by: Lukas Richter
On Monday, May 13th, Brandt School students as well as the University of Erfurt students had the chance to directly get in touch with European policymakers. Two candidates for the European election, Sven Giegold of the Green Party and Social Democrat Jakob von Weizsäcker visited the Brandt School to talk about the future of Europe and the challenges they see.
After being introduced by Brandt School Director, Prof. Florian Hoffmann, the two discussants had the chance to give short statements about their views on Europe – the way they see the “state of the union” so to say.
It became evident in the introductory phases of the event that both discussants clearly held a pro-European opinion and want to push for further European integration instead of renationalization. This approach comes with a number of policy challenges like stronger integration of tax and employment policy, two fields where member states still enjoy a high degree of autonomy. So in the first part of the discussion it seemed like there is no major differentiation between the programs of Greens and Social Democrats.
However, Sven Giegold was especially keen to press the point that there are significant differences between the parties positions regarding European policymaking, the most prominent being the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), where the Green Party continues to reiterate the importance of stricter rules regarding consumer protection and foreign direct investment and the integration of those rules in the negotiation mandate for the European Commission.
And while Jakob von Weizsäcker did not see this as such an important issue, both candidates came to the conclusion early on that the EU is in desperate need for more democratic legitimation and transparency of its decision-making. It can be seen as a positive sign that both of these candidates and their parties have apparently grasped the challenges in terms of policy-making that lie before us.
Nevertheless, there seems to be one important point missing in both candidates’ agendas, namely the spread of enthusiasm for the European project. While both of them are proponents of the EU idea, there was no idea on how to spread it on a wide basis that reaches further than the European elites that can afford to have an interest. While all the discussed policy initiatives are important it is therefore unlikely that they will be able to spark this enthusiasm. Only if the European Union manages to spark this enthusiasm and create a European identity, that is able to focus on accomplishments and potential instead of shortcomings will this project be able to accomplish its own goals.
So in the end it can be said: If we want the EU and its goals to succeed, the change of structure goes hand in hand with change of identity.