Why is Europe so irrelevant today?

The world is currently looking at Germany and the EU

DAAD / David Ausserhofer

Under the title “Envisioning the Future: Future Visions for Germany and Europe”, shortly before the turn of the year, the large specialist and network conference of the centers for German and European studies funded by the Foreign Office through the DAAD took place in Berlin. Current topics such as migration, populism, the (de) integration of Europe and the social impact of technological developments were discussed. DAAD Aktuell asked twelve center managers how their countries are currently viewing Germany and Europe.



Dr. Nicholas Martin, Director of the Institute for German Studies (IGS) at the University of Birmingham

"'Germany, where are you?" This recurring question will arise again in 2019 and more urgently than ever, even in the divided Great Britain. Is there a common denominator that unites the people who live in Germany as a nation? Is there an 'inside that connects us [Germans]' (Thomas de Maizière, 2017)? Globalization and the interlinking of the world that goes with it give hope that national borders will increasingly fade into the background or even disappear. And the Germans allegedly learned from their gloomy past. But nationalist racial madness flares up again and again among right-wing extremists in Germany and among Brexit supporters in Great Britain. The war against such prejudices is far from over. We, Germany and its partners, have to prove that cohesion can only be maintained and promoted through the energetic and vigilant advocacy of justice, love, respect and democracy. "

United States


Professor Katrin Sieg, Director of the BMW Center for German and European Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, DC

“At the political and economic level, the transatlantic relationship has been characterized by tension in recent months. And that, although some developments in the EU run parallel to those in the USA, from the strengthening of right-wing populist parties and governments to the attack on an independent judiciary, for example in Poland. In this context, it is important to address and counter the structural discrimination against women, migrants and minorities; At our center this year we have been particularly concerned with the issue of gender equality in Germany and the EU. Personally, I research the representation of German colonial history in museums. I consider the academic and public confrontation with historical and ongoing injustice to be essential for democratic resilience. "



Professor Nury Kim, Director of the Center for German and European Studies (ZeDES) at Chung-Ang University Seoul

“Germany is still perceived very positively in Korea. The German electoral system in particular is a topical issue in Korean politics: the chairmen of the two small parties in parliament recently even tried to win the German electoral system with a hunger strike. The topic of German unity is also gaining renewed attention from the Korean public because South and North Korea have rapidly converged over the past year. The peaceful reunification of Germany is of course a model.

The problems of Europe such as the wave of refugees, the spread of right-wing radicalism and the crisis of democracy are viewed with concern in Korea, but few are skeptical about the future of the European Union. "



Professor Andreas Vasilache, Director of the Center for German and European Studies (ZDES) at Bielefeld University and St. Petersburg State University

“It would be a mistake to assume a unanimous and uniform perception of Germany and the European Union in Russia. Such an idea would fail to recognize the social, economic and political diversity of Russian society. At the same time, the majority of the respondents took note of the European rejection of the incorporation of Crimea into the Russian Federation with incomprehension. This explains the political ineffectiveness of the sanctions regime, which is seriously affecting the Russian population. Since 2014, special attention in Russia - and especially in the mass media there - has been on the multiple crises of the EU. In Russia's political system, it is on the one hand stated that the European crisis phenomena have not led to a softening of the sanctions. However, this statement is offset by the hope that - as a result of Brexit and a possible alienation between Europe and the USA under Trump - the balance within the EU will shift in a direction that is more favorable for Russia. It is recognized that Germany is currently working harder to intensify the dialogue with Russia within the EU and the Western alliance. Overall, despite the tensions of recent years, there is a positive image of Germany in Russian society. Many are hoping that relations with Germany and the EU will normalize. "


Krzysztof Ruchniewicz

Professor Krzysztof Ruchniewicz, Director of the Willy Brandt Center (WBZ) for German and European Studies at the University of Breslau

“Poland and Germany are facing major challenges. It is not just about bilateral relations, but about their future in the European Union. The takeover of power by the Law and Justice Party (PiS) in Poland and the implementation of a policy that is skeptical towards the EU by this party has not remained without consequences.

The policy of the PiS government since 2015 has brought about profound changes in all areas of life, from the activities of various state institutions to education and the media. This is noted with concern and often with rejection by the EU institutions. Warsaw was quickly accused of disregarding common European values; Measures followed to review the state of the rule of law in Poland. In response to these measures, voices were raised in Warsaw that attacked not only Brussels but Berlin: the Germans had interfered in Polish affairs. Germany was once again seen as a useful tool for frightening the Poles, and the issues of the past were misused for current political ends as there was a lack of ideas for the present and future of relations. There is no common German-Polish agenda for Europe. 2019 will be a test for the future: in addition to the elections to the European Parliament, there will also be parliamentary elections in Poland. "


Kim Krijnen

Professor Ton Nijhuis, Director of the Duitsland Instituut bij de Universiteit van Amsterdam (DIA)

“For the Netherlands, the EU stands for the free market rather than political integration. Unlike Germany, Europe has never been a substitute nation. But Brexit is very much regretted. The Hague was originally afraid that without London, Paris could succeed in pulling Germany into the cart of French politics. From a Dutch perspective, President Macron is trying to solve French problems under a European guise with German and Dutch money.

At the moment, The Hague is rather confident that Berlin will continue to stick to its solid (austerity) policy. Merkel's resignation as CDU party leader did not lead to uncertainties. The general feeling is that German European policy will continue to be characterized by continuity in the future. However, the financial stability in Europe is of great concern, certainly with regard to Italy - and, after Macron's 'kneeling', also in France. "


Riley Stewart

Professor Randall Hansen, Head of Research at the Joint Initiative in German and European Studies (JIGES) at the University of Toronto

“You can definitely say that Germany is perceived positively in Canada. Chancellor Merkel is considered sensible and competent. As in other countries, however, anti-immigration rights hold it responsible for the refugee crisis of 2015 and the challenges it posed. However, this group of critics is smaller in Canada than in most countries.

The EU is also respected: despite Canada's historic ties with the UK, no popular commentator considers Britain's decision to leave the EU a wise one. It is doubtful that all Canadians can explain the differences between the European Commission, the European Council and the European Court of Justice. But the EU is linked to free trade - and Canadians have traditionally been trade-friendly. For example, the European-Canadian free trade agreement CETA was strongly supported, also by left-wing newspapers. The EU is associated with the economic boom after the Second World War - and with the fact that a war between its member states seems unthinkable. As elsewhere, this view tends to be found among the older population, while young Canadians - as well as young Europeans - take peace for granted. "



Professor Yuichi Morii, Director of the Center for German and European Studies (DESK) at the University of Tokyo

“The long-awaited free trade agreement and the strategic partnership agreement between Japan and the EU will come into force in 2019. This further deepens economic and political relationships. In a world that has become unstable due to unilateralism, partners with shared values ​​such as democracy, free trade and a rule-based world order are essential. The agreements consolidate the partnership. As one of the larger member states of the EU, Germany plays a key role in this. But the strengthened relationships also require a solid social and human basis: They are underpinned by the long tradition of scientific and cultural exchange between Japan and Germany. The universities should contribute more intensively to the training of the younger generations so that they can maintain and develop relationships in the future. "



Professor Gili S. Drori, Director of the Center for German Studies (CGS) at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem

“Israelis had and still have an ambivalent attitude towards Germany: in view of the Shoah, but also as a result of the reparations agreement concluded in 1952 as the first official declaration of Germany's responsibility for the Shoah and a sign of willingness to work together nonetheless. Even today, Germany is met in Israel with both boycotts and partnerships, with rejection and closeness, with distrust and admiration. In 2015, several surveys showed that around 70 percent of Israelis see Germany positively. Tens of thousands of Israelis live in Berlin today, and for a few years now they have also been one of the largest tourist groups in the German capital. This new longing for Germany, especially the enthusiasm for Berlin, is associated in Israel with the protest movement from 2011 against the rising cost of living in their own country - and with the continued dominance of right-wing politicians since then. Seen in this way, there is a connection between the new attraction of Germany and the discontent in Israel.

Nonetheless, the following still applies: The ambivalence that is fundamental to German-Israeli relations remains, be it when looking at Germany's economic strength and its role in European politics or in view of its migration and social policy. "



Professor Christophe Duhamelle, Director of the Center interdisciplinaire d’études et de recherches sur l’Allemagne (CIERA) in Paris

“The attitude towards Europe and Germany is more divided than ever in France. This also reflects the diverse social, geographic and economic divisions in French society that separate the losers and winners of both globalization and the decade since the 2008 financial crisis. The political front positions are no longer as clear (and the “Merkel fixation” of the debate no longer as strong) as they were before. However, the situation also leads the advocates of closer European integration and increased Franco-German cooperation to no longer take what has been achieved for granted, but to fight again for it. "



Professor Huang Liaoyu, Director of the Center for German Studies (ZDS) at Peking University

“The EU is confronted with problems such as disintegration tendencies, the refugee crisis and the gap on the one hand between the 'rich north' and the 'poor south' and on the other hand between old and new member states. In addition, a united Europe and a strong euro are not necessarily in the interests of the US. Trump has already stated: “The European Union is an enemy.” But it is currently not the EU, but China, which is said to fall into the Thucydides trap with the USA like Germany did with England about 100 years ago.

Germany has the greatest interest in the Europe project and has both the will to power and the leadership skills. With a Europe led by Germany, China would get along well. Germany just has to avoid appearing as a hegemon in Europe for known reasons. Of course, it is conceivable that together with France it forms a kind of dual monarchy in which France takes on the role of the honorary king. "


Gerardo Lazzari

Professor Claudia Lima Marques, Director of the Centro de Estudos Alemães e Europeus (CDEA) in Porto Alegre

“The Brazilians admire the Germans for their organizational skills and discipline, their planning and order. In addition, Germany is seen as a 'brother country', as many people of German origin live in Brazil and there are intensive trade relations between the two countries - not only in good times, but also in times of crisis. Germany and the Germans are considered good friends. The Brazilians are well aware of the dark past of the National Socialist dictatorship in Germany, but they also admire the way this past is dealt with and the German culture of remembrance.

And Europe? Europe represents the main values ​​of our civilization. A continent of culture and science. In addition, the European Union is a model of cultural and economic integration. "