Watch: 'Far-right rising because people fed up with financial sector's behaviour,' says Timmermans

Watch: 'Far-right rising because people fed up with financial sector's behaviour,' says Timmermans
By Duncan HooperChris Harris and Sandrine Amiel
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"I believe one of the reasons why the extreme right is on the rise in many parts of Europe is people are fed up with the way the financial sector has been behaving."


Euronews quizzed Dutch politician Frans Timmermans on Friday as he makes his pitch for the EU's top job.

Timmermans, already the European Commission's first vice-president, is hoping to step up and replace his boss, Jean-Claude Juncker.

It comes after Green MEP Ska Keller kicked-off our series of interviews with those hoping to succeed Juncker after elections in May.

Here is an overview of Timmermans' answers to European citizens who took part in the discussion.

Tax reform, the economy and ending austerity politics

"It's time we put an end to austerity politics," Timmermans said at the beginning of the interview.

The Social Democrat candidate also made the case for tax reform in Europe. "We need to make sure that the biggest corporations who make a lot of money in Europe actually start paying taxes, what they're not doing now. And for that you need Europe, you can't do that by individual member states and more," Timmermans said.

"We also need to make sure that salaries go up because one of the weaknesses in the European economy is that people don't have enough money to spend," he continued.

"I believe one of the reasons why the extreme right is on the rise in many parts of Europe is people are fed up with the way the financial sector has been behaving.

"People are fed up with the fact that we put billions and billions of taxpayers' money on the table to rescue banks who now again behave badly and people see that the banks are doing well but they are not doing as well coming out of the crisis," he said. "So it is of extreme importance that we complete the banking union so when a bank gets in trouble it can't back to ordinary citizens and ask them for money."

Romania and the rule of the law

A member of the audience asked Timmermans why the EU was tough on Poland and Hungary but less so on Romania, which is currently governed by the Social Democrat party (PSD).

"The problem in Romania is the fight against corruption. Politicians are trying to get rid of the pressure they feel in this fight against corruption, this is unacceptable and the commission will say 'no' and also in our political family we will say 'no' to all of this," Timmermans said.

Timmermans added that he'd be willing to kick PSD out of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats' grouping at the European Parliament, before May's EU elections if necessary.

"It's a fact that if the rule of law is in trouble if there are no checks and balances, that corruption will increase," Timmermans continued.


"We are the ones, the European Union is still seen in the rest of the world as those who protect the multilateral system, we are the ones who came up with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and got them agreed. We are the ones who were able to get all the nations together on the Paris agreement on climate change and got that agreed. We have a huge legacy and a huge responsibility to safeguard that system even in the age of Trump," Timmermans insisted.

"But we also have a fight within the European Union, we have this temptation to withdraw behind national borders out of desperation or out of lack of perspective. We have to fight that temptation as well — we're not going to create a better society for our citizens by withdrawing behind borders," he said.

Europe's diversity

"There's a deep sense that people are attached to their identity, to where they are from. There's also a fear that the way the world is changing is taking away that identity or is a threat to their identity and I believe this is a false contradiction. I believe the diversity that marks Europe is its strength, not its weakness," Timmermans said.

Family values

"There was a conference in Verona not so long ago where they maintain that family values mean that women should shut up and have children, and family values mean that gay people can't be good parents. I fundamentally disagree with these elements. I am for equality and I think children deserve caring, loving parents whether it's two men, two women, a man and a woman or a single parent," Timmermans said.


Timmermans told Euronews that political predators were taking advantage of the so-called migration crisis.


"The problem arises from the time in 2015 and 2016 when clearly we were not in control of the crisis. Since then we have taken steps to regain control of the crisis. We're not there yet, but we're getting there. The only thing is that now political predators are preying on the fact that people feel that we can't get in control of this and playing identity politics, saying these people don't belong here, they are a threat to us and we need to stand firm against that," Timmermans said.

"We need to remain a safe haven for real refugees but we also need to say to people who don't have the right to asylum that they need to return to their places of origin," he continued.


Answering a question about Brexit, Timmermans said his hope was that the British people would have second thoughts on leaving the EU.

"Changing your mind is a fundamental human right," Timmermans said.

He insisted that the EU was not trying to punish the UK for leaving the EU. "This is not a punitive exercise," he said. "Everyone in the EU is sad."


Women in politics

Asked why his party did not have a female candidate for the EU's top job, Timmermans said: "God knows we tried, we tried."

"In my own party, we've had parity of men and women for years and years but it takes time. It takes time to get there but you have to have quotas. I believe in quotas," he said.

"You will see when I am Commission president, you will be surprised in this field," Timmermans continued.

" I will feel inspired by what Pedro Sanchez did when he became Prime Minister of Spain. You saw a majority of women in his cabinet. He didn't use percentages he didn't make a big speech about it - he just did it and that's what I want to do as Commission president."

Climate change

Taking a question about the ways to finance climate change policies, Timmermans advocated for a CO2 tax at the European level.


"That is the biggest change that will lead to polluters understanding they need to change the way they produce," he said.

"What we also need to do is to make sure that carbon trading goes up by lifting the price of that. What we introduced for instance in the plastics legislation is that producers are also made responsible for the waste they create so if you can't reuse or recycle and it becomes waste then the costs will increase and that's how you make producers responsible for the waste they create," Timmermans continued.

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