Corona – A Silent Cry for Unity

In these days of skyrocketing COVID-19 infection rates, the image of the wave is rhetorically booming. Waves roll in, are supposed to break and the tsunami like ones sometimes even swallow any kind of defence efforts. Just like in March/April, there is no question that Europe remains under the influence of emergency response measures. Spain is imposing a state of emergency for several months, France is closing down completely, Germany is imposing a so-called lock-down light. And Brussels? What is happening in political Europe? The Commission, led by Ursula von der Leyen, is working to improve coordination of national measures during the pandemic. In the short term, this means cross-border optimisation of intensive care bed capacities, in the medium term, the procurement and roll-out of vaccine doses, and in the long term, improving the statistical basis for better decisions in the event of similar hazards in the future. In cooperation with the European Parliament, the German Council Presidency is endeavouring to implement the post-COVID development programme NextGenerationEU as quickly as possible. With difficulty, but with progress in sight, we hear from the Brussels engine room.

The European institutions are working. It is the Member States, and within them the provinces, federal states, departments, counties, municipalities and whatever the name of the local authorities, that impose and implement measures. These measures are often more differentiated than in the spring, but also more controversial in the national discourse than at the beginning of the crisis. This makes the picture of pandemic control more diffuse and the public opinion more diverse. This does, however, not have to be a disadvantage. In Europe, we live by diversity and public debate, the dispute about the better concept, the better solution. We are not a society that marches in silence behind the flag of a one-party government to wherever the Politburo has planted the target flag. But our openness can also become our open flank: The success of the test that Europe must now pass can be measured not only, but also in falling infection rates. The test result says something about whether our European and Western culture of the unique combination of individual freedom and public capacity for action will find effective answers to the pandemic. For Liberals, the matter is clear: it is not because we want to be free, but because we are free that we have the better ideas, the more powerful concept, the greater resources. This includes the tough political battles as well as the obvious cross-border cooperation in the small and big issues of the pandemic. In the spring, Europe began to shake and the first wave rolled over the European Union. Now the Member States, the European Parliament and the European Commission must ride the second wave. To do this, we need to be able to argue, to compromise, to act together and to be at home with each and every one of us.

Thomas Ilka is Regional Director of the FNF European Dialogue

Giving Europe’s Citizens a Voice

Belgian Liberal Guy Verhoftstadt to chair conference on the future of Europe


The course is set: Last Wednesday the European Parliament adopted its position paper on the Conference on the Future of Europe by a large majority. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had already announced this in her political guidelines for July 2019. Continue reading

Why Brexit Will Not Happen and How the EP Might Help

As seen on The Parliament Magazine 19th October


As the results of the UK’s 2016 referendum came in, my strong sense was – and remains – that Brexit will not happen. To confirm such a sentiment in a week in which Boris Johnson may triumph at the European Council might appear to invite ridicule. Yet the fundamentals remain unchanged. Continue reading

Die Kunst des Möglichen: Die EU und der Syrische Bürgerkrieg

Verglichen mit den USA und Russland ist die EU viel mehr von dem Bürgerkrieg in Syrien betroffen. Nichtdestotrotz spielen beide – Russland und die USA – eine weitaus wichtigere Rolle in den syrischen Friedensverhandlungen als die EU. In der Syrienfrage ist die Interessendivergenz innerhalb der EU nämlich zu groß, als dass die EU eine zentrale Rolle in möglichen Friedensverhandlungen übernehmen könnte. Als der schlichthin größte Entwicklungshilfegeber der Welt kann die EU aber eine andere wichtige außenpolitische Rolle in dem Konflikt im Nahen Osten spielen, und zwar in dem die EU versucht, die Lage in Syriens Nachbarländern Jordanien und Libanon zu stabilisieren. Dies wäre ein Beispiel einer Politik als „Kunst des Möglichen“ für eine EU, die ihre eigenen Stärken und Schwächen kennt. Über das Engagement der EU in beiden Ländern sprach die Hohe Vertreterin der EU für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik Federica Mogherini am 10. Mai im Europaparlament.

Hohe Vertreterin der EU für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik Federica Mogherini. Copyright: European External Action Service/Flickr

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EP members elect committee chairs

Straßburg EP aussenAfter the election of a President, Vice-Presidents and Quaestors of the European Parliament in Strasbourg last week, parliamentary committess convened on Monday in Brussels to elect chairpersons and their deputies for the next two and a half years.

Legislative work of the European Parliament is done in 20 standing committees and two sub-committees. Each committee elects a chair and up to 4 vice-chairs.

Find the list of the new Chairs and Vice-Chairs here.



Transatlantic data protection – the long road to compromise

IMG_1644 (Kopie)The issue over the massive collection of data of foreign nationals’ private phone conversation (German Chancellor prominently among them) was met with outrage across Europe – to the great surprise of many in the US, who, quite matter-of-factly, expect no less of a nation’s intelligence agencies: the surveillance of potential threats abroad. Continue reading