“We should be more considerate with each other. For that, we need more Europe and especially a stronger European Parliament.”

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Florian Kubsch is 28 years old and currently finishing up his law degree at the University of Augsburg. He has been politically active in the SPD for eleven years now, was chairman for his local chapter for eight years, is a town councillor since 2008 in Königsbrunn near Augsburg and since 2014 county councillor in the rural district of Augsburg.

Florian, do you feel European?

Yes, absolutely. The order would be that first I feel human, but then very soon comes European. I was born in 1985. Four years later, the Wall came down. This was the beginning of a completely new Europe. This might sound trivial, but travelling abroad got much easier. There were no more long queues at the borders and no more passport controls. The EU has made our lives easier and it has taught us – the generation of the 1980s – the normality of a Europe without borders.

What does it mean to you, being “European”?

Being European to me means to a very strong degree: civilisation. Humanism, basic values, basic rights and the universal declaration of human rights.

What made you decide to commit to politics?

In groups, you always have group members that are somehow expected by the dynamics of the group to take on a role. Somehow, this has always been my thing. That, and I’ve always had a smart mouth.

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And why the SPD?

I believe that how people live together should be aligned with the well-being of the people. There is this saying: The economy must always serve the people. This is my principle. Sure, we need a good economy, we need good jobs, but in the end, everything has to be arranged so that the people are well. And I see that realised the most by the SPD.

How will you accompany the EU elections in Königsbrunn?

The campaign for the election is set by Berlin and Munich. The posters and the information material is being delivered to us from there. But of course, we organise information stands, distribute flyers, hold electioneering events. On the one hand, to make the people aware of the elections and on the other hand, to show them that the elections are about how we want to live in Europe. That Europe does not equal Europe, but that with all the problems there are, it is worth to go vote and to think and speak about Europe in a positive way. Take the AfD or other protest parties for example, they now use the famous, or better, infamous Brussels and slap it around to make themselves look better. And we want to counter that.

So what does the EU do for Königsbrunn?

The EU does a great deal for Königsbrunn! Take the EU-support programme EAFRD for example. It nourishes the LEADER working groups. In rural areas they are mostly concerned with structural changes. The LEADER working group here is called “Begegnungsland Lech-Wertach” (encounter area Lech-Wertach). It is a committee made up of 13 municipalities. There is money from the EU for projects that are proposed by the citizens themselves. This means that not only politicians decide what is being done.

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How do you communicate the EU on the municipality level?

One of the points is this “Begegnungsland Lech-Wertach”. Because obviously it has a financial meaning as well. For example a company from Königsbrunn that focuses strongly on regional products, has been supported through that and has managed to expand and created jobs in the area. Of course, this is a very positive example through which to communicate the EU.

What about the negative ones?

Yes, I have to admit that a lot of the times we find ourselves defending the EU. For example regarding the policy of the Euro, where many mistakes have been done and it is necessary to take a defensive stance. But of course, we try to communicate the advantages of the EU. A lot of the times this means very trivial things: When you go to Lake Garda and can call home without getting poor, who was responsible for that? That was the EU! Passport control, all these small things, we should not risk that. I think the main task now is to warn of those powers that say: “Why not let the EU be? We have to strengthen the national states, because all that comes from Brussels is no good.” We should not forget one thing: Brussels does not act independently. Brussels is dependent on the national governments. The Commission is dependent on the national governments. If the EU-Commission does something then you can bet that the German government has agreed to it. Without the German government, nothing is happening in Brussels and we try to make that clear to the people. In the end, it comes down to political colour.

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So for you, this means more or less “Europe”?

More Europe.

And why?

You have to look at the challenges of our times. As a nation state we are not really able to effectively act in the worldwide economic order. It just doesn’t work that way any more. Money has already surpassed borders. But controlling that money is still an issue. Markets don’t mind borders. That is why we should not fall back into particularism. We would just go down. And in the end it would be the people that would have to pay. We have to decide on what kind of Europe we want, how we want to live.

And what kind of Europe do you want?

I want a Europe of solidarity. If you look at from where we get our goods, to where we sell our goods, then it is the other European countries. So also from an economic point of view, we have our very own interests to collaborate in Europe and to take care of the people that buy our products and of whom we buy our products. This is always part of a business deal, that you take care of your business partners. I don’t want to reduce that now to the business side of it, but this example explains it pretty well. We trade with each other, we work together, we go on holiday in each others’ countries, we study in other countries, we invite other people into our countries to study, to create something together. So we should be more considerate with each other. For that, we need more Europe and especially a stronger European Parliament.

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What does this exactly mean for the Parliament?

Strengthening its role towards the Commission and the Council to a real European legislative body. Otherwise it will not be taken seriously.

One of the topics in the EU election campaign is youth unemployment. But I don’t think this is as important in Germany. What is important to the citizens of Königsbrunn in the EU-elections?

Well, one large topic will be the free trade agreement with the United States (TTIP) and even the less well-known agreement TISA. The EU has to be extremely cautious what it is doing. For Königsbrunn, public water supply will be affected. There have always been the one or the other movement to privatise water supply, but the people really went up in arms against them. They said they would never want that.

So what does TTIP have to do with that?

This agreement could lead to the reduction of environmental and social standards and the selling out of services for general interests. Through the investor-state dispute settlement the public sector could be made responsible for unmet profits and the tax payer would be made obliged to remedy the damage caused. Through this, all democratic decisions that are somehow limiting companies in the slightest way, would get a price tag, showing all unmet profits. This is perverted.

So how come Sigmar Gabriel is advertising this agreement?

Who knows! He is probably being pressured by his coalition partners or the companies. Although I actually believe him capable to be in favour on his own accord. No matter his motives, I absolutely take a different view! This agreement has the capabilities to overturn basic democratic principles. Already today, the people despair with the power of the markets and the impotence of politics. This culminates in the statement of Chancellor Merkel that regarding the euro rescue package, the Bundestag should decide “in line with the market”. This outrageous faux pas describes pretty well, what we’re permanently in, if these agreements are signed. From the SPD, I ask for a clear “no”, no lamenting, that the concerns of the people are being taken seriously. I really put my hopes in Martin Schulz, our European top candidate. Of Sigmar Gabriel, I expect nothing anymore.

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Florian, how do you see the EU in 20 years?

I am an optimist: So I believe that we have managed to harmonise social standards in Europe to a common social order. We will have a European banking control, we will continue to not have borders in Europe and the individual states will be more interwoven. I also believe that the significance of the national states will continue to diminish. Maybe, we will have established a capable European economic government, which – as was shown by the crisis – is very important. Maybe we will have handed over the one or the other responsibility to Brussels. In my imagination, in 20 years, we will have more issues that are being decided on the European level, few that are being decided on the national level, and again more that are being decided on the regional or municipal level. This will not be easy, if I think of Hungary or France with the Front National. A lot remains to be achieved, but in the end, I believe that if we all work together, we can do it!

Thank you, Florian.

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all photos ©pmhunger

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