Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the EU Commission and Germany’s former Minister for Foreign Affairs Joschka Fischer are expected to attend the traditional Matthaie-Mahl or banquet in Hamburg’s town hall by invitation of Olaf Scholz, Mayor of Hamburg on March 2, 2018. The senate has invited around 400 leading figures in politics, commerce, science, culture and the entire consular corps to the Matthaie-Mahl banquet, which has been historically documented since 1356.
Importance of EU for Hamburg
Scholz issued the invitation to Juncker in a bid to underline the importance of the European Union for Germany and Hamburg in particular. “In a world with a population of nearly 8 billion people, we will only retain our voices and influence when we join forces with other like-minded democrats,” said Scholz. In reference to the U.S., he noted: “No country in the world – not even the United States of America will be able to assert itself alone in the world.“ The EU is a unique peace project by democratic nations that are committed to a social market economy and being on good terms with each other.
Greater co-operation following Brexit
At a time when some believe the challenges of the 21st century can be mastered with 19th century policies and amid national egoisms, now is the time to highlight the importance of the EU even moreso. Scholz remarked: “Hamburg is city with a pronounced European character. Thus, I am delighted that Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the EU Commission, has accepted my invitation to the Matthiae-Mahl.” Last year, Juncker announced an ambitious plan to boost integration among the remaining 27 EU members and to deepen co-operation in the Eurozone once Britain leaves the bloc.
New dynamic for European integration
One foreign and one German honorary guest traditionally address guests at the banquet. Fischer has also called for deeper co-operation in Europe and believes governments in Berlin and Paris are crucial to reviving the dynamics of European integration. Last year, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel were honorary guests at the banquet in the run-up to a decision on the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the EU. In 2016, then British Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor Angela Merkel attended the Matthaie-Mahl to stress Britain’s importance for the EU. Juncker’s predecessor, Portugal’s José Manuel Barroso, attended the banquet in 2012 as President of the EU Commission at the time.
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