20th Karlsruhe Dialogues – Abstracts
Given the major differences between individual regions, any expansion of the European Union would seem to be purely utopian. Rather, the issue is much more about holding together that which currently exists, which not least requires even-handed social policies and joint relieving of unemployment. The second agenda refers to those European countries – which Putin’s regime, however, considers to be within the Russian sphere of influence – whose democratic development and internal autonomy needs to be encouraged through economic and cultural contacts. The third task, which has recently become tragically topical, is the humane and rational handling of the issue of refugees, which is currently putting excessive strain on the southern European states.
Dr. Asiem El Difraoui
Daesh¹, as the pseudo-Islamic State should more accurately be called, is inundating us with images of terror. Our media are all too eager to report on the newest horror. Most European citizens only receive images of the miseries of the influx of refugees and the horror of conflicts from our southern Mediterranean neighbours. What are the consequences of this? What can we do, and what must we do?
¹Daesh: This acronym evokes other Arabic terms that stand for “sowing discord” or “crushing”. It is intended to consciously counter the positive connotation of the organisation’s own self-description and to avoid a direct association with Islam.
Prof. Dr. Anthony Glees
Those who think about Germany today usually do so in one of two contradictory ways.
Some see in the Federal Republic a nation that has learned from its terrible past and promotes stability, prosperity, lawfulness, and tolerance not only within Germany, but seeks – using its undoubted economic and political muscle – to do precisely the same within the European Union and even beyond. This Germany has become a ‘force for good in the EU and the world’.
Others, however, believe that whatever may be happening to Germans within Germany, Germany’s European ambitions are in reality no more than a camouflage concealing Germany’s hard political and economic self-interest. They also have the effect (quite unwanted by Germany and every other European country) of destabilising and subverting the stability, prosperity, lawfulness, and propensity for tolerance of its European partners and perhaps of itself.
For some, through its powerlessness, Germany is able to demonstrate beyond doubt that it is absolutely not a ‘Fourth Reich’. But for others, the same unwillingness to even hint at the use of hard power makes Europe not more safe and secure, but less so.
The very things that make Germany strong also make it different from other EU states. It is a model of economic success, it has a balanced budget and low unemployment, and it is a political success as well, run by a grand coalition of centre-right and centre-left (who would be at each other’s throats in other countries) – there are virtually no truly oppositional parties. Consensus truly rules.
Germany’s partners look, increasingly, unlike Germany. They are also clearly incapable of following the German road to success, even if they wanted to.
I do not believe that Germany today is, or wants to be, a ‘Fourth Reich’. I also think that Germany does not want to coerce its European partners to follow its path, but merely to encourage them to do so. In my view ‘the German problem’ (and there is a German problem) comes not from any assertiveness but, strangely, from its opposite. Germany is not a ‘hegemon’ nor even a ‘semi-hegemon’. It is not the presence of hard power that hallmarks the Federal Republic today, but its absence.
Paradoxically, the lack of active assertiveness, Germany’s seeming passivity, has today become aggressive. Just as Germany’s economic strength illuminates the dismal weaknesses in its neighbours’ economies, its passive strength permits Germany to project its will onto Europe by example and emotional and moral force.
It is how to address this passive aggression on Germany’s part that is the challenge to everyone presented by Germany’s European ambitions. The 70 years of peace and prosperity have today produced a German consensus around specific values.
The pull of consensus has blunted the sharpness of the German political mind, allowing today an irresponsible irrationality to triumph in some important if detailed policy areas. That is why I have termed Germany today a ‘Hippie State’.
German politics is ruled by emotional responses in other areas. Examples are the policy on nuclear energy, the refusal to address the causes of the Euro crisis, and the irresponsible approach to intelligence-led security activity.
Increasingly, then, we have seen Germany behaving in an irrational, unpredictable manner. Germany no longer balks at breaking the rules. That is a big worry. To date the EU is not a German empire, but without fundamental reform in Europe and in Germany it could easily end up that way.
Dr. Ulrike Guérot
Europe is losing its space. Rural areas across Europe are disconnected from central infrastructure and are also experiencing a truly dramatic decrease in their number of residents. They are – and not only in Europe, by the way – the real losers of globalisation (in the USA the areas are called ‘overfly country’), even if this is, of course, not true across the board (several regions in Bavaria, Catalonia, or in Emilia-Romagna, for example, are exceptions). Today’s social crisis is nevertheless a ‘rural’ crisis to a not insignificant degree. Furthermore, a certain positive correlation between less developed regions and the populist vote in elections can be demonstrated. Depopulation and urban sprawl thus have implications for the post-economic situation in Europe, which is currently acutely weakening democracy. This can be seen very clearly in France, where there is a conspicuous correlation between less developed regions, unemployment, and votes for the Front National. But this also applies to the Austrian FPÖ or the British UKIP. The first question that arises with regard to economics is whether the current structural policy of the EU, which is essentially founded on the two principles of market and consumer drives, is sensible in regions where neither is present. The second question that arises is how the regions, within the political system of the EU – or that of a Europe with other democratic structures – could be enhanced on the one hand in such a way that their political interests are better represented, and on the other hand in such a way that allows the rural regions to become the central carriers of consistently sustainable development and the bearers of a post-growth-driven society.
Prof. Dr. Ireneusz Paweł Karolewski
Since around 2010, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has witnessed undemocratic trends and sometimes even a regression to dictatorship, in particular in Hungary since 2010 and in Poland since 2015. As a solution, political pressure from the European Union is often applied, from the possibility of sanctions all the way to that of a loss of votes in the EU Council. In January 2015, for the first time in the history of the EU, the European Commission initiated proceedings to assess the rule of law in Poland. This presentation first examines the structural causes of Poland’s ‘shift to the right’ which are identified in particular in the specific transformation of capitalism in CEE. The presentation then considers the features of the Polish political spectrum after the elections in 2015, and also discusses possible future developments in CEE, in particular in economic and foreign policy. In both policy fields there are several controversies concerning Poland’s relations with other countries. In addition to this, the presentation delves into the question of what consequences the developments in CEE will have for the European Union, in particular with regard to possible disintegration processes in Europe. The presentation contends that after the transformation of capitalism in CEE, weak institutionalism on the part of the EU represents the second serious challenge for Europe today.
Economically weak and politically divided, the European Union faces a series of crises which threaten to overwhelm it. The eurozone’s economy remains hamstrung by huge debts, zombie banks, and high unemployment, as well as poor productivity growth and dismal demography. Greece’s membership in the monetary union and, indeed, its long-term survival are still in question. EU leaders are at each other’s throats over economic policy, refugees, and much else. Politics is increasingly fractious and fragmented, with both the far left and the far right capitalising from economic misery, a loss of faith in mainstream politicians, and – in the case of the far right – fears about immigration and security too. Border controls are being reimposed within the supposedly border-free Schengen area, as the EU struggles to cope with the arrival of around a million unwanted refugees and migrants last year. Europe is also threatened by Islamist terrorism and an aggressive Russia. Against this inauspicious backdrop, Britain is expected to hold a referendum on whether to leave the EU this year. A ‘Brexit’ could also lead to Scotland leaving the UK, thereby bolstering Catalonia’s demands for independence from Spain, and a further unravelling of the EU. Can the EU be saved? If so, how?
Prof. Dr. Johannes W. Pichler
The idea of wanting to increase the legitimacy of the European Union through the integration of the EU citizenry has, since the Treaty of Lisbon, given the Union considerable potential for EU-wide citizen participation: horizontal civil dialogue, vertical civil dialogue, consultation procedures, European citizens’ initiatives, value dialogue. The Union Treaty’s promises in this regard alone have so far been inadequately fulfilled. One of the main reasons for this: the ‘Brussels’ apparatus is not (yet) living in the spirit of Lisbon.
All too late? It almost looks like it. But this does not have to be the case. In 2015 the EU Commission appointed a ‘Special Adviser to the President of the EU Commission on the Outreach towards Citizens’. This official has until spring 2016 to submit a remedy report on how the citizenry can be brought closer to the Union. (The speaker belongs to the seven-member Expert Advisory Group of the Special Adviser.)
In any case, any ‘centralist’ handling will not be possible. Only if the sub-levels of the Union engage highly actively ‘from the bottom up’ in this integration effort, and only if they do so in a concentrated manner and on all political levels – states, regions, provinces, municipalities, and associations (multilevel governance) – will citizen participation no longer be a mere desideratum, and only then can one hope for compressed attribution of legitimacy.
Over the past few months, large parts of the population of Saxony have become conspicuously politicized, and are clearly expressing themselves. A strong rejection of the social and political system can be observed among these people.
This rejection is accompanied by:
- a deep-seated mistrust of functionaries, or rather of the functionary elite, on the one hand, with “the politicians” and “the media” in particular being named;
- a weak inclination and capacity to publicly defend the system and the functionaries on the other hand.
This rejection is also accompanied by:
- an inadequate understanding of the functioning of our societal and political system;
- a feeling of being dominated by foreign influences on account of the overwhelming proportion of functionary elites coming from West Germany (in the domains of politics, administration, economics, media, culture);
- a willingness to express this rejection, mistrust, and displeasure in strongly emotional terms on the streets and on social networks. (“We’ve got to show the ones up there.” “We need to set an example.”)
This presentation will examine this rejection and its causes.
Dr. Haig Simonian
The outlook for Europe in 2016 is almost unreservedly bleak – making good copy for journalists, but causing EU leaders major headaches. Familiar political and economic challenges will remain – and possibly worsen. Their polarising impact was already evident in 2015, and the likely deterioration this year will make it much more difficult to reach compromises and solutions.
Uncertainties about the ability of the Greek government to meet the terms of its rescue package and about Britain’s future in the EU are already built into the agenda. Potentially even more ominous is the divisive impact of another wave of refugees and asylum seekers. And that excludes the unforeseen ...
The only (slightly) positive note is that recent economic, political, and especially humanitarian challenges have led to some erosion of ‘political correctness’ and a greater readiness to confront former taboos. While core European values of freedom of expression and humanitarian aid must be defended, the greater realism now becoming evident may allow a more honest dialogue. Recognising that European integration – and enlargement – may have moved somewhat too fast for many EU citizens (explaining the rise of populist movements of both Left and Right) may prompt a more sober and realistic debate about what Europe stands for and where it should be headed.
Jordi Solé i Ferrando
The EU is facing huge challenges, amongst them the worrying rise of nationalist parties all across the continent, proposing a return to closed borders and dismantling some of the EU’s most important accomplishments like the free movement of people – if not dismantling the EU as a whole. At the same time, however, some stateless nations within EU borders, by trying with strictly democratic means to become new states of the international community, are claiming a more direct and active role in the European integration process. Those movements, such as the Catalan one, in contrast to other inward-looking, old-fashioned movements, defend an open concept of citizenship and show a clear commitment to the founding principles of the European Union. Thus, EU representatives should not regard their claims – independence by democracy and within the EU – as selfish nationalist rhetoric, but as an opportunity to strengthen a pluralistic and advanced concept of European integration and identity.
The people of Turkey are constantly zigzagging between ‘playing dead’ in order to survive the oppression, and between bursting out with the most extraordinary protestation in the most unpredictable moment. Meanwhile the world population is like an anxious cameraman, only directing their looks to Turkey whenever the insanity becomes clearly visible, but not before. For people following the news, there is never the time nor the place to witness the flood that brings the mud, i.e. to witness the events that precede the insanity. The insanity of today’s Turkey goes back a long way, but the madness (or ‘runny mud’) never pauses, not giving us a chance to grasp its historical roots. That is why we need a condensed version of the story; a story that tells the mother of all reason; a narrative to reveal the soul of the country, which caused all the insanity in the first place.