Guy Verhofstadt's speech in Paris, on May 18th.
First of all my dear friends, thank you for inviting me... I do not know if there has been a lot event from other parties where there was a candidate for the presidency of the Commission but in any case, they did it in secret! Because I can’t remember such a thing. This immediately shows the difference between you and the other political parties in France: all other political parties in France – let’s say it very openly, this is not a secret – are all Eurosceptics each one of them a little more than the others! Sovereignist of the left and this right, sometimes I get confused and I do not know who is the left and who is the right but it does not matter, that's their problem. Then the UMP who is completely divided between a large group of Eurosceptics and some very few still able to see the light… And then the Socialist Party - let's say it - who do not defend the legacy of Mitterrand and legacy of Jacques Delors anymore; they became Eurosceptics like the others.
Well I'll tell you something: I think that Les Européens, the UDI and the MoDem, have made the right choice because the surprise of May 25th will not be the victory of Eurosceptics, nationalists and populists. Because this surprise is announced every day in the newspapers so it will not be a surprise! Every day I open the newspapers, look at the television and see “yes, they will win”. Then the surprise will be something else. The surprise will be the birth of a pro-European centrist movement in France and all over Europe. That will be the surprise!
The second surprise is that they will need us to have a president of the Commission. This is the second surprise, of course, but we'll talk about it later.
What do we propose? We are the alternative to what? Firstly to the Conservatives in Europe today who say that the crisis is behind us, that the crisis is over. They say that two days after that Eurostat, the European statistics agency, released the figures for the first three months, which are catastrophic because there was an economic growth in Europe of 0.2%. In France, 0.0%. That is the reality and the result of the current majority in France. But the Conservatives say "No, no, it 's okay, it's the end of the recession…" Naturally, after five years, it would be the height if the recession had continued again… "But it will get better!" Fiscal discipline, austerity… I'm not against fiscal discipline but it is not only with austerity and fiscal discipline that we will create growth. We need other ideas, we need ideas for the future to do so.
And then there are the Socialists, whom we are also the alternative. The Socialists are saying "we need growth, what we gonna do? Well, we have a very original recipe: we will make new debts!" We will do exactly the same thing that has been the basis and origin of the current crisis! It makes me think of alcoholics, drunkards, who continue to drink and drink and they think they will become sober! That's it, really. That’s their argument! Well I say I cannot believe it. We know what happened in all countries around the world in Argentina, etc. what happened in countries that have continued to make debts. So they are not able to imagine something else; it is only that.
And the Golden Rule, we will put some expenditure out of the budget. I come from a country that made this in the 1980s, we were the sick man of Europe and we said "oh such and such expenses will not count in the public finances and the state official accounts."
These are their recipes! Things that will not work.
And then there are the sovereignists who are saying a huge lie. They are saying that in the globalized world of tomorrow, the problems will be solved by hiding behind national borders. You see that! CO2 emissions will stop at the border because nationalism will push them out! And financial products, it is the same thing! They will not go into our banks because they will stop spontaneously, automatically at our borders. Same with unemployment or migration. That's what they are saying! So in the globalized world, all problems will be solved by hiding behind national borders. But actually, what they say is amazing, the French and the European must be told about this! I am back from Milano where I made a presentation on the exit of the Italy out of the euro. In all these countries, the return to the national currency means devaluation by at least 10, 15, 20 % tomorrow or the day after tomorrow !
Everywhere, Eurosceptics are trying to explain that they defend the interests of families and citizens by providing a devaluation of 25, 30 %, that is to say a loss of purchasing power of these same families and these same citizens.
When I see that Ruslana [Lyzhychko] was here and asked for our help to the struggle for democracy… I was with Marielle de Sarnez on Maidan Square. What I saw, it was not a big geopolitical and geostrategic war between Europeans and Putin’s Russia! What I saw was ordinary citizens who wanted to live in a non- corrupt democratic state! That’s what I saw! So when I see Marine Le Pen campaigning and helping Putin, I am wondering what is going on! Someone who do not longer know the values of the French Republic: freedom, brotherhood, solidarity, democracy, freedom of expression! I am wondering how it is possible that these Eurosceptics can go join the Tsar - eh, I call him like that, Putin, the Tsar - who does not want a democracy for his own people.
So what we offer to the Europeans and citizens, it is very simple. This is a new strategy to overcome the crisis. We say that fiscal discipline is necessary, but we also need a growth strategy. This growth strategy, we did not invent it ourselves. When I wrote and introduced the program for the next five years, I thought of another President of the Commission, he was a Socialist, he was Jacques Delors. Mr Schulz criticized me on the other day in the debate because I had dared to use the name of Delors in my example. But this is normal, he is a Socialist but an intelligent Socialist, this is not always the case. That's the problem with Socialists. He is intelligent, and he loves football, he loves Belgium. So there is nothing bad to say. Do you remember? In the 1980s, there ware also economic difficulties. There were difficulties in our different economies. There was also Euroscepticism and it was called by another name: eurosclerosis. The European Movement was everywhere charging against this mentality. Delors, to get out of the crisis, had the idea to launch the internal market with this mythical date: 1992 And everybody only talked about it, preparing to jump in front in European integration. And companies in France and the other countries have anticipated this. We must do exactly the same today to overcome the crisis!
This is not by making debts, this is not by doing nothing as the Conservatives propose but it is by launching a second wave of integration in areas that are promising!
Banks, in the sector of capital markets! We still have 28 different markets! If you have a property somewhere and you want to do in another country an investment, you can not use your property as collateral for a loan. So 28 differentiated markets.
Same thing for energy. Energy community does not exist! Rather than bringing solar energy from some countries in the European market, we prefer bringing the Russian gas in our community! So it must be done because there are also 28 differentiated markets. No unity.
Same thing in the digital domain where they are all American or Asian companies! Google, Twitter, Facebook Apple , Microsoft , General Electric, and I can continue… Neither has a European size. I was in Paris a few days ago in another debate organized by Les Européens. There was a very interesting article from the founder of TomTom. She is French and she is married to a Dutchman – yes, it is possible - and both founded TomTom and they say "our problem is very simple: there is no single market." TomTom could be a company as large as the others, but the regulations are different. For example, if Apple released a new phone, they will talk to four operators in America and the phone is launched in a market of 300 million citizens. And here, when you have something, an idea, first you must find the funds, then you have to go in 28 different countries, have the permissions, and up to 100 operators to talk! That is our problem!
Same thing for telecom! If you pass a border, do not use your cell phone because for 10-15 kilometers, it no longer works as there is no unified market!
Same thing for transportation. Same thing for the Internet infrastructure.
This is our alternative! We say no to those who want to spend money they do not have ! We say no to conservatives ... who are conservative, that is their name! We say we have to go forward, we need a larger single market, and this will get us out of the crisis.
It will not be the only battle. When you will take the presidency of the Commission, we will not only drop economical initiatives, even if they are the most urgent. Also in terms of our civil liberties, in the protection of our private lives, because after Snowden and NSA, it is time for Europe to protect its citizens!
My dear friends, to achieve all of this, we need a new Commission, which again takes the right of initiative. This is the only institution to have it! This is not the Parliament, this is not the Council with all the Heads of State and Government who can do it! It is only the Commission and that is what has failed in the past ten years! A head of the Commission who has the courage to move forward, to develop a vision, to oblige States to take a position and that's what we need! That's the issue in this election!
So I ask you something, and I return to my introduction. The surprise of the election cannot be neither nationalist or populist and certainly not all the right or left Eurosceptics. Let’s all of us do a very intense campaign in the coming days because I am convinced that 30% of citizens, in France and in all of the countries of the European Union, do not know yet what to do on Sunday, May 25th. Let’s campaign intensely and make sure that the real surprise of the May 25th is the emergence of a radically pro-European movement.