Antonio Tajani: Europe needs more leaders

President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani (64), who met with Postimees in Tallinn’s European Union House before the Tallinn Digital Summit, believes Estonia’s know-how has made it the digital leader of Europe.

Refugees have been a hot topic for obvious reasons lately. There have been differences of opinion, especially with Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic that have refused to contribute in a situation where there is considerable pressure of Greece and Italy. How to make these reluctant countries accept refugees?

The main problem is what will happen in the future. There will be millions upon millions of people trying to get into Europe next year. Why? Because of climate change, agriculture, terrorism and Boko Haram, and poverty. This requires Europe to have an Africa strategy. As pointed out by several leaders during the dinner yesterday (Thursday – M. K.).

There are a lot of refugees in Italy and Greece. We must honor the European Commission’s decision and the principle of solidarity. We are asking for solidarity.

The European Commission has decided to launch infringement proceedings. The Court of Justice supported the institutions’ decision, and now we must be able to convince these countries. Accepting refugees does not equal an invasion. Taking in 3,000, 5,000, or 10,000 people does not translate to millions of refugees. It is not impossible to honor agreements.

What positive ways to influence these countries that would not contribute to splitting Europe can you see?

The refugee matter is serious; however, it is not the end of Europe. We need agreements, and we must be able to convince these countries. I believe sanctions to be a last resort, and that first we need to create dialogue.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s reform plans emphasized development of defense cooperation. Estonians prioritize matters of defense because of the threat from the east; what obstacles do you perceive in front of Macron’s plan?

I want to be very clear. Europe needs more political solutions. The next budget will have fewer resources as the United Kingdom will likely leave the union. That is why we must decide on our priorities. One is the fight against terrorism, and the other is European defense.

Macron said we need a European army, and I agree. Successful cooperation needs to be launched today.

I believe that European defense is not contrary to NATO. The majority of EU members are also members of NATO, while some, like Sweden and Austria for example, are not. I believe that developing Europe’s own defense will strengthen our power in NATO, which is something the Americans find important.

You disliked Macron’s idea for a separate parliament for the euro zone. Why is that?

We already have a parliament for the euro zone – it’s called the European Parliament! I’m against another parliament; it would be very expensive.

The Parliament will hold a separate debate on Europe’s future where we will invite all European leaders. We will invite President of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi and experts. Not to make formal speeches, but to engage in discussion.

The European Union will change to a considerable extent once the UK leaves it. Even so, Macron saw a place for the UK in post-reform Europe. Do you share this view?

Brexit is not our biggest problem. Terrorism, immigration, youth unemployment, the economy are all much more serious concerns. However, Brexit is a problem. First, we want to protect EU citizens in Great Britain. Our three million citizens there are the priority.

We also want our money back – to the cent. We want to protect the Good Friday Agreement of Northern Ireland and Ireland. The border between those two countries is important in terms of peace and stability; however, we must also protect our industry and agriculture for which we need to have control. These are the main items.

Once the framework has been laid, we can launch negotiations for the future – for what comes after Brexit. Cooperation with the Brits is possible. It is clear that being outside the EU is not the same as being a member. If they want a transitional period, it is possible if the European Parliament approves it. However, a transitional period would mean the status quo lasting for another two years.

Germany held its general election on Sunday. We are looking at the so-called Jamaica coalition one participant of which would be the Free Democratic Party that does not exactly see eye-to-eye with other parties when it comes to the European Union. What change do you expect in terms of Germany and their leading role in Europe should this coalition be formed?

Angela Merkel is key. She is the guarantee of German stability. She is a very important player in Europe, and one paving the way toward a better Europe and reforms. She was clear yesterday (Thursday – ed.): there can be no government without CDU and Merkel.

It is not right for us to meddle in German politics. For us, the most important thing is stability and the ability to move on in the right direction – reforms, banking union, euro zone, unemployment, industry, and immigration. We want Germany to be Europe’s quarterback.

We need a leader. I’m against a so-called two-speed Europe; however, it is possible we have four countries that are working and pushing Europe toward change. We need to balance the agreements of Germany and France, while Italy and Spain are also important.

A country needs to take the leading role in each sector. Estonia has done it in the digital world. Your know-how in the field is vital. The significance of today’s (yesterday – M. K.) meeting goes beyond talk. We can address improving our competitiveness in the world.

We need to find good solutions for US and Chinese companies active in the field. We’re talking about Google, Amazon, and Alibaba. We are not against a digital common market, while we need rules. It is impossible to be active in Europe without paying taxes and creating jobs. We need good leaders – Germany, France, Italy, and Spain – with support from smaller member states and their experts. Estonia has become a digital leader courtesy of your top-level know-how.

You took over from Martin Schultz earlier this year and have been described as his opposite. What do you perceive as the biggest differences between you?

Schulz was voted president following an agreement between the European People’s Party (EPP) and the socialists. I was voted president by MEPs, without any major agreements in the leading faction. I have been active with the European Parliament since 1994, and I know the parliament well.

I was voted my faction’s candidate after lengthy talks and elected president by MEPs after another round of talks.

Naturally, I am a member and vice president of EPP. I have my own ideas and positions as a member of the party, while I respect every member as president. Every MEP is the main character. That is democracy, and supporting 200 members against everyone else would be a mistake. I’m not a prime minister, I’m a speaker.

Without the work we do, Europe is like a driverless car. If we make mistakes, we will pay for them come election day. Voters decide whether we’ve done good work every five years.

Political decision-making is what we do. A shortage of policy results in an excess of bureaucracy. That is Europe’s problem – we need more leaders! Not national leaders, but European ones!

Read also other news of Tallinn here.
Refugees The_European_Commission
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
I recommend
No recommendations yet


Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

Even though education is a matter close to the heart of Estonia 200 leader Kristina Kallas, she cannot imagine herself fighting for the post of education minister: ideas can also be realized by someone else. You just took away Postimees’ editor-in-chief. In your opinion, how is the editorial to feel? Lauri [Hussar] had to give the matter thought, and I presume he did. We talked about why he wants to go into politics. Still, to what extent do you imagine wh...
TALLINN – Russia is seeking integration in Estonia only in words, Kalev Stoicescu, researcher at the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) who is running on the ticket of the Estonia 200 party in the March 3 general elections, said on Wednesday commenting on the words said on the subject by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.  "Russia is the only neighboring state which does not wish -- due to its own interests -- progress in integration...
Former top centrist Evelyn Sepp admitted that she donated money the origin of which was unknown to her to the Center Party in 2006. The former politician claimed other members also engaged in the practice but refused to name names. Sepp’s confession on ETV investigative journalism program «Pealtnägija» does not come as a total bombshell. She first said that such covert funding of parties is a widespread practice in the aftermath of the Silvergate scandal i...
"In addition to our ongoing programme of passenger vessel renovations, we are also continuing to upgrade and modernise our cargo vessels to ensure that we continue to develop this important part of our business," he noted, adding that the relocation of the company's Estonia-Finland cargo route to Muuga on the Estonian side in October 2017 and the launch of the Smart Port solution in Tallinn's Old City Harbour in spring 2018 both contributed to improved ser...
During the final week of 2018, a total of 2,524 patients with viral upper respiratory infections sought medical attention, 47.5% of whom were children. A total of 210 cases of influenza were laboratory confirmed, nearly twice as many as during the week before, according to Health Board data. Over the past two weeks, the number of flu cases has quadrupled. The majority of these cases were laboratory confirmed at emergency medical departments, from which pat...
I actually think that B1 is too low of a bar for attaining citizenship. You still can't participate in Estonian society on anything other than a superficial level as noted above, so I'm not sure how you can constitute a "citizen" on that basis. Naturally there has to be a high degree of arbitrariness, and that's precisely the point — whilst B1 level might be sufficient in German or French (I understand that it is the benchmark level when applying for citiz...
Following a white Christmas throughout most of Estonia, Wednesday will see sleet and even rain in parts of the country, and temperatures hovering around the freezing point will means slippery road conditions. Early Wednesday morning, many major highways were salted or wet, but some patches were still icy, the Estonian Road Administration said. Eastern parts of the country will see scattered rain or sleet. Temperatures throughout the day will remain around...
Last weekend, Christmas Eve as well as Christmas Day and Boxing Day still ahead means that most chemist's shops are closed for five days in a row. Tallinners can still get hold of prescription as well as over-the-counter drugs in the 5 Tõnismägi St and 19 Vikerlase St shops. As doctors' practices are closed for the holidays as well, people will have to turn to the emergency room of a nearby hospital in case of any more serious health problems. In Tallinn,...
Irene Ilves, the mother of former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, died on Tuesday aged 91. Irene Ilves was born on 6 January 1927. An Estonian refugee, she raised her family in New Jersey, on the US East Coast. She is survived by two sons, Andres Eerik and Toomas Hendrik, and four grandchildren, Juulia Kristiine, Luukas Kristjan, Kadri Keiu and Hans Hendrik, Mr Ilves wrote on social media on Wednesday, adding that she will be very missed by family and frie...