Next stop of Manfred Weber's listening tour across the European Union is Cyprus, in the very south of our conti ...
4. Juni 2018
We stand for an ambitious Europe - Op-ed in POLITICO
OP-ED OF MANFRED WEBER, CHAIRMAN OF THE EPP GROUP IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
Published in POLITICO on 4 June 2018
We stand for an ambitious Europe
The recent migration crisis, the terrorist threat, radical economic changes, and a world in disorder have shown us that the upcoming years will be decisive for everyone in Europe. European citizens stand before a crucial choice between security and hope on the one hand, or fear and anger on the other hand.
The extremists on the left and right all have strong rhetoric, but fail in actually delivering. In the last two years alone, these extremists rejected better border protection, a tough security package against Islamist terrorists, new investments in better jobs in every region, and they have refused to take a united stance against authoritarian states. No matter what they call themselves, no name change can possibly change the fact that the Europe of the extremists would not only be a paralyzed one, it would be blocked by egoism and hatred. I do not believe that European people want this. What they want is an ambitious Europe that stands for both security and opportunities.
If there is an area where European citizens expect both results and more efficient European cooperation from their leaders, that is security. In times when our continent is being challenged by terrorist groups like IS, but also by the increasingly aggressive behaviour of external powers, such as Putin’s Russia, the most important task for Europe in the upcoming years is to show its people that it can protect them.
It starts at our borders: we need to equip our external borders with the latest security technology, including drones. Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, must have the financial and human resources to fulfil its mission. This is why at least 10,000 new Frontex officers should be hired. Europe must also have the systematic right to immediately send a pool of officers to the borders whenever a Member State fails to perform its duty. We have to stop illegal migration flows to Europe and enhance integration. External border controls must be strengthened and data exchange between national authorities must be improved. People who do not qualify for protection must be returned. One way of doing this is to deny EU visas to third countries that refuse to take back illegal migrants.
Conflicts in our neighbourhood and Donald Trump’s America are forcing Europeans to be more united than ever. This is why we also have to focus on our military capacities. We have to develop an EU army by 2030, starting within two years with a cyber-brigade to fight misinformation, cyber-attacks, and terrorism. Only a strong Europe that can defend itself can also preserve its values and unique way of life.
Other than security, Europe needs to be more ambitious in shaping better opportunities for every European. On trade, we believe that with the U.S. closing in on itself, we Europeans have the opportunity to show the rest of the world that we are bridge-builders and reliable partners. We want to create at least three million new jobs through fair and balanced trade agreements, but also with new investments in innovation and infrastructure. Through the launch of an Investment Plan 4.0, we want every region to have access to supercomputing and a high-level digital infrastructure and to be enrolled in innovation research networks, in particular for SMEs. In this way, we want to set the foundations for Europe’s next “Airbus” type project in the digital age: we will enhance and bring Europe’s research capacities together for curing important diseases, such as cancer, via biomedicine and data mining.
Finally, Europe needs a new deal for the digital age. Many Europeans are concerned about the increasing power of tech giants. Only a strong Europe can avoid anyone writing their own laws at the expense of European employees, consumers, and entrepreneurs. We want to create a digital social market economy where clear social standards and competition rules are also implemented in the digital world. This also includes the fight against unfair taxation. Those who benefit most should also contribute: we will introduce a fee for tech giants’ access to the Digital Single Market. We also want the EU to become the leader in Artificial intelligence by improving research programmes and setting clear ethical and social standards.
Tough times require an ambitious political plan and leaders that are up to this responsibility. The future of every European depends on our ability to protect people, preserve our unique European way of life, and make Europe fit for the future. To achieve this, we do not need fear, blame games, or unrealistic dreams — we need values, ambition, and hope. What the EPP Group wants to deliver is a protected, proud, confident, and future-oriented Europe.
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