On 25 November, German ALDE member Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP) hosted a hybrid roundtable discussion on the concluding German EU Council presidency and the future of the EU: “Fast Forward or Business as usual?”. The event was co-hosted by ALDE Party Vice President Alexander Graf Lamsdorff MdB and Michael Link MdB, both members of the German parliament.
European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders and Katalin Cseh MEP of ALDE member Momentum (Hungary) joined the discussion together with French Ambassador to Germany Anne-Marie Decôtes and Executive Director of the Körber-Stiftung Nora Müller.
In his opening speech, Christian Lindner MdB, FDP party leader, underlined the importance of this moment for the European Union, referring to the rule of law and current discussions on the EU budget. The Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) is being blocked by Hungary and Poland, who oppose including a rule of law mechanism. This mechanism limits EU funding for member states who do not uphold democratic values such as liberal freedoms and the rule of law. Lindner sees this as the crucial foundation of EU member states, and countries breaching these principles must be punished financially. Lindner looks forward to a new chapter of transatlantic relations with the Biden administration, but remains cautious: “If Trump taught us one thing is that we cannot take anything for granted, not even the close traditional EU-US cooperation.” Digitalisation and climate change are two crucial topics for close cooperation, but Lindner emphasised that the European Union cannot rely too much on its American counterpart.
The panel discussion followed Lindner’s statements, and Commissioner Reynders spoke in his intervention on the EU treaties that underline our shared values and democratic principles. He defended the rule of law mechanism by stressing its importance for citizens and our democratic systems. In her intervention, Cseh recounted spiritedly how Orbán plays “hard ball” and has circumvented the European Union for years with illiberal policies. Ambassador Descôtes and Müller remained optimistic and hopeful, considering the dependence of these countries on the EU budget.
Furthermore, the panel discussed the importance of cooperation with the United States, but also the need for more European autonomy on data, digitalisation, and health care. Cseh applauded European Commission initiatives on raising the EU budget, but believes more work needs to be done. “Every eurocent needs to be spent well”, she said.
The panel concluded with proposals for European institutional change, such as a stronger European Parliament with the right of initiative in the decision-making procedure and transnational lists for European elections. The Conference on the Future of Europe is also a starting point to make concrete changes such as a smaller Commission, better inclusion of newcomers and ending unanimity in the Council.
Photos © European Parliament 2020