Joseph Daul, the president of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), named four potential candidates for the European Commission presidency who could be nominated at the EPP Congress on 6-7 March. In an exclusive interview for EurActiv Czech Republic, Daul said he was touring EU capitals to sound out support for each one of them. 

Joseph Daul, a farmer by profession, is a French politician and MEP. He is a member of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). Since January 2009, he has been the leader of the EPP group in the European Parliament. On 12 November 2013, he was elected president of the EPP party, replacing its deceased long-serving former president Wilfried Martens. He spoke to Lucie Bednárová and Anna Kuznická.

After five years you are back in the Czech Republic, where you met with the representatives of the two political parties, the Christian and Democratic Union (KDU-ČSL) and the liberal-conservative party TOP 09, which are members of the EPP. Did you discuss with them the strategy for the European elections? What will the strategy look like?

All the parties are at the point of preparing their candidate list. Of course, in the context of the strategy, I offered them to make use of the opportunities of our European-wide party. We are prepared to help them not only with the preparation, but also with the specific questions concerning the Czech Republic. They can therefore turn to us at any time.

However, the strategy itself is not ready yet. It will be defined in the next week when the representatives of all our parties will meet in Brussels. We will also work on the formulation of our program.

Can we then expect a common strategy for all the parties?

Not at all. In every country the strategy will differ a little. We could, however, use the same strategy against the extremist forces which are nowadays showing up in all EU countries. Next week, we would like to suggest something in this context to our parties.

Which topics will you address jointly?

For example the famous topic and slogan of 'Polish plumbers' which was in the past often used by the French nationalist party Front National. Our mutual response is that you cannot hear or see any of these plumbers nowadays. On the contrary, we have a lack of plumbers in France and we are missing the Polish ones. Similar thing is the current discussion about the immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria.

Extreme parties are gaining ground in opinion polls lately. Do you find this worrying as the European elections approach?

I think that this time we will be better prepared than in previous elections. As I already said, in the previous elections there has been a lot of taking about the so-called Polish plumber in France. Now we can clearly point out the fact that nothing like that happened and this argument proved false.

Extremist parties in France are calling to leave the Eurozone or even the EU. We commissioned a study about the impacts of this action on the economy and the rate of unemployment.

We will be able to provide specific numbers which will go against these arguments. Before the last elections the only thing we could use against the argument of polish plumbers was that it was incorrect. But had nothing to back it up. This time we will.

What are your expectations for the EU elections? Will the EPP remain the most powerful political family in the European parliament?

If we listen to opinion polls we should remain the most powerful party. The difference will however be very tight, about ten or twenty MEPs. Nevertheless, from the perspective of 28 countries the difference is really small. At the moment we have to concentrate on the campaign to make it come true.

What about the selection of EPP candidates for the European Commission Presidency? Over the past weeks, names have been mentioned. Do you have your own favorite?

As a chairman of a political party you are not entitled to have your own favorite. The candidacy of four politicians, who I know very well, is generally known.

One of them is a Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, the other a Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, then the current commissioner for the internal market Michel Barnier and the former Prime minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker.

One of the reasons why I am travelling around Europe these days is also the purpose to find out the support they have.