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Strack-Zimmermann: Far-right would use election success to undermine EU

Strack-Zimmermann: Far-right would use election success to undermine EU
Copyright euronews
Copyright euronews
By Shona Murray
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With the European elections just a few weeks away, Euronews caught up with Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, a member of the German parliament for the liberal Free Democratic Party and lead candidate for the Renew Europe group in the European Parliament.

In conversation with Euronews' Brussels correspondent Shona Murray, Strack-Zimmermann outlined her thoughts on Europe's response to the war in Ukraine, Ursula von der Leyen record as head of the Commission and the future of Europe's green transition.

Liberals trailling in the polls

The German politician describes herself as a committed European. Faced with the rise of the far right in Europe, she believes it is more important than ever to defend liberal values.

"In these really tough times, it's not easy for people to look for a party that gives citizens the chance to decide for themselves," she argues. "Many people in Germany are looking for a very tough leader. For liberal thinking, and especially in hard times, you need free-thinking and to be responsible for your life."

Polls currently place the Renew Europe party in third position in voting intentions and predict record results for far-right parties, such as the AfD in Germany.

"You have to explain to people that it's not just voting for AfD. It's not just for fun. It's really a terrible moment because we know that AFD will come and will be a part of the European Parliament to cut everything. And the head of the AfD said in an interview in the Financial Times that, if she would be part of the European Parliament, she would support Germany leaving the European Union. I mean, she said it and I think it's very important that she did so; everybody realised that AfD is a national party, not a European party. And two weeks ago, we had a discussion in Germany about the D-mark (Deutsche mark) because they are looking for that again. Can you imagine?

Green Deal delayed by European bureaucracy?

For the Renew Europe candidate, the EU needs to lighten the burden of bureaucracy on  business and innovation if the Union's climate goals are to be achieved. 

"If you talk to companies in Germany, there are looking definitely for a green future. But again, the bureaucracy.... thousands of rules. Not one rule - a second one, third one, fourth one. For the economy it's a real problem. And again, if you want a successful Green Deal you need the companies have the possibilities to work with this.

"And there are so many rules and so many rules in detail. And this is really a problem. The thing is, if you are talking about the Green deal, it sounds very well. Everyone says come on with the Green Deal because it affects everything, and you just have rules, rules, rules. I think this would be a problem.

European support for Ukraine

At the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Marie-Agnes Zimmermann said she had the impression that Europe was more united than when Crimea was annexed in 2014. But two years on, she's no longer so confident.

"For example, Mrs. Von der Leyen she said months ago, one million ammunition, one million! And you know it sounds great, but it never reached Ukraine. And it's a question of time. It's a question if you say we will deliver it, we have to do it. And now we realise it's 400,000, 300,000; far away from 1 million." 

In her opinion, if Ukraine loses this war, the consequences will be disastrous, not only in the European Union but throughout the world.

"For some countries, they feel that this situation is far away, but it's the problem, a huge problem for whole Europe. And we have to do more. I tell you, we have to do more. If Ukraine loses this war, then we will have huge problem not only in the European Union, even the whole world. And we have to see what happens in the United States in November."

She takes issue with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's recent stance on the subject of Taurus missiles, which she believes are indispensable to the Ukrainian war effort.

"His idea is to be the Chancellor of Peace. But everybody is a politician of peace. I mean, everybody wants to stop this war. But in a good way. And not that Russia will attack the whole Ukraine."  

Ursula von der Leyen's track record

President of the European Commission since 2019, Ursula von der Leyen leaves a mixed record, according to the Renew candidate, particularly regarding the situation in Ukraine.

 "I'm, absolutely disappointed because, you know, for six years -- a really a long time -- she was the Defence minister of Germany. And she knows what happens if you lose time. [...] I mean, we have always to remember the first attack and inaction over Crimea ten years ago. I have no idea why she didn't talk about military security when she started to be the, president of the commission because she knows this topic."

In relation to European values and human rights, the candidate did not expect the Commission under Von Der Leyen's leadership to release 10 billion euros in aid to Hungary as part of negotiations with Viktor Orban. 

 "It's a question that everybody was very irritated by, that she that she paid 10 billion, euros for Mr. Orban on the question of Ukraine. Everybody was really shocked about it. I mean, come on, you stop 50 billion and then you pay 10 billion for him to go out of the room. It's really unbelievable [...] I mean, she's responsible for it. And you could see that the Parliament is not amused about this situation."

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