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IEP Lunch Debate with Richard Nikolaus Kühnel, Representative of the European Commission in Germany

On 14 September 2017 a Lunch Debate with Richard Kühnel, Head of the Repre­sen­tation of the European Commission in Germany, took place in the European House in Berlin on the topic of: “the future of the EU-27 with respect to Juncker’s State of the Union and the release of the White Paper”. Prof. Dr. Michael Kreile, Humboldt University of Berlin and Chairman of our Academic Advisory Board, greeted the speaker and our guests.

At the beginning of his speech, Mr. Kühnel empha­sized the relevance and impor­tance of Jean-Claude Juncker’s funda­mental speech on the State of the European Union from the 13th of September 2017. In current times of change and turmoil, during which many individuals fear a sway and shift of the global political order, the European Union resembles an “anchor of stability”, not solely for its own benefit, but as part of Europe’s global respon­si­bility. Juncker’s guiding principle “the wind is back in Europe’s sails” embodies a European upswing, able to master the crises of the past and guide through the challenges of the future. Partic­u­larly the economic recovery, the recent electoral success of pro-European parties and the recuper­ation of trust in European insti­tu­tions signif­i­cantly contributed to this upswing. Richard Kühnel accen­tuated that not even the conse­quences of the Brexit will decel­erate these positive devel­op­ments. In fact, the 30th of March 2017, the day the United Kingdom will exit the European Union, shall go down in history as a point of departure towards a brighter future, rather than a European day of mourning.

One signif­icant aspect for the future of the EU-27 is, according to R. Kühnel, “the harnessing of global­ization”, which includes the compression of European principles and moral values. Additionally, it is of great impor­tance that, both European and non-European states will benefit equally from the dynamic process of global­ization. Furthermore, Mr. Kühnel stressed the tremendous signif­i­cance of the process of digital­ization for the future of the EU-27, partic­u­larly with regard to the need for a coherent European digital cooper­ation and compre­hensive reforms against cyber-attacks.

In addition, Mr. Kühnel empha­sized the vital necessity of ensuring that all 27 EU Member States will operate homoge­neously and in a collab­o­rative manner, especially to avoid the formation of a “core Europe”. These measures corre­spond to Juncker’s five future scenarios. A sustainable and future-oriented EU shall therefore take enhanced and collective decisions, in order to guarantee the acces­si­bility of the monetary union and the Schengen area to all member states. However, Richard Kühnel also empha­sized that this access will only be granted, if the respective states meet the criteria and require­ments. For clari­fi­cation on the afore­men­tioned matter, he discussed the cases of Romania and Bulgaria. These two states have been of signif­icant European impor­tance for an enhanced control of migration flows. Therefore, the EU perceives a strong interest in providing access to effective measures of data exchange to these respective states through the Schengen Infor­mation System (SIS).

In conclusion, Mr. Kühnel stressed that Europe always works well in situa­tions where EU invest­ments are accen­tuated and functioning. Hence, criticism on the EU refers primarily to scenarios, in which the unanimity principle does not function adequately. Accord­ingly, Mr. Kühnel argued for the complete utilization of the Passerelle clause. He demanded a trans­for­mation of the unanimity principle into a principle based on qualified majority. In addition, the European citizens’ initia­tives should finally be used for the strength­ening of democracy within the European Union.

Lastly, the EU consti­tutes and remains a Union, constructed on pillars of freedom, equality, fairness, humanity and solidarity. The European Union will therefore continue to lead with confi­dence, optimism and a desire for future improvements.

In the subse­quent lively debate, our guests discussed a number of specific topics and key aspects with Mr. Kühnel. Partic­u­larly the future devel­op­ments of the monetary and economic union, the rise of populism and the creation of unified strategies for a European security union were part of the discussion.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Mr. Kühnel for an inter­esting and enlight­ening speech and Professor Kreile for his guidance throughout the event. Thank you very much for your partic­i­pation and the lively discussion.

Author: Paul Leon Wagner
Trans­lation: Johannes Weiß