“The SPD tried to portray the economy as an enemy of the citizens”

Reinhold von Eben-Worlée represents the interests of thousands of German family entrepreneurs. He explains why the Greens have become so strong, what reassures him about the result of the AfD – and how the EU should now move on.

Reinhold von Eben-Worlée is President of the Association of Family Businesses.

Mr. von Eben-Worlée, Europe has voted. In three sentences, what do you think is the most important message that the election result contains?

Across Europe, with a few exceptions, the anti-European forces have not received any particular influx. Interest in Europe has increased. Long-established parties urgently need to review how they get their messages across to voters.

There is a lot of dispute in the EU, in climate policy, for example, or the question of how much immigration we want. Then there is the trade dispute with Donald Trump. In which area is the greatest urgency?

The EU must organize itself more flexibly under the new Commission and advance individual issues with like-minded countries – just as different EU members participate in the euro or the Schengen area. We shouldn’t play the issues off against each other. Otherwise there will be unattractive political barter deals.

Let’s go over the individual points and let’s start with the trade: How should Europe position itself vis-à-vis America and China?

With more self-confidence. For example, China’s upswing must be an incentive for Europe. Nobody should succumb to the temptation to try to compensate for the failures of German and European economic policy with protectionist actions against China. Rather, it is about redefining the exchange of goods and capital. For this, more practicable exclusion criteria against dumping and subsidies must be agreed. The EU’s announcements about its China strategy are a first step in the right direction. With regard to both the United States and China, the EU must revitalize the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Does climate policy have to change?

The topic of climate must not only be thought of in terms of nation states. It has to be approached on a European, actually global basis. The primary goal is to reduce CO2. To this end, European emissions trading must be implemented as the central lead instrument and expanded to all sectors, including the transport sector.

What has to be done in the migration?

It is important, for example, to simplify the processes of labor migration in such a way that the people who could actually come to Europe legally due to their training and experience do so and do not have to accept the risk of fleeing across the Mediterranean.

Does the EU have to change some of its institutions in order to be more capable of acting?

In order to be able to make a strong external impact, internal European reforms are required, including more efficient structures. For example, what do you need 28 commissioners? Not every member state has to provide a commissioner for every period. The EU must not get lost in the small and small, but must concentrate on the big issues such as the internal market, the environment and energy, security and migration. Not all Member States will always take part in every issue. Therefore, the EU should now bring together groups of interested countries instead of wanting to hastily abolish unanimity in many policy areas.

Should Germany push for Manfred Weber to be the next President of the Commission?

The election results do not automatically determine who becomes President of the EU Commission. This is decided by parliament only after a proposal by the heads of state and government. With these people, they not only have to keep an eye on the sensitivities of the individual parties, but above all also the future of Europe in the free competition of the large economic and trade blocs.

Let’s stay with Germany: Why have the Greens gained so much?

The Greens have 30 percent of those who are younger than 30, while the Union and SPD together only have 25 percent. The young generation no longer feels that the grand coalition has picked them up and is relying on green. The Greens are successful in claiming climate protection for themselves – without offering overly specific solutions. But there is also a large portion of dissatisfaction and protest, from which at least the AfD could not benefit.

What will happen to the black-red coalition in Berlin?

There is a lot of work ahead of the grand coalition. She has lost a lot of support. This is not surprising, since the Union and the SPD have a poor performance record. In addition, the SPD tried in its election campaign to portray the economy as an enemy of the citizens. This tactic has been bitterly avenged.

In the SPD, the discussion starts again as to whether it has raised the wrong issues with the wrong staff. Can’t it just be that the party is simply not needed (at the moment)?

The poor election result of the SPD clearly shows what is left when the party denies one of the most successful chapters in its party’s history. With her Agenda 2010 she got millions of people into employment. The party has given up being anchored with the people who keep things going with their taxes and social security contributions. Many of the previous SPD voters have not found each other again.

Will German companies also have to intervene much more in election campaigns in the future?

Both our association and many entrepreneurs do this on their own, such as the former federal chairwoman of the young entrepreneurs Lencke Steiner in Bremen. It is essential to emphasize again and again how important economic activity is as a guarantee of prosperity for a society.