The election campaign in Germany is speeding up, though it has hardly featured any debate on European politics. And what is even worse, questions concerning the future of the EU seem to have gotten completely out of sight.
Some months ago, one could have bet that EU-related topics would play a major role in the German election campaign. But today we are still waiting to see opinions and ideas on saving Greece, stabilizing the Eurozone or fighting youth unemployment discussed publicly and displayed on campaign posters. Is the financial crisis, which influences the future of jobs, pensions and welfare in Germany, already over? Although politicians debated last year different ways and means of achieving a better EU, now it would almost seem as if reform of the Union was no longer relevant. Or has debate on EU issues simply been postponed until after the election?
True, the party programmes are not just paying pro-European lip service. Anybody readying through the EU-related sections of political party programmes will find brave answers. However party campaigners avoid the subject more than they should. Shying away from the core issues of tomorrow’s Europe as a campaigning strategy carries a high risk. Voters deserve answers before casting their vote. After all, acceptance of democracy is based on competition of ideas.
Waiving debt, granting aid packages or both? Marching on together or falling back into national eccentricity? Deepening the Union as a whole or merely a self-defined “core Europe”? Which role does Europe play globally? When will we finally have a Common Foreign and Defence Policy? Candidates of all parties must take a stance on these issues now.
Problems do not vanish just because we refuse to address them. Urging for reforms, EU commissioner Günter H. Oettinger stated at the General Assembly of European Movement Germany in July: “This way of governing Europe has become unsustainable.” One can expect an intergovernmental conference charged with shaping our European future during the next few years. Let’s make a start now by not leaving the debate about the future of the EU to administrative experts only.
The European Movement Germany also calls for changes in the Treaty – a convention to provide for a wide democratic basis for discussing a deepened Union. A convention offers the opportunity for both direct and indirect communication with citizens. In order to launch it tomorrow, we need to demand it today – not least during the election campaign!
Prior to the election, Germany, as the EU’s strongest economic power, has to act as a trailblazer for the use of new ways of communicating the EU. The European Movement Germany expects that the new federal government should engage in regular dialogue with stakeholders and civil society in order to call on their expertise in communicating European politics in a domestic context.
But we mustn’t act on a national basis only. A new “European Public Diplomacy” could spur a dialogue with German civil society beyond the borders of the Member States. We have to promote cross border communication and implement a dialogue pact, bringing together actors in the fields of economy, politics and social policy across the European Union. We must develop scenarios for tomorrow’s Europe now. Time is running out.