What will be a good result for the Nodes, Citizens in these European elections?
A good result is low abstention. A significant part of our campaign is to explain to people that there are elections. Then, of course, we expect that among the voters who express themselves through the vote there will be a significant number who vote for an alternative and give us the strength to carry out the project that we present to the electorate.
So the electorate you are addressing is not necessarily that of other parties, but of people who would otherwise not vote?
Exactly. We would very much like the people who have traditionally refrained from being overjoyed, that the people who have supported the causes of the Earth Party and environmental causes – embodied in number two of its list, which is the current MEP Jose Inacio Faria – and those who have supported my fight against corruption, which is after all a lot more than 100,000 who have voted in the presidential elections, get together and allow a result that allows us to have a significant number of deputies to do a lot.
However, the polls known to date do not indicate that any list outside the top five parties will elect MEPs to the European Parliament. Does this mean that the voters are satisfied?
No. That means the polls are badly made. I have no doubts. They are never representative, and this is the case in Portugal and in all countries when the abstention rate is high. The polls that have been presented have margins in the order of three percent, which means that who appears with two percent will be between one and five. This is absurd. When the level of participation is very low, this is reflected in the surveys and removes them credibility. Polling institutes should explain this, as they are fake news.
Do you see parallels between the dynamics of your campaign and that of Marinho and Pinto that allowed the election of two deputies in 2014?
This application is heir of that time. There is one thing they have in common: at the time the application was unexpected, I had bad polls and it turned out to have good results, and my application was also unexpected – even for me, I made this decision very quickly. The similarity is the unexpected of the candidacy.
And also the remoteness of both in relation to the traditional partisan spectrum?
Fully. The first reason for this candidacy is the ideas I am advocating, but from the procedural point of view, two of the reasons that led me to accept the challenge were, on the one hand, to think that by applying as a head of the list, I could contribute to the abstention – everyone who has public responsibilities should contribute to this goal – and this candidacy allows people who are fed up, as I am, who are saturated with this system, who are full of this partisanship, to have an alternative outside the extreme left or of the far right. An alternative to the center. These two combined reasons were a final stimulus to accept this challenge.
As a face of the fight for transparency and the fight against corruption, do you hear that you would be missing more in the Assembly of the Republic than in the European Parliament?
People say that because they have the idea that MEPs go to the European Parliament and do not come back. But it is not just with MEPs: the people of Bragança also have the idea that MPs come to live in Lisbon and do not come back. People have the idea that politicians leave the population, and they are right. In most cases this is what happens. It's the logic of current politics, and it's been around since Camilo's time. Unfortunately, we are still in the "Fall of an Angel" phase. As a candidate for the European Parliament I intend to live a significant part of the week there and another part here, in contact with my electorate, because that is my obligation. I will be a Member representing the constituency of Portugal, and the Portuguese voters, in the European Parliament. For this reason, one of our ideas is to establish in Portugal a cabinet of the MEP that will be a source of Portuguese citizens as Europeans. I will be a Member with sessions in Brussels, but I will be a Member in Portugal.
In any case, the notion that it would be most lacking in the Assembly of the Republic may be due to the fact that people do not understand what is done in the European Parliament …
People do not know what MEPs do for two reasons: first, because a significant part does nothing, so you can not guess what they do; on the other hand, some of them work – and not only José Inácio Faria – but unfortunately the Portuguese media never transmit it. The problem of the Portuguese media with the European media is not the coverage of the electoral campaign; is that for five years they did not cover the activity of the deputies working in the European Union. We have a public RTP there, with three or four very estimable employees, but they are there to advertise to the Government. Every time António Costa and Mário Centeno go to Brussels they carry a lot of propaganda, just as it was with Passos Coelho and Vítor Gaspar. The so-called public television service in Brussels is an advertising tool for each government. And then you never know what a set of MEPs have been doing.
Come to the idea that they are people who have gone to the exile?
Some MEPs have put themselves in this situation. Some have worked, and well, without any reflection here. With me, this will not be the case, neither with other MEPs on our list, since once we have a permanent presence with a provust in Portugal, the problem ceases to exist. He will ask me: and the others did not? One of the negative ideas about MEPs is that they earn a lot, and one reason is that most of them put into their pocket the five thousand euros per month they receive to have a cabinet in Portugal. Whoever does this was supposed to be arrested in Linhó, but instead he is MEP. It is good that there is this scrutiny on the part of the citizens and that they know that in the next term I will be militantly scrutinizing even my colleagues. The 21 MEPs who go to the European Parliament on behalf of Portugal have to say where their offices will be in Portugal.
Besides the number two on his list, Inacio Faria, what other good examples do you find among the current Portuguese MEPs?
There are two people who are sorry that they are no longer MEPs: Ana Gomes and Francisco Assis. Very recently I was in Brussels at a meeting on blood diamonds in Angola, organized by Ana Gomes, and I regret that she is no longer a MEP, as in the case of Francisco Assis.
Ana Gomes said she wanted to leave the European Parliament.
I respect that. It advocates limiting mandates.
The same has not happened in the case of Francisco Assis …
They are PS issues and I can not comment, but if you ask me for two examples of good MEPs I give you these.
What are your first measures in Strasbourg for transparency and the fight against corruption?
The first is to demand – and not just ask for – transparency in the transfer of funds to Portugal. We are campaigning for the European elections and there are two aspects of which, aside from myself, I have not heard anyone speak. Who if recandidata still did not say what there was to do, but the PSD, CDS-PP, PCP and Block of Left recandidatam the same people. When someone is a candidate for the first time he must say what he is going to do there, but whoever recandates must say what he did in the previous term. And there is another aspect, which is the balance of Portugal's presence in the European Union. We entered in 1986, there are 33 of the 45 years that we live in freedom and democracy, which represents more than 75 percent. In the early days they promised us that we would get off the tail of Europe and join the front platoon. We were in the tail of Europe to 12, at the moment we are 28 and we continue in the tail of Europe. The body of Europe grows and Portugal does not leave the same place. Today, in terms of international indicators, we are the fifth least developed country in the European Union, we are in the group of the four most corrupt, we have the worst quality of life in the cities, we have wages of misery, two million Portuguese in technical poverty. That is, this was not what we were promised. What happened? Although very positive things have happened and we have made progress in some aspects, much of the money that came from European funds served to fuel the great carrousel of Portuguese corruption. The first step, therefore, is to ensure that, from now on and in future support frameworks, funds are scrutinized every euro so that they are not diverted to corruption and quality of life, development and progress. Corruption was a hallmark of European funds in Portugal. In fact, I remember – with sadness, heartache, I do not know what to say, from those early days when the European Social Fund was linked to great scandals like the UGT and the Amorim Group – to see in Porto and to the north entire factories that dismissed officials and employees to put there graduates who did nothing and went bankrupt after some time. I saw people buying Ferraris with funds that were from the European Social Fund, I saw people dropping vessels with European funds that were then sold to the next-door neighbor, who also bought with European funds. All this is documented. And what happened to those gentlemen? Anything. And the country? We were on the tail of Europe. Some became millionaires, and those that were already became even more, at the cost of individual poverty and the collective poverty of the country. I will create, with deputies from the Nodes, Citizens and parties from other countries, a lobby for transparency within the European Parliament.
Is it not strange that in Portugal there is now a large deficit in the application of funds?
My perplexity is that we are one and a half years behind the end of this support framework, with a ridiculous level of execution, and most of the Portuguese, especially some colleagues who recend themselves, want more money. I do not understand very well how they can ask for more money from the European Union when they can not afford to spend what they have. But it is not a Portuguese problem, as there are countries with levels of execution below ten percent. If people are incompetent to use the funds, they ask for more money for what? We have to apply the funds well and apply them properly. In Portugal you can apply environmental funds to make a footbridge on a hill, but to remove asbestos from a school no longer. We must intervene from the standpoint of the defense of the citizens and not from a Eurocratic perspective.
And what do you want to do about tax equity?
In these last days I have met strangers. Many Englishmen, who speak in Brexit, as well as retired Frenchmen who live in Portugal and who, curiously, have a more favorable tax system than the retired Portuguese in Portugal who worked in France. They pay more IRS than the French who come here to enjoy the reform. I have already spoken with the Order of Accountants in order to identify these incongruities and act at the service of the Portuguese citizens who have to be defended as European citizens. We will also intervene in the protection of whistleblowers, because a citizen who detects an irregular situation in the Public Administration and denounces it – which is a right and an obligation – is usually held back or persecuted. It is never cherished, as it should be.
He pointed his finger at the large chains of Portuguese hypermarkets that, through the use of sophisticated fiscal engineering mechanisms, derive tax benefits that are not available to small and medium-sized companies. Why is it that no one blocks these companies?
Because the European rules are also not fulfilled. This is a European issue. One of the bases of existence of the European Union, apart from peace and human rights, is free competition. In fact, the Commissioner for Competition is usually one of the most important, since he has to settle those questions. I ask that free competition exists when they are here side by side, a grocery store and the Pingo Doce? The latter has its warehouse on behalf of a company that has titled the warehouse in a real estate investment fund with headquarters in Luxembourg, Pingo Doce pays the gains of SGPS in the Netherlands, Pingo Doce – and this is the most serious – has within hypermarket more than half of the articles of Unilever, which belongs to the Jerónimo Martins group. This violates competition laws, and in the United States it would not even be possible, as there is legislation antitrust. And the grocery store next door? It pays IMI, it pays IRC – Pingo Doce too, but the grocery store has nowhere to consolidate profits, which means that it pays the pays that Pingo Doce did not pay – and to whom do they buy the products? Unilever, that is, the competitor. This is unfair competition and the competition rules of the European Union should not allow this to happen. In England this does not happen, neither in Germany nor in France. It is therefore one of my priorities to restore the conditions of competition between enterprises, without prejudice to SMEs. When I talk about tax equity I am thinking about people and also about companies. What free enterprise exists in a country where if I want to open a grocery store or a crockery, I have so many barriers to entry against large conglomerates who have tax benefits? It is from this perspective that we will be SME providers. I have nothing against large surfaces; I have is against business which are made without respecting the rules of competition, which are one of the foundations of the European Union itself.
With regard to betting on decarbonisation of the economy, will the greatest obstacle be the impact on people's finances or corporate accounts?
We have achieved, with economic gains, environmental gains and civilizational gains. Circular economy is the way, as can be seen from the Portuguese example of the reuse of textbooks, which has already been done in the Azores for many years. It is clear that some environmental measures, such as decarbonization support programs, cost many millions of euros at any given time. But the gain is very fast.
Will the European Union need to raise more money?
Some taxes should be reallocated for these purposes. Since egg omelets are not made, if there is a program that leads to decarbonization, it will have to be financed. But with the taxes people already pay. I am against more taxes on top of citizens, plus taxes on top of companies. What would have to be was the taxation of services that are not properly taxed. It should be rated who absorbs the most in the value chain, which is valid for those who use the national airspace or the telecommunications operators.
He said during the campaign that the biggest parties do not want to talk about Europe. Assuming that this is so, what are the underlying reasons for this?
Some parties do not talk about Europe because they do not have much to say and they want to divert attention. Others are trying – illegitimately, from my point of view – to make these elections a national election. And that's cheating the voters. It is more an attitude of political hypocrisy. It is incorrect that anyone who is applying to the European elections should talk about anything else. Anticipating that there will be low participation, they will be penalized for this, since the main responsible for the low participation are the incumbent political agents that can not attract people with their activity. On the contrary, they keep them apart. The five of the partisan cartel feel a responsibility to increase abstention and want to try to reduce it with a fixation factor, as if giving a supplementary premium. But they have already realized that talking about national politics is also no use.
Is the political management of the political crisis about the replacement of teachers' time of service part of this attempt to alienate Europe from the European elections?
Clearly. They try to push the issue away from Europe because they have no proposals and because the politicians in power in Portugal are afraid that the people will speak out. That is the question. They know that when that happens their power structure will slow down. They are there, concerned about themselves and not about the elections or the people. For the majority of the parties that are in the Parliament the ideal would be no elections, because they are a bore.
In a European Parliament with a legislature very marked by the rise of forces to the right and left against European integration, where we can integrate the Nodes, Citizens?
It will be at the center of the political spectrum.
In the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)?
It is premature to speak of this, because there will be a recomposition in the European Parliament. New groups will appear. On the far right and on the far left, where we are not, but also in the center there will be reorganization. The president himself [francês Emmanuel] Macron wants to form a group. It depends on the reconfiguration of the European Parliament, the reconfiguration at the center and an aspect that we do not dominate, that is the negotiations, which are always difficult. I can not foresee how negotiations will take place, but we will be clearly at the center of the political spectrum. O Nós Cidadãos is in the area of social democracy in European politics.