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“It is in our own in­ter­est to en­sure that Eu­rope is strong, sovereign and fair”

On 28 November 2018, German finance minister and vice-chancellor Olaf Scholz delivered a keynote speech on Europe at the Humboldt University in Berlin. The speech was delivered in German; the English version provided here is a translation.

Olaf Scholz delivered a keynote speech on Europe at the Humboldt University in Berlin
Source:  Thomas Köhler, Photothek.net
  • Date 28 November 2018

Speech in German

[Check against delivery]

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to have this opportunity to discuss Europe with you here, in the historic Senate Hall of the Humboldt University in Berlin. I would struggle to think of a more suitable setting for this conversation. For us – for Germany – Europe is the most important national concern. That is a sentence that cannot be repeated often enough. It is my firm belief that the future of our country will be determined by the future of Europe. It is in our own interest to ensure that Europe is strong, sovereign and fair.

Europe has been the subject of many good and important speeches, also and especially in recent weeks and months, and also and especially here, at your university. These speeches have focused on the spirit of Europe, the success of this unique peace project, the strength that lies in diversity, and, in some cases, they have put forward visionary ideas for a united Europe.

Politics requires visions, as even the great Helmut Schmidt knew. But it was also Helmut Schmidt who taught me that visions are a first step, which must be followed by specific suggestions on how we should proceed. Today, I would like to focus on this second step – I would like to make some specific and targeted proposals on how to enhance European integration.

We need to tell people in Germany and in other European countries what kind of European Union we are working towards – now, in 2018. And exactly what steps need to be taken. And why these decisions are important. That is something that needs to be done more often, in my opinion.

As Wilhelm von Humboldt, the founding father of this university, once said, ‘Only those who know the past have a future.’ This insight also applies to European integration. Looking back over centuries of wars, but especially over the two world wars, it is impossible to overstate the role that the European integration process has played in securing peace on our continent.

Our shared values and ideas are the foundation of European integration. This ‘European way of life’ is clearly defined in the Treaty of Lisbon (in Article 2): respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.

These common tenets are what binds the member states of the European Union together. After all, the European Union is more than a single market made up of countries with similar economic and welfare state models.

In the past, countries often joined the European Union after they had successfully transitioned to democracy and embraced the rule of law. This was the case after the end of fascist dictatorships in Greece, Portugal and Spain, and it was the case after the fall of communist dictatorships in central and eastern Europe. These European countries share our core values. That is why historian Heinrich August Winkler includes them in what he calls the ‘cultural West’.

The European Union is not just held together by common interests; it is a union of values. That term is important to me.

Because these values are the foundation on which Europe is built, the member states of the European Union share an interest in upholding our common respect for democracy, the rule of law and civil rights. Any doubts about whether a member state respects these principles always concern all member states. As a result, it is only right and proper that the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European public should address the issue of respect for our shared (European) values. The mere fact that we are able to have a pertinent discussion about what exactly this means – as we most recently did, for example, with our neighbours in Poland and Hungary – represents progress that is founded upon our European community.

Of course Europe is more than the European Union. The relationship between the European Union and its European neighbours is a key topic. The EU enjoys close relations with Switzerland, Norway and Iceland which are laid down in far-reaching treaties. And following Brexit – which, unfortunately, we must now assume will come to pass – we will also develop a close, albeit changed, relationship with the UK. After all, we are connected to the UK through our history, our continent, our values, and an unbreakable friendship.

Our ties with the countries of the Western Balkans that want to join the European Union will also continue to develop favourably, the closer these countries come to meeting the accession conditions. Here too, respect for our common values plays a central role.

We as the European Union also want to have a good relationship – a partnership – with our other neighbours to the east. We are connected to many of these countries through the OSCE, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, with the understanding that we are striving towards permanent peaceful coexistence in Europe, as was agreed shortly after Germany’s reunification. The inviolability of frontiers, the rule of law and respect for human rights in all European countries – both within and outside the European Union – are central elements of the Paris Charter. A rule-based security architecture also has the function of protecting smaller countries that do not have much military clout. Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which violated international law, and the ongoing armed conflict in eastern Ukraine have called these important principles into question. This conflict is at the forefront of our minds again at the moment.

As a consequence, I think it is imperative that we continue to develop the OSCE as an instrument of collective security. Within this framework, we can build Europe’s eastern policy and our relationship with the superpower that is Russia.

The European Union stands for peaceful coexistence on the European continent – but also beyond. It is our responsibility to support a peaceful multilateral world order. After the bipolar world order of the Cold War came to an end, it seemed for a while that we were moving towards a more peaceful multilateral order. Unfortunately, these hopes have not been fulfilled. On the contrary, unilateralism is on the rise once again. If the U.S. and Russia, in their foreign and security policy strategies, turn their backs on the multilateral perspective in favour of national self-interest, then the EU needs to act as a counterpoint by advocating multilateralism. This includes clear and strict arms control policies. For this reason, I firmly believe that the EU will have to unambiguously support the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which has been very successful in controlling the number of medium-range missiles for more than 30 years now. This treaty must remain in force. It is of central importance for peace in Europe and for the arms balance.

Let me say it again: Europe is our country’s main national concern. Towards the middle of this century, the world’s population will pass the ten billion mark. Alongside the post-war powers – the U.S. and Russia – other countries will gain great influence, including China, India, and several others. The European Union, with its projected population of 450 million or so, will only be able to uphold its values and its multilateral approach in the international arena if it has sufficient influence itself.

This is not just true of our efforts to establish a multilateral world order. It applies more generally: The EU needs to be strong in order to defend its interests and its values globally. It needs to be sovereign in the sense recently invoked by French President Emmanuel Macron. Sovereignty is the prerequisite for our ability to shape our own destiny according to our own rules. For our ability to ensure that no one pushes us around. Without the European Union, no single country in Europe has the strength to retain control over its destiny within the future world order – not even Germany with its 80-some million inhabitants. Europe needs to be united and strong.

If the European Union wants to be a key global political player – in other words, if it wants to be strong externally – then this strength must come from within.

We need to put the EU in a better position and work more closely together in key policy areas. We need to make more of an effort to think and act on a European scale in areas where we can achieve more together than we can individually.

This means that the European Union must become more political. In the past, the integration of the EU focused primarily on creating the single market. Perhaps this goes some way towards explaining why populists and eurosceptics are gaining traction, despite continued majority support for the European Union.

However, the key challenges facing the European Union and its member states today require political debates and political decisions, not just economic adjustment processes. The simple truth of the matter is that, at the moment, many European citizens do not believe that the EU is capable of such political debates. They perceive the EU as too weak to tackle the truly important challenges. We need to do something about that. Europe needs to become more political. It needs to get stronger in order to be taken seriously – by its own citizens as well as by other countries.

I want to make it very clear at this point that a political Europe includes disagreements – or rather, a culture of debate. A recent example is our struggle to find solutions in the debate about Europe’s joint responsibility to take in refugees. The controversy was necessary and right – and I hope that it will allow us to make progress. People have argued: ‘If we can’t even agree on that, then what’s the point of the EU?’ But that argument is, at its core, undemocratic. After all, democracy is about achieving unity in the face of divergent positions. It’s about reaching a consensus on the right way forward. Of course, as in any good relationship, this includes a certain willingness to compromise.

One important prerequisite for such debates is a strong European public sphere.

Today, debates about Europe still predominantly take place in the national arena – including, and especially, here in Germany. So what we have are 28 (soon 27) monologues about Europe. That needs to change. The idea is that, if we have a truly European public sphere, the national perspective will play a less important role. In the discussion about Europe’s future, for example, a social democrat from Sweden and a social democrat from Spain will share the same opinions and will debate people from different political sides about what course should be taken – as is already common within individual countries. I hope that, in the coming European elections, we will already have come a step closer to this ideal.

I promised to make concrete proposals on how we can deepen European integration. There are a number of policy areas in which I believe we need to make further progress in order to make the EU stronger and more sovereign in the sense that I have described. These are external policy, security policy, managing our common external borders, the way in which we deal with refugee flows, common trade policy, the development of the economic and monetary union, minimum social standards, and rules for preserving our environment and for protecting ourselves against tax dumping. Also, the European Union needs to support economically weaker countries in their development, especially in Africa, our neighbouring continent.

All these are areas in which, if the right decisions are made, there is scope for European added value. In which we can achieve things together that we would not be able to achieve separately, as individual countries. Fair competition that is not based on social or tax dumping is also a goal that we can only achieve together. These are the kinds of European public goods that I’m talking about. And that is the basis for ensuring that Europe’s citizens support a strong EU.

So let’s get down to the specifics:

The first topic I would like to focus on is European tax policy. I’m the finance minister, so it makes sense for me to start with that. Large corporations and their strategies to avoid paying taxes are currently offering the European Union an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the power of joint action in a global economy. We have been observing for years how some large multinational corporations find ways – sometimes by exploiting legal loopholes – to shift their profits around the world with the aim of minimising their tax burden or avoiding taxes altogether. That is not acceptable. In effect, they are refusing to make their fair contribution to financing public services.

We have recently made progress at the international level in fighting these scandalous practices. But we need to do more. We need to agree on an international minimum level of taxation, thus ensuring that our democratic states are able to finance their public goods. Our aim is not to do away with tax competition, but to define a minimum standard in order to ensure that we do not harm each other. We recently presented this proposal to the OECD and other institutions. And we are engaged in intensive discussions about it with our colleagues in the G7 and the G20, as well as the OECD.

I am confident that, by the summer of 2020, we will be able to agree on a plan in which Germany’s proposals will play an important role. In the unlikely event that we do not succeed in this by 2020 – and I want to make it very clear that we are confident that we will succeed, but we should still be aware of the possibility that we might not – we in Europe need to act independently and take the lead. For this reason, as I just discussed with my French counterpart Bruno Le Maire, we should agree in December on an EU-wide approach that will put binding rules in place by January 2021.

I would like to make a second point regarding taxation: I want to prevent companies from taking advantage of differing tax rates in Europe to minimise the amount of tax they have to pay. That is why Germany and France recently took the initiative of putting forward a proposal for a common corporate tax base. In this way, we are supporting the Commission’s efforts to introduce such a measure across the EU. This is essentially a matter of justice.

My third and final tax-related point is the financial transaction tax – I know it’s a vexed subject, but I finally want to implement it in the EU. I support Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to introduce France’s version of the financial transaction tax across the entire EU. It is largely equivalent to the UK’s stamp duty, which would prevent the much-feared relocation of trading activity. Revenues from this tax could accrue to the EU and thus lower national contributions to the EU budget. This would make the tax attractive even for countries that would not themselves generate much revenue from it. I know that some people would prefer a much more far-reaching financial transaction tax – but equally, there are others who reject such a tax altogether. The French proposal would allow us to finally achieve a result.

In addition to taxation, we need to take specific action in other areas, as well: We need a social Europe in which employees are protected from any erosion of social standards resulting from global competition. Businesses in Europe must not be allowed to use poor working conditions as a way of gaining a competitive advantage. I believe that we urgently need a European legal framework of minimum wages and basic social security systems. That is important for social cohesion. I believe that the proposal of establishing national minimum wages of at least 60 percent of the national median wage is definitely worthy of discussion. Of course this also means that freedom of movement in the EU needs to be designed in such a way that it works in spite of different levels of prosperity and different welfare state traditions in individual member states. The new rules on the posting of workers will improve things in this regard. But we need to make further progress, for example when it comes to working conditions in the transport sector. After all, the EU needs to deliver on the European Pillar of Social Rights.

Subject number three: The euro is a key element in the EU’s economic strength, and its importance is set to increase further: After the UK leaves the EU next March, 85 percent of the EU’s economic output will be generated in euros. This can be expected to increase the attractiveness of the common currency to the remaining non-euro countries within the EU. And it is my firm conviction that the euro’s global significance will also continue to rise.

Against this background, we need to continue to enhance our monetary union’s strength and resilience – and create institutions that are capable of action. The monetary union was ill-equipped for the financial crisis and the subsequent euro crisis that began in 2008. The European Central Bank, the ECB, was the only institution in the euro area that was able to take effective action. It was often criticised for this fact. However, those who chastise the ECB and criticise its measures, but who nevertheless want the currency union to be capable of action, must accept the next logical step – the creation of democratically legitimised institutions that are subject to parliamentary control and are capable of action in times of crisis.

And we have already made significant progress in this regard. As part of the banking union, we have created, in addition to single supervision, a single mechanism for resolving banks, together with a Single Resolution Fund that the banks finance themselves by means of annual contributions. This will ensure that, when the next crisis happens, it is not taxpayers who ultimately have to foot the bill, but the institutions that caused the crisis and their shareholders. The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) needs to be expanded and made stronger. Nobody knows when the next major economic crisis is going to hit Europe or the world. We therefore need to be prepared – and we need to act now.

For this reason, I started working on this issue as soon as I took office. And we have been successful: Regarding the banking union, we have already agreed on higher requirements for liable equity capital and third-party capital for banks, and how to deal with non-performing loans in the future.

And in a few days’ time, we plan to agree on a comprehensive package of measures aimed at further strengthening the economic and monetary union.

First, we want to further develop the ESM into a powerful European Monetary Fund; with more competencies and options in terms of preparing and implementing assistance programmes for eurozone countries that – despite pursuing sound policies – find themselves in difficulties. This would of course be subject to parliamentary control.

Second, this enhanced ESM should also take on the role of a backstop for the Single Resolution Fund. This would enhance the firepower of the Single Resolution Fund and would protect taxpayers and banks. If we succeed in agreeing on clear goals for further reducing risks in the banking system, the backstop may even be operational before 2024.

Third, we want to move forward with a budget for the eurozone countries (eurozone budget) as part of the EU budget, in order to promote investment, economic convergence, competitiveness and stability in the eurozone. We already have a tool, in the form of the EU budget, which stabilises public investments in cohesion countries even during a crisis. And naturally, every member state must independently ensure that it remains capable of action in the event of a crisis. However, we need additional tools that will allow us to react to cyclical economic downturns. I therefore think it is right to use a eurozone budget to ensure that these tools are still available to the member states affected even in a downturn – especially in a downturn.

Fourth, I consider it necessary for the national unemployment insurance schemes to mutually support each other during deep crises. These schemes play an important role as automatic stabilisers. A reinsurance fund as part of a eurozone financial facility that complements a eurozone budget would be able to issue loans in situations where a country is struggling economically. This would ensure that the country would not need to raise unemployment insurance contributions or cut benefits during the crisis in order to finance the system. The loans would have to be repaid later. This type of system has worked in the U.S. for decades and would also benefit the European Union. Here, we are not talking about transfer payments – even if some people, who should know better, like to call them that in the political debate. We are talking about loans. This would send an important signal: The EU is there for its citizens when it comes to the crunch.

Fifth, looking at the big picture, the key thing is that the eurozone countries, which are linked together through their shared currency, are able to take anticyclical measures in order to combat a crisis. The eurozone budget and the reinsurance fund for unemployment insurance schemes are steps in this direction.

We should, however, also ensure that EU-financed investments in infrastructure, up to 80 percent of which are financed out of Community funds in some countries, are not scaled back during a crisis because the countries in question need to reduce their national contributions. The European Commission has made proposals on this issue, which need to be further developed in a targeted fashion. In the eurozone, fighting crises is not only a national concern. However, it is good that, in Germany, public debt levels are now set to fall below 60 percent of GDP again, after they had – for good reasons – risen to over 80 percent of GDP during the last economic crisis. In this way, we will have the necessary firepower to implement a sizeable stimulus programme during the next crisis. And this will not only help Germany, but also Europe.

Sixth, a common deposit guarantee scheme is the ultimate destination at the very end of the road towards an economic and monetary union, even if the route to get there is long and is dependent on many factors.

I would now like to turn to trade policy. The last 12 months have proved how helpful it can be to act together as the EU on the international stage, in the context of the trade conflict with the U.S. European trade policy has long been the responsibility of the EU. This is a good starting point, but we need to take additional steps. Europe needs to strengthen its trade policy criteria, so that it can enshrine them in its free-trade agreements with many countries and groups of countries around the world. In my opinion, these criteria must include observing the International Labour Organisation’s core labour standards, observing environmental standards, and protecting human rights, also in global supply chains. And we need to agree on an EU trade policy that provides even more intensive support for development in poorer countries.

We can only succeed in our efforts to protect the environment and halt anthropogenic climate change if we cooperate at the international level. A strong EU must act as the driver of this cooperation. We can see just how essential this is in the aftermath of the United States’ withdrawal from the global climate agreement. Similarly, protecting the world’s seas from plastic waste, for example, also relies on international cooperation.

We have to move forward at the European level if we are going to have an impact as a global influencer. We cannot allow a race to the bottom when it comes to environmental protection. For this reason, we need joint EU rules on environmental protection. Incidentally, having joint EU rules in this area would also be good for business. If we have sensible rules that promote European technological standards, then we can develop products and services that are not only good for Europe but that also make it possible to achieve economic prosperity in other countries without unacceptable climate emissions, for example. If we succeed in dramatically reducing emissions from transport, that would be a great step.

We need a common foreign policy approach. For this reason, I very much support the proposal from our Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, to move away from the principle of unanimity in the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council. This is already possible for many issues today without needing to amend the European treaties. It is unacceptable that the EU can only take action on foreign affairs if all 27 members agree. And if we are serious about the European project, then the EU should also speak with one voice in the UN Security Council.

Here is my proposal: In the medium term, France’s seat on the Security Council could be converted into a seat for the EU. In return, France would then have the right to appoint the EU ambassador to the United Nations in perpetuity. It’s clear to me that this might require a little persuasion work in Paris, but it is a bold and shrewd goal.

The EU countries must also cooperate more closely in the area of defence. Almost all EU member states are also NATO members, and transatlantic cooperation will continue to be of major importance in the long term. However, we can only significantly improve our European defence capabilities if we intensify cooperation within the EU.

This is primarily true for the defence industry. European countries have about 180 different weapons systems; the U.S. has 30. This is expensive, it is inefficient – and it is unnecessary. It creates needless difficulties for closer cooperation between EU armies. Therefore, as a first step, national governments should work much more closely together on procurement. Our guiding principles must be joint design, joint requirements and joint manufacturing. This would dramatically increase the effectiveness of our joint efforts in the area of defence. I will not deny that there will – and must – be consolidation in the European defence industry.

One advantage of joint European procurement would be that it would also reduce pressure to export military equipment. We currently have the following situation: Manufacturers in the defence sector depend on finding new markets for their products. This is because high levels of investment are required to develop and produce weapons, and individual armed forces ultimately order small quantities. Often, these manufacturers find customers in parts of the world to which we should not be supplying arms. If the internal European market for defence equipment were to grow, this would mean that external exports would become less significant. It’s clear that we must also have strict common rules in Europe for arms exports – as is already the case in many places, including Germany.

The approaches associated with the development and procurement of defence systems under the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) need to be expanded. But we need to go further than the existing plans. In the long term, we should all share the goal of having joint European armed forces. It goes without saying that these should be subject to parliamentary control.

It is remarkable that people are now talking about this issue without making a big fuss about it. The first attempt to create a European Defence Community failed, even though it had reached an advanced stage. For decades, many people were convinced that this step could only be taken at the end of the EU’s integration process. More recently, we have come to realise that this is no longer the case. Even if there are still many questions to be clarified, it is a step that needs to be taken. The moment has come.

Let us now turn to the subject of migration. This is an issue that has many different aspects. We need to take joint responsibility for our external borders. That’s something that is probably clear to all of us. EU countries that have an external border shouldn’t have to shoulder this responsibility alone. These are our shared external borders, and so we have to share responsibility for managing them. Without secure external borders, the unrestricted freedom of movement within Europe that is a consequence of the Schengen Agreement doesn’t work. For this reason, we must strengthen Frontex and we need uniform electronic visa systems. Securing the borders is of crucial importance if our citizens are to feel secure, and if migration is to be accepted.

The important thing here is not protection against migration, but protection for refugees. To achieve this, we need joint policies. The EU must conclude agreements with neighbouring countries about how to deal with refugees. This involves both taking back refugees who come to the EU but who do not have the right to protection, as well as ensuring safety for refugees in these countries. It also involves reducing the number of refugees by creating prospects for legal labour migration.

The EU must accept joint responsibility for the refugees who arrive in Europe. As I mentioned earlier, this cannot be the sole responsibility of those countries on Europe’s borders. Before 2015, Germany also provided too little support to the member states affected. At the current time, it means that we must provide more assistance to Spain and Greece. A solidarity-based solution must be found that takes into account the diverse political positions of the various member states while still allowing a sensible allocation of responsibility. In this way, we will avoid situations like the one we experienced in 2015 and 2016 in the future.

Incidentally, most of the refugees in the world are not located in Europe, but are in the direct vicinity of the regions affected. Here, too, Europe urgently needs to find a joint position. We need to work towards a situation where refugees who have found protection in neighbouring countries to these regions have access to housing, schools and job opportunities in these locations, instead of having to live in camps for decades. This humanitarian approach, which takes into account more groups than just those who want to travel in boats to Europe from the coasts of Africa and Turkey, is urgently required as part of a uniform European strategy. As an example for such efforts, we can point to the Jordan Compact, which the EU concluded with Jordan in 2016.

Africa must also be seen as an important priority for the EU. We need to improve the situation on the ground and create the possibility for an adequate life for people there. And we need to do this through new approaches to development cooperation. An important element in this respect is the Compact with Africa, which Germany initiated within the context of the G20. If you consider that, by 2050, Africa’s population will probably have reached 2.5 billion people – in other words, a quarter of the global population – then the dimensions of this issue become clear.

Before I come to the end of my speech here at the Humboldt University, there is one important thing that I need to say: It is our Europe that we are talking about here. A Europe that bold and brave women and men built out of the rubble of the Second World War more than 60 years ago. A Europe that, from its beginnings as the European Coal and Steel Community, has evolved into a single market and come together to create a common currency. Now it’s up to us, the current generation of politicians, to further develop this Europe and make it politically powerful. More unified. Because the world has changed in recent years, and the challenges that are coming at Europe from all sides are likely to become more, not fewer, in number.

I myself have certainly made it my job to do everything within my power to move our Europe forward. Germany will play a special role in this respect, whether we want to or not. Due to our location in the centre of the EU, our population and our economic strength, everything that we do has a direct impact on our neighbours. And so does everything that we don’t do. With great power comes great responsibility. Germany must use its influence to facilitate compromises at the European level and help to combine the often diverse perspectives within the EU into one position. To this end, we must sometimes be more generous than others, and also more generous than we may have sometimes been in the past. Here, I am expressly not talking about financial generosity. Instead, I mean that we need to be generous in seeing our interests in the light of joint European issues, rather than immediately lapsing into the traditional knee-jerk reactions. Because no country has benefited more from this unified Europe than Germany.

Germany has much to thank the European Union for. It was only because Germany was safely embedded within the EU that the other countries in Europe actively supported the re-emergence of a reunified Germany. This was not something that one could have taken for granted, seeing as the fear of such a unified Germany had played a significant role in European politics for centuries, and bearing in mind that the German Reich started two terrible world wars. For this reason, we have a special responsibility to ensure that the European project succeeds. This is also why any kind of patronising attitude to central and eastern European countries or to southern European countries is unacceptable. We cannot allow the EU to be split into east and west, or into north and south.

It is therefore important to me that we hold discussions with all EU member states and take their ideas and expectations into consideration. This also applies to areas where we are preparing decisions in Brussels under the auspices of close Franco-German cooperation.

Allow me a few personal words about France. Emmanuel Macron recently delivered a stirring declaration of love to our country. In view of our shared history, this was not just a beautiful gesture; it was a grand gesture. Don’t worry, I am not about to betray my Northern German reserve and proclaim my own love in return. But we do share a strong, enduring and special friendship with France. And I would like to take this opportunity to say: ‘Merci, Monsieur Macron. Merci, Emmanuel.’

The European Union contains many nations with different languages, cultures and traditions. This constitutes its strengths and power. We don’t want to get rid of these differences, nor do we want to complain about them. We need to make sure that we can be strong together and develop joint rules and common policies where we need them, in order to continue to be united and sovereign in the world of the 21st century.

I am confident that we will succeed in doing this. If Europe becomes more political. And if we all consciously decide to think and act in a more European way than we have in the past. And then push forward with the necessary reforms, step by step and in a pragmatic fashion.

Elections for the European Parliament will be held in 2019. I would be very pleased if this election campaign does not focus on Europe as an issue in itself, as is so often the case. By this I mean the question of whether Europe is good for us or not. Rather, it must focus on European issues. On the specific questions that need to be addressed in Europe.

You would never have a national election campaign in Germany that focused on existential questions of whether Germany is a good thing or not. Neither would you have this type of debate on the state or local level in Germany. Rather, when we discuss the future of Europe, we should be more specific, as I have tried to be today, so that citizens can vote on alternatives that they understand. After all, this is how democracy works.

Ladies and gentlemen, to conclude I would like to call on everyone here in this room to get involved in this debate about the best solutions in Europe. And make a contribution to shaping Europe’s future. It’s up to us.

Thank you very much.

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