(THIS ARTICLE IS MACHINE TRANSLATED by Google from Norwegian)
Daniel Freund (b. 1984) has sat in The European Parliament for Die Grünen in Germany since 2019. He was involved from the beginning in establishing the Conference on the Future of Europe, which serves as panels with around 200 randomly selected participants, or citizen assemblies (CA) – what we in Norwegian would call civic council or civic assembly . This started with his interest in the Irish Citizens' Council on the Abortion Act, and another CA on marriage for all regardless of orientation:
"When the idea for The Future of Europe came up, we actually made it much bigger than anyone had initially thought." Since September last year, several major gatherings have been held in Strasbourg, and their reform proposals will now be summarized in May in Strasbourg, chaired by President Macron. The main themes have been democratic values, climate change, social justice and job security, human rights, European defense and digital transformation.
«Unlike in the national citizens' councils, we faced participants with 24 different languages - for example people from Cyprus, northern Finland or Portugal. I have great faith that civic councils work. The randomly selected citizens who participate summarize their proposals after intense debate and a series of consultations or lectures from experts. But then politicians must actually translate the reforms into concrete changes. "
Asked whether the European Parliament will really commit to the proposals put forward, as they are not legally binding, Freund replies: "I feel that the European Parliament really takes this seriously, but the governments of the national members are more reluctant. But the citizens of these countries now have access to our online platform, which is fantastic. I want open discussions – how do Europe's citizens want their future to be? ”
According to Freund, the big process is with citizens' council now neither possible to stop nor overlook. At least for some key issues that are being debated: "We are now shaping the public debate, and this is something politicians cannot overlook – should they follow the citizens or not be re-elected?"
The problem with veto
One problem with the EU is that decisions are based on unanimity, ie that individual countries have the opportunity to veto: "For me, this is issue number one that must be changed. For example, Hungary's Viktor Orbán may block the proposal that large companies pay a minimum tax in the EU. Or will letterbox companies in Luxembourg be able to persuade their own politicians to veto Europe? "
With veto For example, according to Freund, China may prevent the EU from having an opinion on concentration camps in Xinjiang, China – by influencing one of the EU's member states.
But in some cases, the EU has today achieved a so-called qualified majority, such as for legislation or laws on agriculture and other things.
Freund also emphasizes how the pandemic set aside large sums of money for distribution, or that 750 billion euros were set aside for climate policy and digitalisation. With such money – and more that is needed over time – you can do in the years to come Europe to the first climate-neutral continent in the world. It is about climate cooperation, as in energy: "If we do this together, it makes more sense, such as connecting Denmark's wind energy, Spain's solar energy and Norway's hydropower, rather than 27 countries running in all directions."
Green give and Norway
We ask him here in the European Parliament in Strasbourg to explain more about the EU green give #: «First and foremost, it was a matter of getting rid of the unanimity. When Poland and Hungary vetoed the budget, they dropped it when we told them they would lose the financial support in the budget. "
Freund mentions three important initiatives when I ask him to be more specific: “First we must change agricultureone to get rid of the huge emissions. Secondly, when it comes transportationsector, more investment must be made in charging stations for electric cars and the development of high-speed train lines across the European continent – thus dropping a number of flights around Europe. And thirdly, large networks of renewables must be developed Energy solutionssupplies. As mentioned, when one has a lot of sun, and another has many mountains with hydropower, this can be connected in one large renewable network – as when one area with solar energy is dark, wind energy can be obtained from another. "
I ask what someone from Germany's Green Party thinks about Norwegian oljeproduction and pollution. In Norway got MDG less than four percent in the last parliamentary election, while in Germany Freund's party was close to joining a coalition government – and perhaps with him as Minister of the Environment: "Pollution from oil is not something that can be stopped overnight, but we should phase out together fossil energy over the next 20 years. I know it is a great source of income for Norway, but you have to stop just thinking about the money and get greener. We must all take responsibility and lead by example. You are leading with possibly the world's largest share of electric cars. But if we are to survive, you must eventually leave oil and gas where it is. We have a similar problem where I come from, where you make a lot of money on coal. "
I mention Norway as a delay when it comes to connecting to Europe with high-speed trains, and Freund answers: "I think that Norway should be a member of the EU, as you have to introduce most EU laws without being able to say anything about them at the discussion table. I find that highly undemocratic. You pay part of the budget, without being able to tell anyone how the money is used. "
Another topic discussed at the conference on the future of Europe is a common European defense: “There are many aspects to a European defense. As is well known, war is devastating and militarymaterial highly polluting. But even when 27 countries buy helicopters, vehicles and other things, this is far more expensive than a coordinated collaboration. Just think how catastrophically the evacuation from Afghanistan was handled – we could not even protect the airport in Kabul. "
Freund returns to the problem of unanimity and veto: "Today we are not even able to have a common foreign policy, or agree on resolutions or sanctions. So I have a hard time seeing how together we can send in tanks and planes in vulnerable areas… But this is exactly what we must now be able to coordinate, as we need institutional reforms. The European Parliament needs more power, and we need a European government that can make decisions. "
Freund admits that it can seem like dream thinking. I therefore ask him whether the principle of veto can be abolished, possibly by dismissing countries that do not agree on important issues: “There is no possibility of rejecting anyone from the union. But what we can do is that the brother party goes ahead with reforms and lets the others slow down aft – they can always hang on as participants later. As with Norway. The door is always open, and I hope you in Norway one day come in that door with opinions on what Europe should look like in the future. "
United in diversity
I ask if there is one European value Freund values, and get the answer "freedom". But he may be thinking more about the freedom that we can be different. For him, freedom is no different from Americans put in the concept: "I think of the European motto of being united in diversity". I think the differences in Europe are greater than in the United States, but we can still be united, and our diversity is likely to make us stronger. Freedom is not about avoiding paying taxes. "