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On Tuesday, March 16, 2021, the Webinar Germany and the EU: Balance of the presidency, objectives and perspectives was held. The event of the International Classroom program, organized by the CEI International Affairs in collaboration with the Cercle d'Economia, was attended by several companies and members of the CEI.

 

The conference, presented by Dr. Àngel Pes, director of the CEI, was attended by Mr. Lluís Foix, journalist and former director of the newspaper La Vanguardia, and His Excellency Mr. Christoph Wolfrum, minister of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Kingdom of Spain.

 

Dr. Pes began the event by thanking the attendees for the presence and the participation of Messrs. Foix and Wolfrum. He highlighted the importance of the German Presidency of the European Union for its coincidence with the COVID-19 pandemic, for the Brexit negotiations and the launch of the Next Generation EU program. Dr. Pes pointed out the leadership of the German-French axis (consciously reversing the terms) and the role of Chancellor Merkel on issues such as refugee policy.

 

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Mr Foix first explained the outcome of the German regional elections in the Lander of Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate. Second, Mr. Foix highlighted the German role in European stability and the value of Germany's ability to cede political leadership to France. Thirdly, he stated that Germans have constantly lived with the “Europeanism vaccine” and, also, the importance that this issue has had in overcoming the differences between France and Germany. On the other hand, Mr. Foix pointed out that German Europeanism has been key to European integration. The ability of the Germans to make a critical review of their past and build a future with economic growth and democratic values ​​is, according to the journalist, essential to understand the German power within the EU. Quoting Goethe, Mr. Foix stated that what happened in Europe in recent years is the result of the maturing of Germany. As proof of this he exposed Merkel's role in the refugee crisis. He also pointed out that the difficulties during the 2008 crisis and the danger of the union breaking up along the north-south axis were overcome with common sense and that lessons have been drawn from it that have led to Keynesian or New Deal policies that allow the current survival of Europe.

 

For his part, the Hon. Mr. Christoph Wolfrum focused on COVID-19 and how it had marked the German presidency. However, in his understanding, during the pandemic, coordination between member states of the European Union has been improved. He also stated that the pandemic had allowed Europeans to be aware of the need to maintain cohesion and solidarity. For Mr. Wolfrum, another milestone reached is the joint supply of vaccines. Mr Wolfrum affirmed the need to reflect on increasing the role of the European Union in this area. He highlighted in this line the creation of the EU for Health program.

 

Regarding the economic consequences of COVID-19, Mr. Wolfrum celebrated the achievement represented by the approval of the multi-year financial framework and the Next Generation EU endowed with 1.8 billion euros. He noted that this is a clear message that we in Europe are opting for Europe as the solution to problems. Mr. Wolfrum highlighted the ecological sense of the funds (37% earmarked for ecological transformation and the 55% emission reduction targets by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050), the initiatives for the protection of biodiversity and the importance of climate policy for Europe. On the other hand, he also pointed out the importance of digitization and the need to build an independent pole of the United States and China in technological matters, without forgetting that it is with the former with whom there is greater political affinity and in matters of values.

 

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The second part of Mr. Wolfrum's speech focused on Brexit, a regretted decision from Germany. Faced with the decision of the European Commission to initiate the procedure of complaint of violation of the Agreement, he reaffirmed the support of Germany for such action, however he highlighted the German will to moderate the tone. Mr Wolfrum was optimistic about future relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom.

 

In the third part he discussed European action in the international framework. The story of the European Union as a peace project continues today. Faced with the changes on the international scene, he argued the need to strengthen the transatlantic relationship and the European Union's own capacities to act by combining Atlanticism and Europeanism. He exposed the concept of strategic sovereignty as an alternative to the so-called strategic autonomy: not only to act autonomously, but to develop a common strategic vision based on a common strategic culture. Mr. Wolfrum called for progress in this area through a strategic partnership with ASEAN or common visions for the Indo-Pacific space.

 

At that time, Dr. Pes took the floor with thanks to Mr. Wolfrum and, immediately afterwards, opened question time for the attendees. Mr Wolfrum was asked, among other questions, about the need to increase the capacities of European industry and about the question of constitutionality on European funds raised before the German Constitutional Court. He responded to all this by pointing out the need to combine the international division of labour with less dependence in areas such as health, energy or food and, with respect to the second question, expressing the favourable sense of the European integration of the decisions of the German Constitutional Court and the legal stability provided by the existence of such constitutional jurisprudence.

 

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In relation to how German ports had prepared to face Brexit, Minister Wolfrum began by highlighting that in some German ports trade with the United Kingdom represented 90% of the total. He was optimistic about the deal in that it would ease the impact without forgetting that it will not be the same as before. To this end, the customs staff has been increased significantly, highlighting that Brexit results in a major re-bureaucratization. On how to strengthen European foreign policy in relation to continents such as Asia or Africa, Mr. Wolfrum responded by celebrating the document of the common strategy of the European Union and the importance of Africa for Spain and the rest of the Union. Mr. Wolfrum pointed out the importance of incorporating cooperation into the strategy, not only remaining in migration policy, as well as the importance of the continent for the European Union.

 

Finally, regarding the preparation, linking and management of Next Generation funds, Minister Wolfrum indicated the interest that the funds can be used as soon as possible. He explained that Germany approved in 2020 a conjuncture and reconstruction package and that most of the money would go to finance it. He also highlighted the role of business and the Landers in the process.

 

 

Report prepared by: Oriol Muñoz

Student of the Preparation to Join the Diplomatic Corps 

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