After more than 200 HomeParliaments were held throughout Germany with a total of almost 1,200 participants, it was politics' turn on 30 October. German Minister of State Michael Roth commented on the results in the European House Berlin and answered the HomeParliamentarians´ questions.
The aim of the HomeParliaments, which were organised by private individuals from July to September, was to get different people at one table. Ideally, HomeParliaments are heterogeneous and bring together people from several social backgrounds, meaning those who rarely meet for a beer in everyday life and digress into political discussions. Four to seven HomeParliamentarians then debated according to a discussion guideline developed by Pulse of Europe and Dr. Raban Fuhrmann. In this first round, they exchanged their opinions on EU foreign policy and finally voted on the issues discussed.
These results were presented at an open event in Berlin and were then commented by Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe at the German Federal Foreign Office.
The main question of this HomeParliaments round was “Should the EU's foreign policy be reshaped in response to US President Donald Trump's "America First" policy?” It was answered positively by 56% of the HomeParliaments and was rated with an average of 6 or better on a scale of 1 to 10.
Michael Roth also agreed. He stressed the importance of putting the EU in a position in which it can not only react to foreign policy, but also act. A central question for him however, is whether we can manage to turn the "EU peace project" into a pan-European project. Especially when it comes to democratization and human rights issues in the Eastern European states neighbouring the EU, the USA still plays a very important role. For Roth, greater foreign policy independence would therefore go hand in hand with the EU taking over this role. Since a "reorientation of EU foreign policy" can of course be defined very broadly, Mr. Roth voted for a "10" on a scale of 1-10.
A first step in the direction of a reformed EU foreign policy would be, for example, the creation of the office of a European Foreign Minister. This is precisely where Sub-Question 1 comes in:
"Does the EU need a European Foreign Minister with decision-making and implementation powers?
Wait a minute! Do we not have a kind of foreign minister with Federica Mogherini, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy? To a certain extent, yes, so this question is more about whether we are missing something from this office. Perhaps more decision-making and implementation powers?
There was a clear "yes" from the HomeParliaments, with 71% in favour.
Michael Roth also sees a great need to expand the competences of the High Representative. However, not only the executive, but also the legislative power should be strengthened in the process. The strengthening of Mogherini's powers should be combined with stronger feedback to the parliament. Nevertheless, Roth rates the probability that there will be a common EU Foreign Minister in the medium term as 5. It depends heavily on the outcome of the next elections and on how strong the external pressure on the EU to speak with a common voice will be, according to Roth.
In view of Angela Merkel's plea for a common European army in the EU Parliament on 13 November, our second sub-question has become a hot topic:
"Should a European army replace national armies?"
The HouseParliamentarians voted with 56% in favour.
Minister of State Roth is in favour of the creation of a common European army, provided that a parliamentary component is guaranteed, as it is in Germany. For him, the simplest and most beautiful argument is that, with the abolition of national armies in Europe, we can rule out the possibility of ever waging war against each other again. In addition, it would of course also save enormous costs, so that more money could be spent in other areas. In his argumentation, Roth also warned against mistaking the creation of a common army as a militarization of Europe. It is a bundling of the national forces rather than the sum of 27 armies. In addition, the question of how NATO should proceed must be clarified, because this is of central importance in particular for many Eastern European states. Finally, Roth considers the creation of a common European army in the next ten years to be rather unlikely, so he votes with a "3".
So far, all discussion questions have been met with approval. The third sub-question, on the other hand, was rejected by 55.4 % of the HomeParliaments.
"If not all EU member states agree, should those EU states that can agree on common positions come together to shape European foreign policy? (club level)"
The goal of this premise is to avoid deadlocks in foreign policy action, but the rejection by the Homeparliamentarians is still relatively high.
Roth could imagine that this has something to do with the term “club level”. However, in his experience the majority principle encourages the willingness to compromise. Which is why he personally would to take the risk. He rated this sub-question as "7" or "8".
The fourth sub-question also met with refusal from 57% of the HomeParliaments.
"Is a closer connection to other strategic partners such as China or Russia advisable?”
Roth points out that the EU must first establish its own clear identity before committing itself to other strategic partners such as China or Russia. Regardless of the fact that the EU in fact plays no role in the concert of global powers, said Roth, the EU can only carry weight if it speaks with a common voice. This will not be easy, however, because there is currently a number of foreign policy positions on which the EU states do not agree. Nevertheless, Minister of State Roth would appreciate if the good relations between individual EU states such as Germany and France and non-EU states such as Canada, Japan and South Africa in the future would emanate from the EU as a whole.
Roth agrees with the HomeParliamentarians assessment that an independent Europe which cooperates with many states worldwide is more desirable than a link to individual new strategic partners. Under these conditions he agrees with "8" to "9".
Roth concludes by pointing out that we live in an interdependent world and cannot separate ourselves from each other. Nevertheless, it is important to preserve European independence in order to be able to meet future new partners at eye level.
Would you also like to play an active role in shaping European policy? Then host a HomeParliament in the second round of Europe-wide HomeParliaments and invite your friends and colleagues to a lively discussion.
Click here to register.