Europe’s conservative bloc calls for dropping ban on car engines, tripling border guards


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BRUSSELS — Europe’s biggest conservative group, the European People’s Party, wants to massively bulk up the EU’s external guard force and drop plans to phase out the combustion engine across the bloc by 2035, according to a draft of the group’s manifesto obtained by POLITICO.

With its heavy emphasis on migration control and call to “preserve our Christian values,” the manifesto reflects the growing strength of right-wing parties across the bloc. According to POLITICO’s Poll of Polls, the EPP is set for victory in the European election in June.

The 14-page draft, a sneak peek at the group’s platform ahead of the election, also calls for naming an EU defense commissioner to coordinate policies across the bloc, while phasing out the role of EU High Representative — currently held by a Spanish socialist politician, Josep Borrell — in favor of an “EU foreign minister.”

“The representatives for foreign policy so far appointed by the Social Democrats have often failed to fulfil their role,” reads the manifesto, which includes contributions from conservative parties around Europe, but has yet to be adopted. “Hence, the EPP calls to replace this position with an EU foreign minister and appoint a European Security Council to support them so that the EU can react quickly to international crises.”

In addition to tripling the number of EU border guards, from 10,000 to 30,000, the EPP also wants to process more asylum applications outside the EU and to strike more deals with non-EU countries to keep migrants at bay.

“We are committed to the fundamental right to asylum, but the EU, together with its Member States, must have the right to decide,” reads the manifesto, referring to fundamental rights to asylum enshrined in EU law.

At the same time, the EPP says Europol — the bloc’s crime-fighting agency — should be “significantly” expanded by tripling its staff from 650 officials today to 3,000 as part of scaled-up efforts to combat drug trafficking and terrorist threats.

Asked about the manifesto, the secretary-general of the EPP, Thanasis Bakolas, said the document was an “early draft” that would be amended following a political assembly next Monday.

However, he said he was “proud of the process that [EPP leader] Manfred Weber and I have put in place” to gather views from the EPP member parties, and that the result was the “product of engagement and participation, not a fait accompli that will be served to our members.”

In a swipe at Europe’s Green and Social Democrat parties, and an appeal for industry support, the draft calls for unwinding one of the landmark policies of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her erstwhile climate czar, Frans Timmermans — a ban on combustion engines from 2035.

“We reject a ban policy, such as a ban on combustion engines,” the manifesto reads, “and will also revise it as soon as possible.”

Instead of forcing the shift to electric cars, the EPP says it will rely on “innovative concepts and market-based instruments for climate protection with emissions trading, the expansion of renewable energies and a circular economy,” adding that it wants to “further develop” the Green Deal — von der Leyen’s big package of climate laws.


For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.

The wide-ranging document bristles with other proposals, ranging from a switch to qualified majority voting for foreign policy decisions in the bloc — currently, such decisions can only be made by consensus — and an assault on “regulatory burden” by creating a “1 in, 2 out” principle regarding new EU laws.

But other hot topics are dealt with indirectly or avoided altogether in this draft: namely, rule of law, plans to expand the bloc beyond its current 27 member countries or internal reform of European institutions.

In the midst of a standoff between the Commission and Hungary over rule-of-law violations, the document only refers generally to upholding EU law, while making no proposals about how to reform the bloc’s institutions — which both Paris and Berlin say will need to happen amid any enlargement of the bloc.

A section at the end of the document titled “Let’s shape Europe” is left blank, perhaps to be completed in later drafts.


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