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Our common destiny is at stake in these next European elections

The next European elections will be historic in many ways. They will determine whether the European Union is able to act in the coming years to improve the lives of Europeans, to ensure their security, the prosperity of our economies and the sustainability of our model of society, or if it is permanently paralysed and divided.

For me, in the coming weeks, the campaign must be the occasion for debates between the different candidates, parties and projects involved. This is the only way to allow Europeans to choose the direction they wish to give to our continent.

This is also what the lead candidate process, involving the European parties’ candidates for the Presidency of the European Commission, is all about: it’s about transparency and about building a true European democracy.

While our continent is under threat both from inside and outside, while populists and nationalists are trying to divide us and to destroy what we have achieved with the European project in the past 70 years, my position is very clear: I believe that what unites the countries and the people of Europe is much stronger than what separates us. I believe that through dialogue and listening, our differences can be overcome. I believe that the unity of the European Union is our most precious asset in an increasingly hostile world and that apart from membership of the EU, there is no good future for any of our countries.

But I am also convinced that for far too long the European project has been built too far from the people: this is what people all over Europe have told me during my “Listening Tour” throughout the continent.

We will be able to recreate this link between Europe and its citizens only if we reform Europe.

Europe is not ‘’Brussels’’; it’s not people dressed in grey hurrying through anonymous corridors. It’s the 500 million citizens who make Europe’s heart beat every day, who every day profit from Europe’s progress, and who, united in the European Union, are capable of accomplishing great things. That’s the meaning of our campaign slogan, ‘’The Power of WE’’.

If elected President of the European Commission, my priority will be to build a strong Europe that protects its citizens and values; a smart Europe of ideas and innovation; and a kind Europe that takes care of its citizens.

A Europe that is strong is a Europe that will protect its borders from illegal migration and from smugglers and human traffickers

with 10.000 new European Border and Coast Guards by 2022. It’s a Europe that fights terrorism and organised crime with a European FBI, where joint investigative teams combine information to catch terrorists before they attack. It’s a Europe that puts a stop to accession talks with Turkey.

It’s a Europe that establishes a new rule of law mechanism to ensure that the independence of the judiciary, freedom of the press and the fight against corruption are upheld in the European Union.

A smart Europe means pooling all our talents, knowledge and resources

to address what really makes a difference in citizens’ lives like launching a European Masterplan to join our forces in the fight against cancer. By linking vast amounts of information through a decentralised database, we can overcome the research gap by harnessing the potential of Big Data.

We will strive to reach the same quality level of cancer care in each European country. Therefore, we will encourage an agreement among European level organisations representing cancer institutions, healthcare professionals and patients on a set of core standards and evidence-based indicators to measure the quality of all cancer services. We will step up our prevention strategy to reduce the cancer burden by outlining a coherent European Cancer Prevention Strategy, building on previous EU-led and stakeholder initiatives. Furthermore, patients from remote areas have to be able to benefit from the same quality of care as patients in central areas.

Harnessing the potential of technology will enable us to breakdown distance barriers. It means developing smart homes for seniors where they can continue to live independently and close to their families. It means creating 5 million new jobs for our youth, to stop brain drain through a strategy based on four pillars: trade, infrastructure, innovation and our social market economy. It means cutting over 1.000 outdated regulations and cutting the number of EU functionaries, to reduce the burden of bureaucracy and make Europe more efficient and accessible to citizens.

A Europe that is kind is a Europe where a new Digital Transition Fund

financed in part by a new Digital Fair Tax that makes sure Internet Giants contribute their fair share helps protect all our workers from being left behind when digital disruptions occur in the labour market. It’s a Europe where new home-building loans financed by the European Investment Bank help make sure young families don’t have to live in their childhood rooms at their parents’ overcrowded flats, but can own their own houses.

It’s a Europe where we preserve our values and make the EU a role model for the world by enforcing a global ban on child labour: no one should be allowed to exploit children’s innocence to make a profit. Finally, a Europe that is kind is a Europe where we continue the ambitious fight against climate change by honouring the Paris and Katowice agreements; where we invest together in the development of low-emission aeroplanes; and where we call for a global ban on single-use plastic.

These are my proposals for a strong, smart and kind Europe. These are my pledges to the people of Europe. If I become the next President of the European Commission, these proposals will see the light within the next five years.

The Power of We means that it is the people of Europe who decide. It means unity and strength.

It means that we will open a new chapter for Europe with optimism and hope, not fear. Together we can do it.