Richard North, 16/01/2014  
 

On the BBC Today programme, at 6.50 am, we had Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament being interviewed by Mishal Husain - accessible here. This is an unofficial transcript.

MH: There's already a lot of interest in this year's European elections that takes place in May and here UKIP is expected to do well. In other parts of the EU, the rise on anti-establishment and eurosceptic parties are also posing a challenge to older political parties and alliances, so how is that threat seen? I've been hearing from the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, seen as a front-runner to replace José Manuel Barroso as President of the European Commission.

MS: Now this is not new. The Front National is in the European Parliament since 1984. The Lega Nord from Italy within the parliament since 1984. The eurosceptic parties like Wilders in the Netherlands are already represented in the European Parliament. This is nothing new. This is not a new test, this is a test …

MH: They are more popular, aren't they, than they are before?

MS: They were already in the last European election, all UKIP is already strongly represented in the European Parliament. Why? Because they were already successful in the last European contest in Great Britain. So it is nothing new, but you are right. It is a test for us. It is a test if we are able to show that Europe, er … will exist even the day after the European election. This rhetoric of UKIP or the Front National or the Italians - to transform this into a vote about a yes or no vote to the European Union – this is the challenge. The European Union that exists the day after the European election. The question is in which direction will we develop. Then the European Union [has] the challenge to convince the citizens not to waste their vote, to focus on those votes with their votes really can make the change in Europe it can make the difference …

MH: interruption (unintelligible) But the challenge isn't it, to politicians like you is is the lack of trust people have in European institutions. There was a poll last year that said the public confidence in the entire European Union is at historically low levels.

MS: Yeah, and I understand people who have no trust in the European Union as it is. Therefore, I'm running for a change of the European Union, the European Parliament …

MH: Is this a reflection on people like you? You've been part of that system.

MS: No, I'm not a part of this system. I am not a part of the system who is saving banks for the 700 billion euros after allowing to these banks to speculate with the money of ordinary citizens. I'm the president of an institution which is by the way heavily attacked by the City of London for bringing more order to the financial markets, more rules for banks, more protection for ordinary citizens. This is not wrong. I'm not a part of the system which wastes billions and billions of euros … interruption … intelligible

I'm the representative of an institution which has since years [been] traditionally defending and protecting consumers' rights. My institution is not a council of heads of states and governments …

MH: Just let me ask you this. We've been talking about a …

MS: My institution is not the assembly of heads of states and governments who declared themselves, David Cameron, Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, the government of Europe, and when then people are losing trust in these people it is the European Parliament which is responsible for it.

MH: You know how many people see the European Parliament, though. They see you as part of the system. You are very well-paid parliamentarians and here in the UK many people go to the polls, they have absolutely no idea who their MEP is …

MS: Perhaps in the United Kingdom, yeah, I know that the United Kingdom has a very specific view on the European Parliament but I am a parliamentarian coming from Germany and in Germany the turnout for European election is much higher than in the United Kingdom. The European Parliament I repeat is the parliament defending consumers' rights, running for more scrutiny, for more transparency. It is by the way it is the government of your country which is running for more free-market with less rules from Brussels, like David Cameron said it in a speech at the beginning of 2013. This is …

MH: Well, he wants to look again, doesn’t he …

MS: This is exactly what led … 

MH: He wants to look again …

MS: This is exactly …

MH: He wants to look again at the relationship …

MS: This is exactly what led to the loss of trust of citizens in Europe …

MH: Mr Schulz, given the whole litany of problems that you have laid out with Europe, isn't it fair enough for Mr Cameron to seek to look again at the relationship between the EU and the UK?

MS: The United Kingdom is a member of the European Union so to speak about relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union sounds as if the United Kingdom would not be a part of the European Union. It is the United Kingdom Government which is a co-legislator in the Council of Ministers. There are 72 members of the United Kingdom as law makers in the European institution, the UK is part of Europe so this description, our relationship with Europe sounds to me strange.

MH: But on the one hand, you are acknowledging all the things that have gone wrong in the European Union in the last few years and on the other hand you are saying that David Cameron has no right to question the relationship within this family.

MS: He has all the right and he does it without interruption. Every day he questions it and I have never criticised it that he raise questions. The other way round, I support him in some of his critical approach to the European Union. A smaller but a more focused European Commission – this is my pledge since 20 years. For the challenges we are facing, climate change, world-wide trade relations, we need strong European institutions.

MH: Mr Schulz, if you do end up getting Mr Barroso's job and you end up leading the European Commission, in a couple of year's time, how would you like Europe to look? How should it be different to what we have today?

MS: More just, to fill the gap between citizens and between member states in the European Union. That some have an enormous profit and others pay. And, because I'm speaking with BBC, the United Kingdom as a full-fledged member of the European Union. That would be my vision, a United Kingdom which is taking part in the development in a common Europe and not speaking about a specific relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom.

MH: Of course easy to say, very difficult to do. Yours is not an institution, or these institutions in Europe are not ones that people believe in at the moment.

MS: Yeah, but, er, my experience in my life, this is never too late. I will try for example to discuss with the UK citizens about the simple element. We are negotiating a free trade agreement with the United States. If UK will leave from the European Union, it will not be part of a common market between the United States and the European Union. Is this reasonable? Is this in the interest of the United Kingdom? I think no. Therefore, I repeat, instead to speak about a specific relationship, the United Kingdom should be investing entirely into the European Union. I know that the people in your country are reluctant, are sceptical, but this is my right and also my duty to take in account this scepticism, this reluctance, but it is my right also to argue and to try to convince.

MH: Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, thank you.

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