A babelian conversation with Jan Philipp Albrecht
By Cristina Mariani
Cafebabel Brussels had an interesting conversation with one of the youngest Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), Jan Philipp Albrecht. He is a member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) and he works for the delegations for relations with Israel and Iraq. He is also a substitute member of the Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI), of the special committee on organised crime, corruption and money laundering, of the delegation for relations with the Arab Peninsula and with Japan. His political group is the group of the Greens/European Free Alliance and he is German.
Given his expertise and involvement on data protection, civil rights and democracy issues, Jan Philipp Albrecht has been recently appointed as chief negotiator for the European Parliament (rapporteur) of one the most important dossiers currently under discussion in Brussels - the European Commission’s proposal for a General Data Protection Regulation - which will have a major impact on our lives in the near future.
Hence, too many were the issues that Cafebabel would have liked to discuss with the MEP and given the difficulty of making a selection of them, Cafebabel decided to “give the floor” to the young MEP to have his point of view explained on the current EU political-economic crisis and on the role that young people can play in it.
“I feel that things are changing. Slowly, but yes, they are” he said, “MEPs have now a different perception about the crisis, they discuss more among each other in order to find ways to concretely solve the crisis”.
“Let me explain this”, he continued. “During the ‘80s, when German economy reached strong growth rates, the Green Party brought into the national parliament the notion of sustainability in all sectors and policy areas. The Greens called for energy taxation to support the development of renewable energies, firmly opposed nuclear power, and advocated stronger, sustainable social institutions. These were some of the new ideas put forward by the Germany’s green agenda, which initiated major changes in the German economy for the coming years”, when Germany had then to face higher wages, inflation and a reduced export performance.
For sake of clarity, it might be interesting to know that to support economic recovery in Germany, in the 1990s, the Green Party demanded greater flexibility and cost efficiency by pledging the introduction of new fiscal instruments to reduce the tax burden on labour, asking for incentives for innovative clean technologies and demanding new ways to raise public revenues for public investments or tax cuts. Until price competitiveness was fully restored, Germany had to cope with high unemployment rates, low domestic demand and widening government deficits (higher than 3% of GDP).
As a result, in 2003, the European Commission proceeded with ‘excessive deficit procedure’ for Germany. In this context, the Federal Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, delivered a major reform of the German social system and labour market (Agenda 2010) to improve economic growth, reduce unemployment and restore fiscal stability.
Cafebabel Brussels: “So what is the lesson for today’s situation?” (given that only in 2010 the European Commission presented the Europe 2020 Strategy identifying as key driver for the EU economy a “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”)
Jan Philipp Albrecht: “The key issue here is the lack of an open democratic dialogue among the EU Member States, is the lack of national leaders willing to take lead and responsibility of concrete and effective decisions to solve the crisis. If Europe wants to act as a model of European democracy, the European Parliament should be given an increased voting power and visibility, and as a consequence more responsibility in the decision-making process. Better-integrated political parties should ease the communication among national governments and favour the exchange of best practices adopted and implemented at national level. Because different can be the solutions that may help to find a way out of the current crisis”.
Cafebabel Brussels: “Is there any room for young people to emerge and be engaged?”
Jan Philipp Albrecht: “They can start by supporting and building, even at local level, true European political movements that advance and call for the implementation of a coherent European approach on the different sectorial policies, and have their representatives responsible not only for their respective national voters but for all the EU citizens”.
The recent local administrative elections held in some of the EU Member States (e.g. Italy and Germany) might have offered an opportunity for young voters to think about it.