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Minister: "Euregio Meuse-Rhine an example for Europe."

By Maurice de Heus, Anchor AvondGasten Europa – L1

The cooperation in the Euregio Meuse-Rhine during the Covid-19 crisis is an example for Europe. This is according to Stephan Holthoff-Pförtner, Minister for European Affairs in Nordrhein-Westfalen.

Holthoff-Pförtner's statements in the L1 television programme AvondGasten Europa carry extra weight now that his colleague and fellow party member Armin Laschet has been elected the new leader of the governing CDU party.

"We set up a task force in the Euregio [Meuse-Rhine] at the beginning of the corona crisis. It met three times a week. In this task force, we let each other know what measures were coming up and we made agreements. That was such a success that federal states like Saarland, Rheinland-Pfalz and Baden-Wurttemberg have adopted that model. They have similar problems with neighbouring countries such as France."

Unlike the border with Belgium, the border with Germany has never been hermetically sealed. Holthoff-Pförtner has a clear opinion on that.

"If you start closing the border to friends, you don't need to open it for goods afterwards."

His boss Armin Laschet, Ministerpräsident of Nordrhein-Westfalen, has also been pushing for intensive cooperation in the region since the beginning of the corona outbreak. Laschet recorded a film at the border with Vaals about the importance of open borders in the Euregio Meuse-Rhine in April 2020.

Video: © Armin Lachet's Facebook page 06 April 2021

Holthoff-Pförtner worked in the past with Helmut Kohl, the legendary CDU chancellor who moulded and signed the Verdrag van Maastricht. According to the German minister, European treaties are hopelessly behind the current reality.

"[Verdrag van] Maastricht was a big step forward. When the constitution failed, we tried to fix it with the Lisbon Treaty. But the power of the Council of Ministers is still far too great, the weight of the European Parliament far too small. We must move towards a Europe in which the regions play a much greater role. These regions will then have nothing to do with the national Member States, but with the people who live there. I do not want to provoke, but I am in favour of a federal structure."

The statements by the European Affairs Minister are indicative of the change in Germany's attitude to Europe. Since the outbreak of the coronas crisis and Britain's departure from the EU, Germany has been pulling emphatically towards France. While Merkel had previously stated that she never wanted joint European debts, the joint liability for the 750 billion euro Corona Recovery Fund took that taboo off the table. Holthoff-Pförtner sees this as a first step.

"We can be really proud here in the Euregio that we have put in place a structure that will survive the current corona pandemic in terms of thought and effectiveness. I myself am a great advocate of a federal structure.”

Photo: AvondGasten Europa (L to R) Maurice de Heus, Esther de Lange, Liesje Schreinemacher and Hilde Vautmans.

The cooperation in the Euregio Meuse-Rhine during the Covid-19 crisis 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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