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Interview with MEP candidate Birgit Weckler

Our Government affairs manager, Zoltan Kesz, recently interviewed an MEP candidate from the Christian Democratic Union of Germany to understand their perspective on the future of Europe, the strategies they recommend to address present challenges, and their opinions on crucial policy issues.

What are the biggest challenges the EU is currently facing?

“The biggest challenges include the following: 

(1) Reach consensus on an EU reform to establish it as a strong European world power vis-á-vis  other global powers with a real defence and security union (see (2) below) and as an even stronger competitive and innovative market economy driven by a genuine EU interest rather  than national interests 

(2) Substantially strengthen the European defence, security and military capacity to protect all EU  citizens 

(3) High number of refugees arriving in the EU  

(4) Threat posed to democracy by extremist parties and movements in the EU (5) Cyber-attacks  

(6) Shortage of qualified workforce 

(7) Demographical development in the EU  

(8) Climate change 

(9) Bureaucracy 

(10) Fake news 

(11) Inequality of people within the EU but also globally 

(12) Reduced international cooperation in combination with increased nationalism.”

What is your vision of Europe in the coming decade? 

a. The EU is established as a strong European World Power respected by other global powers as primary representative for Europe 

The EU is established as a strong European World Power representing with one voice its Member  States vis-à-vis Russia, China, USA, Turkey and other world powers. To this end, it is important to establish a real European defence and security union. It further requires that EU decisions on the common foreign and security policy are taken by the qualified majority – instead of unanimously, the military capabilities of EU member states are substantially strengthened, and the EU has a commissioner of defence. 

The EU establishes its own digital infrastructure and ensures EU’s access to a secure, affordable  and sustainable supply of critical raw materials, chips and batteries with reduced dependence on  third countries (i.e. non-Eu countries).  

To be respected by other global powers, the EU is a strong, competitive economic market with attractive conditions for the industry, businesses, start-ups, science and investors and with a climate of innovation, modernisation and digitalisation, based on the concept of a social market economy, and substantially reduced bureaucracy. 

The EU is the role model word wide in effectively reaching the climate protection objectives,  based on technological innovation and the concept of social market economy. 

The EU protects its borders effectively with a strong mandate of the EU authority Frontex and  contributions of all 27 Member States, and defines and effectively enforces joint migration policy  respecting human rights and based on its own interests and needs. 

b. Substantially strengthened democratic elements in the EU 

Hand in hand with establishing the EU as a European world power (see a. above), the ‘internal democratisation’ of the EU is substantially strengthened. This includes, in particular, a stronger role of the European Parliament in the appointment of the commission, including its president, a more legislative co-decision power, and a fully-fledged right of legal initiative.  In addition, the number of commission members is reduced (e.g. 15 commissioners). They should no longer be proposed by the national governments but nominated by the Commission President-designate and then approved by both the Council and the Parliament.

To foster EU politics in a genuine EU interest, the election system for the European Parliament is complemented with elements of transnational party lists. In the European Parliament elections in ten years, the election campaign of candidates for the European Parliament is (partly) led as a cross-border EU-wide campaign involving all EU citizens rather than focusing only on the member state to which the candidate belongs. To this end, the modern use of digitalisation and modern translation tools provided by the EU to all candidates should be part of the EU support for such an EU-wide election campaign. 

These three points as part of an EU reform in the next EU convent will support that EU decisions are taken mid-term in a true EU spirit, see point c. below. 

c. EU policy in harmonised/ integrated areas is driven by genuine EU interest rather than  national interests 

EU decisions in areas which are harmonised/ integrated are taken in the spirit of a genuine EU  interest rather than being a compromise of national interests. 

EU citizens live towards a “European way of life“. Central values include human dignity, peace and freedom, democracy, human rights, equality, the rule of law, and social and ecological responsibility. 

There are EU universities in areas ‘harmonised’ by the EU, such as ECB Banking Supervision, ECB  monetary policy, the resolution of credit institutions, competition law, and anti-money laundering and the countering the financing of terrorism. The education system continues to remain the competence of the Member States

70 % of the EU citizens speak at least 2 EU languages fluently, and 50%, ideally 3 EU languages.  This is the objective for all EU citizens regardless of their level of education and whether they live in big cities or at the countryside. 

d. Clearer allocation of tasks between the EU and national level for the sake of clarity 

The areas of competence of the EU versus the member states are more clearly defined for the sake of transparency for EU citizens and decision-makers with a view to ensuring a joint understanding and trust of all EU citizens as well as the EU member states. 

It is important that the EU respects national particularities, traditions and characteristics of  Member States, such as religious holidays and regional products. To this end, the European  Committee of the Regions should be strengthened in the next EU reform. 

In addition, the principle of subsidiarity needs to be observed, i.e. there needs to be a clear benefit and added-value for the EU citizens if the EU rather than the member states takes action, for instance by reason of the scale and effects of the proposed action.

How do you see the role of AI in the near future? What do you think of regulating it? 

AI offers great opportunities such as increased efficiency, consistency in results, and replacing  manual work of workforces, in particular in times of a shortage of qualified workforce at all levels.  What is important is to make sure that human beings, i.e. people, take the crucial decisions and  closely monitor the development and the use of AI.  

I support a limited regulation of AI if concrete risks (e.g. human rights violations) are identified.  Otherwise, the development and use of AI should be left to its users to allow for innovation and competition without overburdening bureaucracy. Please see also my reply in 6.

How does Europe benefit from free trade agreements?

In 2023, the EU-27 exported goods worth around 2,55 trillion euros. Free trade agreements reduce  and eliminate tariffs and help address behind-the-border barriers that would otherwise impede the  flow of goods and services. It encourages foreign investment, promotes regional economic and  integration, and build shared approaches between the FTA partners. Generally speaking, I believe  that FTAs support the economy and wealth of the countries involved and benefit consumers

In addition, FTAs can also be a tool to encourage ongoing domestic reform, trade liberalisation, and climate protection and to foster human rights in the countries concluding the FTA.

Many politicians talk about energy diversification. What is the ideal solution,  in your opinion? 

In my view, the objective of the energy policy should be to (i) ensure reliable and affordable energy for people and the industry, (ii) support the EU as a strong economic market with attractive conditions for the industry, start-ups and other investors, and (iii) reach climate neutrality within the EU by 2050. 

As far as possible, renewable energy should be increased and should play an important role.  However, given that solar and wind energy – which constitutes approx. 75 per cent of the renewable  energy in Germany – depend on nature and non-controllable factors, there needs to be sufficient  other types for energy supply in phases with low sun and wind (energy mix).  

Firstly, to allow for such a broad energy mix, given that there is currently no solution, I think it is crucial to allow for use and research in relation to all available technologies, including  Photovoltaics, wind power, geothermal energy, hydropower, liquid and solid biomass as well as nuclear power and innovative nuclear technologies such as nuclear fusion. In particular, I think the prohibition of the combustion engine (Verbrennermotor) at the EU level should be reconsidered and withdrawn, in particular to allow for the use of e-fuels, given the successful pilot studies in this regard. 

Secondly, within the next 2-3 years, it is important for the EU to establish a fully-fledged energy union within the EU. This requires close cooperation between member states to expand the cross-border infrastructure and the pipeline network for the transportation of energy, e.g. hydrogen, and establish more energy partnerships with reliable partners.  In addition, in certain areas, it is useful to have the possibility to use more than just one form of energy to be able to adjust to market developments, for instance, in households with photovoltaic and heat pumps or in hybrid cars, depending on whether this is reasonable in terms of costs and subject to future technological developments.

Which one do you prefer and why? Innovation vs regulation?

“I prefer a combination of both regulation and innovation, depending on the area in question.  

Regulation may be useful if (i) concrete risks or issues are identified, or (ii) in the EU context, if there  is a need to establish a basic joint understanding of the EU member states to ensure trust, avoid  misunderstandings and support a level playing field. 

Generally speaking, the state is not the better business manager. I rather trust in the expertise of the industry and the private sector. Hence, unless there is a good reason justifying an area to be regulated, I believe that high-level principles in regulation, if needed at all, are sufficient to leave more room for innovation and creativity by the industry, science and start-ups, which I think produces better results. In addition, unnecessary bureaucracy needs to be avoided. 

What are your constituents concerned about regarding the European Union? 

Key concerns include the following: 

• The EU goes too far into national remit without sufficiently taking into account national particularities and historical developments. 

• Decision-taking in the EU is slow and not always efficient. 

• Lack of proportionality and too much bureaucracy in EU regulation. 

• Lack of compliance with and enforcement of the rule of law in some member states. • The wealth per household in some EU countries substantially contributing to the EU budget seems to be lower than in some other EU countries which substantially benefit from the EU  budget and EU programmes. Some people perceive this situation as unfair. 

• Not all member states respect the stability and growth pact without the Commission taking sufficient steps to ensure this.”

Do you think it is wise to accept more countries into the Union?

“I think it is wise as a political and strategic objective for the Balkan countries to join the EU, given its geographical location. Nevertheless, in my view, before countries can accede to the EU, the following  two basic conditions need to be fulfilled: 

a. The country fully meets the criteria to accede to the EU. 

b. The EU needs to be reformed prior to the accession of new member states to the EU. Otherwise, with the current institutional setup, if more countries join, today’s complex decision-making becomes even more complicated, with a risk of a reduced capability for the EU to act. 

Both criteria also apply to Western Balkan countries, Ukraine, and Moldova.

Interview with MEP candidate Philip Johansson

Our government affairs manager, Zoltan Kesz, interviewed a candidate from Sweden’s Pirate Party for the European Parliament. The conversation sought to understand their perspectives on the future of Europe, the strategies they recommend for addressing present issues, and their position on important policy issues.

What are the biggest challenges the EU is currently facing?

“The biggest issue the EU is facing is how the rule of law and human rights are being challenged by certain member states as well as the EU commission itself, on issues such as Chat Control.

The proliferation of illiberal police states in Europe is a result of the continued expansion of mass surveillance, the fight against which is my main political focus. The first thing one needs to recognise is that there is no longer a distinction between state and corporate mass surveillance; state surveillance is primarily done through backdoors allowing access to data collected by businesses.

These corporations in turn secure their continued right to exploit consumer data through regulatory capture and lobbying efforts such as the policy note “Data and Consumer Privacy” by the Consumer Choice Center, a document that would seem convincing only to those lawmakers without a background in technology.”

What is your vision of Europe in the coming decade?

“My vision is that of a healthy Europe that continues to do what does best, such as the protection of civil- and especially consumer rights, and the benefits that brings, not only in greater individual freedom, but long-term prosperity of the whole union.

A great example of how to promote competition in a way that protects innovation is the implementation of the EU:s common charger mandate, where an industry standards body was deputized to decide on the specific connector, and were granted the mandate to change that standard in the future. This prevents consumer lock-in while allowing future innovation.

A functioning market relies on a genuinely informed consumer choosing between multiple meaningfully different products or services that are in genuine competition with one another. All market regulation should strive to strengthen these underlying conditions.”

How do you see the role of AI in the near future? What do you think of regulating it?

“I think one should be careful in regulating generative AI in such a way that would increase barriers to entry into this new space, where a healthy market with many strong competitors is vital. Regulations on how generative AI can be used, and how its products be disseminated are in my view unnecessary. Misinformation, doctored images, and the like are not new problems, we can use the tools we already have to combat those ills.

I think the appropriate regulations are those that lower barriers to entry, while limiting anti-competitive behaviour and reigning in companies that are approaching monopoly status. Examples of such would be regulation that promotes open source models, that can be run on consumer-grade hardware, instead of proprietary cloud solutions.

Putting generative AI to one side, there are other kinds as well, such as the systems employed in the service of mass surveillance. Because these are vulnerable to new kinds of abuse by governments as well as other powerful entities, these ought to be regulated. I think the newly-passed AI act is a step in the right direction, but the carve-outs for law enforcement and migration authorities are a major disappointment, and allows dystopian levels of automated state overreach. I am also sceptical of how the act hopes providers of high-risk systems will simply self-classify as such. Respect of individual’s rights should not be opt-in.”

How does Europe benefit from free trade agreements?

“Through the simple principle of competitive advantage. If, for instance, the production of some product relies on economies of scale in order to be competitive, perhaps the domestic EU market can only support one such company. That would lead to monopolization of the market, unless we then could expand the market to be shared between the EU and other friendly economies. The main purpose of free trade agreements ought to be the one thing they have shown they can actually accomplish: increasing the prosperity of the parties involved.

I am not, however, naive to the risks that free trade agreements could create through an over-reliance on imports from countries that may turn out to be less friendly than initially thought. In order to maximally benefit from free trade agreements, we should strive for the EU to be self-sufficient should it be necessary, as a side-effect, that would also mean domestic competitors in key markets, ensuring European consumers always have a choice of suppliers for any good or service they wish to buy.

In addition, we must not allow free-trade agreements to undermine our legislation in areas where we are already world-leaders, or force us to import bad laws such as the ACTA-like intellectual property requirements in the proposed TTIP. Well-made free trade agreements instead allow EU standards to protect even those living outside member countries.”

Many politicians talk about energy diversification. What is the ideal solution, in your opinion?

“Energy supply is highly dependent on both geography and economic factors. My home country, Sweden, has very beneficial geography enabling the production of large amounts of hydroelectric power. Not every country does, which is why I think the only necessary public spending initiative ought to be to keep developing the EU energy grid to enable those of us who are blessed by geography to provide others with green energy. Such expansions to the power infrastructure would also permit a larger proportion of intermittent green energy for any one country, as any excess could be sold on the European single market, which due to its scale will be naturally less prone to large price fluctuations.

Even with a more integrated grid, we would still have a need for base load power, and although I think a lot could be achieved by hourly pricing and so-called “smart grids”, as well as an expansion of pumped  hydro, we would likely still need a lot of nuclear. Nuclear is the only (mostly) geography-independent carbon-free dispatchable energy, but since it has historically required large government subsidies to remain competitive, a minimisation of these subsidies is generally desirable, but may lead to a decline in the use of nuclear, which is acceptable only as long as it doesn’t lead to an increase in fossil fuel use.

Importantly, we also desperately need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and I believe the most effective way to do so is by utilizing market forces in imposing a financial cost for the negative externalities that emissions constitute. In other countries, that could be achieved through a carbon tax, but the EU uses a cap-and-trade-system. The tradeoffs of the approaches can be discussed elsewhere, but in our current system, what would be needed is a further limitation of the granting of carbon credits, to compensate for the emissions caused during the ineffective pricing during the 2010s.”

Which one do you prefer and why? Innovation vs regulation?

That is a strange question. Innovation, of course. Everyone obviously thinks they support innovation, and the regulation they support is necessary, whilst other’s proposed regulation is government overreach.

Consumer Choice Center, for instance, seems to want to be seen as strongly anti-regulation, yet you also support the government giving out monopoly rights to millions of companies every year in the form of 
intellectual property. Patents and copyright are in my opinion the regulations that impose the greatest impediments to innovation, and they remain largely unquestioned. These concepts were designed hundreds of years ago, and applied for significantly shorter periods of time, and since then, despite the pace of technology and culture speeding up by order of magnitudes, their reach and the length of their terms have grown to ridiculous proportions.

This includes of course disproportionate enforcement measures such as those in the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, that put aside citizens’ and consumers’ rights to the benefit of rent-seeking by large corporate rightsholders.

Your collaboration with the ECR, “The Consumer Case for Intellectual Property”, is a bizarre propaganda stunt that betrays that when the interests of consumers and big business are at odds, you no longer side 
with the consumer.”

What are your constituents concerned about regarding the European Union?

“I think many find the EU confusing and opaque, which to me seems to be mainly a problem of competent media coverage. I hope to continue the Pirate Party tradition of providing transparent and comprehensible information to both journalists and citizens.

Those I hope to represent in particular, are those most concerned about the right to privacy in a world of increasing mass surveillance, and to steer the EU in a direction that protects its citizens, instead of 
further contributing to such surveillance.”

Do you think it is wise to accept more countries into the Union?

“Long-term, absolutely. It is however necessary to think about what their impact would be on the European political climate, as well as the single market. If, or perhaps when, Ukraine would join the EU, that would throw the agriculture market, with corresponding subsidies into total disarray, since their remarkable ability to produce grain would outcompete nearly all current grain producers in the EU.

If, for instance, Serbia would join, the impact may be most strongly felt in the political dimension, as they would likely align themselves with Poland and Hungary, deepening the ideological rift already forming 
between member countries, a rift that is already an impediment to the EU’s ability to operate effectively.

If challenges such as those could be overcome, however, I think the people of both the current member countries and the new additions would be much better off together.”

Interview with MEP candidate Linus Nilsson

Our government affairs manager, Zoltan Kesz, interviewed a candidate from Sweden Democrats for the European Parliament. The conversation sought to understand their perspectives on the future of Europe, the strategies they recommend for addressing present issues, and their position on important policy issues.

What are the biggest challenges the EU is currently facing?

“In the EU, there are issues of national sovereignty, self-determination, and unwanted EU interest in national policies. The border and migration crisis and Frontex. The issues with criminals using the Schengen as a way of doing crime across national borders.”

What is your vision of Europe in the coming decade?

“My vision is a Europe that is held together by our interest in our common market and our common values, but at the same time held together with a mutual respect for our cultural differences. Northern Europe differs from central, western, eastern, and southern – but we are also similar in certain keyways.”

 How do you see the role of AI in the near future? What do you think of regulating it?

“The current modern AI:s being developed and that are in the zeitgeist at the moment are basically language models. They can ingest huge amounts of datasets containing various information, and because of numerous iterations are very good at guessing what a given person wants it to spit out. However, it is basically a new way of googling and summarizing information, not more revolutionary than that. I think the EU should be very careful of regulating new technologies that most people, not at the very least politicians, don’t even understand. As such I see no current reason for the EU to regulate the use of AI specially at all.”

How does Europe benefit from free trade agreements?  

“To keep it basic: We benefit from free trade agreements by possibly making certain products, that originate from outside the union, cheaper to import. This can either be consumption goods meant for individuals, or it can mean base goods that are meant for manufacturing is some sense. However, it can also be more complex than this of course.”

Many politicians talk about energy diversification. What is the ideal solution, in your opinion?

“Energy diversification is not an inherent good in and of itself, instead focus should lie on both being energy neutral in regulation (meaning one shouldn’t work against or for any one type of energy production type) and removing unfair regulation obstacles for fossil free energy production types like nuclear energy.”

Which one do you prefer and why? Innovation vs regulation?

“Depends on the specific question obviously, but in general more in favor of innovation as regulation tends to lag and stifle progress in a general sense. However, there is a clear need of regulation in some cases, especially when certain companies basically obtain monopolies on certain technologies and by having to regulation on them are they ones stifling innovation by pushing other actors of the market.”

What are your constituents concerned about regarding the European Union?

 “Swedish citizens are most concerned about the continuing federalization of the European Union and its increasingly unwanted interest in national policies that clearly are not about the EU inner market, our common border or battling European crime. The EU needs to go back to having a singular purpose of being a free trade project in Europe, so that the Europeans economies, collectively, have muscles to flex towards the larger world economies.”

Do you think it is wise to accept more countries into the Union?

“It is not an inherent good to accept more countries into the union. I think firstly, there needs to be a clear cultural connection to European history and identity, and the country needs to share those general European values. Secondly, the same requirements that have been put on previous member states, like economic stability, a good rule of law and so forth – need to be irontight and can’t be disregarded for any country under any circumstances wanting to join the union.”

Interview with MEP candidate Davide Rizzuti

Our Government affairs manager, Zoltan Kesz, conducted an interview with a candidate for the European Parliament from Germany’s Free Democratic Party. The discussion aimed to gain insights into their views on the future of Europe, the approaches they suggest for tackling current challenges, and their stance on key policy matters.

What are the biggest challenges the EU is currently facing?

“When it comes to key foreign and security policy challenges such as support for Ukraine and Israel, the European Union does not speak with one voice. Democracy and the rule of law are under increasing pressure across Europe. Radical parties are widely represented in national parliaments and are in some cases on the rise. Citizens in the EU are burdened by temporarily high inflation, and public budgets are burdened by higher interest rates and growing expenditure. Medium-sized businesses and industry are struggling with interrupted supply chains, rising raw material prices and an entrenched shortage of skilled workers – also due to demographic reasons. The energy supply in the European Union is like a patchwork quilt and is therefore neither crisis-proof nor efficient. When it comes to cutting-edge technologies that are necessary for quickly overcoming crises and for a sovereign and future-proof EU, Europe lags in international competition. In addition to these national and European challenges, there are global ones: the fight against irregular migration and smuggler gangs, the fight against global warming, system competition with autocracies and dictatorships and the defense against cyber attacks.”

What is your vision of Europe in the coming decade?

First: Europe must become simpler. For us, this also includes strengthening the principle of subsidiarity. People should not associate the EU with over-regulation or bans, but with simple, quick and understandable solutions to the problems of our time.
Second: Europe must become stronger. Citizens must be convinced that Europe’s borders are secure, irregular migration is strictly prevented, people who are required to leave the country are quickly repatriated, the rule of law is consistently enforced everywhere in Europe and a powerful European army is there to protect people and the people in the event of a military emergency European interests ready for action.
Third: Europe must become a market economy. Our economic strength is the decisive factor in systemic competition with other regions of the world.

How do you see the role of AI in the near future? What do you think of regulating it?

“I want to make the EU a hotspot for artificial intelligence that serves people’s life chances instead of disempowering them. That’s why I reject both desires for surveillance and overregulation fantasies. I am committed to unbureaucratic and practical implementation of the European AI regulation that enables innovations and protects civil rights. I plead for a fair use principle based on the American model for AI training data. I want to strengthen the competitiveness of the European AI economy and enable modern monetization models for rights holders. I also want to use the opportunities offered by artificial intelligence (AI) in education. AI applications can support individual learning of students through tailor-made learning materials. AI also offers the opportunity to relieve the burden on teachers. Students should be taught how to use artificial intelligence competently as early as possible in order to prepare them for a working world that is increasingly influenced by AI.”

How does Europe benefit from free trade agreements?

The EU would benefit from the Economic growth, the exchange of technologies and innovations between the contracting parties and the strengthened diplomatic relations. Consumers would benefit from free trade agreements too since trade agreements expand the choice of products and services for consumers and they reduce the consumer prices by eliminating or reducing tariffs and trade barrier. Growth in trade can also create jobs in export-oriented industries like Germany.

Many politicians talk about energy diversification. What is the ideal solution, in your
opinion?

“The ideal solution is the diversification itself. Germany’s solo effort against the interests of our European partners in Nord Stream 1 and 2 was a serious mistake. Our answer is a common foreign energy policy that creates energy partnerships with reliable countries. Nuclear fusion offers the potential to generate energy in a climate-neutral and safe manner in the future. I want to create an innovation-friendly legal framework for nuclear fusion outside of nuclear law that considers the lower risks of this technology. Hydrogen and synthetic fuels offer great opportunities as future energy storage devices. Alternative fuels, such as e-fuels, should be permitted both as pure fuel and as an admixture. Combustion engines are not harmful to the climate per se, but rather their operation with fossil fuels. In order to make the fleet of over one billion vehicles with combustion engines worldwide more climate-friendly, we are relying on the substitution of fossil fuels with synthetic fuels and on the commitment to the combustion engine as part of people’s mobility. We want to make combustion engines climate-friendly, not ban them. At the same time, I want to accelerate the expansion of infrastructure and renewable energies. Furthermore, the electricity network between the member states is to be expanded and the European internal energy market is to be created.”

Which one do you prefer and why? Innovation vs regulation?

“As a liberal I can answer this question easily: We want Europe to become the global center for groundbreaking innovations and cutting-edge technologies. Innovation increases efficiency and flexibility, it promotes competition, it ensures creativity and dynamism, it leads to lower costs for companies and they avoid unnecessary bureaucracy.”

Interview with MEP candidate Artur Truš

Our Government affairs manager, Zoltan Kesz, recently interviewed an MEP candidate from the Liberal’s Movement (Lithuania) to understand their perspective on the future of Europe, the strategies they recommend to address present challenges, and their opinions on crucial policy issues.

What are the biggest challenges the EU is currently facing?

“Consolidation and unity. Some states are going back too much into national interests, some populistic approaches to restore borders etc. This is a way back to the 90s. Not to the future.”

What is your vision of Europe in the coming decade?

“More market liberalization, open economics. Common budget. Common military. Unity. It is the only way forward for Europe to be strong and successful.”

How do you see the role of AI in the near future? What do you think of regulating it?

“AI is a fantastic tool and is our future if we are able to control it in a smart way that will not harm humanity. However, society should be careful with AI when it comes to cybersecurity and criminals using it against society.”

How does Europe benefit from free trade agreements?

“Less monopoly, more free trade, a business can grow untaxed, and bring products all over Europe, where any state member could benefit from it a lot.”

Many politicians talk about energy diversification. What is the ideal solution, in your opinion?

“The Ideal, in my opinion, is a common-sense combination between renewable energy and nuclear energy. That is an ideal picture at the end. As it is not possible to be completely on renewable energy in any near future, this has to be shared in the most environmentally friendly and most efficient way.”

Which one do you prefer and why? Innovation vs regulation?

“Prefer innovation. It is a drive mechanism for a brighter future and humanity’s progress.”

What are your constituents concerned about regarding the European Union?

“Geopolitical situation in EU and security of each state. I would say these are the most concerning subjects.”

Do you think it is wise to accept more countries into the Union?

Not with current intake criteria. These have to be reviewed. The EU is already huge with lots of internal problems. New members shall be accepted with higher HDI and Economics – so it would also bring benefits to the whole EU not only gain from EU. There must be a balance in this.

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As voters reject the internal combustion engine ban, will candidates do the same?

By Bill Wirtz

According to reporting by Euractiv, surveys show that voters in Germany, Poland and France consider a ban on the internal combustion engine (ICE) to be their least favourite climate policy. Among 15,000 respondents, a ban on the ICE ranked amongst the least preferred climate policies, followed by CO₂ taxes and road tolls, except for electric cars. Most notably, the measure also finds overwhelming rejection in the voting blocks of political parties that, on a European level, support it, including “centre-left parties such as Germany’s SPD, Poland’s Lewica, and France’s Parti Socialiste”.

As it currently stands, the European Union has passed a ban on the internal combustion engine, which will take effect in 2035, meaning that no new vehicles can be sold from that year on. However, the ban is up for review in 2026 and could be reconsidered depending on the preferences of lawmakers at that stage.

The Consumer Champs survey for candidates for the European Parliament election in June reflects this important question for individual mobility in question 2 of the survey. Only those candidates who favour lowering gasoline taxes will be awarded 10 points on that question. Increasing gasoline taxes, promoting electric vehicles, or a combination of both will not award them with any points.

The Consumer Choice Center’s point-awarding system in this survey represents the wishes of consumers, many of whom will be participating in the upcoming European elections in June. Our reasoning is the following:

Consumers need to be the driver of market supply. While there is a need for sustainable solutions, outright bans contradict consumer choice and are not technology-neutral. Vehicles with ICE have reduced their petrol consumption considerably over the last few decades, which is a direct response to consumer demand for lower running costs for operating their vehicles – this has done more for the environmental sustainability of individual transport than government measures. Those consumers who choose electric vehicles remain free to do so but should not be privileged over other consumers, especially because their vehicles often are more accessible to higher-income households compared to traditional vehicles. From an economic standpoint, the EU would also penalise its own manufacturing industry in favour of markets in Asia and North America.

Interview with MEP candidate Sarah Zickler

Our Government affairs manager, Zoltan Kesz, recently interviewed an MEP candidate from the Free Democratic Party of Germany to gain insights into their vision for Europe’s future, their proposed solutions to current challenges, and their stance on pivotal policy matters.

What are the biggest challenges the EU is currently facing? 

“The EU faces a significant challenge in strengthening its economy to retain companies and attract investments. Urgent actions, like reducing bureaucracy and digitizing services, are needed. The conflict in Ukraine disrupts trade and energy, emphasizing the need for joint strategies to secure energy, enhance defense, and ensure economic resilience. Internal and external security is tied to economic stability, necessitating measures against illegal migration and promoting legal pathways for labor needs. A coordinated European response focusing on economic strength, security, and social cohesion is vital through targeted growth, innovation, and sustainability measures.”

What is your vision of Europe in the coming decade?

In the next decade, I envision a prosperous Europe at the forefront of sustainable development and digital innovation. My goal is a competitive, dynamic, and inclusive economy, emphasizing a thriving green economy, high-quality jobs, and advanced digital infrastructure. Peace, security, freedom, and equality of opportunity are central to promoting individual freedom and equal chances for success. This vision includes top-tier education, healthcare access, and digital transformation benefits. Overall, my goal is a continent that shines with economic strength, sustainability, and unity on the world stage, upholding democratic values both internally and externally, innovating while protecting the environment, and prioritizing citizens’ well-being.

How do you see the role of AI in the near future? What do you think of regulating it?

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play a transformative role shortly by driving innovations and contributing to efficiency gains across various sectors. However, pursuing a balanced approach to AI regulation is crucial to ensure that its development and application adhere to ethical standards, protect privacy, and do not create new inequalities. I advocate for smart regulation that promotes innovation while setting clear guidelines for ethical issues, data protection, and security.”

How does Europe benefit from free trade agreements?

“Free trade agreements offer Europe numerous benefits, including access to new markets, economic growth, and job creation. They also enhance the competitiveness of European companies by providing access to raw materials and components at competitive prices. However, it is essential that these agreements include fair conditions for all parties and do not undermine environmental and social standards.”

Many politicians talk about energy diversification. What is the ideal solution, in your opinion?

“A sustainable energy supply is crucial for Europe’s independence and environmental protection. My vision involves increasing investment in renewables like wind, solar, and hydrogen and improving energy efficiency. Smart grids are essential in flexible renewable energy distribution, reducing external dependence and enhancing EU energy autonomy. Recognizing nuclear energy’s role, I emphasize adherence to strict safety and environmental standards for its reliable, low-carbon contribution to a sustainable energy mix.”

Which one do you prefer and why? Innovation vs regulation?

“Innovation and regulation are not opposites but can go hand in hand. Innovation is critical to addressing many of the challenges we face, while regulation is necessary to ensure that new technologies and business models work in the best interest of society. Well-thought-out regulation can guide and promote innovations by establishing clear frameworks while providing consumer protection and fair market conditions.”

What are your constituents concerned about regarding the European Union?

“Voters are primarily concerned about security, the economy, and migration. Enhanced cooperation, a solid defense strategy, and comprehensive cyber threat measures are crucial for citizen safety—economic worries center on job creation amid digitalization and structural changes. Fostering innovation, supporting SMEs, and ensuring global competitiveness are priorities. Education and lifelong learning are vital in equipping the workforce for economic shifts. Addressing concerns involves a regulated migration policy, considering border security and humanitarian obligations. Legal and safe migration pathways must meet economic needs without exceeding member-state capacities. Housing shortages amplify social inequality, especially in urban areas. Solutions include investing in affordable housing, promoting innovative space utilization, and strengthening social housing while combatting market speculation for widespread access to adequate and affordable housing.”

Do you think it is wise to accept more countries into the Union?

“The expansion of the EU can be sensible if new members share the democratic values of the Union, contribute to economic strength, and are willing to adopt EU legislation. However, each expansion process should be carefully evaluated to ensure that the existing and potential new member states can benefit from the expansion without overburdening the EU’s institutional capacity.”

Ensuring MEP Candidates Champion Consumer Rights: Unveiling the Consumer Champs Campaign

In the ever-evolving landscape of politics, the European Parliament Elections hold immense weight, determining the direction of policies that directly impact our lives. Ensuring that MEP (Member of the European Parliament) candidates are aligned with consumer-centric values becomes paramount. From trade policies to digital freedom, sustainability to consumer freedom, these issues shape our daily experiences and need vigilant champions in the political arena.

This year, the Consumer Choice Center has launched an unprecedented initiative – the Consumer Champs campaign. This campaign isn’t just another survey; it’s a beacon of transparency, seeking to unravel where MEP candidates stand on pivotal issues that affect consumers across the European Union.

Why Monitor MEP Candidates on Key Issues?

  • Trade: Trade policies impact the prices and accessibility of goods and services. Understanding where candidates stand on free and fair trade ensures consumers benefit from a competitive market without compromising quality.
  • Digital Freedom: In today’s digital age, preserving freedoms online is crucial. Candidates’ views on digital rights, data privacy, and internet accessibility matter immensely in safeguarding users’ rights in cyberspace.
  • Tobacco Harm Reduction: Policies surrounding tobacco affect public health. Candidates’ positions on harm reduction strategies could significantly impact regulations to minimize the adverse effects of tobacco consumption.
  • Inflation and Mobility Costs: Inflation and rising mobility costs directly impact our wallets. Candidates committed to policies curbing inflation and ensuring affordable mobility options can ease financial burdens on consumers.
  • Food Policies and Sustainability: Consumers seek sustainable and healthy food choices. MEP candidates supporting policies promoting food safety, and sustainability in the food industry resonate strongly with modern consumers.
  • Technology-Neutral Energy Policies: With the shift towards sustainable energy, candidates’ support for technology-neutral policies can drive innovation, making clean energy more accessible and affordable for consumers.
  • Consumer Freedom: Upholding consumer freedom ensures individuals have choices and rights regarding products, services, and markets. Candidates supporting consumer-centric policies foster an environment of empowerment and protection for consumers.

The Consumer Champs Campaign: Shedding Light on Candidates’ Commitments

This campaign by the Consumer Choice Center is a revolutionary step in fostering transparency and accountability. By urging candidates to articulate their stances on these critical issues, the campaign empowers voters to make informed decisions. The Consumer Champs campaign is about rating candidates and spotlighting those prioritizing consumer rights. The rankings emerging from this initiative serve as a roadmap for voters, offering insights into candidates’ policy affiliations and commitments. It’s crucial for MEP candidates to stand as champions for consumer rights, ensuring that policies crafted at the European level prioritize the needs and rights of citizens. Through the Consumer Champs campaign, consumers have a voice in steering the direction of policies that directly impact their lives.

In conclusion, the significance of monitoring MEP candidates’ stances on these pressing issues cannot be overstated. The Consumer Champs campaign stands as a beacon, urging candidates to be transparent, accountable, and committed to championing the rights of consumers across the European Union. As consumers, let’s engage, participate, and demand representation that echoes our concerns and values. Let’s unveil the Consumer Champions who prioritize our rights and shape policies that serve the people!

Unveiling the Consumer Champs Questionnaire: A Dive into Key EU Policy Perspectives

As we navigate the complexities of shaping a progressive and consumer-centric future, the Consumer Choice Center has embarked on a groundbreaking initiative, the Consumer Champs Campaign. This survey isn’t just a checklist of questions; it’s a compass guiding us toward understanding how European Parliament candidates perceive and approach pivotal issues that impact our lives. Let’s delve into this questionnaire—a roadmap that unravels the perspectives of potential MEPs on pressing EU policy areas.

These issues significantly impact consumers’ daily lives, rights, and well-being within the EU. Understanding candidates’ perspectives on these critical matters through initiatives like the Consumer Champs Questionnaire empowers voters to elect representatives who prioritize these concerns and advocate for policies aligned with consumer interests and welfare. As consumers, our voices echo through the ballot box. Understanding where candidates stand on these vital issues through initiatives like the Consumer Champs Questionnaire helps us make informed decisions, ensuring our representatives advocate for our interests at the European level.

The Consumer Champs Questionnaire isn’t just a survey—it’s a catalyst for transparency, enabling voters to identify champions who prioritize consumer-centric policies, shaping a future where our needs and values are at the forefront of EU decision-making.

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