IEP Lunch Debate with Martin Kotthaus: “Current Themes in European Policy”
Martin Kotthaus, Head of the European Directorate-General at the Federal Foreign Office, spoke on 3 June 2014 at the Representation of the European Commission in Berlin on the topic “Current Themes in European Policy.” Prof. Dr. Mathias Jopp, director of the Institut für Europäische Politik (IEP), moderated the event.
Martin Kotthaus began by speaking about the Ukraine-Crisis, which continues to dominate both European and German foreign policy. Kotthaus praised the Ukranian presidential elections as being “possibly the best, most free and democratic elections [in Ukraine] in a long time according to the remarks of the OSCE.” With the establishment of a legitimate government the economic portion of the association agreement, the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), could soon be signed. Meanwhile the EU will continue to work together with the IMF along with others to remain engaged. Outstanding during the crisis was the unity with which the EU operated. However it is plausible that the topic will remain on the agenda for a while along with what long term effects the crisis will have on the EU’s relationship with Russia.
A further important theme was the European Parliament Election and its result. Kotthaus was happy about the stability in the voter turnout even though there were a few low outliers (only 13% voter turnout in Slovakia). Even so, the importance of the EP Election still needs to be made clearer. The election can’t be seen as a “free shot.” Kotthaus spoke of the need for a revision of the European Voting Act of 1976 in order to standardize and modernize the rules for the election of European representatives.
Closely connected to the EP Election is the question of filling the European leadership positions. President of the European Council Hermann van Rompuy was mandated to consult with the European Parliament and member states to fill the position of the EU-Commission President. More important, however, are the topics that will confront the eventual office holders. Economic topics, such as competition, growth and the creation of jobs must also have a priority next to the development of the Economic and Monetary Union, the topics of climate and energy, rights and freedoms and a coherent and strengthened EU foreign policy and neighborhood policy—also in financial and institutional respects. It is important that the EU focuses on the essential topics—it is not about less Europe but rather a focused and better one.
By Joris von Moltke