INTERVIEW Jose Manuel Barroso, former President of the European Commission

INTERVIEW Jose Manuel Barroso, former President of the European Commission

The European Union must show solidarity to refugees, and at the same time must fight “without mercy” against terrorists, said, on Friday, in an interview to AGERPRES, the former President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, present in Timisoara where he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the West University of Timisoara.

He also said that the fight against terrorism cannot be efficient without “European cooperation, because terrorists do not respect borders”. “If we want to be effective against terrorists, we have to have better cooperation between the police and intelligence services of Europe,” said Barroso in the interview for AGERPRES.

The former president of the EC also spoke of the solution of a technocratic government in Romania, of his relation with the authorities in Bucharest over the ten years he presided over the European executive, of Romania’s accession to the eurozone, of the process to nominate new heads of key judiciary institutions, as well as of the situation in Moldova.

AGERPRES: Mr. President, as a former Prime-Minister and former President of the European Commission, what do you think about the solution of a non-political government in times of mistrust regarding politicians?

Jose Manuel Barroso: This is an internal issue of Romania and I don’t want to interfere now in internal politics. As you know, now I’m no longer in office, so what I am going to give you is a personal opinion as someone who likes to follow politics, but of course I have no authority today to elaborate on that issue.

AGERPRES: Of course.

Jose Manuel Barroso: We know, in democracy, that sometimes there are situations where some kind of independent, or sometimes people call them technocratical governments, are necessary, because there was some kind of blockage in the normal functioning of political parties or of a political system, so if the rules of democracy, respect for the constitution is assured, I see no problem, frankly. We have had that in my country [e.n. — Portugal], for instance, since you mentioned it. It happened several times. And in other countries in Europe as well. Just recently, remember what happened when mr. [Mario] Monti became Prime-Minister of Italy [e.n. — 2011], not being elected but because it was some kind of crisis. Also in Greece, it happened when mr. [Lucas] Papademos became Prime-Minister [e.n. — 2011]. So it’s something that is relatively normal and if the government has the confidence of the Parliament and the normal functioning of the institutions is kept, I don’t see any problem frankly.

AGERPRES: But do you see it as a long-term solution?

Jose Manuel Barroso: Long-term? it depends on what you call long-term.

AGERPRES: Four years or…

Jose Manuel Barroso: I think that is for the Romanian citizen and Romanian democracy to solve, I cannot comment on that, but frankly, the normal thing in a democracy is that the political parties present their candidates and after that there are majorities, if there are no majorities there are coalitions, that’s a normal thing. Now, a system of democracy always has some kind of plasticity, there is always the possibility of a regime, in the respect of democratic values and the constitution to adapt to different situations, and I could not now make a comment that could be misunderstood in the Romanian context.

AGERPRES: You have been European Commission President for ten years, what would you say was the most memorable and the most difficult in your relation with Romanian authorities during these years.

Jose Manuel Barroso: The most memorable… Of course I was very happy the day of the accession and you know that people were opposing the accession of Romania to the European Union, and the fact that we have concluded negotiations and that that happened in itself was a great moment. Afterwards, generally speaking things went well, there was that crisis, you remember, when there was a conflict between the Prime Minister [Victor Ponta] and the President [Traian Basescu] of the republic where we believe we were in a constitutional crisis.

AGERPRES: You mean 2012?

Jose Manuel Barroso: I think so. And then the European Commission had to intervene to be sure that all the rules of democracy and rule of law principles were respected but it was relatively easy for this issue to be settled. But that was delicate from an institutional point of view, yes, it was delicate but I spoke at that time with President Basescu, Prime Minister Ponta and I think both of them understood. I also had some kind of very discreet role of mediation and I think they both understood that my interest was to see Romania stable and respected, but that was some kind of a delicate moment, from a political point of view. Economically there were also difficult moments but then Romania was, basically, able to respond. We had a programme, as you know, the economic adjustment programme and Romania was reacting positively and I was always pushing for supporting Romania in that moment, also speaking with the International Monetary Fund and others.
AGERPRES: What would you advise Romanian authorities regarding the process of entering the Eurozone? Romanian authorities set a goal, something like 2019.

Jose Manuel Barroso: I’m not familiar now with the exact state of preparations, I think the goal should be kept, which year I cannot comment, I frankly think it’s more prudent for me not to comment. But what the euro brings is very important in terms of investment, we have seen that, for instance Slovakia — it went very well with the euro. I know that the latest events regarding the euro situation were sometimes creating panic in public opinion in other countries, but frankly, if you make a serious “bilan” [e.n. — French term for audit, balance sheet], a serious assessment of what happened in the euro, you will see that it was good. Europe would have been in a more serious situation if it wasn’t in the euro. You would have had competitive devaluation, things like fragmentation of the market, some of the biggest European companies would not have invested so much as they have invested in Europe, they would go elsewhere, so the euro is in fact an anchor of stability. So I think it is in the interest of Romania to join the euro, when Romania is ready. When this is depends mostly on your progress.

AGERPRES: This year, Romanian authorities should have to select new people in top-level positions in the justice system — like the National Anticorruption Agency and so on. What would be your advice, what kind of process should they adopt?

Jose Manuel Barroso: It’s good to be bold on these matters. A politician who is honest is not afraid of independent authorities. These authorities have to be independent and those who occupy those functions have to be above any form of suspicion — people with integrity, and this is very important. I hope that the authorities will have the courage to nominate people who are really above any suspicion and that have already shown the evidence of their integrity, because that’s very important for the image of Romania and thinking on the matter, you cannot be half-honest, either you are honest or you are not honest. So to have the courage to have independent authorities and to nominate them according to the rules of democracy and with respect to democratic values. More…