EDP co-president François Bayrou spoke today to the French newspaper L'Opinion. He stressed the need to create "a European political authority accountable to the citizens." He explained the current state of Europe by "a lack of vision and courage" and proposed to rebuild the European Union to make it more democratic, more understandable and closer to the peoples.
Is it possible to fight for Europe when the news in France is only focused upon the "affairs"?
You have to fight when the essential is at stake Of course, we have an accumulation of crisis that threaten to go wrong. An economic crisis caused by fifteen years of abandon of the productive forces of the country. Hence the unemployment, this cancer, and our inability to finance our social contract and public services. Second crisis: the challenge to our democracy by the proliferation of "affairs" and the cascade of revelations, day after day. Third attack, it is a fact: the loss of confidence of the country in the European political project, which has yet been the foundation of our national project since the 1950s.
Is your European activist dream to see the emergence of the United States of Europe?
My dream is to see the Union of European States loved by the peoples who make it up and becoming a model for other regions of the world. The basic idea is simple: we, France, are a sovereign country, but there are questions that we cannot solve alone. Neither in the strictly national framework (taking account of the power struggles) nor through the UN (too imperfect). If we want a world where the power is balanced, the only worthwhile project is to be a political power built upon what unify the European countries: geographical continuity (one floor), a community of civilizations (the same values), converging interests (we must defend our resources and employment), and the same desire for balance between the powers of the planet (we reject the law of the strongest). And this original building is a model for other regions of the world. But it is a model, not an imitation: the United States of America have their own model, because they are one people. We Europeans propose an alternative model, which allows different people, who accept their differences, to merge to save themselves and to weigh. Our model is probably closest to what will build other parts of the world, South America or Southeast Asia, or Africa. We are precursors.
In France in crisis, plagued by unemployment, is it still easy to say, as you, being European?
If this is not easy, it is certainly necessary, vital. There is no chance to overcome our difficulties, to reduce unemployment, to sustain our economy and our businesses if we do not build both a French and a European will! Both are necessary. When we look at France, what is necessary to rebuild is clear: from education to our social contract, through the role of companies and our state model. And when we think about Europe, it should be recast so it can develop a political will, and that the peoples can influence this determination. Rebuilding France and rebuilding Europe, I do not separate from each other. Look for example the issues of today, the protection of the cultural exception and food security through agriculture. If the European Union does not exist, who will defend us?
What kind of European are you? The upholder of a total free movement of goods and people, or of a Europe that protects?
I am a French patriot and a European patriot. The role of political power is to protect those under his charge, but protection can also mean promoting the exchange. In my region, the company Turbomeca produces one out of two helicopter engines flying in the world. And where are the markets of this wonderful company? They are in India, Brazil, China, the United States. These markets are expending in all of the developing countries. If we closed the borders, even in just one business, it would be thousands of new unemployed! But with a political power, sensitive areas can be defended, as shown with the solar panels and the fight against the Chinese dumping.
So you want as Francois Hollande the establishment of a European economic government?
The European economic government becomes an ardent obligation from the moment we created a common currency for Europe. Without concerted political decisions, it opens the door to all imbalances. If that does not yet exist, it is that politicians were not up to par. Yes, we need a European political authority accountable to European citizens. We must get rid of the anonymity of European decisions.
How far are you willing to go into integration?
To tax harmonization, to a common energy policy, to a common land policy so the activity may be everywhere and not being at the highest concentration.
Should a Franco-German directorate be restored?
Everyone sees that without an intimacy of thinking and a shared commitment between France and Germany everything in Europe seize up. But it would be wrong to consider that two states alone can lead Europe. This is inconsistent with the European destiny. Co-responsibility, yes, condominium, no: the European adventure does not tolerate the idea of a political seizure of power by a few. Italy, Spain, Benelux, Poland, these are not the countries who are willing to tail a Paris-Berlin decision! But the Paris-Berlin agreement allows Europe to have a will.
When many [French] Socialists attack Angela Merkel, are they blind or courageous?
These are shameful attacks, symptomatic of the weakness of those who uttered them. First, it is not the policy of Angela Merkel, but the policy of Germany. Then this is the disastrous state of our country that requires us to make reforms, not Germany. I propose a single line: only blame ourselves for our own deficiencies and correct them to become a leading country again.
Against the U.S. proposal for a large area transatlantic free trade, what should be the response of the Europeans?
We have to win thanks to the exchange, provided that the exchange does not require us to abandon our principles of society. This is true of the cultural exception, and this is also true, for example, of our agriculture refuse of GMOs and hormones invasion. There is no fair exchange without equivalent rights and duties.
Is the idea of a French "cultural exception”, as stated by Mr Barroso, a “reactionary” archaism?
This is an offensive statement. We have reason to defend our language and a certain conception of the musical production, artistic, literary. We are not ready to abandon what is as precious to us as the apple of our eyes: a language, poetry, history, a certain way of thinking. Defend the cultural exception, it is not only a French battle, it is defending cultural diversity everywhere.
When Brussels ask to Paris to decide to finally reform the old structures of French society, you say “bravo”?
I do not have to say “bravo”: it is not for the sake of Brussels that we have the bounden duty to implement these reforms; this vital overhaul, it is for ourselves. For our families and for our children and for the older ones. When the harbour lookout is warning you: "Watch out, your boat is sinking," you repair it in a hurry, but it is not to please the lookout but to to save your boat and its passengers!
Some say that, with the potion imposed by Brussels, France will die cured...
Define ourselves the reforms that will allow us to once again be full of energy, entrepreneurial spirit and confidence. It does not depend on Brussels, it depends on us! It is in our country where the problems are, and therefore it is ours to find the solutions. Europe is not the responsibility of our own destiny, it is before us. And as the European debate, it should be approached with impetus. All those who resign themselves, hang their heads down and become ashamed Europeans will lose the battle. Everything starts with a sudden burst of coherence and pride. The current state of Europe is not the sanction of a mirage, but of an absence of vision and courage. Our most pressing and most urgent duty is to ensure our role as reformers. Sixty years ago, it was the time of the founders. Today is the time of the reformers. Those who want to give Europe a face that will get it out from the distant anonymity to make it more understandable and closer.
As a real president elected by universal suffrage?
A true face. The one of someone you know, we can mention, even to contest or heckle, in the morning in discussions at a café or in the evening with your family!
Don’t you see coming up with anxiety the European elections, given the growing importance of anti-European? Is everything going up to ensure the National Front a triumph at the polls?
If the republicans, who are truth-loving and courageous defenders of society, remain in their mediocrity and their silences, then undoubtedly this threat will become reality. But as we have often led the battle alone against all the "affairs", we will fight another upon the strength of the European idea.
Are you ready to commit to the forefront at the European elections?
It is far too early to talk of Europe in terms of elections. We must talk in terms of momentum, ideas, vision, realism. In simple and warm terms, without concession in the face of weaknesses, but with the necessary ardour.
Are accumulating affairs planting the seeds of extremism, even to weaken the Republic?
There is a need, I said, of rebuilding Europe, not a blank check. And rebuilding, this requires insight and faith. And there is likewise a need for an overhaul of France, of the Republic, so fractured in recent years and months.
Interview by Dominique de Montvalon – L'Opinion, 20 juin 2013