Hear From the Candidates: Cem Özdemir, Alliance 90/The Greens
Cem Özdemir is a member of the Alliance 90/The Greens in Germany. He is The Green Party’s chairman and top candidate in the federal elections to elect members of the 19th Bundestag.
Q: What do you envision for Germany in the next decade and what goals are you setting for the next four years?
Cem Özdemir: The wave of rightwing populism has now also reached Germany. We are very likely to have a racist and anti-Europe party in our national parliament soon. This is a wake-up call to all of us: we must fight to keep our open society — a society that views diversity as a chance, not as a threat. At the same time, our values are not just attacked from the populist right. For example, the Turkish president is sowing his seeds of division and hate also in Germany, even instigating people to spy on each other. Of course, he is not the only one. President Putin has also tried to influence our democratic debates in Germany, just remember the case of Lisa, the 13-year old girl that was allegedly raped by a refugee — fake news spread by Russia, as it turned out. We are not alone with these problems. Democracy is nothing to be taken for granted anymore anywhere. This is why we need European cooperation even more than ever. The stronger we stand together, the stronger we can counter attacks against our core values. Finally, let me add: It is time to end our wait-and-see attitude with regard to climate change. Climate change is very real, as the news are proving every day, just look at the heavy floods from Texas to South Asia. Our current government has signed the Paris climate agreement, but has done very little to implement it. We, the Green Party, want to move climate policy from the backburner to the top of the agenda.
Q: Europe has faced many tests over the past couple of years. How do you view Germany's relationship with and role within the EU?
Cem Özdemir: The presidency of Emmanuel Macron is a unique chance for Europe. He was the only one out of eleven presidential candidates in France who ran on a clear pro-Europe agenda — and he won. However, that also means that if he does not deliver now, we may end up with Marine Le Pen as the next French president. The Brexit does hurt, no mistake about that, but the EU will survive even without the U.K. Europe without France — that would be the end of the European Union. However, Macron cannot save Europe alone. He needs strong partners, and he needs particularly us in Germany. We are the largest EU member state in terms of economic and demographic strength, and with strength comes responsibility. Warm words, as we have been hearing them from the Grand Coalition, are not enough. Together with Paris, we need to tackle the necessary reforms in and for Europe now. We need to do so as equal partners, and with great passion for Europe. After all, the European Union is a unique success story of peace and wealth and bringing people together. I want this story to have many more chapters. It is up to us to make sure it does.
Q: Many people, perhaps most notably U.S. President Donald Trump, have expressed skepticism toward the traditional partnership between Europe and the United States. What does the transatlantic relationship mean for you today?
Cem Özdemir: The transatlantic relationship has been the cornerstone of European security for over seventy years. We are tied together as a community of values through our strong belief in human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Donald Trump is the first U.S. president to question these pillars. I lived in Washington when George W. Bush was in power, and when transatlantic relations were shaken by the conflict over the Iraq War. However, even George W. Bush never questioned the transatlantic relationship per se. With Donald Trump in the White House, it is more important now than ever to strengthen transatlantic dialogue. The major challenge of this century is the fight against climate change. Trump is no partner in this fight, which is why we need to strengthen ties with partners outside Washington. My home state of Baden-Württemberg and California have formed a coalition in the fight against climate change. I hope many states, cities, and local communities in Germany and the United States will follow suit.
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