Rendez-vous with Europe
Three weeks after taking up my post as European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, I want to share my first impressions, to present my portfolio as well as my first dossiers, and some of my firmly held views about Europe’s priorities for the next five years.
Europe is demanding, the European institutions require a full commitment towards a just and shared project.
Since the 1st of November, I have been a European Commissioner, a member of the college chaired by Jean-Claude Juncker. I had prepared myself for these responsibilities, which are the continuity of my commitment to the service of my country and Europe for more than 20 years. These responsibilities are, to me, an achievement both personally and professionally. One does not take such responsibilities lightly. Europe is demanding, the European institutions require a full commitment towards a just and shared project. My mandate, within the Commission, lasts for five years. During these years, I will be fully engaged in the challenging and thrilling role that I have taken up. I am a firm believer in the Community method; I have a profound respect for the European institutions: I know their functioning as I have been, over the years, an actor within the Council of Ministers and in the European Parliament. I am convinced that the European Commission, though, is at the heart of the Community method, and that it has a crucial leadership role to play — or to regain — over the next few years, in order to serve the general European interest.
The Juncker Commission has a rendez-vous with Europe, with its citizens: a last chance meeting.
The Juncker Commission has a rendez-vous with Europe, with its citizens: a last chance meeting, as shown by the European elections last May that were a serious warning signal. I intend to be present at this rendezvous; I will take initiatives, I will make proposals and produce results. I want to deliver, within the Juncker Commission, an ambitious new vision for the European Union, rejecting the vicious circle of austerity and recession. I am convinced that the Juncker Commission will be better organised, more political and more dynamic than its predecessors, who have also been useful for Europe. The Juncker Commission will embody change. We have an obligation not to disappoint. And for this we must do things differently, and do them faster and better. The Commission is a unique political body, a particular kind of coalition government that embraces 28 Commissioners from all EU countries, with very different political tendencies: 15 conservatives, 8 socialists, 5 liberals. The quality of our relations, and our capacity to build progressive and effective compromises, will be decisive. The working relationships within the college have gotten off to an extremely positive start, because we share the same sense of responsibility and a duty for success. In particular, my dialogues with the Vice-Presidents Valdis Dombrovskis and Jyrki Katainen show a common willingness to move forward on our files, building a relationship of trust between us.
We cannot afford another missed rendez-vous with Europe. It would be an unforgivable collective fault to breach the expectations of European citizens, if Europe does not achieve the results that Europeans are entitled to expect. Europe means peace and reconciliation, cooperation, shared values and projects. But this should now be more than that, in the current period of disenchantment: Europe has to produce concrete achievements, growth, employment, support to youth, and investments in large-scale projects. Being European cannot be something abstract, distant, and unclear.
The European project is not an external policy imposed on Member States: Europe is you, Europe is us.
It is time to move from words to action. It is time that Europe becomes once again a source of hope and pride for its citizens, and that Europe ceases to be perceived as a problem or a constraint. The key to success is to solve issues and to produce results. It is time, therefore, that Europe is no longer seen as an external element. The European project is not an external policy imposed on Member States: Europe is you, Europe is us. A modern, strong Europe that fully takes into account the challenges and opportunities of the digital environment, of energy, and of sustainable development. A Europe which develops and deepens its strengths, especially the Economic and Monetary Union and the internal market, and which improves social justice. In short, it is tomorrow’s Europe that we must build upon today.
I am proud to be at the crossroads of the economic challenges brought by President Juncker, organised around the following three components: budgetary seriousness – reforms – investment.
Relaunching the European project will firstly be done through the continent’s economic recovery. I am proud to be at the crossroads of the economic challenges brought by President Juncker, organised around the following three components: budgetary seriousness – reforms – investment. I will be a full participant, together with my fellow Commissioners, of the implementation of the 300 billion euro investment plan announced by Jean-Claude Juncker in order to boost economic recovery and create jobs. We can no longer accept the massive investment gap undermining Europe. This is why I fully subscribe to this plan, to achieve a real Europe of investment. The Juncker plan has to be targeted on future-oriented projects and on infrastructures; it has to be a balanced investment plan: private investments as much as possible, and public investments if necessary; this plan has to be implemented quickly and with the European Investment Bank as an important actor. I will also enforce our common European rules, taking into account the flexibilities permitted by the legislation, adapting them to the new context of a Europe oriented towards investment.
An appropriate monetary policy and a policy of smart fiscal consolidation now have to be combined in the best possible way.
I now have authority over two Directorates-General of the Commission — the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs (ECFIN) and the Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union (TAXUD). With them, I will implement throughout my mandate a strong political and economic project. After the successful stabilisation of the eurozone, it is time for a dynamic EU economy. An appropriate monetary policy and a policy of smart fiscal consolidation now have to be combined in the best possible way. As regards taxation, I will defend vigorously three priorities: the EU financial transaction tax, the fight against tax fraud and tax evasion, which goes hand-in-hand with the introduction of automatic exchange of information, and tax harmonisation. In all the complementary areas covered by my portfolio, my agenda will be extremely busy, my files will be demanding, I will have many meetings in order to take strategic decisions. My task will not be easy: this is also why I have accepted it, as I have always done in my past responsibilities.
I am not and will not be the ambassador of a country or of a party. I am not a representative or a diplomat from France sent to Brussels.
As a Commissioner, I have a duty of impartiality and independence, in particular towards my country, France. Being a European Commissioner does not mean abandoning politics, but it requires me to act from a different perspective. I have resigned from all of my elective offices, after 20 years in the Pays de Montbéliard area, dear to my heart and to my mind. But I will remain present in the public debate in Europe and in France. I am a socialist, and I will remain so. I am French and I will always be. However, as I have already said, I am not and will not be the ambassador of a country or of a party. I am not a representative or a diplomat from France sent to Brussels. I will work for the 28 member states, serving more than 500 million Europeans. Of course, I do not cut ties with my country; I do not deny my nationality. But now I change focus: a European office-holder who has to explain Europe to its citizens, as a relay to the European activities in his country of origin. France should understand that it is stronger if fully integrated in Europe; as Europe is stronger with a voluntary France within it. Marginalisation in Europe means the exclusion of a vital circle of influence. France must not play into the hands of Eurosceptics, it must instead be more than ever at the heart of the European project. In short, France must, as during the high points in its history, be a leading country, that has a strong voice and that matters in Europe. I will travel on a very regular basis in France to explain the successes of Europe, to discuss with our citizens, to know their expectations and their fears, and to answer them.
Yes, I am and will be at the rendez-vous with Europe, over these five next years.
Yes, I am and will be at the rendez-vous with Europe, over these five next years. I have carefully planned this rendez-vous, and I will be present with my experiences and my reformist convictions, as a pro-European progressive. I feel at the right place in a crucial moment for the European project’s reorientation towards growth, employment, investment, competitiveness. I invite all of you to participate in this rendezvous. And I will pursue my dialogue with you on this Blog in my new responsibilities.