Elmar Brok (European People's Party; Germany) has been a member of the European Parliament since 1980. As member of the foreign affairs committee, he is deeply involved in coordinating the Parliament’s positions regarding the European External Action Service (EEAS).
He was speaking to Georgi Gotev, EurActiv's senior editor.
Why does the European Parliament want to hold hearings with six of the 28 EU ambassadors recently selected by High Representative Catherine Ashton?
We want to know what they think about their new job.
Does it mean that those six ambassadors have raised some doubts among MEPs and the Parliament is not happy with their selection?
[The hearing] is about the importance of their jobs, not the opinions we may have about them.
And perhaps to mark once again that the Parliament has new powers with the Lisbon Treaty?
But we do have these rights. Why should we mark them? We are only using our rights.
When will the hearings take place?
Most of them will be in October.
Do you wish the ambassadors luck for the hearings?
How about the remaining appointments? There are about 80 middle-management positions to be filled, and more importantly, a senior managerial team of some ten people. What do you expect from this selection?
Quality and fair distribution between the institutions.
You say 'the institutions'. But the countries simply want their nationals to get the best jobs.
The agreement between the Council, the Commission and the Parliament says 60% must be Community personnel. At least 60%.
So Ms. Ashton has a difficult job in accommodating all interests?
For sure. But this is the rule and this must be obliged, otherwise you may face problems with the legislation of the staff and financial regulations. And problems with the budget questions.
How will it work? Will Parliament give its green light on staff and finance only after it has seen those nominations?
If we are not convinced, Parliament can delay its decisions.
There is an ambition that the EEAS should see the light on the first anniversary of the Lisbon Treaty, next December. Do you mean that this deadline could be missed?
That is a chance, but there is still enough time to avoid that.
But you prefer quality rather than an anniversary event?
Absolutely, and I hope everyone in Parliament is of the same opinion.
You seem to be very united in Parliament across party lines in setting up the EEAS…
On European development and integration processes, Parliament works mostly with a broad majority.
Let me ask you about Turkey. We will soon have a situation in which Turkey will have nothing to negotiate in its accession talks, because many chapters are blocked over the Cyprus problem. How would you comment?
The chapters are blocked because Turkey has not fulfilled its promises under the Ankara Protocol [to open its ports and airports to vessels from the Republic of Cyprus]. It's up to Turkey to fulfil the Ankara Protocol, and then the chapters can be opened.
But Turkey argues that since the Cyprus issue was not a prerequisite for the membership of Cyprus itself, nor should it be a prerequisite for the membership of another country…
Turkey makes this argument indeed, but it should not be thinking how to make vetoes, but how to move forward. Turkey had taken a firm commitment [to implement the Ankara Protocol] by December last year.
But then there will be a crisis between the EU and Turkey…
The enlargement of the EU must be on clear commitments, on clear fulfillment of the Copenhagen criteria, and we cannot make a rebate over this.
That's about enlargement. But perhaps you envisage another format for relations with Turkey, perhaps alongside other big countries such as Russia or Ukraine?
Russia has no place in such a format. Russia is a European Union in itself. But I can imagine that Ukraine and Turkey could obtain a kind of Norwegian status with the EU.
That's an interesting idea. Could you elaborate?
I think this is an idea [Turkish Prime Minister] Erdogan had a few months ago. That they can be part of the internal market, of Schengen, all these questions, with a full commitment, and we can start this immediately.
Do you think this would satisfy Turkey, which was promised full membership?
Look, the European Economic Area is not a closed door. From this basis, Sweden, Finland and Austria made it to the EU, and at this moment, Iceland is negotiating from the same position to become a member of the Union. Therefore, it can be seen as a final step, but it can be seen as an intermediary step too.
Finally, let me ask you about the Roma controversy. What kind of battle is this?
It’s a battle in which all sides must fulfill their commitments. On the one hand, most of the Roma were illegally in France, because Bulgaria and Romania will have full freedom of movement only from 2014. But even if you have freedom of movement you cannot settle in another EU country if you have no job, and here France is right.
But on the other side you cannot implement those rules only on one part on the society, on Roma, you must apply it to all parts of society, otherwise there will be discrimination.
I understand Parliament will continue to follow the issue closely.
For sure, we have to see that the law is obeyed, and that France fulfills its commitments, and that when dealing with the issue, they resort only to legal means.
There were two resolutions in Parliament voted recently on the Roma issue, one from the Socialist group, the liberals and the Greens, and another one from the European People's Party. You are from the EPP: how did you vote?
I think this is not a territory where political groups should play party politics.