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"Laschet's election good for Euregio and Eurobonds"

By Maurice de Heus, Anchor AvondGasten – L1

The election of Armin Laschet as leader of the German CDU political party is extremely beneficial for the Euregio Meuse-Rhine, according to MEPs Esther de Lange from Spaubeek and Hilde Vautmans from Belgian Limburg.

They made this known on Tuesday evening 19 January in the L1 television programme AvondGasten Europa.

On 16 January 2021, Laschet was elected as the new party leader of the German Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands – CDU. The politician from Nordrhein-Westfalen has every chance of following in Angela Merkel's footsteps as future Bundeskanzler.

"I'm not really allowed to say it, but there was a great relief here that Laschet won,"

said Esther de Lange, vice president of the EPP and a party colleague of Laschet.

"If you look at his past, he also fits very well in terms of personality. I myself am the granddaughter of a miner, Laschet is the son of a miner, so he knows the culture. In recent years, he has emphatically shown himself to be an advocate for cooperation in the Euregio [Meuse-Rhine]."

In 2019, Laschet was a guest at Gouvernement aan de Maas in Maastricht, where he outlined his vision of Europe. Laschet is from Aachen and knows the Euregio exceptionally well. The congratulations from the Gouvernement therefore came immediately after his election.

Photo: AvondGasten live broadcast. (L to R) Hilde Vautmans, Liesje Schreinemacher, Maurice de Heus, Esther de Lange. Photo in foreground: Armin Laschet, Theo Bovens © Provincie Limburg 2019.

"The relationship between Merkel and Rutte was very important,"

says VVD MEP Liesje Schreinemacher.

"Laschet resembles Merkel in style and connection. He has already had talks with Rutte about the cooperation between the Netherlands and Germany. The dynamic has changed after the departure of the British,"

said Schreinemacher, whose family ties may also feel at home with the CDU leader. Schreinemacher's grandfather was on the Maastricht city council for the KVP, one of the parties that would later form the CDA.

Belgian-Limburg MEP Hilde Vautmans hopes Laschet has a broader vision of Europe than the traditional France-Germany axis.

"Maybe Ursula von der Leyen can make more of a mark as the face of Europe,"

she said.

In the past, smaller countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium liked to put more weight on the European Commission, because they are no match for the big member states such as Germany, France and Italy in the Council of Ministers. Vautmans continues to follow that line, with the hope that Europe can profile itself much more emphatically as an independent superpower.

"A real European asylum policy, European defence, Frontex, financing via Eurobonds. Then the Dutch get angry, but those things are for us very important to make Europe independent."

A remarkable plea from the politician from Sint Truiden who, like the Dutch VVD, is affiliated with Renew Europe.

The fact that the wind in Europe has shifted significantly in the past year is also evident from the words of Stephan Holthoff-Pförtner, Minister for European Affairs in Nordrhein-Westfalia. Armin Laschet's party colleague emphatically argues in favour of more power for Brussels.

That insight has come, above all, from the Corona crisis.

"It makes no sense to vaccinate in Kleve if you don't vaccinate in Venlo. If we want to move towards group immunity, then the group is not Germany or the Netherlands or France. The group would be Europe. We should connect much better with people's daily lives for our European organisation. I am in favour of a federal structure."

The influence of the election of Dutch Limburg neighbour Armin Laschet as CDU President was discussed by the panel in 'AvondGasten Europa in de Regio'. The episode featuring MEPs Liesje Schreinemacher, Hilde Vautmans and Esther de Lange was broadcast on L1 TV on Tuesday, 19 January at 19:00, and can be watched back (in Dutch) on the L1 website here.

Limburg is a true border province, as is once again being demonstrated during the Covid-19 pandemic period. Precisely for this reason, it is important to know what is going on across the border. In 'AvondGasten Europa', we talk monthly about the most important developments from the European Parliament and their consequences for Limburg.

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