For the second time in a row now, the chairpersons of the Committees for European Union Affairs at the national parliaments of the EU members states and at the European Parliament will have to forgo the shaking of hands and friendly embraces between colleagues. The journey to Zagreb was cancelled in June – and now, the rendezvous planned for parliamentarians on Monday, 14 September 2020 will not take place at the premises of the Bundesrat. “We would have very much liked to welcome you personally to Berlin. Unfortunately, however, the restrictions as a result of the pandemic mean that this is currently still not possible”, the conference’s two hosts, Gunther Krichbaum, Chair of the Committee on European Union Affairs at the Bundestag, and Guido Wolf, Chair of the Committee on European Union Questions at the Bundesrat, wrote in their invitation.
Nevertheless, a lively debate can still be expected via video conference, to be broadcast live from 10 a.m. on www.parleu2020.de/en. In the first part of the conference, starting at 10.30 a.m., Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas will outline the focal points of the German Council Presidency, opening the debate. After the break, from 11.45 a.m., the guest speaker will be Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission for the European Green Deal.
Timmermans: “The European Green Deal remains our compass.”
Timmermans had already made clear the Commission‘s position regarding the path to be taken at a meeting of high-ranking representatives of the Bundestag and the College of EU Commissioners at the start of July: away from the CO2-intensive production methods of the past and towards a sustainable, green, digital and resilient economy. “The European Green Deal remains our compass, our strategy”, stated Timmermans clearly. A host of related initiatives and strategies had already been adopted, he continued – in terms of circular economy, biodiversity, and also hydrogen. “The leadership role of the German Council Presidency will be a key aspect when it comes to making progress on the Green Deal over the next months – in particular with regard to the passing of the European Climate Law and the raising of the 2030 climate target”, the Vice-President of the Commission said. Yet among all the ambitious targets intended to ensure Europe emerges from the Corona crisis stronger than before, it was important not to forget one thing: “We need to prove that the Green Deal is also socially sustainable”, said Timmermans.
Wolf: COSAC intends to “constructively and effectively support” the work of the German Council Presidency
Guido Wolf, Minister of Justice and European Affairs in Baden-Württemberg, believes Europe faces tremendous challenges. “As COSAC hosts, it is very important to us that the national parliaments support the work of the German Council Presidency constructively and effectively”, said the Chair of the Committee on European Union Questions at the Bundesrat. In its discussion with Timmermans, the COSAC will explore “how the European economy can be revived following the Corona crisis”. In this respect, according to Wolf, the focus will be on the EU budget and the new recovery instrument, “and of course the question of how EU financial resources can be implemented in a future-oriented and constructive way”. Additionally, paths and scenarios need to be identified that enable the EU to better react to crisis scenarios in future, he continued.
Krichbaum calls for rapid agreement on the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021 – 2027
Gunther Krichbaum stressed that the manifold repercussions of the pandemic can only be mastered “together and in a spirit of solidarity”. “Our core concern is agreement as quickly as possible on a Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021 to 2027 and the ‘Next Generation EU’ recovery plan , to allow us to tackle the reinvigoration of the European economy quickly”, said the Chair of the Committee on European Union Affairs at the Bundestag. Another important topic in his view was the preparation for the planned “Conference on the Future of Europe”. COSAC has been closely involved with this project since the beginning, calling for “national parliaments to be permitted to take part in the conference on an equal footing with the European Parliament”. Krichbaum had also explained the reason for this at the meeting at the start of July: treaty amendments could ultimately not be ruled out, he said. In this event, at the latest, the national parliaments would be required to explain the results of these amendments in the regions and constituencies, he concluded.
Analysing the weak spots in national healthcare systems
In terms of lessons from the crisis, the CDU politician believes that the forthcoming discussions among the Committee Chairs can only represent a first step, “because we have not beaten the pandemic yet”. The focus is on the complex question of how Europe can better equip itself for potential future pandemics. “To answer this, we need to carefully analyse where the weak spots in the national healthcare systems were earlier in the year, and in which areas a greater degree of European cooperation is required”, he stipulated. (hau/09.09.2020)