Money controls us all

Merz (CDU) on EU reconstruction aid"Must be checked that money does not flow into national budgets"

The EU Commission would like to provide 750 billion euros for the economic development of Europe after the corona crisis. The southern European states, which have been particularly hard hit, should benefit from this in particular. In principle, all 27 EU countries should have the opportunity to receive funds if they meet certain requirements. So far, future-oriented investments have been mentioned in this context: more expenditure on better health systems, for training and further education or for modern infrastructure.

500 billion euros should flow as non-repayable grants - and 250 billion euros should be loans.

Tattered European flag in the wind (imago / Mattias Christ) Merkel-Macron plan and the "frugal four" - dispute over EU financial aid in the corona crisis
The EU Commission wants to present a rescue plan this Wednesday to deal with the economic consequences of the corona crisis. The type and financing of corona aid are highly controversial in the EU. An overview.

The CDU politician Friedrich Merz is divided about the reconstruction plan of the EU Commission. "I would then put aside my concerns - also about the sums and the action, if Europe really makes a big leap forward with this program," he said in the Dlf.

"Europe must pursue economic policy"

In this historical period, Europe must be advanced in such a way that it will eventually meet China and the USA on an equal footing. "If we can do that, the program is justified."

Merz does not want the EU to become a debt union. "We mustn't start organizing transfer payments from one member state to another, and then through debt too." A reconstruction program must now be financed, with an "I admit - daring financial policy construction". Europe must now pursue economic policy. "And if we can do that, it can be the leap forward that we all need."

In his opinion, the planned construction of the EU Commission is feasible. Such an extraordinary situation also requires extraordinary measures, he said.

Conditions must be met

If Europe manages to advance digitization, for example, it will offer a great opportunity to make Europe fit for the 21st century.

Germany also has a great interest in ensuring that the European internal market does not collapse.

"I now consider the path taken to be the right one, provided that the conditions that are now being formulated are met," said Merz.

The interview in full length:

Dirk Müller: We have to give the numbers again: 750 billion are on the books as a reconstruction fund for Europe. 500 billion of this run as direct grants, as direct financial injections into the regions that are particularly hard hit by the consequences of the Corona crisis. These 500 billion will then no longer be repaid. Italy, Spain, France, Greece and many more will benefit, including Germany. 250 billion of these 750 should then be available through loans. But the program is also extremely controversial among the member states.
500 billion euros should go as direct aid. Are the member states now entering the liability union, the debt union, exactly where the CDU and CSU have always warned emphatically? - Someone who, like no other in the Union, stands for stability and solidity of finances is Friedrich Merz. But he is also a staunch European and is now on the phone with us. Good Morning!

Dirk Müller: How big is the conflict with you?

Friedrich Merz: Yes, it's already there, and of course I also looked at the numbers. I also listened to Ursula von der Leyen's speech yesterday. And I come to the conclusion that we really have to do something in Europe now. We have to take a big leap forward. And I would also put aside my concerns about the sums and the procedure if Europe really makes a big leap forward with this program, not back, building on what was before Corona, but is now making the leap forward, that we all need in order to advance Europe in this downright historic time in such a way that we are really on an equal footing with America and China and say that we are a self-confident, sovereign, independent, forward-looking economic region of Europe. If we can do that, the program is justified.

Manfred Weber (CSU), deputy party chairman of the CSU (picture alliance / Harald Tittel) EPP boss Weber - "We have to create a future for the young generation" Manfred Weber, chairman of the EPP group in the European Parliament, has the planned EU aid called for a sensible use of the funds. Since the next generation is burdened with considerable debts, the money must primarily flow into future projects, said the CSU politician in the Dlf.

"I participated in the introduction of the euro in two parliaments"

Müller: That is the question of if. But first I would like to ask you: Then Friedrich Merz will now also become a debt politician?

Merz: I participated in the introduction of the euro in two parliaments, the European Parliament and the German Bundestag, and I have always promised my voters that this monetary union will not become a transfer union or a debt union. And I want it to stay that way. I feel bound by this promise unchanged. We must not start now here to organize transfer payments from one member state to the other, and then through the debt, but we really have to finance a reconstruction, a reconstruction program for Europe, with what I admit, a daring financial policy construction, which refers to Article 122 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. And if you read this section, which is laid down in the contract, then the heading is interesting. The headline is not Financial Union or Monetary Union or Debt Union, but this section that contains this article, which the Heads of State and Government are now referring to, as I rightly believe, is entitled "Economic Policy". So Europe must now make economic policy, and if that succeeds, then this program can really be the leap forward that we all need.

Müller: Now I do not fully understand why this should not be a transfer policy and why this should not be transfer payments. These are debts that have to be financed through the budget of the member states. That means that debts have to be incurred for this. Then that's transfer.

Merz: The member states are allowed to go into debt; the European Union does not. The member states are liable in the amount of their respective share of the European budget. In this respect, it is a construction that, in my opinion, can be made - especially in this now very difficult situation. If we had normal political times, I would have said that it is impossible, but such an extraordinary situation that we are now in Europe and around the world also requires extraordinary measures. And this package, especially the 500 billion that the member states are now taking on as debt for Europe, must also remain isolated. They have to be paid back and they must not become debts of the European Union for all member states. If that is guaranteed, it can be done.

Müller: I do not understand! That shouldn't be paid back.

Merz: Yes, it has to. The portion that has to be repaid is clear from the member states. It is endowed with 250 billion.

"We are in a historic time"

Müller: The member states then have to borrow the debt to finance that.

Merz: The member states have to absorb and the European Union spends the money, and here it is particularly important that it is controlled by the European Union, the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament so that the money does not flow into the national budgets of the member states but also in the projects, in the reconstruction of the economy. And once again: Not back to the status quo before Corona, but forwards into the 21st century with the topics that Ursula von der Leyen addressed yesterday: digitization, including the entire area of ​​environmental policy now so that it is part of ours Economic policy will. If that succeeds, there really is a great opportunity to make Europe fit for the 21st century. That sounds a bit pathetic now, but I mean it like this: Mr. Müller, we are in a historic time! This is not just a normal continuation of European politics over the past 60 years, it is a quantum leap.

Müller: We were there before during the financial crisis, and there was a different approach, and many who look to Italy think that Italy is always in a special historical phase, if we take the example out of it. The question is whether you have ever experienced it differently in your political career: In those places where budget criteria were violated for years - admittedly: Italy continues to be a net contributor; A lot of people forget that. But to make that even more specific: The German taxpayer has to pay, the state is incurring debts, so that underdeveloped regions and backward regions in Italy can finally be whipped into shape?

Merz: Italy has in fact always been a sympathetic special case, a difficult country with a difficult political constellation. But if you mention the financial crisis now: in retrospect, we have survived this financial crisis well. We really stabilized Europe in that crisis. It has been possible to save the banks. You can still criticize it a lot today, but it worked. The countries that were in the programs have also taken measures to get out of the programs, and they have largely succeeded in doing so.

The deputy group leader of the SPD in the Bundestag, Axel Schäfer (picture alliance / Bernd von Jutrczenka / dpa) Axel Schäfer (SPD) - "We are the big profiteer"
Axel Schäfer, deputy SPD parliamentary group leader, sees the planned reconstruction fund of the EU Commission as a joint investment in the future. Germany also benefits from this community, he said in the Dlf.

Müller: With the purchases of government bonds, of ailing papers?

Merz: Yes! - well. These papers are still rated "investment grade". That still went just fine. And the Federal Constitutional Court also said what was necessary about what works and what doesn't, and Europe is now still moving within the framework of the treaties and that must also apply to this program.
But once again: From a German point of view, we have a great interest in ensuring that Europe and the European internal market continue to function. If we step back for a moment and say what would actually happen if Germany booms and we get the problem under control, and the countries around it in Europe collapse, the European internal market may collapse - there is no country in Europe that has such a great interest in it, economically and politically, that this European Union continues to function now. And therefore: Yes, after a few doubts, after some thought, but I now consider the path we have chosen to be the right one - provided that the conditions that are now being formulated are met.

"I am convinced - yes, after some thought - that the path is right"

Müller: And are they formulated clearly and precisely? In other words, they are so tough, they are so transparent and they are controlled so consistently that the whole thing can, as you say, be implemented productively? Do you have confidence in that?

Merz: I have the confidence. The European Parliament has a Committee on Budgetary Control. We have a European Court of Auditors. We have institutions in the European Union that can do that. But the preconditions must be formulated by the member states, and that is why the European Council Presidency, the German Council Presidency in Europe will now have a huge task in the second half of 2020. Germany must help ensure that these criteria are developed in such a way that taxpayers throughout Europe, not just in Germany, throughout Europe can have the confidence that this money is being used responsibly and that we are doing something for the younger generation, who should still live in Europe and Germany in 20 years, who should have prosperity and live here in a safe and free Europe. I am convinced - yes, after some thought - that the path is right, we have to go it.

Overview on the subject of coronavirus (imago / Rob Engelaar / Hollandse Hoogte)

Müller: What is your answer to Sebastian Kurz, a solid financial and budgetary politician, as the Austrian Chancellor always says himself? He says let's do it that way, but we do it through loans, that's fair, that's transparent, and then everyone has to make an effort.

Merz: Then I say to him: Yes, that will certainly apply to one part, but it will not work for another part. We will not be able to increase the indebtedness of the member states here, for example for Italy, for example for Spain, also for France and for others. We have to find a common European instrument here so that we can solve these problems together - albeit with very strict control. We are not financing the Italian pensions here. We are not financing the old debts of the Italian budget, but rather we are going together into the age of digitization, into the age of, as the European Commission President says, a Green Deal. Europeans show that the environment and the economy are possible. Europeans are showing that they really are becoming a digital economy, and we are all very interested in that.

Müller: We have been working on this for a long time; it hasn't worked yet. You have just mentioned: Italy owes 130 percent, France 90 percent. That will probably get much, much higher now. So far, these two states, like others, have not paid any attention to the criteria. Why should they do this now?

Merz: That is a very valid question. But, you know, my feeling is that large parts of the political class in Italy too now understand that we are all, I want to put it a bit figuratively, up to our necks. We now have to get out of this vicious circle of the past years and decades, where more and more money is being spent, less and less efficient, and more and more debts are being incurred. Now it is important to make this really big leap forward in innovation. I go so far as to say that this is probably Europe's last chance in the world of the 21st century. The question is: Champions League or district class? Do we want to play at the very top of the league of the highly developed industrial regions of the world, or do we want to fall behind, become more and more dependent on Chinese, American products and companies that work successfully here in Europe, but basically only see it as an extended workbench. This is the question!

Statements by our interlocutors reflect their own views. Deutschlandfunk does not adopt statements made by its interlocutors in interviews and discussions as its own.