Renew Europe Now: priorities and candidates. Interview to Sandro Gozi - Website of the European Democrats
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Renew Europe Now: priorities and candidates. Interview to Sandro Gozi

Nominated on 8th March as the European Democratic Party’s (EDP) top candidate, Sandro Gozi, the party’s current Secretary General and a member of the French delegation of the Renew Europe group in the European Parliament since 2020, talks about the priorities of his campaign and those of the ‘Renew Europe Now’ platform that will be launched in Brussels on 20th March. Given the breakthrough of the far right predicted by recent polls, he believes that much of the election will be played out in Italy, where he still hopes that the Italian parties belonging to Renew Europe will form a united list. He also remains convinced that his political family will be represented in the EU’s top posts after the elections, recalling the group’s priorities on defence, the rule of law and enlargement.

What are your priorities as the leading candidate of the European Democratic Party?

First of all, it’s about highlighting what we’ve done. The Renew Europe Alliance is a new alliance that we have created in 2019. We have achieved significant results. I am thinking of the progress we have made on the Rule of Law, the post-covid recovery plan, the first steps – albeit insufficient – on defence and everything we have done on the digital front. And I believe that these European elections are, without rhetoric, the most important since the European Parliament was elected by direct universal suffrage. History has accelerated at a phenomenal rate. We have a war on the doorstep of the European Union, we have a major conflict in Israel and Palestine and we have to face the imperialist postures on the part of Russia and China. So it’s clear that our priority must be to build this powerful Europe. This is absolutely fundamental.

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So how do you plan to build this “powerful” Europe?

Firstly, we need to speed up our defence strategy and the creation of new resources so that we can have a genuine defence policy. This means having an industry and developing common capabilities in the field of defence. In my opinion, this is undoubtedly the first response to the historical challenges we face. Building this European power is absolutely fundamental. Secondly, it is a question of challenging the nationalists and sovereigntists head-on. In 2016, the slogan “take back control” was undoubtedly a good question. Where sovereigntists and nationalists have failed is in their response. Because the answer cannot be to leave Europe, shirk our responsibilities, try to escape and get out of history, as we saw with Brexit and its negative consequences.

What priorities will be presented to Europe’s citizens on 20 March, at the official launch of the Renew Europe campaign?

Defence, immigration, values, defending the Rule of law and, of course, we’re going to put a lot of emphasis on education, knowledge and culture. We believe that there is also a strong demand for European action in this area, and that’s what’s really driving everything. We want to reform the Union to unify the European continent. We are in favour of opening up to Ukraine and the Balkans. But this must go hand in hand with a revision of the Treaties and a major reform of the Union. If you like, it’s the final chapter that encompasses these priorities. After that, there will be others, but these are the ones that stand out for me. At international level, we are going to propose an alliance of democracies. We believe that the world must also be reorganised around alliances with liberal democracies, given that there are more and more systems that want to undermine them. And this starts with an alliance with the US Democrats. So, unlike the EPP, there is no doubt, we fully support Joe Biden and not Donald Trump.

The system within the Renew Europe group consists of the presentation of a platform with a trio of main candidates (for the EDP, ALDE and Renaissance), instead of the nomination of a single Spitzenkandidat. Why this choice?

As far as the EDP is concerned, it’s very clear that there can’t be heads of lists without lists. There can’t be a number 1 on a list that doesn’t exist. We fought to introduce transnational lists. We’ve achieved a very important result as a group, and we have to take credit for it. For the first time, the European Parliament has adopted a European electoral law that improves things from the point of view of gender equality, the protection of people with disabilities in elections, young people, electronic voting, but it also finally introduces the possibility of voting directly for European political parties. We believe that this law must be approved by the EU Council, which is deadlocked on this issue. For us, this is a priority and we want to continue this battle after June 2024. Until we have these transnational lists, the head-of-list system does not have the necessary legitimacy. It’s no longer 2014, we now have an electoral law on the table.

That’s what we need to work on. So there won’t be a Spitzenkandidat; there will be a ‘Team Europe’. And that is the position of European democrats.

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Is this proposal for transnational lists in the Renew Europe group’s DNA?

It’s in the Group’s DNA, it’s in the DNA of the European Democrats, it’s in my DNA. As you know, I am the first former minister of a country who was elected in another country because I went to France, and this is one of the missions that I was entrusted with and to which I still feel strongly committed.

Current polls indicate a loss of more than 20 seats for the Renew Europe group. Is this something that alarms you at this stage?

No, because the campaign has just begun and will officially start for us on 20 March. The results are discussed at the end of the campaign, not before it begins. No doubt the polls give some indication, but everything remains to be done. Clearly, from this point of view, our main problem is Italy. We have taken initiatives to encourage the Italian parties that are members of Renew Europe to put together a joint list that is very federalist, very pro-European. So far, this has not been possible because of the veto of one of the parties, Azione, and we believe that this is a serious mistake. Of course, we respect the decision-making autonomy of the parties, but Italy is undoubtedly a very important part of our race against the nationalists.

What concerns do you have about this surge by the far right, and what do you think this would mean for future political decisions at EU level?

You should ask this question to the European People’s Party. Unlike Ursula von der Leyen and the EPP, it’s clear to me that there are two extreme right-wing parties in the European Parliament, not just one. I’m not just an opponent of Le Pen, Salvini and Alternative fur Deutsch/and (AfD). I am also an alternative to the post-Francos of Vax, the reactionaries of PiS and the right-wing extremists of Fratelli d’Italia. And for us, it’s impossible to make political alliances with ID and ECR. The EPP, Roberta Metsola and Ursula von der Leyen seem to me to be much more ambiguous on this point. And it would be good if they could be a little clearer, because Ursula von der Leyen’s statements, in which she rules out any alliance with the ID and leaves her relationship with the post-Francos of Vax or the right-wing extremists of Fratelli d’Italia ambiguous, raise questions in my mind. That’s who you should ask. For us, things are very clear: no alliances with them.

As far as the ‘top jobs’ are concerned, does your group hope to be able to keep another important post within the institutions, if not the Presidency of the EU Council?

Yes, I’m sure that our political family will be represented in the ‘top jobs’, and I think we’ll have to do everything we can to strengthen ourselves, to strengthen our political position, but also to be stronger in the negotiations for the post-election ‘top jobs’.

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