Joseph Daul is not flashy. He has never made rousing speeches, never been too much in the public eye. However, his brand of politics has been in part what has kept the European People’s Party (EPP) together after the death of Wilfried Martens and helped guide Europe through some of its biggest trials. He’s a farmer and a party man, a steady force for good in a continent often needing a steadfast approach to leadership. This week, the EPP congress in Madrid will elect the party’s new leadership, with only the technicalities remaining for Daul’s re-election as President.
Early life and career
Joseph Daul was born in Strasbourg, France on a small family farm which he would inherit at the age of 20 after his parents died. Daul and his family still own and manage this farm today, specializing in beef production and cultivation of sugar beets.
Daul would later realize how important public life was, and quickly completed his education and became involved with trade union and the agriculture lobby in Brussels. Daul’s leadership during the 1997 Mad Cow Disease outbreak was critical towards the resolution of the crisis with his typical steadfast manner and dogged diplomacy.
European People’s Party
Fresh off of his leadership in 1997 Daul was elected as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) in 1999 where he continued his work on the committee for agriculture and rural development, and became the chair of the committee in 2002.
In November of 2013 Daul was named the President of the European People’s Party after the party’s legendary founder Wilfried Martens died in October of 2013. Daul at the time was Chairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament, and came out and strongly, with his vision for the EPP Party.
My presidency will be based on three principles: unity, continuity and responsibility. I will put all my energy towards convincing citizens to vote for a Europe that will work for them. I also reconfirm the commitment of the EPP, made at the Congress in Bucharest [held in October 2012], to launch an EU-wide campaign led by our common candidate, who will be chosen at the Dublin Congress on 6 and 7 of March 2014
That candidate was Daul
Daul was re-elected to the European People’s Party Presidency with 522 votes in favor to 14 against. Since then, Europe has faced many different issues which Daul and his center right party have attempted to negotiate responses to. Daul, never one to mince words has described the Greek negotiations as a near exercise in futility:
Anything is possible with Alexis Tsipras… except negotiating with him. I think the eurozone finance ministers have extraordinary patience. I can’t believe that a politician at this level could fail to think about what would happen to the Greek people if they were to leave the eurozone. It’s unbelievable. I have ever seen such irresponsible behaviour.
However, over time he and others were able to work out a deal and bring Tsipras to the table. Though some think Daul is perhaps more at home working with his cows, he has proven himself to have both a sharp mind and tongue in the field of politics and to be a tireless worker towards his party’s goals.
EPP and Migration
Perhaps Daul’s biggest current challenge is that of the refugee crisis, as Viktor Orban of Hungary, an outspoken voice against refugees and as an EPP party member he has made the party’s position hard to discern.
Daul, once again with his clear rhetoric described Orban as the “enfant terrible” of the EPP for his rhetoric on migration, but was quick to point out that while Orban has made braggadocious statements in the past he has always voted in line with the party. He then described how a European Policy on migration needs to be developed, and that his party is ready to make such a commitment.
Daul is not the usual politician. He does not have the background that many expect from politicians, but has managed to make it to the very top of a major political party in the European Parliament first, and at the European Union level later. As Europe faces issues like migration, TTIP, and Thailand, and a UK referendum in the coming years Joseph Daul will face it just as he has dealt with all other issues. Straightforward and to the point, just like herding cattle.