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Political Ash Wednesday in Bad Staffelstein

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Political Ash Wednesday in Bad Staffelstein

No more funny?

As we all know, everything is over on Ash Wednesday. This becomes clear at the political Ash Wednesday in Bad Staffelstein.

In contrast to other events, it was rather quiet in the Peter-J.-Moll Hall in Bad Staffelstein, where this year’s political Ash Wednesday took place. This was mainly about the European Parliament elections taking place in July; the politics of the traffic light government in Berlin were only touched upon. But the speech by the EU Commissioner for Budget and Administration Dr. Johannes Hahn quickly made it clear what he demanded of those present.

Monika Hohlmeier in conversation with Dr. John Hahn

Moderated by cabaret artist Fredi Breunig and accompanied by MEP and chairwoman of the Budget Control Committee Monika Hohlmeier, he entered the stage to great applause. And it was quickly apparent during the introduction that the chemistry between the MEP and the EU Commissioner was right. “I am responsible for finances and Monika (Hohlmeier) controls me. That’s why I have gray hair and she has blonde hair,” said Dr. John Hahn. But he quickly became serious again when he talked about current and future European policy. It becomes clear: the election campaign is on. “The EU institutions – the unknown entity,” began Dr. Faucet. “What many people don’t realize is that 80 percent of national legislation is based on EU rules,” he continued. “And that’s exactly why it’s important who ultimately sits in the EU cabinet.” There is currently no automatic majority in parliament; you always have to look for a majority for everything, which significantly limits the parliamentary options. He took a look into the future, and it says more than clearly that Lustig is currently over.

“We have been in three comfort zones so far: we had cheap energy from the East, cheap technology from the Far East and the US security umbrella. None of that is currently the case.” There would be no common strategy and people would get bogged down in the requirements of the systems. “Instead of 23 different types of fighter pilots, we have to agree on one in order to be effective.” And that, Hahn continues, can only be achieved if there is a unified parliament. According to NATO guidelines, all member states should spend two percent of their economic output on defense. “And we are spending too much money on too many systems that are not compatible with each other.” Although the EU has a common defense budget of eight billion euros for the next seven years, that would be far from enough.

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More also needs to be done when it comes to energy and digitalization. “After Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine, we have proven that it is possible without gas and oil from Russia.” In his eyes, one reason for Putin’s aggression against Ukraine is that Europe’s prosperity has knocked on Russia’s door. “In Europe we have freedom, security and prosperity. We are always allowed to express our opinion, and that is not possible everywhere. We have over 200 countries in the world, but 70 percent have an autocracy. Democracy is a minority program.” And so Europe would become the goal of the people who long for this security. “They know what awaits them in Europe.” But the conditions must be created so that the groups of people who do not want to integrate but want to change us do not come to us. And that, says Hahn, requires secure external borders. This is the only way to control immigration and bring the skilled workers you need into the country. “Europe is aging. Here the average age is around 40 to 42 years, in African countries it is around 21 years.” Numbers that make you think.

But we need a common security policy, together with our NATO partners. “States have no friends, only interests.” A quote attributed to Charles de Gaulle. And these common interests are needed to create and maintain a secure and prosperous Europe. “We have to minimize the risks and reduce dependencies.” This also applies to the raw materials sector. “We throw away around 100 million cell phones every year in the EU. If these were recycled and the raw materials recovered, this would be a valuable contribution to reducing costs and raw materials would be saved.” This is the only way Europe can become and remain competitive in the long term. “In 1900, Europe’s population was about 25 percent. Today it is only six percent and the trend is falling.” India and China would be the fastest growing countries. A strong European internal market is therefore needed. And so Hahn came full circle. “Only a parliament in which we have proper majorities can accompany a strong, united Europe into the future.” He called on people to vote and put their cross in the right place.

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In the question and answer session that followed, the excessive bureaucracy was a particular topic of discussion. Too many regulations, too much regulation down to the smallest detail, is the accusation. Fredi Breuning gave an example: “The Ten Commandments contain 279 words, but the European Community regulation on the import of caramel sweets contains exactly 25,911!” Monika Hohlmeier couldn’t help but laugh, as this is a quote from a fictitious explanation once coined by her father, Franz-Josef Strauß, in 1986. Even if it is exaggerated, it shows what one sees among the citizens, says Hahn. “It needs to be reorganized. Rules and laws need an expiry date to check whether they are still valid or need to be revised or abolished. And it must apply: an old rule must give way to a new rule.” A demand that met with great approval. Holger Then wanted to know what the municipalities received from the EU and he objected that the system of international tenders was ineffective and expensive. Dr. Hahn pointed out that although companies may be well positioned in many areas, others are not. In the end, local companies also benefit from these tenders, as they can apply for contracts in places to which they would otherwise not have access. Emmi Zeulner interjected that the system needs to become leaner. Monika Hohlmeier added that around 50 percent of jobs are now dependent on the European internal market. “The EU takes place in everyday life,” she remarked and spoke about the Dexit called for by the AfD. “Ask the British how they view Brexit now that the shelves are empty. That also threatens us in this case.”

After the discussion (from left) Bundestag member Emmi Zeulner, JU local chairman in Bad Staffelstein Peter Büttner, MEP Monika Hohlmeier, second mayor Holger Then, district chairwoman of the CSU women’s union Lichtenfels Kathrin Roth and Dr. John Hahn.

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Further questions related to the debt brake. “The EU is not allowed to take on debt, that’s how it’s regulated,” said Dr. Faucet. “And at the national level you always have to check whether expenditure is justified, whether it still makes sense and is necessary.” Monika Hohlmeier added that the Greeks are now looking at Germany in disbelief. “They are now managing their money better than we are here,” was their conclusion. And she is also against the possibility of the EU taking on debt.

The discussion was followed with great interest by the spectators in the fully occupied hall. Dr. Hahn made his point of view clear in a charming way and in the end it must have become clear to everyone that Europe must become aware of its strength and that this will only be possible by taking part in the election.

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