Interview in Trade Letter June 2017
The politician with German and British roots talks about Europe in 2017, the German federal election and eating good food.
Mr McAllister, you were Born to a British father and a German mother, and grew up in Berlin and Lower Saxony. As an MEP and vice president of the European People's Party (EEP), you are often in Brussels and Strasbourg - which culinary direction do you prefer?
I enjoy the international diversity of Brussels and Strasbourg, which is reflected in the cities' culinary offerings too. I'm a huge fan of international cuisine. Nonetheless, I do have a particular penchant for the hearty fare of my northern German roots, in particular kale with smoked sausage and Hadler wedding soup.
What's served up at home with the family? Are you a keen cook yourself?
Unfortunately, I don't have the time to cook in Brussels and Strasbourg usually. So I freely admit to sometimes resorting to heating up ravioli from a tin. But things are different when I'm home, of course. My wife is an excellent cook, so I'm usually just responsible for more menial tasks.
Brexit is a historic failure
What does Brexit mean to you personally and how did you respond to the news in the first instance?
Brexit is a historic mistake. Right up to the very last moment, I had hoped for a different outcome in the referendum, much like millions of people on both sides of the English Channel. My family background means I personally have a very strong affiliation with the European Union. That's another reason why I am very disappointed by the outcome of the referendum.
Brexit, TTIP failure, Trump tirades - scepticism regarding free trade is growing on both sides of the Atlantic. How do you think we should combat this?
I firmly believe we need to take globalisation int our own hands, rather than simply watching it happen. We need to set standards for fair and rule-based free trade. This is, for example, why I voted in favour of the CETA free trade agreement with Canada in the European Parliament in mid-February. This is clear commitment to openness and global exchange. The agreement facilitates market access and dismantles nearly all the existing customs barriers. And we in parliament do pay very close attention to people's concerns. Tried and tested labour, environmental and social standards, public services and the cultural sphere remain comprehensively protected. Growth and prosperity can only be secured in the long term if we cooperate with other countries. This is something we need to communicate more clearly to people.
How to combat pan-european populism
Nationalist parties are enjoying increasing popularity in the EU member states in which elections are being held this year. What can we do to combat anti-European populism and how can we make people passionate about Europe once again?
The uncertainties triggered by Brexit even made many EU sceptics realise that there are no simple answers to complex questions. The elections held in Austria, the Netherlands and just recently in France showed that many citizens do appreciate the benefits that the EU has to offer after all and wish to preserve these. European integration is more than merely a shared single market - we have also enjoyed more than 60 years of peace, economic growth and freedom because of it. We take many of the EU's achievements, such as the freedom of movement, for granted. It's important that we communicate more strongly to people that these freedoms are valuable an that they need to be protected. At the moment, it is in particular young people who are endeavouring to make the European idea seen and heard again. And that's a good sign!
There is a federal election in Germany in September. What advice do you have for first-time voters to explain to them why it's important that they vote?
Being able to vote is at the very heart of democracy. German citizens are able to have an influence on politics. And we ware the envy of many people around the world because of this.
This interview was also published in the Trade Letter 02/2017. You can download the edition here.