In an interview with New Europe, Gianni Pittella, president of the S&D Group in the European Parliament, speaks about the current top EU challenges (immigration, populism, and austerity). Pittella is the S&D candidate in the next European Parliament presidency election.

What are your solutions and ideas for solving the migrant crisis in 2017?

We need to make the resettlement system function by involving a high sense of responsibility from all the member states. It is also important to efficiently control our external borders and the coasts to try to solve the problems at the basis in the countries where the migratory flux is born.

It’s important, also with the European contribution, to find quickly a solution to the political crises in Libya and in Syria. This would give an important stop to the migratory crisis. Another important point is the reform of the Dublin Convention. We are working now in the European Parliament on this because it was unfair to leave all the burdens of the migration crisis to the Italy, Greece and other front-line countries.

Are you worried about the political situation in Italy? Do you think your battle against austerity will be affected?

Yes, I’m very concerned about the situation in Italy. As you know, I was supporting the constitutional referendum. But I think Matteo Renzi is the leader who has to guide the Democratic party and the country. There will be a short-term government. We will vote again and I hope Matteo Renzi will have a large success in the next elections so that nothing is going to change in our battle against austerity.

It would have been better if the constitutional reform would have passed, but I fully respect the democratic vote. Here on austerity, we will continue as usual to do our job in the Italian delegation.

How do you think populism, which is on rise now in the EU, can be stopped?

Populism can only be reduced and defeated if we start working on the solutions of our citizens’ problems. Populism is taking energy from high unemployment and an identity crisis. There is an exclusion of big parts of the EU society and finally a serious distrust of politics.

If we address these problems, we will cut resources to populism. Then, I think that also the clarity of the position of the European Parliament decisions could help. We have to demonstrate that the real bipolarism is not between the populists and the others, but between left and right.

Can you tell us some concrete measures you could suggest to stop the austerity and drive growth?

We need to build up a true European Investment plan, then the full implementation of flexibility in the framework of the stability pact. On the financial side, it is important to push, as proposed by the EU Commission, on the Fiscal Stance. It’s crucial then to start a discussion on how to revise the “fiscal compact.” As leader of the socialist group, I speak about the EU legislation, about the fiscal compact. We would like to revise that EU legislation that has constrained the investment capacity of the member states. This is the austerity. It didn’t reduce our debt, but it has increased uncertainty, poverty and unemployment while domestic demand is collapsed.

On the election of the new European Parliament president, is it important that President Donald Tusk is ending his mandate? Can you imagine an exchange with an EPP president in the parliament and a Socialist President for the Council?

If the socialist leaders are going to bring me a written agreement around the first days of January where it is confirmed that the next President of the EU Council is going to be from our side, I will inform my group and we will decide.