“Europe needs clear political leadership“

Will Germany and France give new impetus to the renewal of the EU? That's what expert Henrik Enderlein thinks.

Partners for Europe: Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.
Partners for Europe: Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. dpa

Germany. Henrik Enderlein teaches political economy at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin and is the director of the think tank Jacques Delors Institute. Back in 2011, Jacques Delors and Helmut Schmidt commissioned the authority on German-French relations to coordinate the study “Notre Europe” on the future of the euro area. Most recently, he has advised Emmanuel Macron on European issues. Four questions about German-French relations and the future of Europe.

Professor Henrik Enderlein.
Professor Henrik Enderlein. Dirk Bleicker

Professor Enderlein, Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel travelled to Paris immediately after the new government was formed. Will there now be a fresh impetus in German-French relations and the renewal of the European Union?
It is an important tradition between Germany and France to pay a visit immediately after forming a government. The EU has always developed further when Germany and France have courageously advanced together. Red carpet friendship, however, isn’t enough, so long as there are red lines behind closed doors. That's why I'm delighted when Germany and France now come together in terms of content. The readiness of the new federal government to do this is confirmed in the coalition agreement. I’m sure that not only Chancellor Merkel, but also the ministers most important for Europe, such as Foreign Minister Maas, Minister of Economics Altmaier, Finance Minister Scholz and Defence Minister von der Leyen, will always put Europe at the top of the agenda.

French President Macron has made specific proposals for “re-founding” the EU. How do you assess these? And what should Germany contribute?
In President Macron's Sorbonne speech, I was impressed by the combination of visionary elements and specific proposals. Former European Commission President Jacques Delors once said that great Europeans need a vision and a screwdriver. President Macron has taken this motif to heart. Many of his suggestions are excellent in my opinion. But they are formulated from a French perspective. For Germany, it’s now about designing its own approaches. Then real negotiations can begin. Important in Macron's speech was the remark that he knew no red lines, only horizons. This is above all a significant offer of talks. I’m counting on the new federal government to enter the talks with a similar open-mindedness.

The European Union is the perfect link between the nation state and globalization.

Henrik Enderlein, Director of the think tank the Jacques Delors Institute

The German philosopher Jürgen Habermas spoke in 2017 of a “lacking political willingness to act”. This “especially in view of the problems that could be solved only jointly at the European level”. Do you see the willingness to act given now?
How great the political readiness to act is must be decided by the federal government. Many stages in the European integration process of the past decades have shown that clear political leadership with the aim of strengthening Europe can be very successful. European politics is the architect of its own fortune. Anyone who merely runs after the notorious sceptics will at some point put Europe at risk. Great Britain must be a lesson to us in this regard.

The first pages of the coalition agreement of the federal government already state that Europe must take its fate into its own hands. How do you see Europe's role in the shifting global balance of power?
First of all, national politics must take the fate of Europe back into its own hands. Europe is part of the solution, not part of the problem. Fewer and fewer challenges can be solved nationally. At the same time, we all feel that there are imbalances at a global level, because it is difficult to shape globalization politically. The European Union is the perfect link between the nation state and globalization. With the regional concept, we solve challenges which many nation states would fail to solve on their own - whether concerning digitization, climate change or currency stability. Europe is increasingly becoming the reference for a politics that goes beyond the nation state. And that's a good thing.

Interview: Martin Orth

Interview series: Talking about Europe

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