, I am here in my quality as Vice president of the European Commission, I am not after Manfred Weber's job, but, I can offer my personal view of how things are developing. I think the EPP would be at the heart of a broad coalition of moderate pro-European forces. As it has always been the case.

So far I do not see the EPP of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, for example, joining any extreme right allies. This will not happen. Kyriakos and Jean-Claude Juncker are the ones who wanted Orbán out of the EPP, I may remind you. So I see the EPP central at the heart of the new web of political alliances in the European Parliament.

I see that on certain subjects we can work, as we did for the migration pact - a large chunk of the ECR, Giorgia Meloni and the Italian MEPs of Fratelli d'Italia overwhelmingly backed our pact, together with the liberals, the centre-right and the socialists. So that's how I see the centre of gravity in the new parliament.

Star power

Sasha Vakulina, Euronews: Do you consider doing more now in terms of motivating the young Europeans to come to the polls and vote in June, specifically those for whom that's going to be the very first election?

Margaritis Schinas, EU Commission Vice-President: Absolutely, I mean, look what happened during the Brexit referendum. We had so many inspiring pro-European figures admired in the UK, but the ‘Yes’ vote failed to mobilise them. And it was a mistake that we paid dearly. Let's not make the same mistake in the European elections.

There are so many leaders out there in sports, in culture, in arts and philosophy and creative industries. We are the envy of the world when it comes to football. In all areas, we excel.

Most of these people are committed Europeans, they work across borders, and they make their reputation across borders. What's wrong with having these people talk to young Europeans and tell them to go to vote? 

That's, I think, something that governments should also embrace. I'm doing it from Brussels. I don't think that commissioners are the right people to talk to young people, to tell them to vote. Probably it will create the opposite effect. 

But I take the opportunity of the launch of the new Euronews now to make this appeal to those who lead by example to the role models. These are the people whom we need.

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