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The German Presidency of the European Union: Priorities and Stakes

Three questions to Katja Leikert

INTERVIEW - 3 July 2020

As of July 1, 2020, Germany holds the rotating six-month Presidency of the Council of the European Union. In the aftermath of a pandemic that has plunged Europe into one of the deepest crises of its existence, it is now up to Chancellor Angela Merkel to give Europe a new impetus, in order to restore a seriously damaged economy and build a more sustainable future. But in a parliamentary system like Germany's, the Chancellor cannot act at European level without the support of the Bundestag. What are Germany's priorities for Europe and how does Germany perceive its status as a central power? Three questions to Katja Leikert, Vice-Chairwoman of the CDU-CSU Group in the Bundestag, by Alexandre Robinet-Borgomano.

Germany presented the new priorities of its Presidency, which stretch from reacting to the crisis to a long-term vision to rebuild the European Union. How would you define these priorities?

In my opinion, the motto of the German Presidency, "Together. Making Europe strong again" (Gemeinsam. Europa wieder stark machen) perfectly defines what must happen in the next six months: a strong and determined European response to the economic challenges posed by the pandemic, which will bring a long-term improvement of European competitiveness. This link between the immediate response to the crisis and the long-term strengthening of the European Union is also reflected in the priorities set by Germany for its Presidency. This presidency revolves around the definition of a rapid agreement on the multiannual financial framework, which includes the European recovery plan.

It is clear to us that the regions and sectors most affected by the crisis must be supported. 

It is clear to us that the regions and sectors most affected by the crisis must be supported. However, we will ensure that this money is invested in digital and sustainable technologies so that Europe remains competitive in the long term. Secondly, during the German Presidency, we want to take decisive steps to ensure that Europe becomes the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.

Over the next six months, we will work to set realistic and ambitious climate targets for 2030. And finally, we will encourage the process of digitization in Europe. The European Union needs more sovereignty in the fields of digital technologies and artificial intelligence, and in the use of cloud computing or quantum computers, in order to be a driving force for innovation in the future, and not just a large market.

In your opinion, what structural changes should follow the implementation of the European recovery plan?

We consider it essential that the distribution of funds issued from the recovery plan be linked to ambitious reform programs in the various Member States. We are fully aware that, for certain States, this will not be easy. But one thing is certain: if we do not invest now in the digital and sustainable transformation of Europe, it is not only the well-being of our children and grandchildren that is at stake, but also the very competitiveness of our economy.

In order to build a more competitive Europe, we need, alongside the national reform programs, an adaptation of European law. The failure of the Alstom-Siemens merger has shown that, when examining company mergers, what must now be taken into account is the competition that is brought on the international arena, and not only within the single market. That is why we support the European Commission President's plan to reform European competition law.

We need, alongside the national reform programs, an adaptation of European law.

A few years ago, political scientist Herfried Münkler developed the concept of "power at the centre" (Macht in der Mitte) to define Germany's new leadership in Europe. What is the situation today?

I will not talk about "German leadership" but rather about the special responsibilities that undoubtedly rest upon Germany in the current situation, because we are the continent's largest economy. Indeed, the only way we can emerge from this crisis is through collective action. The European recovery fund proposed by the German Chancellor and the French President has clearly shown that Germany is ready to assist Europe in overcoming the challenges it faces today. I can assure you that Germany will endorse these special responsibilities in the coming months, in order to rise above the consequences of the pandemic and lay the foundations for a more competitive and sustainable Europe. In this perspective, the CDU-CSU Group in the Bundestag will support the Government's action.

 

 

Copyright : Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

 

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