Interview with the European People’s Party: “We don’t think that giving the same [carer’s leave] payment to private and public sector will help the economy”.
DigiTallinn (DT) – First of all, thank you very much for taking some time to talk to us. You’re going to be discussing in this afternoon’s Plenary session the Directives put forward [by the European Commission and amended] by the FAC, EPSCO and COMPET Council. I would like to ask you, for starters, what are your general views – as EPP – on the amendments that were passed in each of the Councils.
MEP Vento – Well, I’m sort of an expert regarding the EPSCO Directive, so my colleague MEP Teranaj and I can answer more thoroughly on this. So, when I arrived yesterday at the [inter-parliamentary] discussion, I found a terrible situation for us as EPP. To be honest, I have to say that the Left – the whole Left – found an agreement to change the months [of parental leave], so articles 5.1 and 5.2. This was already broadly discussed in the Council. In these two articles, there are two months foreseen for non-transferable parental leave. That’s how the Council amended it, and the left [parties] want to alter for 10 months of total parental leave and, of those two, 6 months would be non-transferrable. You can understand that, honestly, the EPP party thinks that this can be suicidal for a lot of small, medium and big companies. It’s not just a vision of the party, you need to understand that such an amendment could really kill the economy. So we managed, during the conversations [with other parties] – as we have 18 MEPs, we are quite strong – to change it, to reach a compromise of four months transferable and four months non-transferable. It is, essentially, the original proposal from the European Commission.
DT – So you consider that it is better than whatever options they’ve originally proposed?
MEP Vento – Yes, that costed us a bit because we had to accept some amendments by the S&D and ALDE factions, but I can say that we are quite happy with it because it shows the fact that Europe works, that we try to collaborate, to show that we are actually one continent of nations that tries to work together.
DT – That certainly contradicts the information that we’ve received yesterday that you were preparing to advocate for two weeks of non-transferable parental leave. Have you completely changed your position on this?
MEP Vento – No, we did not want to propose two weeks. Within the party, we thought about what would have been better for the companies, and we think two months is quite a lot – two weeks would have been enough, but as the discussion progressed, we had to find a compromise. Two weeks was impossible, we couldn’t find an agreement on this, but four months is good.
DT – We have an article that we will be published very soon [editor’s note: the article in question has been published at the time of the publication of the EPP’s interview] regarding declarations that we got from another faction – namely, the EFDD – which expressed confidence in the fact that they will be able to scrap the flexible work arrangements and the non-transferable parental leave altogether. They are very confident that these [amendments] will pass [in the European Parliament]. I was wondering if they actually have your support on this?
MEP Vento – The EFDD has four MEPs, and I think this is my answer to this question.
DT – One of the amendments that, as we could see from the EPSCO Council press conference, failed to pass was carer’s leave. Are you thinking about bringing that back? Is anyone else thinking of bringing that amendment back and you made an alliance with them?
MEP Vento – Was it about the modification of the rights [of carer’s leave]?
DT – Yes, right now the compensation for carer’s leave is as high as the one for sick leave and the Council failed to pass an amendment that would increase to the same amount as parental leave.
MEP Vento – Together with The S&D faction, we are going to approve an amendment that will give the same rights and the same payment as parental leave to carer’s leave – but only for the public sector. The EPP has asked for this particular part of the amendment because we honestly don’t think that giving the same payment to private and public sectors will actually help the economy.
DT – MEP Teranaj, would you have anything to add regarding the EPSCO proposal? Is there anything the EPP would like to amend, add or scrap?
MEP Teranaj – Actually, I believe that MEP Vento has said everything. His answers were very clear, I agree with everything. Our party is a very united party and, as such, we make decisions together, and these were very good decisions as explained by my colleague.
DT – Let’s talk about the Foreign Affairs Council proposal. I would like to focus on some amendments that are now up to a vote at the European Parliament. We’ve received unofficial information yesterday stating that GUE/ENL is preparing – and fairly confident – that they will reach a consensus or a compromise with left- and center-leaning factions to scrap more funding for military activities in Europe, because they think this money could be better spent elsewhere. What is the EPP’s position on this?
MEP di Gioia – As EPP, I can tell you we would be against this. We believe that money invested by the EU for military programmes – and especially for PESCO, which actually encourages cooperation and would have so many benefits for us – is well spent. Furthermore, this may be unofficial (we’ll see in the Parliament), but we believe that the Left will never find a majority so… we are aware of the proposal, but we believe that a majority of factions is against this amendment, and we’ve reached an agreement on other amendments with ALDE and S&Ds. It would be incredibly surprising for the EPP that the Left finds an agreement and a majority on that topic, which goes against the scope of the whole legislation.
DT – We’ve also heard that the EPP is trying to pass an amendment which supports exchange programmes for military officers. Could you elaborate on that? Why do you think there’s a need for such an amendment?
MEP di Gioia – You’re talking about the amendment proposed by the S&D which we’re supporting together with ALDE. We were talking about PESCO, about the need for cooperation between military battalions from different countries; I guess it’s logical to believe that, to have stronger cooperation between battalions, ensuring knowledge exchange and discussions between military officers – which are the ones taking decisions in the end – is one of the most important things at stake and will result in greater cooperation in general. It’s kind of logical to train the officers to exchange opinions and especially their needs. It’s not only about the battalions but also military officers.
DT – One of my final questions has to do with a particular amendment that the COMPET Council passed, which has to do with citizens’ privacy. We’ve heard rumours that the ECR faction is preparing to scrap it altogether. What would be your position on this?
MEP di Gioia – If you’re referring to article 8.3, I’m not going to comment on that.
DT – Last but not least, what were the outcomes of your negotiations regarding the copyright issues included in the COMPET Directive?
MEP di Gioia – There’s a provision in the whole legislation for copyright infringement on audiovisual content and the EPP, in cooperation with other parties, is in favour of scrapping this amendment because we believe it’s absolutely beyond the scope of the legislation. There are many arguments against this, especially the fact that the Commissioner is on our side and believes that there is another specific regulation dealing only with that content. We’ll try to convince the other parties and find a majority to scrap this one, and also to enhance and encourage the Commission to go forward with the discussions and talks about the audiovisual copyright content. We want to be constructive on that amendment, and to address the issue in a pragmatic way.
Interview by Ana Oliveira