A train journey between Brussels and Berlin takes just under seven hours. It’s a route that Martin Schirdewan knows well by now: In Brussels, he’s a member of the European Parliament; in Berlin, he’s co-chairman of the Left Party. Since June, the 47-year-old has led the party alongside Janine Wissler, thus playing a rare dual role between Brussels and Berlin.
“I have always been a very political person,” Schirdewan says about himself. He studied political science in Berlin and worked for the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation while still a student. Later he writes for the youth newspaper of Neues Deutschland and the magazine “antifa”. In the Left Party, he has been part of the party executive since 2012, and in 2017 he moved into the European Parliament, where he is part of the Left Party in the European Parliament (GUE/NGL).
Schirdewan’s grandfather is Karl Schirdewan, a former member of the SED Central Committee in the GDR. “The political discussions with my grandparents shaped me,” Schirdewan says, “especially when we had different positions.”
An EU advantage for the party
A party chairman who is also a member of the Parliament in Brussels – Schirdewan sees that as an advantage: “I think that can and will be an asset for my party.” Issues such as the energy and climate crises are negotiated in Berlin as well as in Brussels. Schirdewan wants to bring his European perspective to the table. He wants to show what the Left Party in Germany can learn from the other left parties in Spain or Croatia.
Right now, the energy crisis dominates the political debates; usually, Schirdewan describes tax justice as one of his most important topics. He is part of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, deals with the EU digital tax and the issue of money laundering.
In the EU Parliament, Schirdewan voted against Ukraine’s admission to the EU. In the same resolution, the Parliament also spoke out in favor of supplying weapons to Ukraine and strengthening NATO – the Left Party and Martin Schirdewan are against this. The Left calls for a diplomatic solution and European disarmament.
Schirdewan criticizes the European debt rules and calls for more rights for the Parliament. From the outside, it is often difficult to see how the parliamentary groups are positioning themselves, he says. MEPs should therefore be able to make legislative proposals, says Schwirdewan: “It would be nice if we could not only make smart proposals but also come up with real initiatives.” Jana Hemmersmeier