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01 December 2015

SPIEGEL: EU Parliament President Schulz: 'The situation in Europe is extremely concerning'

EP President Martin Schulz says he is more concerned about the state of the European Union than he has ever been. Solidarity, he believes, is eroding and nation-state parochialism is on the rise.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Schulz, you have been a member of European Parliament for 21 years. During that time, has the European Union ever been in as poor shape as it is today?

Schulz: No. Unambiguously no! Europe hasn't failed yet, but the situation is extremely concerning.

SPIEGEL: What exactly do you mean?

Schulz: Europe was founded as a community bound together by solidarity. Member states agreed to work together closely because they knew that together, we are stronger. Now we are experiencing a wave of eroding solidarity, first of certain societies and then entire governments. At the same time, we have two giant new challenges to meet: the migration movement and terror. And then Great Britain is thinking about leaving the EU. That should suffice as a description.

SPIEGEL: An article of faith in EU politics has long been that Europe grows closer together in crisis. Now, the opposite seems to be true.

Schulz: We are in the middle of a tough, ideological conflict that is being waged across the entire continent. On the one side are those who say that global challenges like migration and terror cannot be met with national parochialism. On the other side are those who would like to see a renaissance of the nation-state. [...]

Schulz: The stubborn stance of some European governments on the refugee question is a reprisal less aimed at Angela Merkel or (Vice Chancellor) Sigmar Gabriel than at certain people on Wilhelmstrasse in Berlin.

SPIEGEL: Which is where Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has his office.

Schulz: He is, for many, a controversial figure.

SPIEGEL: The German finance minister demands that our European partners follow the rules, such as the Stability and Growth Pact. What's wrong with that?

Schulz: Of course the rules apply. But if you constantly insist only on your own interpretation, it isn't long before it seems patronizing. Following the attacks in Paris, French President François Hollande has a completely different set of concerns. France needs more police, more security personnel and a greater emphasis on integration. He says that security is more important than the Stability Pact.

SPIEGEL: The French, too, have largely let Germany deal with the refugee crisis alone. And the new Polish prime minister said shortly after assuming office that Germany caused the refugee crisis itself.

Schulz: It is a European problem and solidarity is the fundamental idea of European cooperation. If a country feels itself to be militarily threatened and calls for soldiers, weapons and sanctions, then that's what it gets. When governments say they need money from the structural funds to stabilize their economy, that's what they get. But you can't cherry pick solidarity. [...]

SPIEGEL: The deal, then, is that Turkey would receive billions from the EU and in return is supposed to close off its western borders.

Schulz: That isn't a deal, that is a necessity that is advantageous for Turkey, Europe and, most of all, the refugees. Refugees cost us money too when they come to us. If we improve their living conditions in Turkey, we create an incentive for them to stay there and not to place their fates in the hands of smugglers. [...]

Full interview on SPIEGEL

© Spiegel Online

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