“The EU institutions and the Member States need further accountability, parliamentary scrutiny and control, and for this the European Parliament and National Parliaments will certainly be invited to play an enhanced role. The European citizens demand more democratic legitimacy and their elected representatives will assume such legitimisation.”
Ioannis Kasoulides is a Cypriote politician, the Vice-Chair of the Group of the European People’s Party (the most voted in the latest elections to the European Parliament). In this interview, he shows us his party’s views about the present and future of the EU.
-Could you tell us anything about your background? What are your studies?
My academic background has nothing to do with what I am doing at present. I am Doctor of Medicine, and as Medicine is a science of common sense it enabled me to deal both with Foreign as well as economic matters. I was first elected in the national Parliament in Cyprus, then joined the Government for ten years, the last six years of which as Minister of Foreign Affairs. I am now for the second term Member of the European Parliament.
-How did you become a MEP? Was this an objective for you in your political career?
I have never put objectives in my political career. The circumstances came to meet me at every step. Probably I was preferred by voters to join the European Parliament because of my previous position as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
-What’s your role in the European Parliament?
I am Vice President of the EPP Parliamentary Group responsible for Foreign Affairs and I currently serve in the Committees of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
-What’s being the role of the EP in the current crisis? Will it be reinforced when we’ll overcome it?
The EP has followed very closely the developments pertaining to the current crisis, was kept regularly informed by the President of the Council and the Commission, and promptly undertook to pass legislation for the implementation of the various decisions of the Council that gradually undertook to face the present financial and subsequently the monetary crisis of the Euro zone. This materialised with the “six pack” and then the “two pack” about fiscal consolidation, the European Semester, the economic governance and the ratification of the Fiscal Compact. The EP went further than what the Council managed to agree, tightened further the Regulations for Fiscal Consolidation, the supervision mechanisms for financial entities and Banks to the point that the Council through co -decision had to accept EPs contribution. I remember that the final vote on the six pack had to be postponed from July last year to September where in the end further economic deterioration and the EPs insistence convinced a number of Member States that they had to lift their opposition to the additional measures proposed by the EP.
Certainly the EU has come out stronger following each crisis, and it is natural that the EP will be reinforced at the end of this crisis. The EU institutions and the Member States need further accountability, parliamentary scrutiny and control and for this the European Parliament and National Parliaments will certainly be invited to play an enhanced role. The European citizens demand more democratic legitimacy and their elected representatives will assume such legitimisation.
-What are the principles of the EPP? How do you understand Europe?
The EPP has always been supporting European integration and this crisis has shown that only more deepening and more integrating the EU will be the answer to the present problems. We started the Monetary Union and with the EURO without an economic, fiscal and Banking Union and the world financial crisis unmasked this deficiency. We have very slowly responded to this deficiency and while we all know how the complete answer is finally going to be that will give an end to the attack of the markets on the EURO; we do not openly lay out our long term intentions. This because of domestic considerations of various Member States that face up with their own public opinion, for different and sometimes opposing reasons each. What is now needed is furthering European integration in a much quicker pace than ever before.
The question now is whether we are talking about a political rather than economic integration. Many suggest that a new Treaty is warranted. Perhaps it is, and the process for this should begin after the EU Parliamentary Elections and be debated during the election campaign. I am certain that it will be difficult to the European citizen to understand that the answer to his present economic problems such as unemployment would be a new Treaty. Till we come to the Treaty we must proceed with the bottom up approach with an economic, fiscal and banking Union, which are at the same time political acts as well as economic. When a banking union is achieved and satisfactorily operates, then Banks can apply directly for assistance to theEMSand present obligations of Member States that assisted their Banks for recapitalisation should be able to transfer their responsibility to the re-enforced Banks and thus alleviate the sovereign debt of these Member States. In the meantime we must show patience, resilience and determination so that Member States like Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Cyprus arrive to implement the program of reforms and commitments until their economies find the way to growth and balanced budgets.
We must allow the ECB to play its role as the Federal Reserve or the Bank of England does, buying sovereign Bonds in secondary markets or even a well controlled quantitative easing. After all this are put in place and proven to be respected by Member States the sovereign bonds must be replaced by a Eurobond, albeit gradually or in stages. Then will be the time of a new Treaty. The EPP motto for this year is: “The answer is moreEurope”
-Do think that the EU is too bureaucratized?
The EU is too bureaucratised both in its institutions and the system in Member States but I do not think that now this is the EU biggest problem. Besides reasons of integrity, scrutiny and accountability entail a number of checks and balances by different people. On the other hand cutting in red tape will help competitivity and measures have to be taken to this effect. That is why when we talk about innovation we need not necessarily mean technological innovation but also innovation in procedures without hurting accountability.
-Is decision-making in the EU entirely conditioned by the crisis?
Certainly for the last two years and for the next year most of the EU summits, ECOFIN meetings and meetings of the Euro group were devoted mostly on the present crisis and quite rightly so. But the pace by which the decisions have been taken is very slow and at peace meal, where as the markets react quickly and each time we are overtaken by events. The procedures of implementation from the time a decision is taken are very long and complicated and not only at European but also at national level. For instance the decision about the EMS was taken two years ago, but the Karlsruhe constitutional court in Germany will take a decision about its constitutionality mid September (note: it’s been approved in the end). Sometimes these decisions are constructively ambiguous and accept different interpretations. For example the last EU Council decided that the ECB, or the EMS would buy Spanish and Italian bonds in secondary markets but two Ministers of Member States gave a different interpretation. It sufficed only a small phrase by Mr. Dragui to bring the Spanish and Italian spreads to chute down and then another contradictory statement brought them up again.
-If you had the possibility to change something of the EU, what would it be?
I have described in previous answers the bottom up approach and the several phases to implement this. But the first thing for me is to simplify the procedures of implementation of decisions both at European and at national level.
-Are you worried about the citizen disaffection for the European project? How can that be fought against? Should we fight against it?
Of course I am worried about the citizen’s disaffection towards the EU. This disaffection will not be remedied unless the EU manages to thwart the crisis of the single currency and restore the economy both at fiscal consolidation level and at growth level thus countering stagnation and unemployment. If not then the citizen becomes hostage to the populists, the demagogues, the Euro sceptics and finally the extremes of the far right and the far left.
-How do you think the EU will be in 1-year time? And in 5 years?
I hope that by next year the EU would manage to give a complete answer to the fears of the markets and a light at the end of the tunnel will begin to appear for growth and prosperity. By five years time I see a new Treaty with much bolder steps towards European integration.
-Thank you very much.