Before the live chat even started, we had received several questions via email and Twitter in response to the event announcement. Joseph Daul responded in French and English to the questions. Our editor-in-chief, Laura Dagg, was there transcribing the EPP President’s answers. It was a first for him, “Social media are a good way to communicate with citizens and they allow for greater interaction. However, as a farmer, I am a hands-on type of person and so I enjoy real-life contact. We have to find a balance between the two.”
Agriculture was one of the subjects that came up again and again in different questions. On the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), Joseph Daul believes that it has to “ensure food safety for Europe’s 500 million consumers. Food is not an industry; it depends a lot on climate and farmers are the actors, in economic terms, across all continents particularly the United States and China.” Mr. Daul took the opportunity to remind us of the important role the European Parliament plays in the debates as a result of the Lisbon Treaty, “For the first time, the EP has codecision powers with the Council on this reform of the CAP” .
A more polarising subject is GMOs. The EPP President did not dodge the issue, “we need to ask ourselves realistic questions - would you prefer to eat a potato that has been treated between 22 and 26 times a year against mildew (that is how production works in a normal year) or use a mildew-resistant plant? Which is the lesser evil?”
The role of the EPP and the European Parliament
“The role of President of the largest and most influential group is one of coordination and driving new ideas” explains Joseph Daul. To improve the system, he proposes that at the next elections in 2014, a certain number of MEPs be elected on a transnational basis. The only condition being, to his mind, that all European political parties have the potential to develop European programmes which “in reality, is not so easy” .
Being from Alsace, on the border between France and Germany, partly explains his path in life, “As an Alsatian, I was born European” .
While some analysts see a rise of nationalism in Europe after different elections in Member States, Joseph Daul looked to the far-right Tea Party Movement in the United States which made a breakthrough in the recent mid-term elections. “The Tea Party phenomenon” , he said, “marks a clear return to values. American citizens are expressing a lack of confidence in the Washington establishment and want better management of finance by their government. In Europe, although expressed differently, these feelings are very much present in public opinion and I take this into account when making political choices.”
In favour of own resources for the EU
In response to several questions on the budget and, more specifically, on European taxation, this is what Joseph Daul said, “Member States cannot decide on new European policies (External Relations, ITER, Galileo etc.) while at the same time not provide adequate financial resources for these policies” . He also said that he is in favour of the Union having own resources, i.e. to make it less dependent on the goodwill of Member States for the constitution and its budget.
Joseph Daul stressed the point that more than 90% of the European budget is returned to Member States, “a euro invested in Europe is more profitable for citizens than a euro invested nationally” . He also took the opportunity to defend his vision of Europe, which is quite different to that of Cameron, “My Europe echoes that of the founding fathers who viewed things in the long term, not the short term. We cannot decide on European objectives and then not finance them - this is the message that the European Parliament and my political group would like to send.”
Joseph Daul talks to citizens… and the Belgian Secretary of State for European Affairs!
As a matter of interest, Olivier Chastel, Secretary of State for European Affairs in Belgium, wanted to ask this question on Facebook chat, “Joseph, with regard to the Citizens’ Initiative, do you think the European Parliament will manage to reach agreement by the end of the year?”
No doubt they will have a chance to discuss this face-to-face in Brussels very soon!
See all the answers on Touteleurope.eu’s Facebook page