Madam President of the Bundestag, you recently said that politicians need “clearer, more understandable language”. What do you mean by that, Madam President?
People have to understand us when we hold debates here in the Bundestag, regardless of whether they are well educated or not. After all, these are important decisions that affect everyone.
In interviews you often talk about your origins, that you didn’t grow up in a wealthy environment. Does that make you speak clearly?
My life and my origins have shaped me. And of course my homeland, the Ruhr area. In Duisburg, people don’t talk around it for long, sometimes they discuss things a little harder. That’s how I grew up, that’s still how I am today, and I don’t want to lose that either.
How big is the risk that you will still lose it, also because the President of the Bundestag no longer lives and thinks like most citizens? You have a large office here in the Reichstag, cars that drive you, you meet influential people.
Despite the many appointments in Berlin, I try to go to Duisburg as often as possible to stay in contact with the people there. I am often asked by them why the language of politics is often so complicated. My answer then is: as MEPs, we too are forced to specialize in certain specialist areas. Therefore, there is a great danger that we will get used to a technical language, often with abbreviations, that no one in the visitors’ gallery or on the screen understands.
Would you recommend a course in understandable language to MEPs?
Everyone should speak as he or she sees fit. Certainly origin and education play a role. I just recommend being careful who you talk to and how. I have learned in my professional life that it is ultimately a question of addressing a target group. A lecture at the university is different from a conversation in a school class with fourteen year olds.
You differ from your predecessors Norbert Lammert and Wolfgang Schäuble because you don’t have a CDU party book and you’re also a woman. Do you also differ in language?
My predecessors have a different path in life, they grew up very differently from me. Both are excellent speakers. My speeches are different. It is important that the largest possible audience can understand our speeches. In the end, it’s all about setting messages and reaching the listeners emotionally in my own way. Ultimately, it’s about authenticity.
We are in a crisis that not only needs to be explained to people, but to which politicians must also react in terms of content. It is doing this with three relief packages. Is that enough?
The coalition has now approved EUR 95 billion in relief, and I hope that the money will reach those who depend on it as quickly as possible. It is good that the coalition has now also announced something for pensioners, for example. During the pandemic, I learned that crisis management is done in stages and that it can happen that not everyone is immediately visible. This will probably not be the last package. And of course the question of financing must be answered by the coalition. Either by suspending the debt brake again – or by adopting a different tax policy, i.e. redistribution.
Can the debt brake still be maintained in the current situation?
The debate on this is ongoing. I’m curious to see what proposal the federal government will put on the table. Suspension of the debt brake would mean that future generations would have to pay for today’s expenses. That’s not my approach. Personally, I would prefer a redistribution solution.