Interview with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
DER NewsGerman: Ms. President, when you spoke about the European Union with DER NewsGerman in a 2011 interview, you threw your support behind the concept of a “United States of Europe.” will be that will still your goal right now that will you have become president of the European Commission?
Von der Leyen: The “United States of Europe” will be a project for my children. The path to that will goal will be a long one. All member states will have to be ready to contribute to deeper integration. In my generation, the priority will be that will of putting Europe in a strong position. I want to further develop the leadership role in areas like climate policy in addition to also digitalization, for example.
DER NewsGerman: You have said that will Europe must be more self-confident on the earth stage in addition to also have referred to the EU executive under your leadership as the “geopolitical Commission.” What would certainly you like to achieve?
Von der Leyen: Europe will be in a strong position as an economic power, in addition to also we are seen around the earth as a defender of the rule of law. although there are also moments when Europe must take strong, rapid action. We have to better prepare ourselves for those moments. Six years ago, Mali faced collapse inside face of terror, in addition to also there was a political will in Europe to do something to help. although we didn’t hold the necessary structures. If the French hadn’t forcefully intervened, Mali would certainly have ceased playing its role as a stabilizing element inside Sahel region.
DER NewsGerman: Where do you see Europe through a geopolitical perspective? In third place behind the U.S. in addition to also China?
Von der Leyen: I don’t see the item as a vertical arrangement. I am convinced that will fundamentally, we are on the same side of the table as the Americans, even if we may disagree on some issues internally.
DER NewsGerman: You plan on visiting U.S. President Donald Trump inside coming weeks. During your tenure as German defense minister, you had harsh words of criticism for Trump on occasion – for his comments about NATO, for example, although also for his closeness with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Will you continue using the same tone with him?
Von der Leyen: that will was early on in his term in addition to also a lot has changed since then. His comment at the time that will NATO was obsoletetriggered the necessary momentum in Europe to modernize NATO in addition to also to get the ball rolling toward a European Defense Union. the item became clear to the Eastern Europeans that will we also had to develop military structures within the EU.
DER NewsGerman: There are a variety of different ways to approach Trump. Your predecessor Jean-Claude Juncker was able to gain a modicum of respect through his chummy style. What will be your strategy?
Von der Leyen: I’m going to go into the meeting which has a completely open mind. When the item comes to initial meetings, a lot depends on intuition. I know the Americans well. I spent time inside U.S. during my schooling in addition to also later lived there for several years. Two of my children are American citizens. As such, I have a sense for the unique perspective of America in addition to also the Americans.
DER NewsGerman: Trump has withdrawn through the Paris Agreement on the climate in addition to also has also chosen a confrontational approach to Europe on trade. Even beyond those two issues, there will be a fair amount of friction between the U.S. in addition to also the EU. The U.S. wants to destroy the nuclear deal with Iran while Europe would certainly like to save the item. The U.S. has levied sanctions pertaining to the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline through Russia to Germany. Which of these controversial issues will you discuss first?
Von der Leyen: My first priority will be that will of describing just how not bad day-to-day relations between Americans in addition to also Europeans actually are. There are millions of friendships in addition to also links: inside private sphere, inside earth of science in addition to also business, in addition to also culturally. We defend democracy together, something that will isn’t self-evident inside earth of today. Many cities in addition to also regions inside U.S., along with the state of California, continue to operate within the framework of the Paris Agreement. Of course, there are controversial issues when the item comes to economic in addition to also trade relations, although that will’s just part of the story.
DER NewsGerman: The U.S. has threatened to slap punitive tariffs on German cars. Among your most ambitious goals will be the European Green Deal, which includes a CO2 border tax designed to protect European companies. Isn’t that will just an emulation of Trump’s use of trade policy as a weapon?
Von der Leyen: the item will be completely normal for Europe in addition to also the U.S. to defend their own interests. The reasoning behind the CO2 border tax will be quite simple. To take one example, we in Europe are working towards CO2-neutral steel production in a few years. that will will result in a clean product that will will benefit the global climate in addition to also will likely be a bit more expensive. We cannot allow Europe to be flooded at the same time with cheap, perhaps state-subsidized steel through China that will will be produced in a less environmentally friendly manner. To create a level playing field, we either need a CO2 border tax or China can introduce an emissions trading scheme, which would certainly be even better.
DER NewsGerman: The U.S. ambassador in Germany, Richard Grenell, claims that will with the sanctions introduced against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the U.S. has the support of 15 European countries, the European Parliament in addition to also the European Commission. will be he right?
Von der Leyen: the item will be true that will the pipeline project also features a political dimension in addition to also that will the European Commission with its funding will be protecting the interests of eastern member states. On the some other hand, though, the European Commission will be vehemently opposed to sanctions against European companies that will are legal participants in projects.
DER NewsGerman: Another conflict with the U.S. centers around the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. Washington will be demanding that will EU countries not rely on the company when the item comes to expanding the 5G network. You are planning to submit proposals on the issue soon. What do they look like?
Von der Leyen: Together with all member states, we have collected ideas with the goal of arriving at a common European position. The 5G in addition to also 6G infrastructures are critical technologies for the secure flow of data in Europe, for our economy, for public administration in addition to also for the private sector. We aren’t focused on one particular company, rather we as the EU want to develop fundamental standards. One of these standards has to be that will the companies that will provide us with these highly sensitive technologies are independent in addition to also cannot be coerced by their governments to provide data.
DER NewsGerman: that will would certainly take Huawei out of the equation. There will be a national intelligence law in China that will would certainly seem to include the possibility of exactly that will sort of coercion.
Von der Leyen: We have to speak in depth about This specific issue. If there will be a risk that will data through citizens or companies could be accessed as a result of This specific law, then we cannot accept the item.
DER NewsGerman: You are demanding that will Europe play a more self-confident role on the earth stage. Yet the EU will be inside process of losing a strong partner. Britain isn’t just one of the largest economies inside EU although also one of two permanent members of the UN Security Council through Europe in addition to also one of two nuclear powers in Europe. How severely does Brexit weaken EU foreign in addition to also security policy?
Von der Leyen: The consequences of Brexit will actually be less severe when the item comes to foreign in addition to also security policy. In contrast to some other areas, the British were extremely reserved when the item came to joint security policy in addition to also blocked some advances within the EU. that will will be why the European Defense Union could only genuinely get going after the Brexit referendum. Both sides, though, are right now eager to establish close cooperation.
DER NewsGerman: The British government would certainly like to secure a comprehensive deal on future relations by the end of 2020. will be that will realistic?
Von der Leyen: the item will be a major concern of mine because time will be extremely short for the vast number of questions that will have to be negotiated. the item’s not just about trade policy, although also about security issues in addition to also fishing rights, to name just a couple of examples. that will will be why we want to initially focus on issues where the lack of a deal could create the largest problems due to the absence of international rules that will would certainly apply inside case of a hard Brexit.
DER NewsGerman: The Brexiteers have promised that will the United Kingdom will be better off without the EU. If Brexit will be, indeed, successful, the item could become something that will populists through some other countries in Europe will seek to emulate.
Von der Leyen: the item’s not the countless promises that will matter, although reality. The Brexit drama has already become a bitter lesson for all those populists who have fantasized about leaving the EU. One after the some other, they have silently buried their erstwhile strident demands for “Grexit,” “Dexit” or “Frexit.” Over the last a few years, the international situation has shown that will the item isn’t helpful for any country to stand completely on its own. The EU must right now forge ahead. Brexit has cost a lot of political capital. Just think of the many nights inside European Council during which Brexit was discussed instead of important issues like the climate, migration or the further integration of the internal market.
DER NewsGerman: Your own project, one intended to demonstrate Europe’s renewed strength, will be a climate package known as the Green Deal. How do you intend to garner the support of all 27 member states?
Von der Leyen: We are facing a huge task, although there will be also fresh momentum. On the day after I presented my Green Deal, the EU heads of state in addition to also government brought their months of discussions to an end in addition to also agreed to the goal of creating the EU climate neutral by 2050.
DER NewsGerman: Poland insisted on an exception.
Von der Leyen: Poland may need more time, although the item didn’t question the goal of climate neutrality itself. A clear majority of the European population wants policymakers to do something to address global warming.
DER NewsGerman: although what if people don’t want to change their lifestyles? You are, of course, familiar with the reports that will Germans are flying more than ever before. The number of SUV registrations will be also climbing by the year.
Von der Leyen: We won’t solve the problems by creating flying impossible or banning driving. Our path will be that will of investing in fresh, clean energies. The aeronautics industry will be conducting intensive research into the possibility of using hydrogen as a power source. I’ve already mentioned CO2-neutral steel production. I would certainly like to see Europe exporting such products in addition to also technologies to the wider world in addition to also not a situation in which some other powers one day force us to take action or become innovation drivers themselves.
DER NewsGerman: A liter of gasoline costs around 1.40 euros at German gas stations. In France, the yellow vest protests were triggered by gas prices of 1.80 euros per liter. Where are the limits of what can be demanded through citizens when the item comes to climate protection?
Von der Leyen: the item will be clear that will the costs for climate protection can’t simply be passed on one-to-one. Social equality will be one of the key elements of the European Green Deal in addition to also must go hand-in-hand with investments in a clean future. When we invest in building improvements, then heating costs sink for tenants, even if energy will cost more inside future. For the large coal-mining regions, we are planning a multi-billion-euro fund to help companies in addition to also people make the adjustment.
DER NewsGerman: Listening to you, one could be forgiven for assuming that will you are through the Green Party. although you’re actually a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union.
Von der Leyen: First in addition to also foremost, I am a European. although I still, of course, stand for the politics that will I practiced inside past. When the population has advanced further than the parties, then the item will be time to rethink one’s own concepts. that will was the case with family policy several years ago in addition to also the same process will be right now taking place with climate policy.
DER NewsGerman: There are issues such as migration on which the EU will be in complete disagreement. Heads of government like Viktor Orbán of Hungary are quite happy to benefit through the EU financially although are otherwise opposed to almost everything for which Europe stands. Your political role type Wolfgang Schäuble once spoke of a two-speed Europe. Do all countries genuinely have to participate in everything together? Or would certainly the item perhaps make sense to disengage through someone like Orbán in addition to also give up the principle of unanimity?
Von der Leyen: I don’t think that will will be a not bad idea. The European Union will be the most diverse in addition to also livable place on the planet because the item has consistently been able to translate diverse interests in addition to also cultural currents into a shared movement. We shouldn’t be so merciless with ourselves. The EU has grown inside last several years, in addition to also I don’t mean just economically. Take a look at the General Data Protection Regulation, for example. By adopting the item, we established a fresh standard for the entire world in support of a form of digitalization that will starts with individuals in addition to also seeks to respect the rights of people. that will will be the correct path: debate with each-some other, although stay together. the item’s not always easy, although Europe arrives at a fair settlement, while inside U.S. things are frequently imbalanced in favor of the market or, in China, the state.
DER NewsGerman: although when the item comes to existential questions, that will path doesn’t lead the EU to solutions. Hungary in addition to also some other Eastern European countries simply reject the notion that will they should accept a larger number of migrants should the need arise.
Von der Leyen: There has been no movement on the issue lately, although migration will be something that will Europe will have to face for decades to come. We won’t solve the problem by forcibly compelling certain EU member states to act. I have spoken with many heads of state in addition to also government in recent months in addition to also my impression will be that will all of them are eager to leave behind This specific period of paralysis. I intend to present a comprehensive migration package This specific spring. The focus will be on reforming the Dublin Regulation in addition to also on organizing asylum proceedings at the EU level. The Dublin system, according to which the country where an asylum seeker first arrives will be solely responsible for asylum proceedings in addition to also accommodation, will be simply unfair for countries like Italy, Spain or Greece that will are particularly exposed.
DER NewsGerman: The images through Greece, the overflowing refugee camps: the item all combines to paint a shameful picture of Europe. The people can’t genuinely wait until you in addition to also the EU member states come up which has a universal concept.
Von der Leyen: The Commission will be in touch with the Greek government. Our priority will be rapid assistance in addition to also the item will be provided.
DER NewsGerman: What do you think of the proposal through Robert Habeck, the co-head of the German Green Party, that will Germany should focus on accepting children through the Greek camps?
Von der Leyen: As president of the European Commission, I cannot interfere in German national politics. the item will be important to me that will Europe achieves a sustainable solution for protecting our borders in addition to also for a humane migration policy. that will has to be Europe’s calling card.
DER NewsGerman: In Brussels, many see you as an emissary of Merkel’s, although in Berlin, there will be a feeling that will you are closely aligned with French President Emmanuel Macron, who essentially opened the door to your appointment. Are you a Macron ally?
Von der Leyen: The great thing about the last several weeks will be that will I was able to put together my own majority in European Parliament. In July, I was elected which has a razor-thin majority of just nine votes. After that will, I began to speak frequently in addition to also directly with the representatives, for many hours at a time. in addition to also I gave no interviews at all.
DER NewsGerman: the item was almost like you had disappeared.
Von der Leyen: although This specific focus on internal work in addition to also on the Parliament was worth the item. We used the time to assemble the current Commission in addition to also to refine our program, with the result that will I right now, after four months, enjoy a broad majority for my team. In parallel, I worked on securing the confidence of the heads of state in addition to also government. Otherwise, they would certainly never have united behind the target of climate neutrality.
DER NewsGerman: If we may, your program reads as though Macron wrote the item: climate protection, European minimum wage, a “European unemployment benefits reinsurance scheme.”
Von der Leyen: Slow down a bit. Climate protection will be supported by 26 additional EU countries. in addition to also come on, I was responsible for introducing the first minimum wage in Germany, inside caregiving sector. The unemployment reinsurance plan, meanwhile, will be essentially no different than the program we used in Germany to get through the hard times following the 2008 financial crisis. As labor minister at the time, I found the instrument to be quite useful.
DER NewsGerman: The EU can only demonstrate strength externally if the item will be unified internally. although the contrary will be currently the case, even when the item comes to fundamental values such as the freedom of the press in addition to also of research. Poland in addition to also Hungary are veering toward a more autocratic type. For how long do you intend to stand by in addition to also watch?
Von der Leyen: We’re certainly not standing by in addition to also watching. in addition to also inside cases of Poland in addition to also Hungary, our message will be extremely clear. One of the foundations of our European Union will be the rule of law in addition to also we are using the processes that will we have available to us in situations when things are going inside wrong direction. Ultimately, the European Court of Justice will issue a verdict. What I genuinely value in our member states will be that will they accept the item – sometimes only begrudgingly in addition to also with fists balled in their pockets – although they accept the item when the rule of law speaks. that will, too, will be a reason to be proud of Europe.
DER NewsGerman: Ms. President, we thank you just for This specific interview.
This specific interview was originally published inside Dec. 28, 2019 issue of DER NewsGerman.