2012 seminars at the Institute for European Politics (IEP), Berlin, September – December

IEP_Bildschirm_2000x400pxLunch debate on “Saving the Euro: Financial possibilities and limits – An insight to the view of the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group”, 28 September 2012, Berlin

On the 28th of September the IEP organized a lunch debate with budget policy spokesman Norbert Barthle of the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group in the Hotel Maritim proArte in Berlin. The topic of the debate was “Saving the Euro: Financial possibilities and limits – An insight to the view of the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group.” First, Norbert Barthle explained the difficult moments of the crisis within the Euro-Zone and underlined the necessity to reduce public debt, to manage the banking crisis and to dissolve the close linkage between the fate of large bank and those of states. Thereafter, he elaborated on general crisis management measures and their success.

Crucial instruments to combat the debt crisis were the Fiscal Pact with its included debt brake, the Euro-Plus Pact, the European Semester, the “Six-Pack”, which introduced a tightening of the Stability and Growth Pact and especially the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which shall serve as a permanent crisis management measure. Moreover, Barthle appreciated the latest judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court on the German liability risk of 190 Billion Euros within the ESM and the subsequent approval of the ESM by the Bundestag. Furthermore, the latest report by the Troika for Portugal and the current situation in Spain were discussed. With regard to a European Banking Union, Barthle stressed the importance of an independent European Central Bank. Monetary policy and the supervision of banks had to be strictly separated. He was of the opinion that it would be sufficient and according to the principle of subsidiarity to establish a European Banking Supervision only for system-relevant banks. In his final words, Norbert Barthle stressed his faith in the European Central Bank with regard to its decision to buy unlimited bonds from countries affected by the Euro crisis.

IEP Expert Workshop on “The EU as a Foreign Policy Actor – Ambitions, Interests and Challenges in Year Three of the Lisbon Treaty and beyond”, 18/19 October 2012, Berlin

On 18th and 19th October 2012, around 55 experts from academia as well as practitioners and policy makers met at the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation in Berlin to discuss the European Union’s development as a foreign policy actor since the coming into effect of the Lisbon Treaty. The conference was organized by the Institute for European Politics (IEP) in cooperation with the Scientific Directorate and the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation, with the support of the Erasmus Academic Network LISBOAN and the Fritz-Thyssen-Foundation. During the two-day workshop the experts from all over Europe as well as from overseas debated developments in the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy and assessed current challenges critically. The four panel discussions and two keynote speeches focused on topics such as the presence or absence of the EU in world affairs, achievements and shortcomings of the new CFSP system in operation, the external dimensions of CFSP or strategic interests, partners and rivals of the EU.

In the light of current political developments, key issues that came up over and over again during the discussions were the challenges imposed on the EU by the debt crisis and diverging national interests internally and changes in international affairs like the Arab Spring or the emergence of new powerful actors externally. CFSP was further challenged by diverging national interests of Member States which turned the EU more and more into an integration project of multiple speeds. In this context, especially the reluctant stance of the UK was critically discussed. The EU had to work urgently on its coherence in foreign policy matters to avoid a degeneration into insignificance in world politics. Furthermore, the experts assessed the EU’s weak performance in CSDP. The workshop helped to identify strengths, assets and positive achievements since the coming into effect of the Lisbon treaty as well as the many deficits in CFSP that had to be tackled in the near future.

IEP Lunch Debate on “How much does Europe cost – what is it worth?”, 22 October 2012, Berlin

At the IEP lunch debate on 22 October 2012, Steffen Kampeter, Member of the German Parliament (Bundestag) and Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Finance, spoke on the topic “How much does Europe cost – what is it worth?”. Kampeter’s main argument was that it was worrying that within the scope of the current Euro Crisis Europe’s perception was reduced to the costs of stabilizing the Eurozone, while at the same time the EU as a whole and its member states were constantly losing relevance in public opinion. It would be crucial not to forget the tremendous value of the EU which is based on peace and freedom.

In the course of the debate, Kampeter elaborated on several assumptions such as the exaggeration of costs connected to saving the Euro especially in Germany, even though Germany profited the most from the EU and the Euro. While the costs of Europe were exaggerated, Europe’s economic value was underestimated. Moreover, Kampeter stressed that the Eurozone currently faced a governance crisis due to the lack of a coordinated European financial policy for more than ten years. Governance reforms that were about to be launched had to aim at investors and citizens regaining trust in the operativeness of Europe. But Kampeter also acknowledged that the measures and reforms that had already been implemented in the periphery states gradually showed effect. Concluding, he emphasized that the current crisis could not simply be solved by short-term measures, but required a deeper integration towards a Union capable of acting. In this regard the creation of a banking union was a key measure. In the long term, however, the office of a Financial Commissioner with clear jurisdiction had to be created. In addition, Kampeter argued in favor of a direct election of the President of the Commission as well as increased monitoring rights for the European Parliament as a second chamber next to the European Council.

Lunch Debate on “The Future of the European Union”, 24 October 2012, Berlin

At the IEP lunch debate on 24th October 2012 at the Permanent Representation of Saarland in Berlin, Michael Georg Link, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office and Member of Parliament, gave a speech on “The Future of the European Union”, which outlined possible reforms to further deepen the European integration process. According to Link, the debate about the future of the EU should evolve in all 27 Member States including various national interests in order to find adequate solutions. This debate should also include the United Kingdom and therefore case-related opt-outs instead of drop-outs had to be accepted if necessary. Moreover, the debate on the future of the EU should not exclusively be hold at EU summits, but also in the European public sphere.

In the following, Link elaborated on reform proposals as for example to strengthen the role of the European Parliament by a right for initiative, to directly elect the President of the European Commission and to structure of the Council as a second chamber of Parliament. The whole institutional system of the EU had to be structured more simply, efficiently and democratically. Regarding CFSP, the EU had not come up to its full potential yet. A good example for a the strong standing of the EU in international affairs was the WTO, where the Union, represented by the European Commission, acted as an autonomous member and advocated successfully the common interests of all Member States. A similar presence in the field of foreign policy would be desirable. Link also referred a number of reform proposals brought forward by the Future of Europe Group, e.g. the empowerment of the High Representative and the adaptation of majority voting in CFSP. Finally, Link argued to fully implement the Lisbon reforms, which had not happened yet.

Lunch Debates on “The role of national parliamentary decision in the current process of European Integration”, 06 November 2012, Berlin

At the IEP lunch debate on 6th November 2012, Gunther Krichbaum, chairmen of the Committee on European Union Affairs in the German Bundestag, discussed the role of parliamentary decisions in the current process of European Integration. In his speech, Krichbaum emphasized the importance of cooperation between national parliaments and the EU institutions as well as the necessity to include national parliaments in the process of further European integration. Especially in the light of the current process of parliamentarisation of European politics in most Member States, the role of MPs as a link between the work of governments on European Politics and the citizen had to be considered. Taking into account the current challenges the EU was facing, Krichbaum argued for further integration, a better communication of the EU’s value and a strengthening of the EU as an actor in a globalised world. National parliaments could play a crucial role in this development. However, the role of the European Parliament had to be strengthened, too. Moreover, it was crucial that parliaments had their share in decisions concerning amendments of the EU treaties as for example via the Convention method. In his final remarks, Krichbaum positioned himself against the idea of a “Core-European Union” led by the members of the Euro-group, since this would have an excluding and disintegrating effect for the whole Union.

22nd Annual Conference of the German-Hungarian Panel and the 2nd conference of the Young German-Hungarian Panel.

On the 8th and 9th of November 2012, the 22nd annual conference of the German-Hungarian Panel took place at the Lower Saxony State Chancellery in Berlin. As a part of the conference, the Young German-Hungarian Panel met for the second time and about forty interested students and professionals participated. The Institut für Europäische Politik organized the annual Conference in collaboration with the German-Hungarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DUIHK).

In the panel discussions and working groups, the transformation of the European identity, the role of Germany and Hungary in Central Europe as well as the economic and monetary policy were debated. Thereby, the current monetary and debt crisis in Europe and the role of the European Union within it were at the centre of the discussions. In addition, the Young German-Hungarian Forum focused on subjects such as citizens in Europe, Common Foreign and Security Policy, Enlargement Policy, and Energy and Climate Policy.

At the end of the conference, both foreign ministers, Dr. Guido Westerwelle and Dr. János Martonyi, addressed the participants. They emphasized that not only the historical bonds between Germany and Hungary are important that existed because of the overcoming of the iron curtain, but also a strong collaboration in order to overcome the current challenges.

More information available here.

How to strengthen the EU as a global player – Italy and Germany in the driver’s seat?

The shared interests, challenges and opportunities of Italy and Germany in strengthening the EU’s profile on the international stage were the topics of this joint expert seminar in Rome on 3/4 December 2012. The expert seminar was part of a tradition of seminars organised by the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) in Rome and the Institut für Europäische Politik (IEP) in Berlin. The meetings serve as a forum for dialogue between practitioners and academics as well as a trigger for discussion and a platform for new ideas to support the development of the EU towards a strong foreign policy actor.

The experts discussed the challenges that EU’s foreign policy is facing in- and outside Europe. Especially the effects of the continuing economic and fiscal crisis, the UK’s unpredictable future in the EU as well as the strategic reorientation of the US were part of the debate. However, the upcoming years provide several opportunities to foster the EU’s profile with the review of the EEAS, the debate on common priorities and defence capabilities, as well as the December 2013 European Council on defence. These separate debates have to be addressed by the two countries jointly and comprehensively for the best impact. In the long run, the upcoming mandates for Commission President and HR/VP after the 2014 European Parliament election, as well as possible treaty changes have to be considered in the planning in the two capitals.

The seminar came in so far to a hopeful conclusion, as it identified common perceptions and interests of Italy and Germany in the area of foreign policy that could provide the basis for a deepening of the EU as a foreign policy actor. A deepening of EU’s integration as a necessary pre-condition for a strong EU profile in international affairs was one of the take-away messages of the meeting. However, as for example, the ‘centrifugal powers’ of the Eurocrisis show, a deepening of the EU might also mean its shrinking. The Europe’s integration project is thus facing new dilemmas that need to be addressed as well as communicated to the public.

The full report on the seminar can be found here.