1) The European elections are coming up, however, many citizens have no clear idea of who / which party / what content they really choose with their vote – how do you explain your electorate why the European elections are important? What is the message with which you and your liberal colleagues run for MEP?
The European elections have become more important in view of the new powers of the EP and the EU introduced by the Lisbon Treaty. It is strange therefore that participation in the elections has fallen. I try to inform my electors of the influence the EU has over their lives and convince them of the importance on having a say over decisions taken in their names. I point out that supranational challenges such as world population growth, climate change and internationally organised crime require the kind of supranational responses which individual nation states can no longer offer.
2) The United Kingdom is currently working on a review of the competences of the European Union and is considering a withdrawal of certain competences. Is this the beginning of a gradual withdrawal from the EU?
I certainly hope not. The presence of Liberal Democrats in government in the UK is a guarantee against withdrawal. Were the Conservatives to win an outright majority of the seats in Parliament they would hold a referendum which might lead to the UK’s withdrawal.
3) The German Chancellor was harshly criticized, mainly in Greece, for the rigid austerity measures and the German influence in tackling the crisis – do you have the impression that Germany is perceived as too dominant in other Member States?
Recent research by the Pew Institute shows that public opinion in almost all member states – including Cyprus, Greece, Portugal and Ireland – still favours cuts in public expenditure to reduce national debt. Respect for Angela Merkel across the EU is remarkably high. Left wing protesters are in a minority. Greater EU integration is important, however, to show that the policies pursued are those of the EU and not simply of the German government.
4) Is Germany’s energy transition, i.a. phasing out nuclear power, biofuels, the Renewable Energy Act, more a model or caricature for Europe’s nations?
The policies should be models for other countries. The dangers posed by man-made climate change are now far too great to continue with ‘business as usual’. Humankind has a duty to future generations of responsible stewardship of the planet we inhabit.
5) Finally, a look into the future: how will the European Union look like in the year 2020 and will the European single currency still exist?
I believe we will have emerged from the periods of recession and low growth engendered by the 2008 financial tsunami. The EU will be more united and the euro will be thriving. But I think we are in for a difficult ride between now and 2018 and that keeping a cool head will be essential.
Interview conducted in September 2013