May I begin by congratulating you on your courage: coming to Helsinki for the EPP Congress in November takes guts – it will be dark and cold. But don’t worry, knowing Kokoomus, you are in for a cool experience combined with warm hospitality. Together we will make our congress a strong moment of European democracy.
In the past few months I have been in touch with many of you. After careful consideration and strong encouragement I have decided to run for election as the EPP’s candidate for Commission President. I will announce my candidacy in Strasbourg on 2 October 2018 at 16.00.
I feel that it is important for the EPP to make the best of the Spitzenkandidat-procedure. That means that we should have an open and democratic election between credible and experienced candidates. This will also strengthen our party as we approach the European elections in May 2019.
I welcome the candidature of my friend and colleague, Manfred Weber. I think it is crucial that Manfred and I have constructive and public debates on the future of Europe in the coming weeks.
I have decided to run for two reasons. First, I believe that now, more than ever, we need a strong defence of European values. Our ideological DNA is based on respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. I am convinced that these values are the foundation of Europe and as Commission President I will stand up for them.
In the 20th century the EPP won the battle of ideas. Democracy prevailed over fascism and communism mainly because of the relentless fight of our founding fathers all over Europe. We have always been strong advocates of liberal democracy, a social market economy and rules based globalisation. But our world view cannot be taken for granted. Our values are under attack from both inside and outside the European Union. It is time to stand on the barricades and defend Europe.
Secondly, I believe this is Europe’s moment. As the United States and the United Kingdom are in a process of voluntary marginalisation from world politics, the European Union needs to step in and fill the emerging power vacuums. Our close transatlantic alliance is by no means a thing of the past, but we must take more responsibility for our own destiny.
This means stepping up to the plate on issues such as security, migration, technology, employment, free and fair trade, sustainable growth, and climate change. The fourth industrial revolution – artifical intelligence and robotisation – will be a huge force of change for society. It will change the logic of economics, politics and science. If we do not prepare for the future together, Europe will be left behind.
It is time to rally around our cause for a strong Europe. This means mitigating unnecessary divisions between East and West, North and South. We must be better at highlighting what unites us instead of what differentiates us. We need more solidarity, whether on the future of the euro or migration. At the same time we need member states to take more ownership in the European project.
Many of you know my background and experience as an academic, civil servant and politician (please find my CV enclosed). Ten years in academia and civil service, four years in the European Parliament, eight years in government (Finnish Prime-, Finance-, Foreign-, Trade and Europe Minister) and a year at the European Investment Bank have not only given me a wealth of executive and legislative experience, but also moulded me into a dedicated pro-European.
I am taking a five week leave of absence from the EIB in the run-up to the EPP Congress on 7-8 November. I intend to present my programme for Next Generation Europe in Brussels on 17 October. In the coming weeks I will be travelling to as many capitals as possible to discuss the future of Europe with you. My team will be in touch with you about possible meetings and public debates with Manfred. My personal e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I consider myself a centre-right moderate, and I intend to drive a pro-European and positive campaign. Together we can make this a success for the EPP and for the next generation of Europe. I hope to see you soon, and thank you for your support.