M.Weber promises deeper EU involvement into the Cyprus issue resolution and termination of Turkey’s accession process

Manfred Weber, the European Peoples Party lead candidate for the European Commission Presidency, promises that the EU will “stand by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus and the Cypriot people”, in the renewed efforts to solve the Cyprus issue, while advocating the ending of the official accession process for Turkey, talking on CNA. The EPP lead candidate, in his interview with CNA also announces a stronger EU mechanism for enforcing Rule of Law values in the EU and a way to curb Russian and other third party influence in the internet and safeguard European democracy.

More specifically called by CNA to share his thoughts on enlargement, the Western Balkans and Turkey, and asked if Turkey should remain a candidate country, Manfred Weber replied: “I am open to a constructive partnership based on deals, like the migration agreement we have with them, but we should be honest with each other: Turkey will never become a member of the European Union. A full membership of the European Union should not be an option any longer. My promise to voters is that we will stop the accession negotiations with Turkey.”

M.Weber was asked to comment on how the EU involvement on the Cyprus issue resolution could be achieved, since big part of the Cypriot population desire it: “the Cyprus problem is also a European problem and the EU will stand by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus and the Cypriot people. We have shown that in the past when Turkey was escalating the situation by threatening Cyprus in the Mediterranean. In my view, we need to continue to push for a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus Problem, in accordance with the UN resolutions and the EU acquis. The Turkish occupation of the north part of Cyprus is unacceptable and constitutes one of the open wounds of history on our European continent.”

Asked on how is he going to handle centrifugal elements like Orban and the Polish administration for instance, M.Weber replies: “the European Union has a toolbox to protect our fundamental values. The question we need to ask ourselves is if the tools have the desired effect. I think the authors of the Treaties would be very surprised and even shocked to see how prominent the rule of law debate has become in Europe. The fact that the Court of Justice was needed to intervene in Poland to protect the independence of the Constitutional court, shows us that democratic institutions are fragile. I believe we need stronger instruments that can intervene quicker and more decisively, to protect ourselves against the erosion of the rule of law in Europe. I will propose a stronger rule of law mechanism as President of the European Commission.”

Concerning Russian or other third party interference in the European elections and what can we do to safeguard European unity he answers: “we should be very concerned about foreign influence in our elections. Because there are many states and organisations that want to see the EU fail, that want to break us apart. And at the moment the easiest way to do that is by buying Facebook ads, and spreading fake news and feeding polarisation in our society. The big social media platforms have a huge responsibility in making sure that they become transparent about who is paying for their content, to develop algorithms that do not prioritise fake news and divisive content and to clearly show if the sources mentioned in the posts are reliable or not. These elections will be a test case for Facebook, Google and Youtube to show that they can find solutions for these problems themselves. If they fail, we don’t have another option than to propose new laws that will force them to respect certain rules, like we did with the European privacy law.”

Invited to comment on the fact that having left the legacy of the crisis behind, while employment is at all time record heights, unemployment in sub 2008 levels and businesses and households expand their savings and investment, what is it that shill makes a significant amount of the people to seek salvation with populists, M.Weber explains: “it is indeed a general trend in most Western countries – look at the United States. To address this phenomenon, I believe there are two aspects that we need to understand. The first one is economic. Even if employment is high, and growth is back in most countries, not everyone feels it in their daily lives. In Greece for example, even if the country is doing better, change is coming slowly and many Greek people are struggling. In many European countries, the gap between the well-off, the highly- educated people, who benefit most from the positive trends, and the poor, is widening. This is very clear for example in the movement of the yellow jackets in France. In these times of globalisation, more and more people feel left-behind. In Western European countries, for the first time since the end of the second world war, parents fear that their children will not have the same standards of living as they did, and this is creating a lot of worries and concerns.”

“The second aspect is that many of them don’t trust politicians and the political parties in general, because they have disappointed them. Often they turn to the extremist parties in last resort, to try something new. In my view we need address both of these aspects: firstly, show people that we are offering them a project that will create jobs, opportunities, and make their lives better. Secondly, prove them, through our responsibility and our actions, that they can trust us – and show them that extremist parties are not telling them the truth”, says M.Weber.

Called to provide his forecast for the next European Parliament representation and how disturbing in the law making process can the increase presence of populists and Eurosceptics may be, M.Weber says: “I expect the elections to be like elections all over Europe. There will be more fragmentation and it will be more difficult to build majorities. We will be doing our best everywhere in Europe to convince people we have the best proposals for the future. But most importantly we should not have a campaign that only asks the question for or against Europe. The question should be what kind of Europe you want. For me it begins with a Europe that listens to people and defends their interests.”

Asked of his main focus of his commission program proposal the lead candidate explains: “my priority is to start a new chapter for the European Union. Too often, people in my village in Bavaria tell me that they dont know what is going on in “Brussels”, they feel decisions are taken without them. It is something I hear everywhere I go in Europe. My priority will be to reconnect the European Union with the people of Europe. The European project is not about the elites. It is about bringing people together, because together we are stronger.”

“It is too early to speak about the details of each EU Programme. Jean-Claude Juncker has done a lot of good things to help start the economic engine again in times of economic crisis. But we need to go further. We, the EPP political family, will present our detailed programme in March.”

Finally asked if Europe needs a genuine EU army as envisaged by Em.Macron, M.Weber replies: “we welcome President Macron and Chancellor Merkel for their ambitious proposals. It will give much needed push to more concrete cooperation on the ground and it does not go in contradiction with our mission within NATO. That is why for us the short-term goal of making Europe more independent for our safety is crucial. Therefore we should start with very concrete steps like an intervention group, cyberdefence capacities or armor fund. European countries spend more than Euros 200 billion on defence in Europe, duplicating many activities from one country to the next. We will increase European security independence, and save taxpayer’s money.”

Source: Cyprus News Agency