European Union politics have an immediate impact on the daily life of the citizens in Member States. However, most citizens are not aware of the high relevance of the decisions taken in Brussels and Strasbourg. Sometimes a distorted perception of the European institutions obstructs the view on the great opportunities that arise from the integration process in the European Union.
The state government of Schleswig-Holstein has recognised this potential, and is using it profitably for the region. Below you will find some outstanding examples of this.
As the northernmost state, situated between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea as well as bordering Denmark, cross-border activities play a particularly important role for Schleswig-Holstein. They link the state with European developments. Schleswig-Holstein especially benefits
- from open borders allowing its citizens not only to travel without bureaucratic burdens, but also to live in one country and work in the other;
- from European consumer protection safeguarding against unpleasant surprises in cross-border shopping;
- from the European Common Market, which is an important requirement for economic growth, employment and thus prosperity.
These examples show the close correlation currently existing between Schleswig-Holstein and European politics. This motivates the state government to conduct proactive European policy.
Through European and state funds, regions and future-oriented sectors are being developed: technology transfer, health economy and ocean technology are just some of the key words in this area, as is e.g. the support of the energy transition and modern employment policy in Schleswig-Holstein. Even though the contribution of agriculture to the gross national product of the state is no longer at the forefront, the European agricultural policy remains decisive for Schleswig-Holstein’s rural development.
The “AktivRegionen” (active regions) of the state make Europe more tangible. They are the think tanks of the rural areas, organised as associations, to make rural regions attractive and future-proof. How much EU funding is used for which project is determined by the locals themselves. The “AktivRegionen” are offered a wide range of funding programmes for the implementation of their projects. Paramount is the programme for the future of rural areas.
Schleswig-Holstein is the German focal point for the growing traffic flow linking Scandinavia and North East Europe with the heart of the continent. The expansion of ferry connections, fixed crossings and “Motorways of the Sea” across the North Sea and Baltic as part of the trans-European networks, the optimisation of port services, direct links between the Baltic ports and Hamburg and the improvement of the hinterland connections are all concerns of both European and state transport policy. Other political interfaces between Europe and the state are the commitment of Schleswig-Holstein to wind power, environmental policy and integrated coastal zone management as well as the pursuit of a European maritime policy, especially with regard to ship safety.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, Schleswig-Holstein has contributed substantially to the revitalisation of the Baltic Sea cooperation and to the EU enlargement to the East and North at regional level. The state is an active member of several networks and partnerships across the region, in particular the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region.
For more than two decades, the European Union has been promoting transnational projects within the framework of INTERREG, which contributes to the reduction of economic, social and spatial disparities in Europe. INTERREG-projects offer opportunities for European regions to address current issues and challenges – which increasingly do not stop at national borders – and to develop and implement mutual strategies.
The INTERREG funding programmes are thus key instruments to achieve the state government’s goals in view of the North Sea and Baltic Sea cooperation, and in particular for the further advancement of cross-border cooperation with Denmark. In the present funding period 2021-2027 Schleswig-Holstein participates in a total of four such programmes: the INTERREG A programme for cross border cooperation with Denmark, two transnational INTERREG B programmes for the North Sea and Baltic Region and the Europe-wide Europe-programme.
The state government has decided to set-up an interministerial working group (IMAG) on EU-Funds, which is managed by the Department for Europe at the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Areas, European Affairs and Consumer Protection (MLLEV – Ministerium für Landwirtschaft, ländliche Räume, Europa und Verbraucherschutz). The administrative authorities for EU-funds ERDF, EAFRD, EMFAF and ESF as well as the INTERREG programmes are represented in IMAG. It was responsible for coordinating the preparations of the EU-funding period 2021-2027. IMAG accompanies further developments in the multiannual financial framework and the fund as well as preparations of the cohesion policy after 2027.
Schleswig-Holstein in Europe
As a joint establishment of the states Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg, the Hanse-Office actively represents the interests of Schleswig-Holstein since 1987. It informs on present EU policies, legislative procedures and funding programmes. Through its extensive network, the Hanse-Office introduces the interests of Schleswig-Holstein in decision-making procedures. Furthermore, the Hanse-Office informs the citizens of Schleswig-Holstein on the EU decision-making processes and chances of European integration. It also shows the diversity of Schleswig-Holstein by providing location advertising through various events.
Participation at federal level
Schleswig-Holstein is also involved in EU legislation through the Bundesrat (Federal Council), as the federal states contribute to the legislation and administration of the federal state and in EU matters according to Article 23, 50 of the German Grundgesetz (constitution).
The plenary of the Bundesrat meets approx. 12 times a year. For urgent and confidential matters, a Europe chamber can be added, whose decisions in EU affairs stand for the decisions of the Bundesrat plenary.
In principle, participation in European Union affairs takes place in the Committee on European Union Affairs. This committee leads the discussions for all EU legislative proposals.
Minister for European Affairs of Schleswig-Holstein, Werner Schwarz, is a member of the Europe chamber in the Bundesrat and the committee for European Union affairs in the Bundesrat.
Participation via the Standing Conference of State Ministers for European Affairs
Schleswig-Holstein is represented by Minister for European Affairs Werner Schwarz in the Konferenz der Europaminister der Länder [EMK] (Standing Conference of the State Ministers for European Affairs), to which each federal state sends their government officials. Generally the Conference takes place three times a year. Participants discuss current affairs and principle questions concerning the European Union, and agree on the joint positions of the federal states.
European policy has an impact on the general public. The Ministry for European Affairs supports the work on European policy including various events, such as to draw citizens closer to Europe-related topics. A regular yearly event is e.g. the Europawoche, during which different stakeholders showcase a variety of activities reflecting and strengthening the European idea.