Vitajte! Listening tour in Slovakia. Manfred Weber travels to Slovakia to listen and understand the difficulties l ...
8. November 2018
Candidacy speech at the EPP Congress in Helsinki
Dear President Joseph Daul,
Dear friends from our EPP family,
First of all, I would like to thank our Finnish friends from Kokoomus, especially my friend Petteri. You promised us weather conditions where everybody will stay in the room – And you kept your promise!
What a special day for me, but also for the EPP.
EPP, the largest political family, decides about the future! All Europe is watching us.
I would like also to thank Alex for the fair competition!
I stand here – not only as a candidate,
I stand here – to ask for a mandate,
A mandate to change Europe, to open the next chapter of our European dream!
What is this “Europe” today?
Europe starts for me in Wildenberg. It is my home-village, a small village like thousands of others in Europe – with its primary school to which I went to sometimes with bad conscience because I did not do my homework – with its little bakery where I used to buy candy sweets – with its football team, where I discovered for the first time what being part of a team really means.
What do people think about the EU there? They like Europe, but not the EU!
They think “it is not meant for me – it is for the highly skilled people who speak several languages, spend one year in Brussels, one year in London, then one in Vienna”. They think “this Europe is for the elites”.
The European Union of today is too far away from our citizens – I want to change this! Feeling at home in Europe – showing to our people that the EU can be our Europe: that is my goal!
That starts with listening to the concerns of the people!
I am getting back to Wildenberg again: when I attend a service of my Catholic church, there are old people with wheelchairs next to me. Behind the wheelchairs, there are young women from abroad who take care of the elderly. These women had to leave their homes and their families to earn money.
We do not have yet a really united European union. The living conditions as well as the job opportunities differ a lot from a country to another. In some regions, people feel second class Europeans. I dream of a Europe where we never give up in creating good living conditions for everyone. A Europe where nobody is left behind. A Europe where youngsters consider to study in Bucharest or Kraków and not only in Oxford or Harvard.
Such a Europe would create a feeling of being in a fair home.
Let me tell you another story: when I leave my apartment in Brussels to go the European Parliament, I pass by the subway station where the terrorist attacks occurred in March 2016.
I still have that day in my mind. Mercedes, my Head of cabinet, told me she was reaching out at all staff members and assistants, and that she had no news from one of our trainees: existential fear. The whole city was under shock like in Madrid, London, Paris or Berlin and thank God, the trainee was safe!
Today, we know that the lack of cooperation and the lack of exchange of data made it easy for the terrorists to attack us.
I dream of a Europe that cares about the victims, a Europe that fights with all means possible against terrorists and that leaves no room for national egoism when it is comes to people’s security.
Such a Europe would create a feeling of a secured home.
A third example I would like to mention is migration, the top-issue of the last three years!
During the summer, I visited with Boyko Borissov the border between Bulgaria and Turkey where a 50 metres high Turkish flag stands over the water: two continents meet there.
Boyko has installed few metres from that, a similarly huge Bulgarian flag to mark the external border of the EU. Boyko showed me that it is possible to protect our land and sea borders if you have the political will to do so.
The left cannot control our borders, like we can see it right now in Spain. The right wing populists do not respect migrants as human beings and do not respect their dignity.
Our Europe feels responsible for helping people in need, but assures to the Europeans that nobody can cross our external border without a passport. Illegal migration has to be stopped.
Such a Europe would feel as a protected home!
We have to show to the people that we can achieve a lot if we work together!
Take the example of cancer: more than 40% of us will face the risk of cancer.
My own brother died due to cancer. I will never forget the feelings we went through: “you fight, you listen to the doctors, and you do not want to hear the reality anymore”.
The whole family and all the friends felt so helpless, so powerless, without any hope!
Imagine, if we would combine all our money, our research capacities and our databases, we could create a European master plan against cancer and we, Europeans, would be the first ones who could cure cancer.
The Europe I dream of will not only be innovative to be the “creative lab” of the world – No! My Europe has the ambition to make the world a better place!
Such a Europe would give our citizens a home they can be proud of!
I could continue with these examples on and on!
Listening to, involving, deciding and delivering on our citizen’s concerns!
That should be our priority for them to feel protected, and to feel at home in Europe.
But we all feel there are bigger questions behind. We are living in times of uncertainty with known challenges such as digitalization, globalization, demographic development, migration, China, Russia…
In times of uncertainty, the most important thing is not to describe the changes, but to face them: to be successful, we need to have a stable ground, we need to know what we do believe in, and we need to know what our identity is.
Firstly, let me use a picture: let us flythrough Europe together – let us start in Athens, then approach Dublin, and let us pass by Lisbon to finally land in Helsinki. On our way, we crossed also Wildenberg. We will find different cultures, multiple languages, and fantastic food! Europe is so colourful, Europe is so rich and so diverse. It is great to be a European!
But we all have one thing in common: in every village, in every city, you can find a Christian church – that should give us an idea about our fundament, about our roots!
In social media, we are heavily attacked by globalized elites and by cosmopolitans for being too conservative, too backward looking, and too old-fashioned!
I tell you: I don't care! Our Europe has a face, an identity, a DNA.
We are proud of that and we will protect it!
And it is our role, because we are Christian democrats!
What does this mean? We as Christian democrats, are convinced that every human being matters. We do politics for all citizens regardless of their social background, their education, their age or their place of birth.
We as Christian democrats built the Europe of today – a Europe that is for us a synonym for freedom. Freedom of expression, press and religion.
We as Christian democrats believe in a Europe of subsidiarity – not every issue in Europe is an issue for Europe. I want a Europe that respects the national, regional and local level. We do not accept any kind of discrimination, but for example family law is a purely national responsibility.
We as Christian democrats believe in economic freedom and a fair economy. Both go hand in hand. We believe in investing and not in spending; we care about the youth, for example in southern Europe. We want to create 5 million jobs with a new investment and innovation plan.
We as Christian democrats are not egoists. We believe in global responsibility – that is why we must use our trade power to make it clear that we don´t accept child work in developing countries, children need a school, not a job!
And we as Christian democrats believe in a Europe that is ready to work together with all our neighbours, but which is also ready to define the final shape of the EU, and that’s why Turkey cannot become member of the EU.
May I remind you that 60 years ago, the Socialists in Germany where protesting against the idea from Adenauer of a closer cooperation with France?
My I remind you, that the Greens voted against the creation of our single market 30 years ago?
And may I remind you that the Liberals recently refused the legislation against terrorism?
I don´t need Socialists, Liberals, new movements or the Brussels bubble to give us lessons for the future. We are the first and largest party in Europe. We are Christian democrats. We founded today’s Europe.
We have a clear vision for the future based on our strong roots and our unnegotiable values.
And when we talk about identity, we have to talk about Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders and Matteo Salvini. They only play one country against the other and tell people “to hell with Europe!”. Their message is egoism, their aim is destroying Europe.
Franz Josef Strauß, a former President of my CSU party said in the 1960s “Bavaria is my home, Germany is my nation and Europe is my future!”
We should not let this basic principle of joint identities to be destroyed.
For us, they belong together!
Nationalism means war at the end of the day!
The voters all over Europe must know this!
And we as EPP will fight against the old, dangerous and egoistic nationalism.
We invented today’s Europe and we will defend it!
And we have to talk about how we do European politics!
During the Brexit campaign, one message prevailed: “I want to have my sovereignty back!” –People do not feel involved enough; people do not feel connected enough!
To pursue our dream of a strong Europe, we have to make it democratic!
In a democratic electoral race, you need a candidate and a programme – the EPP will have both. The EPP will play it the democratic way.
Last time, the EPP succeeded with our idea of top-candidate. Jean-Claude (Juncker), you have protected Europe during those tough times.
Jean-Claude, you still have a lot to do, but I want to thank you for the things I learned from you over the last years and for the great job you did for the EPP and for Europe!
Today, we continue our way towards a democratic Europe. We decide about the candidate for 2019!
I am grateful that I can count on the support of all our EPP Council Leaders. It is an honour and a responsibility.
But the idea, that for the first time a parliamentarian, the leader of the largest group in the European Parliament is running for the lead candidate sends a clear signal of “more democracy”.
And next year, in an even more fragmented European Parliament, this might help to find a solid majority!
And how about the programme?
It would not be my programme, it would be our programme – it would be an EPP programme. Over the next few weeks, we will work together on the programme and I hope we can deliver key promises for the future of Europe so that people get a clear idea what they get when they vote for the EPP!
Voters must see the difference between us and the others.
To open the “black box Brussels”, the involvement of our citizens will be crucial. It will also be key to create a feeling of being at home in Europe!
I am a bridge builder. This is part of my political DNA – not theoretically, but in very concrete terms: We did it in the EPP Group together within our Presidency, together with the leaders of national delegations, together with our coordinators, together with our rapporteurs!
We are the largest group, but also the most united one. Keeping Europe together is what truly drives me.
To me, there is no Europe of East, West, North or South. There are not good and bad Europeans, and there are no second class Europeans – there are only Europeans!
Many people tell us to cut, to expel and to stop dialogue.
My answer is: “No, based on our strong ideas and our values, that everybody must respect, my dream is to keep Europe together!”
Everybody must feel at home in Europe!
This is my Europe.
A Europe I work for, I fight for and that I will always defend – A Europe I want to innovate – A Europe I love!
I am a European.
I want to open a new chapter!
No more anger, but a new chapter of happiness and optimism!
No more fears, but a new chapter of hope!
No more nationalism, but a new chapter of solidarity!
For your support,
For your trust,
For your mandate,
For my way to do European politics – where it is never about me, but always about us!
A few month ago, Paulo Rangel invited Lech Wałęsa to Riga, Latvia, to honour him for his successful fight for freedom – together with Pope John Paul II, he made history.
In his speech, Lech Wałęsa said: “Ok, that was important, but that is history. More important is what happens now!”
He spoke about our enemies and competitors: Russia, China – which both have an interest in a weak Europe – PiS in Poland, Le Pen in France and the Brexiteers who want to destroy Europe from the inside!
And Lech Wałęsa said, from his experience of 75 years:
It is again time to stand up and fight;
It is again time to pick up the microphones and speak;
It is again time to defend, argue, and convince, to show the way towards a better and stronger Europe. A Europe that serves the interests of our people. And a Europe that will be a home for all Europeans!
That is exactly what I want to do –
Together with you!
As a true EPP family!
Like our predecessors, like all the Christian democrats did!
Let´s open a new chapter for Europe!
Let´s start in Helsinki!