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June 7, 2012

A team around EU Council President van Rompuy is working on a plan to save the eurozone. In an interview with DW, Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, warns there's too much talk and not enough action.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Leading EU politicians seem to agree that the euro currency cannot be saved with small short-term measures. In time for the upcoming EU summit on June 28, a team around EU Council President Herman van Rompuy is to present far-reaching reform plans to defuse the crisis. Apart from Rompuy, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Europgroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker and ECB President Mario Draghi are all working on the proposals. DW spoke about the need for reforms with the President of the EU parliament, Martin Schulz.

DW: Until the next EU summit, a team around Herman van Rompuy is to present plans to reform the EU. To what extent will those plans incorporate input from the EU parliament.

Martin Schulz: From everything I've seen so far, the measures – in particular the stepped-up banking regulations, the creation of a fund to stabilize banks – will be as the EU parliament already proposed in 2010. It's often like that. The EU parliament proposes new laws and after two years or so, EU governments pick them up, and in the end present them as their masterplan. So in that sense, the EU parliament two years ago was already way ahead of where the master planners are today.

Linked to those reforms, there's also talk of a stronger economic union. German Chancellor Merkel even said that a political vision for Europe needed to be laid out. Is there a risk that she's raising expectations that, in  light of the current crisis, cannot be met?

On May 23, we had summit number 24 since the beginning of the crisis. And each summit is being touted as historic. It has been going like this for almost four years now. And now again we face a new summit with a masterplan and a political vision of a European Union. If it would come to that, we'd be very happy. But I get the impression that [our  EU] plane, as it were, is caught in a storm and the pilots are thinking about dismantling the engines.

What we need from the next European Council meeting are concrete measures to boost investment. What are we going to do with the 15 to 20 billion euros left unused in the EU funds? What are we going to do about the employment of young people in countries with unemployment levels of 20 to 50 percent? What can we do with the energy efficiency guidelines? The EU parliament is ready to pass a guideline that would result in some 100,000 new jobs being created. But the Council of the EU doesn't get this. So from time to time I am too disillusioned to believe that those grandly presented new proposals really will achieve a turnaround.

So, is there no short-term crisis management in sight - just political theories?

In the past year, the EU parliament adopted the so-called sixpack: six guidelines and rules for the regulation of banks, for better budget control, to balance the economic inbalances across the EU. On October 26, 2011 this was celebrated as a historic breakthrough. Three weeks later, we heard that this was not enough; that we need a fiscal pact. Now we have the fiscal pact – it is currently being ratified. And now we are being told that we need a vision, a masterplan. What is this all about. I thought, the fiscal pact was taking us in the right direction. We need concrete measures, like broadband networks, or investment in renewable energies – no country needs this more than Germany, by the way. We need investment in research. All that can be passed tomorrow. We need investments in regions that are structurally weak. We need microcredit programs for small and medium-sized companies.

Let's talk about the mood in Europe. Many top politicians and experts are calling for "more Europe." You have already mentioned several points here. But there is also more and more criticism of the European idea. What do you think the EU has to do in order to rekindle people's enthusiasm for the concept of a united Europe?

I think the idea of a united Europe is not being questioned. When I talk to people, they tell me that in the 21st century we need transnational solutions to deal with international trade, international financial markets, migration, or battling climate change. There's no question that for all that we need the muscle of the Euopean Union. But the EU also has to be able to actually get the job done.

Martin Schulz
Martin Schulz is President of the European ParliamentImage: European Union, 2012

That's why in answer to your question I have to say that you are right: At the very time we need more European action, more and more people are turning away from Europe. Why? It isn't the EU that has created Germany, France, Sweden or Italy. It is the member states that have created the EU. And the EU is as strong as the member states want it to be. The crisis of Europe is a crisis of the incoherence in the actions of its member governments. And that's why I hope that at the next summit we will finally see a change towards more collective action and solutions, instead of 27 heads of governments who always have one of their eyes set on the situation back home.

Martin Schulz is a member of Germany's Social Democratic Party and since 1994 a member of the European Parliament. Since January 2012, he is the president of the EU Parliament.

Interview: Ralf Bosen / ai
Editor: Gregg Benzow

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