Hear From the Candidates: Stefan Liebich
Stefan Liebich is a member of The Left Party (Die Linke) and candidate in the federal elections. He is deputy chairman of the German–U.S. Parliamentary Friendship Group of the Bundestag.
Q: What do you envision for Germany in the next decade and what goals are you or your party setting?
The most important question for Germany is the future of the European Union. We are at a crossroads and there is a lot of anger within the EU, between the Western European states and Eastern European states regarding the refugee question. At the same time we have a dissent between the Northern states, such as Germany, and the Southern states, like Greece, Italy, and Spain, regarding questions of austerity. If we do not manage these differences, there is a real danger that the European Union will not continue as we know it. That would be terrible. As a left politician, of course, I think that we need social and democratic reforms within the EU. But I am very clear on my position that we need the European Union.
Q: Europe has faced many tests in the last couple of years. How do you view Germany’s relationship with the EU and its role within the EU?
Germany has to readjust its role. Being by far the biggest and most important economy, our minister of finance pressured the Southern states on austerity policies and put pressure on other states regarding the question of distributing refugees. I supported the decision of Chancellor Merkel in 2015 to help the people who were coming to Germany. But Germany has to find a way to work together with Eastern European states and take their different pasts, traditions, and experiences with socialism into account. I grew up in East Germany. The socialist part of Europe was very closed and very homogenous. There were hardly any relationships with Muslim people. But this cannot be an excuse for not helping people in need. However, within Europe we maybe need more time, we need to explain and discuss more. We cannot just give an order and hope everything will be fine. This behavior will only benefit extreme right-wing parties like the one of Viktor Orbán or Jarosław Kaczyński. Germany has to be more careful, more sensitive. Moreover, we need to give more power to European institutions and especially increase the relevance of European parties. Political parties on the European level are not yet that important. We need a strong socialist group and a strong conservative group, so that the first thing on the politicians’ minds is not their national agenda, but rather their political loyalties.
Q: Many people, most notably Donald Trump, have expressed skepticism toward the traditional partnership between Europe and the US. What does the transatlantic relationship mean for you today?
We are in very difficult times. Everyone knows that there are very few people in Europe who are pleased about the new president in the United States and his behavior. During the campaign, I was very clear in expressing that I could not imagine a racist and a sexist becoming president of the United States. After the election, I repeated these sentiments, and my colleagues told me that I could not say such things anymore, now that he is president. But with all due respect, if you look at the terrible things he said after Charlottesville, I must repeat: he is a racist. However, he has been elected by the majority of the American people, so we respect that and deal with the situation. Germany and the EU have to try to find a more sovereign way in dealing with the United States. States are not friends. Most of their cooperation is based on interests. Sometimes, we have common interests, sometimes we don’t. The times of just following the United States are over. There are issues on which we work together with China, even though they have a totally different political system and do not share our values. For example, the Paris Climate Agreement: China supports it, the United States not any longer. Also, on the question of finding rules for the global economy, there are disturbing tendencies back toward protectionism in the United States. So, the relationship has changed, but of course the United States is still very important to us and vice versa. With our colleagues in the Congress and the institutions, we will find a way to work together no matter who the president is.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.