Wednesday 5 April 2017 – “Europe after the elections in France and Germany”

(5.04.17) Just three weeks before the first round of the presidential elections in France, the European Parliamentary Association invited the Members of the European Parliament to a dinner debate, to discuss the possible outcomes of the elections in the two most populous member states and their consequences for Europe.

The event was organised in collaboration with the APE’s “German sister”, the German Parliamentary Association, which is based in Berlin and which strives, like the APE, to establish a place of encounter and exchange for parliamentarians of different political groups.

60 MEPs of all political groups, as well as members of the diplomatic corps of Strasbourg, chairs of several European associations (MESA, Movement européen etc.) and some locally elected officials (the President of the Conseil départemental du Bas-Rhin, Frédéric Bierry, the Senator Jacques Bigot and the Member of the French National Assembly Eric Elkouby) joined the debate.

Two keynote speakers, coming respectively from Paris and Berlin, gave a short introduction on the topic. These were Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’, Socialist member of the French National Assembly, where he chairs the Franco-German Friendship Group, and Gunter Krichbaum (CDU) Chairman of the committee on the Affairs of the European Union in the German Bundestag. Both speakers focused on the importance to restart the Franco-German engine, which has so far been at the heart of the process of European integration.

“Today the European Union represents the 7% of the global population and, by the end of this century, this figure will fall to 4%. In Europe, there are countries which are small and others which are small but have not already acknowledged it. If a country wants to go fast, it can proceed alone, but if it wants to go far, it has move together with other countries”, Gunther Krichbaum stated.

Talking about the Brexit referendum and its consequences for Europe, Krichbaum strongly criticised the decision of Prime Minister David Cameron to let the British people decide on EU membership, pointing out: “There is a difference between a man of a government and a statesman. French politicians never dared to propose a referendum on the ECSC treaty, because they knew that in the post-war climate French citizens would have probably rejected it. That is the kind of courage that Cameron lacked”.

Like Krichbaum, also Le Borgn’ spoke in favour of the reinforcement of the project of European integration: “Among the scenarios proposed by Jean-Claude Juncker, my favourite option is an increased cooperation among those states who want to go further. To succeed to win back the support of the citizens, this renewed effort must take into account also the social dimension of integration, which has so far been erroneously neglected”.

The two national politicians also agreed on the name of the candidate who they would like to see winning in the French presidential race; Emmanuel Macron would be their best choice.

According to Krichbaum, Macron “is the only French politician who advocated for reforms aimed at fostering the competitiveness of the country”. On his side, Le Borgn’ underlined Macron’s “admiration for the dynamism of the German economy” and described him as “a statesman who is looking for economic viable solutions and who would, therefore, go on well with the ruling coalition in Germany, but also with a coalition headed by Martin Schulz.”

The topic of the debate was approached by different perspectives, as MEPs touched many issues linked to the future of the Union. The collaboration between the German and the European Parliamentary Association proved to be very fruitful and, in this regard, we are looking forward to new opportunities of exchange.