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Martin Schulz: “Whatever is good for Europe is good for Germany”

9th of Novem­ber: a his­tor­ical day for Ger­many signalling the Fall of the Ber­lin Wall and the beginning of a whole new era. On this symbolic day and thanks to the “European Speech” project cooperation organized by the Robert Bosch Stif­tung, the Korn­ard Ade­nauer Stif­tung and Stif­tung Zukunft Ber­lin, I had the chance to listen to Mar­tin Schulz, the Pres­id­ent of the European Par­lia­ment, giv­ing his own European Speech in the Paul-Löbe-Haus of the Ger­man Bundestag. Mar­tin Schulz, as the main speaker, took the floor in front of 750 guests and reminded us of the import­ance of this spe­cific “day of des­tiny” both for Ger­many and the EU.

Mar­tin Schulz opened his speech emphas­iz­ing the import­ance of grant­ing the Nobel Price to the EU – par­tic­u­larly dur­ing these hard times, as this can be a source of stronger incent­ives for a bet­ter Europe. He stressed that Europeans have been liv­ing together peace­fully for sixty years without war and that this is exactly the merit of European integ­ra­tion: peace was “cer­tainly not enshrined in the European DNA” in the past dec­ades. What happened in Ger­many on Novem­ber 9th 1989 had always been cru­cial for the course of events to fol­low in Europe. Schulz poin­ted out that Ger­man and European his­tory are woven together and who­ever does not under­stand that can­not under­stand the pro­cess of European integ­ra­tion itself.

Mar­tin Schulz referred to the com­mend­able foresight of the French For­eign Min­is­ter Robert Schu­man, who “offered a help­ing hand” to the Ger­mans after the Second World War, and allowed them to “to join the demo­cratic fam­ily once again”. The Franco-German friend­ship was and still is the driv­ing force behind European integ­ra­tion. How­ever, after the east­ern enlarge­ment of the EU, it is about time to end this duet by intro­du­cing another part­ner in the alli­ance: Poland, the most dynamic and prom­ising eco­nomy in Europe.

“Either we all win or we all lose”

Mr. Schulz con­tin­ued his speech by numerating the chal­lenges to be countered by the bloc; most import­ant of which are the increas­ingly com­plex soci­ety, the glob­al­ized (social) media and the oppress­ive mar­kets among others. All of these require  the abil­ity to act fast in order to main­tain demo­cracy in our con­tin­ent. For this reason he pressed national par­lia­ments to take bind­ing decisions on the final way out of the crisis. “Times of crisis are always times for action,” he said. Nev­er­the­less he expressed fear for the “Ver­gip­fe­lung” (the excess­ive num­ber of eurogroup sum­mits) dur­ing the past three years and its under­min­ing con­sequence for the par­lia­ment­ary democracy.

As the Pres­id­ent of the most demo­cratic insti­tu­tion of the EU, he called for unity. How linked and insep­ar­able our eco­nom­ies, soci­et­ies and life are mat­ters that con­cern the major­ity of European res­id­ents. He did point out though, with a sign of bit­ter­ness, that some gov­ern­ments still tried to push through national interests in Europe and presen­ted the res­ults to their coun­tries as glor­i­ous vic­tor­ies. He quoted the logic advoc­ated by Ulrich Beck’s positive-sum game: “Either we all win or we all lose.” accord­ing to Schulz, many polit­ical tasks -like the response to cli­mate change or the reg­u­la­tion of fin­an­cial markets- require long-term supra­na­tional solutions.

He also seemed to be con­cerned by the revival of nation­al­ist waves in Europe. Many Ger­mans see them­selves as pay­mas­ters of the South­ern States; people of the South, on the other hand, feel vic­tims of the aus­ter­ity imposed by Ber­lin. “They are all, and we are all, vic­tims of the fin­an­cial crisis. Some pay taxes for guar­an­tees and oth­ers with cuts in ser­vices.”, he noted – the fairest say­ing I have heard lately. Apart from this, he cited some fig­ures of the Ber­tels­mann Stif­tung, arguing that the dom­ino effect (caused by a coun­try leav­ing the euro) would cost Ger­many a dir­ect loss of three tril­lion Euros, not to men­tion the tsunami of upcom­ing prob­lems. What moved me the most was his heart­ily ref­er­ence to the record of high youth unem­ploy­ment in Greece and Spain, and the amount of  qual­i­fied young employ­ees stuck in a fatal spiral of under­paid intern­ships. “This leads to dis­ap­point­ment, frus­tra­tion, anger and under­min­ing con­fid­ence in demo­cratic insti­tu­tions”, he closed up.

Mar­tin Schulz called on the people of Europe to oppose the European divi­sion and stressed that every­day polit­ics should not take our eyes from the long-term sta­bil­ity of our soci­et­ies and demo­cra­cies. In terms of the fin­an­cial sec­tor, long-term policies –word of the evening- should also be exten­ded to the max­imum. And because Ger­many must find its pos­i­tion again today, it “might once again become a key state in Europe through its eco­nomic power,” Mar­tin Schulz said. Lastly he recalled on Thomas Mann’s appeal not to aim to a Ger­man Europe, but to a European Germany.

Final remark

“European Speech” that took place on November 9th was the third since the projects inception in 2010. The former two main speak­ers were also top EU offi­cials, namely Her­man Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Bar­roso, which triggered a chain reac­tion of thoughts in my mind: Is the EU on “pro­mo­tion cam­paign” due to the crisis? Not to men­tion some state­ments made by Bar­roso him­self, Merkel, the Spinelli Group and many other politi­cians ask­ing for more Europe, in every way pos­sible. The fact is that we are exper­i­en­cing unpre­ced­en­ted changes in the way the EU is work­ing. The amount of devel­op­ments that have occurred dur­ing the past 3 years are too con­cen­trated in such a short time period. Are we really mov­ing towards a dif­fer­ent European model? Surely this would be a hasty con­clu­sion, con­sid­er­ing the clas­sical EU motto “take your time”. From the Ber­lin aspect at least I sense a really strong pro-European move­ment attempt­ing to brush up EU achieve­ments and round up pub­lic opin­ion on sens­it­ive issues.

–  Styliani Kampani

(Featured photo: AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Comité des Régions, Creative Commons, Flickr)

Dis­claimer: This art­icle was ori­gin­ally pub­lished as “Martin Schulz: “Whatever is good for Europe is good for Germany“” on Novem­ber 21, 2012 on The European Student Think Tank, a PB cooper­a­tion partner.

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