What is the central message of your campaign and your party’s key priorities on the next day of the European parliamentary elections?
My priority will be to bring Europe closer to the people. Too often, people feel that their concerns are not taken into account, that Brussels is governed by technocrats and elites.
I want to change that. I want people to feel that Europe is their home and that they are at the core of the European project.
We in the European People’s Party will present our project for the future of Europe in Spring 2019. I will make sure this campaign is truly European-wide.
I want to identify a few topics for the campaign which all the EPP -member parties will use as priorities during their campaigns for the European elections. People need to know in advance what the men and women they vote for will do if they get elected.
For example, I will say very clearly that if I become the President of the European Commission, I will put an end to the negotiations on the EU enlargement with Turkey.
On migration also, our priority will be to make sure that the European Union’s external borders are safe. We need to know who is entering our continent. Only then can we grant asylum to those who really need our help.
Recent polls have indicated that not only pro-EU sentiment is growing, but also that the younger generations remain more reluctant to participate. What type of strategy could Europe employ in order to attract the younger voters?
Reaching out to young Europeans and convincing them to contribute to the European project, to shape it, is key for the future of our continent. This will be a key aspect of my campaign. Too often, young people do not feel that their views matter, that decisions are made without them. I want to change that.
As the Chairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament I have been fighting for the DiscoverEU project, which aims at giving 18 year-old Europeans a free Interrail ticket to travel throughout Europe. I will continue fighting for it, to ex.
My goal is that some day, every 18 year-old European will receive a free Interrail ticket and will be able to discover the beauty and diversity of our continent.
But more generally I want to give younger voters a positive message about all the opportunities that Europe creates for them. My priority will be to create the right environment for jobs and growth - and to fight youth unemployment in particular.
In all 27 Member States, young Europeans should also hear the concerns of the young British, who voted against Brexit and feel now that their future is being taken away from them.
How do you see the transatlantic relations after the trade conflict with the USA? Is there any scope of cooperation from now on?
Europe does not want a trade conflict. We believe in a fair trade regime from which everybody is benefitting. We have tried everything to make dialogue and mutual understanding prevail.
If President Trump decides to treat Europe as an enemy, we will have no choice but to defend European industry, European jobs, European interests. This will have consequences for the American people too. In a trade conflict there are only losers.
At the same time, this new situation has to be a wake-up call for us Europeans: with the US isolating itself, we Europeans should be the bridge-builders and reliable partners towards the rest of the world. Europe has to act with a clear message, united, calm and proportionate. I do hope however that transatlantic relations can improve again.
What will be your position on immigration and the future of Schengen?
As I said, our priority will be to make sure that the European Union’s external borders are safe. We need to know who is entering our continent. Only then can we grant asylum to those who really need our help.
That being said, we cannot let Greece or Italy carry the burden of the migration crisis alone. There needs to be some kind of solidarity between the Member States in dealing with the migrants. Solidarity is not a one-way street and every Member State should contribute to the effort.
Now it is urgent to find a European solution to the migration crisis in the next months. The options are on the table. I am calling on all Member States to contribute to finding a solution.
Various analysts have warned about a possible Germanization of Europe, arguing that if the new head of the European Commission is a German, then the general bias is once again confirmed- namely that the EU is a German entity. What is your opinion about this?
First of all the European Commission should be, and is, a representation of all Member States. All Member States are equal in front of the Treaties in Europe. Also politically, it would be wrong for one country or the other to become too dominant.
I believe we are still healing some of the wounds of the economic crisis, also between Germany and Greece. Things were said and done, mistakes were made on both sides, and the coming years will be about overcoming the wounds of the past.
Also, I have the idea that a country like France, has been more absent the last decade. So, even if I don’t always agree with President Macron, I do welcome the European engagement of his presidency.
Only with active Member States do we maintain a balance between countries in Europe. But let me be clear, my Commission will never be a Commission of big and small countries, or of first class and second class citizens, we are all Europeans.
Without a doubt, euroscepticism, populism and nationalism are on the rise. What further steps should be taken in order to bridge the “democratic deficit”?
To start with, we need to show that Europe is ready to protect our European way of life in a globalized world. For me that also means protecting people from poverty and injustice.
We should show Greek citizens that Europe is not only about budgets, but most of all about people. I understand the frustration of many people in Greece that they haven’t seen the human face of the EU in recent years. I want to change that.
Stopping populism also means that we need to listen better to the concerns of citizens and give them a real say in the future. That’s is why it is important to give people a voice in choosing the next Commission President. If you vote for Nea Demokratia at the European elections, you will also support me to lead the next European Commission.
During his annual State of the Union address, Mr. Juncker stressed that Greece has succeeded in concluding the stability program and can stand on its own feet after a deep recession. Is Greece?s economic crisis really over and what are the prospects for growth in the Euro area in general?
Greece exited the third bailout program this summer. I welcome this development because I know very well that the efforts of the Greek people were immense and it is important to say that they were not in vain. But it is also important to recognise that although thirteen million jobs were created in Europe since the crisis, Greece has not benefited fully in this respect.
Moreover, let us not forget that Greece still does not enjoy access to markets. Thus, there is much work that still needs to be done. Our work is not finished yet.
There have certainly been mistakes on both sides, but looking forward, I am confident that a new government under the leadership of Kyriakos Mitsotakis will do what it takes to attract investment and bring back Greece on the pathway of growth and sustainable development.
You are a European leader in one of the most critical institutions. What is your personal wish for the 23rd -26th May 2019?
The coming weeks and months, I will be travelling through Europe to listen to people, to hear their concerns and their ideas on the future of Europe. What I wish for is that people around Europe really take this opportunity to decide about the direction of Europe, to go vote.
I want an ambitious Europe, that gives people hope and optimism, and I will do everything I together with Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Nea Demokratia to give Greece a new hopeful perspective for the future.