Merkel departure would have ‘major impact’ on EU says Butikofer
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Hans-Olaf Henkel was commenting on the revelation that the European Union currently has 51 ongoing infringement proceedings against Germany. The revelation has prompted stinging criticism of both Peter Altmaier, Germany’s Economics Minister, and Finance Minister and SPD leader Olaf Scholz.
Mr Henkel, the former President of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), who stepped down from the European Parliament in 2019, said in both cases the rebukes were fully justified.
He told Express.co.uk: “This shows that while German Governments like to lecture other countries to become ‘better Europeans’, they themselves become rather selfish when adhering to European rules means facing opposition from the German electorate.
“I call that ‘populistic’, something German politicians and German media constantly accuse others of.”
Mr Henkel explained: “Especially under the Merkel Governments Germany repeatedly violated European rules mostly yielding to pressure from unions and business.
“That’s why there are so many cases still under investigation by the EU in the areas of responsibility of Germany’s Minister of Economy, Mr Peter Altmaier and Minister of Finance, Olaf Scholz.”
Both Mr Altmaier and Mr Scholz were referred to in the German government’s answer to a written question from FDP MP Markus Herbrand.
This indicated that Mr Altmaier’s department had managed to close just one of 16 proceedings initiated by Brussels.
With respect to Mr Scholz, only five of the 15 proceedings which the EU Commission initiated against Germany for violations of EU directives were discontinued.
Mr Herbrand said: “The inadequate implementation of EU directives damages Germany’s reputation and thwarts Europe-wide efforts to effectively combat tax avoidance, money laundering and sales tax fraud internationally
“I completely fail to understand why the finance minister dawdles around on such important projects and puts off doing his homework, but otherwise presents himself as a pioneer on these issues.
“Actually, one should expect that Europe-wide measures to close gaps for criminal machinations, will be implemented quickly and efficiently, so that life is made difficult for fraudsters.
“But here the federal government, above all Finance Minister Scholz and Economics Minister Altmaier, delivers a shameful result, even though they really had enough time to implement the plans.”
Earlier this month the German government rejected legal steps brought against it by the European Commission after the country’s top court made a ruling on the European Central Bank’s bond-buying programme which was at odds with a judgment by the EU’s own top court.
The Commission action reflects concern that the German ruling could undermine European Union law especially in places where the rule of law is already weakened – as in nationalist-ruled Poland and Hungary, both now under EU investigation.
The legal step against Germany taken by the Commission in June is aimed at compelling Berlin to acknowledge the primacy of EU law over national court decisions.
It was triggered by a ruling by Germany’s Constitutional Court in May 2020 which said the ECB had overstepped its mandate with bond purchases even though the European Court of Justice (ECJ) had already given the green light for the scheme.
Mrs Merkel is currently campaigning hard in advance of next month’s federal elections, after which she will stand down as Chancellor.
CDU leader Armin Laschet is hoping to replace her in the top job.
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