8 July 2020
After the presentation of the programme of activities of the German Presidency of the European Council by Chancellor Angela Merkel, the European Conservatives and Reformists Group stressed the importance of taking decisions, and to come to an ambitious agreement in a spirit of solidarity between member states. At the same time, the ECR Group warned that measures should respect the national sovereignty and autonomy of European states by being more flexible and more respectful of the prerogatives of the different countries.
Speaking on behalf of the ECR Group, Co-Chairman Raffaele Fitto stated:
I would like to thank Chancellor Merkel for being here today to set out the priorities of the German Presidency.
Germany is taking over the Presidency during the most difficult time in the history of our continent since the Second World War. Unfortunately so far the EU response has been slow, limited in its effectiveness and lacking a true spirit of solidarity between the Member States. Yesterday the Commission saw a downward revision of growth estimates in Europe: -8.7% in the euro area, over -10% for France, Spain, Italy.
Today we have only one certainty: there is no more time, it is time to act.
To reach an agreement next week is a necessity, ensuring that the money reaches citizens and businesses as soon as possible, is a duty. That is why we do not want a compromise downwards, but we want an ambitious agreement. Germany has a huge responsibility in this six-month period: to move beyond national self-interest and to recover the original spirit of the European Union by avoiding the mistakes of the past.
Austerity and conditionality should stop, the economy needs to be revitalised by supporting the companies and sectors most affected through favourable trade policies and by revitalising the internal market. But the internal market must be balanced: the enhanced State aid flexibility must not increase disparities between Member States. It is right to demand responsibility in the use of resources, it is wrong to impose constraints that undermine the principle of the sovereignty and autonomy of States. Let us say yes to greater environmental sustainability, but without compromising the economic sustainability of our businesses.
Without agreement, any discussion on the future of the Union would be hypocritical: and on this we want to be clear, we do not need centralist Brussels impositions, but rather we want an EU that is more flexible and more respectful of the prerogatives of the different countries. It is unacceptable for democratically legitimate national governments to be hit for alleged violations of the rule of law simply because they are not politically “aligned” with Brussels’ thinking.
We also need a breakthrough on migration policies. Your Minister for the Interior acknowledged yesterday that many Member States have been left alone in managing flows. There is not only the problem of the reform of the asylum system but, above all, the need to defend the external borders firmly against uncontrolled immigration, including a maritime embargo to stop trafficking in human beings.
The migratory threat is one of the weapons Erdogan is using against Europe. It is intolerable that Turkey should continue to expand its influence in the Mediterranean in the total silence of the European Union.
It is essential to reach a virtuous agreement on Brexit and to strengthen transatlantic relations: the fight against terrorism, international trade can only be subjects where we will be stronger if we reach an agreement with our traditional partner.
We want a Union that stands up fearlessly to China: that strongly condemns the attitudes of certain Member States that wink at Beijing, that genuinely defends the autonomy of Hong Kong, that knows how to protect European commercial interests, that knows how to combat unfair practices and defend European assets from the risk of hostile operations.
Yours is the country of Joseph Ratzinger: a true European patriot. The Pope Emeritus has repeatedly stressed that one cannot think of a European “common home” by denying one’s common identity and roots. My wish for your presidency is that you will be guided by these lessons so that Europe does not repeat the mistakes of the past.
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