According to Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD), the Corona crisis needs to represent a double-sided task for Germany’s six-month Presidency of the Council of the EU, which begins today. “We need to remedy the mistakes and failures of the past that have been made all too evident by the crisis”, he said on Wednesday, 1 July 2020, in a debate on the topic. At the same time, a course must be set for a more sustainable future.
The key to this could be found in two words, he said: “solidarity and sovereignty”. Only if the EU Member States grew even closer together, would they also be able to assert their sovereignty to the outside world. In addition, success is necessary in working together to make the EU more sustainable, social and resistant, said the Foreign Minister. An “acid test” and the “highest priority” for the German Presidency would thus be reaching an agreement of the recovery fund proposed by the EU Commission and totalling 750 billion Euro, emphasised Maas. The Federal Government would also be calling for solidarity over the next six months when it came to refugees and migration, he made clear.
AfD oppose “EU centralists”
AfD group chairman Dr Alexander Gauland opposed plans by “EU centralists” to force binding refugee quotas on Eastern European countries. It was also wrong, in his view, to move additional competences to EU level, spend billions on shared aid programmes and intend to accept liability for the debt of others.
“The Corona crisis has shown how incapable the European Union is of solving problems”, was Gauland’s verdict. Member States had to take care of this on their own doorstep.
CDU/CSU: Tie aid to reform programmes
Dr Katja Leikert (CDU/CSU) defended the billions of Euro in aid, referring to the huge economic downturn anticipated in Europe. “We want Europe to hold together, especially in difficult times, and to emerge stronger from the crisis with an intelligent programme for the future”, she emphasised.
However, this aid needed to be tied to reform programmes and help strengthen the digital single market, trade and competition, along with a sustainable transformation of the economy, she said.
FDP: An autumn of bankruptcies
Alexander Graf Lambsdorff (FDP) had, in his own words, “high hopes” for the German Presidency. This needed to be an “economy-centred presidency”, he said, mentioning an “autumn of company bankruptcies and job losses”. From 2021, the EU needed a modern, more flexible and greater multiannual budget and investments in research and trans-European networks, among other things, he went on.
Looking towards Brexit, Lambsdorff stressed that the Federal Government needed to at least negotiate a “slim framework agreement” with the UK by the end of the transition period in December. The departure of the UK from the single market was “not something we can afford after the shock of Corona”.
The Left Party: Europe as the people’s project
Speaking on behalf of The Left Party, Alexander Ulrich described Europe as weak across a variety of points. By way of example, he mentioned the “complete failure of the EU on refugee policy”, along with “wrong responses” to the financial and Euro crisis and the departure of the United Kingdom from the EU.
In the Corona crisis, too, the Member States had been lacking in solidarity, he said. “If we continue in this way, Europe is bound to go under.” Europe would only become a people’s project once again if it became more socially responsible, he was convinced.
The Greens: Reduce dependency on China
Dr Franziska Brantner (Alliance 90/The Greens) spoke of a great responsibility on the part of the Federal Government. It was essential “in these unusual times to set a course that left the EU in a better position after the crisis than when it started“. The billions in aid needed to be used to finance “real European projects“. Adherence to rule-of-law principles had to be a condition for disbursement of these funds, she said.
In addition, Brantner proposed a European Health Union, in order to foster better links between national health agencies. When it came to trade and production, the EU needed to become more independent, in order to reduce the large dependency on China, she added. (joh/01.07.2020)