Reforming the EU from the German perspective

| September 26, 2014 | 0 Comments
In the last 60 years, the European Union has brought about freedom, wealth and democracy to an unprecedented extent, but there is still room for additional co-ordination between the member states.

In the last 60 years, the European Union has brought about freedom, wealth and democracy to an unprecedented extent, but there is still room for additional co-ordination between the member states.

These days, there is even more hustle and bustle in Brussels than usual. After the election of the European Parliament in May, important personnel decisions are due, and the public eagerly awaits any reaction — be it from heads of government or from European Union officials — as to who will obtain which position. But these questions should not cover up the substantial topics that ought to be addressed.
In the last 60 years, the European Union has brought about freedom, wealth and democracy to an unprecedented extent. And it is not only the European economies that benefit from the liberties of the European common market, but also the European citizens who enjoy freedom of movement and the unimpeded flow of goods and services. However, there is still room for additional co-ordination between the member states.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Germany takes the view that the European Union is a vitally necessary agent in more than just the economic realm. It is true that the EU is not designed to intervene in each and every sector and should not exceed the limits deliberately set by the member states. But within its assigned range of tasks, the EU should be actively engaged and should provide for joint solutions supported by all member states. Coherence is one of the key factors in allowing the European Union to play an important role within the member states as well as on the international level.
The European Union is based on the principle of the member states’ equality. Germany does not disregard suggestions of political clout based on its economic advancement, and we do not hide from this responsibility. But we are also fully aware of our role as an equal partner within the European Union and we do believe that close co-operation with all member states is in everyone´s interest. As part of the European Union, Germany acts within this extraordinary and meaningful framework.
Recent developments show how important such joint actions are. Data security and the protection of privacy constitute one area in which harmonised standards are urgently needed. The directive in place entered into force in 1995 and thus reflects technological development and views that are outdated. Moreover, the directive was not implemented in a uniform way in all member states. The European Parliament already approved the European Commission’s proposal for a new General Data Protection Regulation, which strengthens individuals’ control over their personal data, especially for the transmission of data to third countries. Germany endorses the unified and strong data protection rules set out by the regulation. With more than 500 million consumers, unified standards for data protection are inevitable. But the protection of privacy does not only relate to private companies, it is also a matter for the public sector. Therefore, Germany advocates an opening clause to issue or retain stricter rules on data protection in public administration. Furthermore, consent to data processing is one of the central elements of data protection laws. Conditions to consent should be specified to ensure consent is given explicitly, voluntarily and under informed conditions. We strongly believe it is in all member countries’ interest to ensure a high level of data protection.
In a more general context, reforms concerning the structure of the EU itself should not be put on the shelf, either. Europe has already made progress on its way to stability and growth, but the EU has to strengthen its laws to prevent further risks to the currency union.
The economic crisis revealed that the foundations of growth and wealth in Europe have to be consistently secured and rearranged. The European Banking Authority is only the first step towards a comprehensive regulation of the financial markets. The next step will include a harmonised mechanism for the liquidation of banks.
The EU needs to develop a true economic and monetary union in order to be able to address the upcoming economic challenges. Economic stability in the member states also hinges upon competitiveness. We need to consolidate the budgets and enhance the Common Market, especially when it comes to the freedom of movement of workers. Future investment to provide for a solid European job market and reduce unemployment, which spreads especially among youths, is crucial for economic development and social cohesion in the EU.
Last, but not least, we have to optimise value-added chains by investing in research, innovation and key technologies.
The spirit of reform has also entered into recent elections to the European Parliament. Parliament’s new role to elect the European Commission’s president bolsters its position within the EU and thereby strengthens this genuinely European body, consisting of directly elected representatives from all member states. The European Union requires such strong European institutions, together with strong member states, to represent our joint interests in the world. In Germany, the election turnout showed that considerably more voters cast their vote than in 2009, thereby backing up their firm belief in Europe as our common future.
Germany congratulates Jean Claude Juncker on his election as the next EU Commission president and welcomes his election success, particularly in view of the fact that he represents the majority political group in the European Parliament. We trust in Mr. Juncker´s competence and ability to represent not only those who voted for him, but all European citizens.
We do understand the criticism that was voiced over voting procedures and we share the desire for reforms in many areas. Consequently, these reforms should be addressed jointly. Germany and Great Britain share the same values and have the same overall agenda, primarily that of a strong, competitive European Union. Great Britain is a highly valued partner in international politics, which often paves the way for constructive co-operation. The European Union needs a strong Great Britain with a strong voice inside the EU.
Challenges that the EU and its member states face today come from inside and outside the Union. We firmly believe that all member states need a stable and solid union to handle these challenges and to achieve our common goals of growth and competitiveness.

Werner Wnendt is Germany’s ambassador to Canada.

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Category: Diplomatica

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Werner Wnendt is Germany’s ambassador to Canada.

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