It is scientifically sound. Trade creates jobs. 200 000 new jobs have been created from the trade agreement with South Korea.
- First Vice-President Timmermans -
First Vice-President Timmermans in Floriana, Malta
On 6 October, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans engaged in a lively and sometimes passionate Citizens' Dialogue with an audience of around 140 people. Members of the Maltese public, NGOs and even tourists from other Member States expressed their interest in a broad range of issues such as the refugee crisis and migration, 'Brexit' and the rise of populism in Europe. Other issues that were raised include TTIP/CETA and EU trade agreements as well as the environment and the protection of animals – and birds in particular. The Citizens' Dialogue was closely followed on social media with campaigners for the Nature Directive being particularly active.
There was a passionate exchange of views on whether - and how - the EU should control the entry of refugees and migrants into Europe. First Vice-President Timmermans explained that these were two different problems. Migration into Italy comes mainly from Sub-Saharan Africa whilst refugees from Syria arrive primarily via Turkey. The First Vice-President called for action to be taken on improving the living conditions of people living in Africa in order to address future demographic challenges in Europe. He reminded participants of the hundreds of civic initiatives and businesses that have helped Syrian refugees to integrate into European society and made a plea for further humanitarian efforts to be undertaken to help the many unaccompanied children fleeing from war in Syria.
On Brexit, First Vice-President Timmermans stated that the result of the UK's recent referendum had been driven by populist politicians and, more specifically, by former Prime Minister David Cameron's fear of losing the backing of many members of his Conservative Party. He condemned the random attacks on other EU citizens and minority groups living in the UK, declaring it to be totally unacceptable.
Frans Timmermans stated that we should no longer talk about 'back room deals' with regard to the heated debate about TTIP and CETA. He he commended CETA as a huge step forward and declared that trade agreements create jobs.
Some of the participants urged First Vice-President Timmermans himself to deal personally with a number of issues - mostly to do with the environment, but also on cases of corruption and pending legal cases in the Member States. In reply, he explained that the rule of law means that he is unable to intervene in issues that must be dealt with at national level.
"Chancellor Merkel did the right thing in a very difficult situation. She risked her political capital for this and I admire her for it."
"Never let identity questions drive the political agenda"
"Europe will never be built at the expense of the Member States."