• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

FDP’s Alexandra Thein: ‘The EU should get its priorities straight’

Ben Knight · 4 Jun 2009, 14:06

Published: 04 Jun 2009 14:06 GMT+02:00

This campaign for the European Union elections is Alexandra Thein’s first experience in front-line politics. Armed with her 20-year-career as a lawyer, she hopes to help reform the European Parliament as an MEP for Germany’s pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP).

The Local: What have you discovered during your first election campaign?

Alexandra Thein: I've been quite shocked by how little people know about the European Union, especially in schools. People don't know how the EU works, as in who decides what, nor what debates are dictating the election. And I've noticed that people are not that interested – they are already conflating it with the German general election, and don't have a clear idea what issues are decided nationally and what by the European Union. I'm afraid there'll be a low turnout.

The Local: What's the main reason for this?

Alexandra Thein: On the one hand there is not enough transparency – politicians don't communicate what decisions are made in Brussels and what decisions are made in Berlin. A lot of them are being dishonest. For example, a few weeks ago the citizens advice hotline – 115 – was launched, which enables you to reach all public services through one phone number. And I spent the whole day seeing if any of the media – on TV, radio or in the papers – mentioned that this was the implementation of a European directive. Instead, everyone just pretended it was invented by [German Interior Minister Wolfgang] Schäuble.

The Local: Do you think a low turnout would damage the FDP particularly?

Alexandra Thein: I think it will damage all the major parties, because, apart from The Left party, we all support the Lisbon treaties. We want the parliament to get more rights and become more democratic, and if we're sitting in parliament on the back of a low turnout we're going to lose some of our legitimacy when it comes to negotiating with the European Council or the European Commission, which are only indirectly elected. It weakens our political position. At least we won't have it as bad as Britain though.

The Local: Why?

Alexandra Thein: In Britain the candidates have to struggle against all the populists who don't want anything to do with the EU and who encourage people not to vote. Luckily we don't have that here. Here people might not care about the EU, but they're not against it.

The Local: Are you worried that the financial crisis will damage the FDP, seeing as it's seen as the party of the free market?

Alexandra Thein: No, I think the opposite is the case. I think our good poll ratings at the moment are down to the fact that we're the only party in Germany that still supports the social market economy. Because of their coalition with the SPD, the Christian Democrats have unfortunately slipped very far to the left, so that people doubt whether they still believe in business. And the FDP is benefitting from this. Of course there is a crisis, but people sometimes overlook that this a social market economy. We don't live in a neo-liberal society.

The Local: But don't people associate the FDP with deregulation of markets?

Alexandra Thein: Deregulation of the markets, but only inside the EU. We want to take down barriers inside the EU. We've never said we wanted a weak state. We've just said that the EU should get its priorities straight, and shouldn't decide what lightbulbs people should buy.

Story continues below…

The Local: What can the EU do for Germany?

Alexandra Thein: Berlin needs to have more political and more economic weight. The FDP is not usually a party in favour of state grants, but there a lot of EU grants at the moment, and Berlin should be trying to get them too. For that we need a new trans-border European region, made up of Berlin, Brandenburg and western Poland with its own identity. A lot depends on infrastructure. Many businessmen have told me that only decent transport link to northern Poland is by car. We need more rail links and more flights to Poland. You can't fly to any Polish city and back in a one day. We need to build up a friendship with Poland like we have with France now.

The Local: What about immigration?

Alexandra Thein: The experience of Britain has shown us that people only go where there is work. There wasn't much work in Berlin, so they went to Britain and Ireland, and now that the financial crisis has broken out, they are all going back. I don't see a problem there at all. And you hear that German workers are now finding work in Poland for better wages than in Berlin.

Ben Knight (ben.knight@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Train evacuated as passenger flips out during ticket check
Police at the scene in Leipzig. Photo: DPA

A regional train was evacuated in Leipzig on Wednesday after a passenger became aggressive during a ticket inspection.

Man arrested in Wuppertal as part of Spanish Isis raids
Police detain the suspect in Wuppertal. Photo: DPA

Police have arrested five suspected members of an Isis cell in Spain, Belgium and Germany that spread propaganda for the group online, the Spanish interior ministry said Wednesday.

Germans cut home energy usage by six percent in a year
Hamburg at night. Photo: DPA

The Energiewende is the German government's ambitious policy of drastically reducing carbon emissions. New figures show one remarkable success.

Merkel party MP under fire for using Nazi propaganda term
Bettina Kudla. Photo: Büro Bettina Kudla MdB/DPA.

A member of Angela Merkel's conservative CDU party is in hot water after tweeting over the weekend a Nazi propaganda term in her criticism of the country’s refugee policies.

Govt denies planning bailout for troubled Deutsche Bank
Photo: DPA

Germany's finance ministry on Wednesday said the government was "not preparing rescue plans" for Deutsche Bank, denying a newspaper report that state aid was being considered for the embattled lender.

Munich at high risk of housing bubble: report
A view of Munich. Photo: Pexels.com

Considering buying property in Munich? This report might make you think twice.

After fatal hail storm, south Germany set to see sun
The hail storm in Baden-Württemberg on Monday night left the streets looking like a winter landscape. Photo: DPA.

A hail storm in southwest Germany on Monday night led to the death of one woman, but forecasters predict a bit more sun in the days to come.

Police shoot dead father who attacked daughter's abuser
Police at the scene of the shooting in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

Berlin police on Tuesday night shot and killed the father of a young girl at a refugee home as he tried to attack a man who allegedly sexually abused his daughter.

TV celebrity criticized for claiming 70 kg is overweight
Sophie Thomalla. Photo: DPA

Model Sophie Thomalla claimed that promoting models who weigh over 70 kg sets as dangerous an example as skinny supermodels.

UK files show how Spanish spy tricked Nazis over D-Day
Photo: DPA

Secret files released in Britain Wednesday shed new light on how a Spaniard dubbed the greatest double agent of World War II tricked Germany with false intelligence about the D-Day Normandy landings.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Lifestyle
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
10 German films you have to watch before you die
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
6,545
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd