The European Union could be a good servant but a bad master

We do not need a quasi-empire controlled by Bruxelles according to Jan Zahradil, candidate for President of the European Commission

We have to retune the European Union, and we have to give more power to the national parliaments, because decisions are being made too far from the citizens – Jan Zahradil, the „spitzenkandidat” of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) told us.

– What does it mean to be a conservative in Europe in the 21st century?

– To be conservative means first and foremost to be aware of our national heritage, our ancestors, traditions, cultures, habits, established institutions. Conservatives are not revolutionaries, they are evolutionaries. They defend common sense, they are practical and pragmatic, they respect diversity of European nations, they do not succumb to new ideological fashions. Conservativism is in a sharp contrast to progressivism, which always prefers abstract ideology to real world and disrespects different views.

– What do you think will be the most important topics of the European parliamentary elections?

– The European elections always take place in a domestic context and they are part of the domestic political struggle, this won't change. What is new this time is a growing gap between the “old” establishment and the real needs of citizens, a growing gap between those who want to further reinforce the Brussels centralism and those who feel necessary to preserve the democratic sovereignty of European nations. That is why most of the Brussels elites are so hysterical about the raise of what they call „populism”, „nationalism” or „extremism”, which is in fact nothing else but a natural counterreaction to integration that went too far.

– Your motto in the campaign is „Retune The EU”. Which „chords” do you want to retune?

– Over the last years, the EU has taken too many powers. Decisions are being made too far from the citizens, and these decisions are often ill-judged, which further undermines confidence in democracy and the EU. The next Commission must do much less, it has to focus on what I call a “Great Review” of the community law. We need more powers for national parliaments in EU legislation – red card, return ticket. We need to "retune" EU from one-currency union to multicurrency union. Simply speaking, we need flexible, multispeed EU, able to adapt quickly to new challenges of 21st century. We don´t need a centralised quasi-empire run from Brussels and by Brussels.

– What do you think about the so called populists and the other new powers? Can Matteo Salvini or Emmanuel Macron be an ally or a foe for you?

– In the ECR we respect election results instead of using offensive labels. We are ready to work with anyone who strives for a genuine EU reform based on common sense and Member States´ sovereignty. Therefore, it is obvious that, from the two names you´ve mentioned, with Mr. Salvini we would find much more common ground than with Mr. Macron.

– How do you see the future of Europe in the next 50 years? Do we stand a chance in the world?

– Europe is still one of the richest and most developed regions in the world. It is so successful because it is built on the foundations of freedom, diversity, market, democracy, science, business. If we preserve these fundamentals and strengthen them, we can ensure our prosperity and the very survival in the global world. In Europe, we don't need to go by one speed in one direction. We have to be smart, innovative and open-minded. European nations have differently structured economies. We have to give them formula how to further develop. This formula certainly cannot be „one size fits all”, because it does not. We should understand that Europe means the whole civilization – while the EU is just organizational framework, an instrument. EU could be a good servant but a bad master. Let's make it an even better servant but let's never allow it to turn into our bad master.

– What will be the future of the United Kingdom? Deal or no deal Brexit, or no Brexit at all? And how does your party want to compensate the lost British MEP’s after the Brexit, if it happens?

– I do not expect any catastrophe on either side of the channel.Britain is historically in a somewhat different situation than the rest of the continent and I am convinced that it will not be dramatically affected after leaving the EU. I am sure we stay close trade partners, friends and allies even after Brexit. However, the balance of power in the rest of the Union will change, as was proven already by the Aachen treaty between France and Germany. This may not always be of benefit for the V4 countries, and we should therefore monitor the developments closely. As far as the ECR group is concerned, our member parties are doing very well in the polls and we should be able to replace the UK Members easily. Our main aim is to at least remain the third largest group in the new parliament and play a key role in forming a new majority.

– You wrote positive posts on your Twitter about the Versailles peace conference: you see it as a new beginning for your country, but in Hungary it’s still considered as a national tragedy. What do you think, can we overcome our past differences? Do the Visegrad Countries have a future?

– I do respect the fact that some historical events might be interpreted in various ways, that's a part of our diversity. Hungarians were happy in Habsburg empire, Czechs were not, this is history. But we also have to focus on the present moment. Visegrad has already proved to have a strong voice, and despite some differently perceived parts in our history, we share many common views on today's challenges. Let's build on them.

– What is your opinion about the Hungarian government’s work in the EU and how do you see prime minister Viktor Orban’s position in the EPP?

– Mr. Orbán is definitely one of the most successful European leaders and the ECR, unlike many politicians in Brussels, fully respects the right of Hungarian voters to decide on their future. Especially the V4 countries should not forget the role of Mr. Orbán at the very beginning of the migration crisis when he courageously and bravely defended EU external border. He could become one of the leading voices of the EU reform, but that can hardly happen within federalist EPP which, as I understand, Mr. Orbán is not planning to leave in the foreseeable future.

 – The Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe doesn’t have a Hungarian member party, but is there any political formation in Hungary you would welcome in your group?

– That´s unfortunately true, and it's very sad as all other V4 countries are strongly represented in the ECR group. But the question goes rather to Hungary than to our EP group.

– As I heard, you are a big fan of rock music and czech beers. If you would be elected as the president of the European Comission, which beer and song you would choose to celebrate with?

– I would probably choose some good product of Czech microbreweries (there are many of them), while listening to "Crossroads" from Robert Johnson by Eric Clapton. Actually, this was the song with which I launched my campaign in Brussels last November.

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