Commissioner Hearings: Didier Reynders

Madame President, Chairs,
Members of Parliament, I am very happy to be here to introduce myself to you this morning.
It is nice to see so many familiar faces. I would like to talk to you today about how
we are going to work together in the future. If you put your trust in me, within the framework
of the mandate given to me by the President-elect Mrs. von der Leyen. She has asked me to lead
the Commission’s work on rule of law, justice, and consumer protection. As you know I am
a former member of parliament and I have a deep respect for the role of the European
Parliament. I think there is real value in your contribution to the European project.
Let me begin my comments by a couple of thoughts of a more personal nature. The first which
is very important to me is Europe’s place in the world. 20 years ago when I became minister
for the first time Europe was divided. It was trying to tackle the impact of the fall
of the wall. Over the last 20 years many things have changed and we can be proud and happy,
I think, of what we have achieved in Europe. We are carrying out policies and adopting
legislation for the wellbeing of our citizens rather than fighting over territory. We have
preserved our diversity through our cultures and our languages. If I am confirmed as European
Commissioner I make a commitment to work with you in order to deepen European integration.
I am amongst those who want more and a better Europe. If we want to have influence on the
world stage in these changing times, the only way we can do it is by being united. The reality
that we face is the world around us is ever more divided and unstable. The values we hold
dear are threatened by those who want to go back to a more nationalist discourse, a more
populist discourse, that should belong in the past. Our values are threatened by nations
that want to dominate rather than cooperate. Our main goal is to try and protect what the
European Union has achieved, peace, security, and wellbeing. We also need to promote our
common values, our support for multilateral institutions and sustainable growth and social
progress. We should be determined when it comes to defending the rule of law, democracy,
and our fundamental rights. That means we need to do the same within the heart of the
European Union as well. My second thought is even more personal to me. On Saturday the
14th of September I learnt that serious accusations had been made against me by a person who was
deliberately trying to damage my reputation. This person publicly stated that they wanted
to stop me becoming European Commissioner. I denied all the allegations that appeared
in the press. My lawyers got in contact with the prosecutors to have access to the file
within this information procedure. On the 27th of September the crown prosecutor, in
full agreement with the public prosecutor dismissed the case as there was no evidence
of any wrong-doing. My lawyer will deal with the new allegations made by the same person
in the same way. All of us, unfortunately, can be at risk of such malicious allegations
and I wouldn’t wish on anybody what my family, those close to me, my children, my spouse,
have had to experience over these last 15 days. The rule of law also means the presumption
of innocence, and I just want to be very clear with you about this particular matter. Ladies and gentlemen, exactly 20 years ago in October 1999, Antonio Vitorino was named
the first commissioner who had the portfolio of justice and home affairs. I would just
like to pay tribute to him as well as his successors, particularly Mrs. Věra Jourová
and Mr. Frans Timmermans for their courage and determination. If I become Commissioner
I work very closely with them. I am delighted to have been put forward by the President-elect
to be the Commissioner-designate for Justice as well as consumer protection in respect
to the rule of law. These three facets of the mandate are closely linked. Built around
the guiding principles of trust, inclusion and fairness. These will be key to the different
policies and will guide my actions. Honourable members, it is especially the case for the rule of law, I believe that we must project
our values outside of Europe. We must uphold them inside Europe. As Commissioner for Justice
I will work with the Vice-President for Values and Transparency to make sure that the rule
of law is upheld across the Union. I will work closely with the Commissioner in charge
of Neighbourhood and Enlargement to ensure the consistency of internal and external rule
of law approach. This task is close to my heart. I have called for a more active commitment
of the European Union to protect and promote the rule of law. This is a prerequisite for
our values. There can be no democracy and respect for fundamental rights without respect
for the rule of law. Fundamental rights are effective only if they are protected by independent
courts. Democracy is protected only if courts can ensure the respect of the freedom of expression,
media pluralism, and electoral rules. The rule of law creates mutual trust, so important
for our internal market. Most importantly respect for the rule of law is essential to
ensure citizens trust in the European project. Our responsibility is to preserve the rule
of law in each and every member state. A number of ideas have been presented including by
this house to give us the tools to deepen this work. In July, the commission presented
its proposals for a comprehensive European rule of law mechanism. I will promote a rule
of law culture, prevent the development of rule of law concerns, and respond when necessary.
I will lead this work and want to see this new mechanism up and running next year with
an inclusive, non-discriminatory, and preventive annual process. This will lead to an annual
report and be backed up by the justice scoreboard. We must use all the tools at our disposal.
The monitoring will cover all member states, but will go in more depth in member states
where particular risks have been identified. I will pay particular attention to ensure
the objectivity and fairness of this monitoring and how we build dialog and ensure that we
share best practice to help member states. It is essential that the Parliament and the
Council are fully involved. We also need to coordinate better with national parliaments.
We have the same aims and ideals. Trust me, I will not hesitate to act whenever the rule
of law is in danger. I will not compromise when democracy is at stake.
Ladies and gentlemen, members of Parliament. Adapting our judicial systems to the changes
we are seeing is a major priority for the decade to come. We need to strengthen cooperation
in civil and criminal matters. European citizens have the right to live and work in the EU
with the full respect of freedom of movement. It is also about respecting our diversity,
but guaranteeing our different legal traditions at the same time. But this should not be a
hinderance to our freedom or our security. I will work to build an atmosphere of trust
between our different legal systems. Honourable Members, concerning the European Arrest Warrant, I will continue to monitor its application and work closely with you and with member states to continue
to improve it. We need to take a careful look at what needs to be done after the complaint
assessment now underway. We will consider wether infringement proceedings are necessary,
in light of the complaint assessment, I will seriously consider wether to forward a proposal
to revise the European Arrest Warrant. I will also look into how prison conditions in the
Union could be improved. And I will explore the idea of establishing minimum standards
for pre-trial detention in order to strengthen trust. One immediate task will be to make
the European public prosecutors office operational as soon as possible. And I welcome your role
in getting an agreement on the public prosecutor. I recently was in contact with Mrs. Kövesi
and I’m sure she will be doing a very good job. It is important for us to incorporate
new technologies so that we can modernise our legal systems. That’s a major challenge.
This is going to help us create a more effective legal system. One that is more accessible
for our citizens. We have to ensure that the law is respected but also that fundamental
rights are respected. Europe is a world leader when it comes to data protection and respect
of fundamental rights. One of my priorities will be to ensure that these fundamental rights
are fully protected in the digital era. I will work closely with you in order to find
the right balance here. We need to make sure that the new legal framework for data protection
is fully implemented and at the same time can continue to promote our values and standards
on the world stage. I will work with my colleagues on the coordinated approach when it comes
to the human and ethical implications of artificial intelligence. I look forward to the new possibilities
opened up by these new technologies, but trust and safety have to remain our main priorities
here. Honourable Members, trust, inclusion and fairness drives my approach to consumer protection. We can rightly be
proud of the level of protection in Europe. We should not be complacent. We must continue
to innovate and adapt to the rapidly changing environment and new technologies, offline
and online. Our task is to work for fairness and sustainability in society, for the efficient
functioning of the single market. This means looking more closely at both the supply and
demand sides of the business and consumer models. Company law can be a key tool to promote the
shift to a sustainable economy. Consumers should be fully empowered, properly informed,
and encouraged to make sustainable choices. Consumers individually have little power,
but together they are very strong if they can act on an informed basis. This purchasing
power can help create a sustainable economy. That is why I will also push for swift adoption
of the proposal on representative actions. Collective redress possibilities are very
much needed by European consumers. We must continue to crack down on dishonest and aggressive
selling and protect vulnerable consumers. We need to keep a high level of vigilance
about the risk of duality products. It is unacceptable for consumers to be misled into believing
a branded product is the same as elsewhere. We expect the same fairness wherever a consumer
lives. The starting point must be that products we buy are safe. Wether produced in Europe
or elsewhere. I will look into updating the general products safety directive so that
all players in the online supply chain reduce the number of unsafe products. I also want
clear rules in terms of liability for all providers involved in the online consumer
journey. Finally, I intend to place particular emphasis on effective enforcement, a large
amount of consumer law has been adopted in recent years. We now need to ensure it is
effectively enforced, both inside the Union and with our international partners.
Chairs, members of parliament, I have spoken a lot about our accomplishments over the last
20 years. I think we have the right to be proud of what we have achieved. We also have
a duty to look to the future. That starts with listening and I will be attentively listening
to all throughout my mandate. There are millions of young people who are out in the streets
who are calling for a more sustainable future. They are a source of inspiration for us, they
are calling on us to act. Together I think we can achieve great things. I hope you will
put your trust in me.

1 Response

  1. Dermot O'Logical says:

    Guilty, look at his mug! NOT the one at £8.96 (£8.96? what?) AND He's speaking bubblish and trying to sound erudite, a sure sign of guilt.

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