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EPP group chairman Manfred Weber: Romania is an example in the fight against corruption


The European Union is going through a period of instability, and populists can describe problems, but their so-called solutions are fake, chairman of the European People's Party group in the European Parliament Manfred Weber told Agerpres in an interview.

He also pointed out that Romania is one of the countries where there is no real populist political force and that the country can always stand as an example in the fight against corruption.

Weber also pointed out that the EPP Group fought hard for Romania's Schengen accession because the requirements in the Schengen acquis had been fulfilled. 

AGERPRES: These have been tough and challenging times for the EU, if we only name the Greek crisis, the migrant situation, the terrorist attacks, the Brexit. We've seen the EU being demonized in election campaigns and populist leaders making a strong advance. What does the EU need to be most protected from?

Manfred Weber: In this period of instability people are more and more concerned about their future and the future of their children. Populists can describe problems but their so-called solutions are fake ones. So our task is to show Europeans citizens that we have the real solutions, that Europe delivers and can provide them with the real answers to their concerns. We are taking this challenge and will fight strongly against populists.

AGERPRES: Romanians' trust in the EU has plummeted, according to the most recent Eurobarometer. It decreased by 11% and only Greece's decrease was more drastic. What would you say to those Romanians who are getting disappointed with the EU?

Weber: In a globalized world, no country alone can find lasting solutions to the migration crisis, to climate change, to terrorist threats. The question is very clear: it is whether our European way of life survives or not. Of course not everything is perfect and many things can be improved in the way decisions are made.

We want to show European people that they are better off within than outside of the EU. This is also the lesson that the British people are starting to learn.

AGERPRES: How do you assess the fight against corruption in this part of Europe?

Weber: Romania is an example in the fight against corruption. This has been constantly highlighted within the cooperation and verification mechanism European Commission reports. 
The Romanian National Anti-corruption Directorate is doing a very efficient job. Romanian citizens can see that there is no impunity for politicians, businesspersons and whoever doesn't comply with the law. This is very impressive. 
AGERPRES: During your 14 years in the European Parliament, how would you describe Romania's evolution?

Weber: Since I joined the European Parliament, I have been working on questions related to Justice and Home Affairs, like the fight against corruption and the functioning of the Schengen. I am very happy to see positive developments in that regard in Romania. With every report on cooperation and verification mechanism the country has made impressive progress in the fight against corruption. In the EPP Group we fought hard for your country's Schengen accession because we saw that the requirements in the Schengen acquis had been fulfilled

I have been recently to Romania and I was impressed by the economic recovery of the country. The EPP past governments did the much needed reforms which were necessary to put the economy back on track after the economic crisis. I hope that Romanian citizens are noticing these positive results and that they are starting to benefit from this in their daily lives. What could still be improved is the use of European funds by Romania.  During our meeting in Bucharest last September we discussed this precisely with the members of Ciolos government and we are happy to see some progress on it. 

AGERPRES: What's your take on the way the election campaign for parliamentary elections has unfolded in Romania compared to what we're witnessing in other member states?

Weber: I am very happy to see that there is no real populist movement in Romania and that the political democratic game is following its path. Politicians should show leadership and responsibility, it all depends on that.

AGERPRES: Martin Schulz's decision to step down from the EP seems to open the door for new negotiation. How do you see a balanced outcome, since there are voices stating that it's not acceptable for the EPP to hold all top EU jobs — the Commission, the Council and the Parliament?

Weber: Our priority is to make sure the European Parliament is able to work efficiently in the upcoming 2.5 years and to make sure that populist parties do not have a say in Parliament's most important decisions. To achieve this there is no alternative to a cooperation between the large pro-European groups. We are open to continuing this cooperation with the S&D Group. We want to underline that in 2014 Martin Schulz was elected as Parliament President because the EPP Group Members voted for him, complying with the agreement signed by Martin Schulz and myself which stated that the Parliament President in the second half of the mandate would come from the EPP.

AGERPRES: What's the impact that the EU is expecting following the European Parliament's vote to freeze the accession negotiations with Turkey, in terms of the country's willingness to take steps towards much-needed reforms?

Weber: For us Turkey accession to the EU is not a realistic option. The EPP Group has always been very clear on this. We believe Turkey is a strong ally and we should have a close EU-Turkey partnership. But we are deeply concerned about latest developments in Turkey. Democracy, the rule of law, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are fundamental principles which cannot be called into question. This is why we voted in favor of an immediate freezing of the accession negotiations.

AGERPRES: You've been one of the top politicians who warned against Theresa May's Government policy towards Brexit and Brexit talks. Now that minister David Davis has started to show up in Brussels and Strasbourg, how would you evaluate the impressions he's made in the EU capital?

Weber: My impression after meeting with David Davies was that the British government still had very little idea about what their strategy in Brexit talks will be. Our position is clear: the four freedoms go hand in hand. We will not allow any cherry-picking. The EU will defend the interests of the 450 million European citizens from the 27 EU Member States.