Negotiations on the EU budget are not the easiest, in particular at a time of rising political fragmentation and polarization. For the first time ever, the yearly EU budget did not draw the support of the second largest political family in the European Parliament, the Socialist and Democrats. Still, a centre-to-the-right majority of policymakers managed to push the 2018 budget through the plenary of the EP. One of the key players of this process is the EP’s rapporteur, MEP Siegfried Mureşan (EPP, Romania).
A fast rising influencer with background in economics, Mureşan is vice-chair in the Committee on Budgets, but he is also the spokesperson of the European People’s Party (which can count several Prime Ministers, such as Angela Merkel and Mariano Rajoy, as well as Presidents Juncker and Tusk among its members). Furthermore, our 2017 influence assessment found that Siegfried Mureşan is among top 50 most influential EU Parliamentarians and the 3rd in his own country.
We reached out to Mureşan to ask him his views on how can the EU achive more with less money, given the impact of Brexit, as well as the future of EU’s role in the Eastern Neighborhood, and especially Moldova, an area of direct interest to Mr Mureşan.
Read the full interview below:
VoteWatch: In your role as rapporteur on the EU budget for 2018, how did you draw up the list of budgetary priorities, at a time when the EU seems to be facing increasing challenges to promote its interests internationally, as well as rising nationalism internally?
MEP Siegfried Mureşan: I have said from the very beginning of my work on the EU Budget that we would use the EU Budget to deliver what the citizens of Europe expect. The Budget is the main tool which Europe has to fulfill the people’s expectations. Thus, the priorities I have put forth are jobs and growth, on one side, and safety and security, on the other side. We have to use the EU Budget to improve infrastructure investments, support research, and innovation, and stand by the side of SMEs and entrepreneurs, as they are the main creators of jobs. I believe that these are the areas that bring real added value to our economies. The more competitive the EU is the more investments are made, which in turn generate growth and jobs. However, we cannot achieve these objectives if citizens and companies do not feel safe in Europe. This is why security is one of my priorities and the reason why internal and external aspects of security must be properly dealt with through adequate budgetary support. Internally, we should do more to secure our borders, to enhance cooperation between the Member States in this field, and to strengthen the agencies of the Union that have responsibilities in the area of justice and home affairs. Externally, we need to ensure stability in our immediate neighborhood, both in the East and the South. We clearly have to invest all available resources of the EU budget in strengthening the European economy and security.
VoteWatch: Over the last few months, the EU leaders have given more and more signals that Romania will play a key role in the process of EU reform after Brexit. Why do you think EU leaders, especially Mr. Juncker, have been paying special attention to your country?
MEP Siegfried Mureşan: Romania will hold the Presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2019. This will be the time when the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. We have it written black on white since Friday the 8 of December that on 30 of March 2019 the UK will become a third country. The Romanian EU Presidency will also be the time when the European elections will take place. We will have to organize the right framework to ensure a Europe-wide campaign in which the people of Europe will be well-informed about what the benefits of the European integration are. We will have to make sure that we lay the right pillars for the institutional and personnel changes that will take place following the European election. We will have to make sure that we play a bold role in advancing the negotiations on the financing of the EU post-2020. It should be the objective of all institutions of the Union to conclude the negotiations on the post-2020 Financial Framework before the European election 2019. In addition to holding the Presidency, Romania is a country in which the people truly believe in the benefits of European integration and we all have to work to meet these expectations of the people. This is why I expect the institutions of the Union to stand by the side of the people in delivering what the people of Romania expect: Europe to play a significant role in rule of law, fighting corruption, independence of the judiciary. Romania is a country that is open to more integration and ready to play its role when it comes to defining the next steps of integration following UK’s departure from the European Union.
VoteWatch: As the spokesperson of EPP, how is the political group preparing for the 2019 European elections and how the group sees the future of Europe after the UK’s withdrawal?
MEP Siegfried Mureşan: Firstly, I’m the spokesperson of the EPP, of the party, not of the Group in the Parliament. It is, of course, the party that organizes and participates in the European election campaign as the European legislation forbids political groups from the Parliament to campaign on the ground during the European election campaign. It is my pleasure to announce that we have already decided the exact date and the exact stage of the EPP Congress to elect our lead candidate – Spitzenkandidat – for the European election 2019. It will be on the 7 and 8 of November 2018 in Helsinki, Finland, that we will be electing our lead candidate for the European election of 2019. We will be presenting our electoral program in line with the expectations of the people for Europe post-2020 and we will be launching our Europe-wide campaign. As we had for the last European election of 2014, now we will also have a predictable, transparent, democratic, open process as to which the most qualified candidate will be as our candidate for Commission President.
VoteWatch: You are also a big promoter of the idea that the Republic of Moldova’s place is inside the EU bloc, despite the current Chisinau administration’s views on the future of EU-Moldova relationship. What do you think should be the next steps by Brussels to encourage democratic reforms in Moldova?
MEP Siegfried Mureşan: The EU is offering prosperity and security to its citizens. This is what I also want for the citizens of the Republic of Moldova, and why I have always said that Moldova has to remain on the path towards the European Union. The best instrument to do so is to implement the reforms agreed on in the Association Agreement with the EU. The EU has to use all the tools at its disposal to speed up these reforms. We have to make sure that the entire financial support that the EU is offering to the Republic of Moldova serves only the people’s interests. The citizens want to see that the money is well spent on projects that improve infrastructure, economic growth, education, the judiciary, and the health system. Therefore, the EU must apply the principle of conditionality: we have to see concrete results in the implementation of reforms in order to continue granting financial support.
VoteWatch: Mr. Mureșan, you have been representing Romania in the European Parliament for almost 3 years and a half. How would you describe this period and what would you wish to accomplish by 2019?
MEP Siegfried Mureşan: Three weeks ago, I concluded the negotiations on the EU Budget 2018. This year I have been the Parliament Rapporteur for the EU Budget of next year, totaling 160.1 billion Euros. It was the first time when a Romanian Member of the European Parliament received the responsibilities for the EU Budget. I’m happy that we managed to agree among all institutions and we have a budget and I’m happy that we have a good budget which corresponds to the expectations of the people. It’s a budget which benefits researchers, small and medium-sized enterprises, young people looking for jobs, students, young farmers, and brings more security to the people of Europe. I will spend most of next year explaining to the people of my home country and to all Member States of the Union what the benefits of the EU Budget are, how many projects we enable to develop and how many people are better off thanks to the support from the European Union. I will also contribute to the decisions on the financing of the Union post-2020 and I will continue to play a very active role in the further development of the Economic and Monetary Union and in bringing countries which are not yet in the Euro area, including my home country Romania, as soon as possible into the Euro area.
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