Mr. Lopez, there is a lot going on in the company right now, the thyssenkrupp Annual General Meeting is taking place in Bochum at the end of the week. A face-to-face event for the first time since Covid, you will meet many shareholders - including many employees and former employees...

Exactly. And to be honest, I'm looking forward to it. Because it's always better to talk to each other than about each other.

Direct exchange is very important to me, that's why I practice it as often as possible: I meet with our employees on site in Essen and on the road during my site visits and talk to them over a coffee about what moves them. We have discussed goals and approaches at leadership meetings of the Top 500 and several times of the Top 150. And this week at our Annual General Meeting, finally for the first time directly with our owners. I am sure there will be many questions and probably some concerns. Because these are difficult times for our company, for our country and worldwide. Nothing beats direct conversation.

At the beginning of the year, you made some rather skeptical statements in interviews: The way things have been going in recent years cannot continue, now is the moment to say "stop". Why such drastic words?

I am open and transparent and do not want to beat around the bush, but to state clearly what is. Hardly any of our businesses are so successful that they earn enough money to secure their own future - and have been for years. An attitude along the lines of "someone will take care of us if we can't do it ourselves" would be extremely dangerous. Who should that be? We must be able to invest and grow from our own strength - business by business. We must work on this with all intensity.

You were in the US for a few days only recently - what impressions do you bring back to Essen?

On the one hand, very positive: We are very welcome there and have excellent opportunities to continue growing with our businesses there - for the businesses of Decarbon Technologies, but also for Automotive Technology, for example. The US industry is clearly relying on partners from the Western world. This opens up real additional opportunities for our sales.

On the other hand, there is also a less positive impression from my conversations with investors - and it ran like a red thread through all the conversations: We must finally deliver and have severely strained the patience of our owners for years. They finally want to see that their investments in thyssenkrupp are paying off again.

But many employees are probably less concerned about this than about whether APEX will lead to excessive pressure on costs and jobs or how further decarbonization can be achieved in steel.

That is understandable - and I face each of these questions. But basically there is no contradiction between the interests of employees and shareholders: Only a healthy company can invest in the future, pay good incomes and distribute dividends. APEX makes an important contribution here. And as for decarbonization in steel: This is a major effort that demands a lot from us. But the goal and timetable come from politics, and that is why it is not possible without public support. In this extremely important industrial policy issue, there is a great deal of agreement between the Executive Board, our works councils and IG Metall.

Mr. Lopez, there is one issue that is particularly moving people in Germany and thyssenkrupp employees these weeks: the rise of the radical-right party AfD and the open display of xenophobia...

This is also a major concern for me. We don't want to and we mustn't remain silent about it. It's not just about the fact that the worst refugee and xenophobic fantasies are damaging Germany's reputation as a business location. It is about much more: namely the fundamental values of our liberal democracy and every humane society. The AfD is damaging Germany. I say that clearly, and I am pleased for all those who oppose this unspeakable development and brutalization. No one should allow dissatisfaction with current politics to lead them to pave the way for the enemies of freedom, democracy and humanity.

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