Katarina Barley © SPD_MK

Interview with Katarina Barley

Katarina Barley is Vice-President of the European Parliament and the SPD's Spitzenkandidat for the European election campaign. In an interview with the BDI, she explains her motivation for competing as a Spitzenkandidat in the European elections, names the biggest challenges for European companies in the upcoming years and outlines her priorities for making Europe an attractive place to invest and do business again.

What motivates you personally to compete as a Spitzenkandidat in the European elections?

This election is more important than ever. We are all feeling the consequences of the Russian war against Ukraine, climate change and the pandemic. To overcome them, we need a strong EU. Personally, I want to continue to do my utmost to promote democracy and the rule of law. Governments cannot enjoy the benefits of the EU without abiding by its rules and values. To achieve this, we must push for the abolition of the unanimity principle, otherwise autocrats like Viktor Orbán will continue to paralyse the EU and damage Europe as a business location. I am incredibly encouraged to see so many people taking to the streets in favour of democracy and solidarity. This is an encouraging sign, also for our European partner countries. I hope that this time, all those who are in favour of a democratic, peaceful, social and diverse Europe will cast their vote. With a high voter turnout, we can keep the right-wing extremists down. For me, Europe also means family. My children have grandparents from Germany, England, Spain and the Netherlands. Europe is also my home. I live in a place where you can cycle through four countries in one day: Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and France.

What are according to you the biggest challenges that European businesses will be facing in the upcoming years?

30 years after the launch of the single market, we are experiencing a comprehensive transformation of our economy, driven by the global race for resources, technologies and standards. The European industry of tomorrow will combine competitiveness with climate protection and social progress. This means, among other things, that companies that benefit from state subsidies and transformation programmes will also have to offer good jobs with collective wage agreements in the long term. The transition to climate-neutral and circular industrial processes will also be challenging. The focus here is primarily on the basic industries and also the manufacturing sectors, such as the automotive industry. It is precisely here that we want to support their innovation efforts - also because they can have a strong innovative impact on the entire economy. And the challenge of change, for example when it comes to hydrogen, battery technology, electromobility, wind and solar power or biotechnology, will become a strength in the long term. This will make a significant contribution to advancing the diversification that is already necessary and reducing risky dependencies. In addition, companies are digitalising their processes. On the one hand, this requires investment and planning effort. On the other hand, there is also potential for simplifying and accelerating processes and reducing costs.

How to #PowerUpEurope: How do you plan to make Europe an attractive place to invest and do business again?

Wherever it is justifiable, we will reduce bureaucratic obstacles in the internal market - both for large companies and for SMEs, start-ups, the self-employed and freelancers. We will simplify barriers to investment, lengthy authorisation procedures and extensive state aid audits, for example. To do this, we need to update various regulations. In other words, we want to "air things out" without lowering important protection standards. We also want to create more coherence in product and raw materials legislation and prevent duplication of regulation. When awarding public contracts, a large proportion of products should come from Europe. This strengthens European industry and helps to reduce the EU's carbon footprint. It goes without saying that an attractive location also needs excellently trained skilled labour. Our goal is therefore an improved EU immigration law for skilled labour. And by establishing a European circular economy on an industrial scale, we can further optimise efficiency in production, reduce our carbon footprint and make ourselves less dependent on imports. Good framework conditions for companies require an active industrial policy. This includes good access to investment capital. We are therefore politically driving forward the Capital Markets Union in Europe. This will also make it easier for savers to invest across borders in Europe - which is good for private wealth accumulation and good for companies.


Translated from German: Artikel (bdi.eu)