23rd Karlsruhe Dialogues - Speakers

Youth for Europe! – Active Commitment and Responsibility


Tobias Uelpenich


Tobias Uelpenich, born in Bergisch Gladbach in 1995, undertook a Voluntary Year of Social Service in a primary school in 2014 following his Abitur (higher education entrance qualification). In 2015 he began studying Social Sciences at the University of Cologne, where he will graduate in early 2019. Besides his studies he has been active for years as a trainer and functionary in the sport of table tennis, where he puts his focus on nurturing and supporting young players. Ever since his time at school he has been closely following current political events. He then put this political interest into practice in 2018. Together with thirty fellow campaigners he founded the pro-European party Young European Spirit (!YES) in Düsseldorf on 24 October 2018. The idea for founding this party arose among friends when they considered the political map of Europe. They realised that Europe is in a crisis, in response to which they developed an idea for the content and structure of a pro-European party as a counterbalance to populism and anti-European movements. This was followed by a transitional period as a campaign group in which they already bore the name !YES and in which they verified the need for and acceptance of their idea. Since the feedback turned out to be extremely positive, they pushed ahead with the founding of the party and the development of an initial party manifesto. The resolution regarding the basic programme was issued parallel to the founding of the party on 24 October 2018. In December 2018 !YES issued its electoral list and since then has been busy collecting supporter signatures in order to pass the last hurdle for admission to the 2019 European elections.



1. In your opinion, what aspects of collective life (economy, politics, society) are affected the most by a lack of taking on responsibility?

One can see a general lack of willingness to accept responsibility as well as a lack of will to shape affairs, which directly affects various areas of society. However, the interdependence of the subsidiary areas makes it hard to clearly establish which area is most strongly affected. The diesel emissions scandal, the party donations affair, the lack of citizen participation: one can see a failure to accept responsibility wherever one looks – it is a phenomenon all across society that can only be remedied if the lead is taken by people who are willing and able to take on responsibility. Always bearing in mind: it is only those who take on responsibility who can shape affairs!


2. Do you see a continuing trend that democratic majorities increasingly often vote against our values of a tolerant society? If so, how does one respond to it?

I don’t think that there is a trend to vote down the values of a tolerant society. There is indeed a trend in many countries towards stronger political fringes, in most countries mainly towards the extreme right, but this does certainly not mean that people are voting against the values of a tolerant society. Instead, the tendencies we are now seeing indicate rather that the established parties are unable to satisfy people and to allay their fears. But this definitely does not mean that society as a whole is becoming more intolerant. The present tendencies should instead be seen as a wake-up call from the people to the parties of the middle ground: in times of uncertainty and new kinds of crisis, people want clear language, clear statements and a clear profile. Irrespective of the content, this is something offered by the parties of the political fringes. Insofar as the parties of the middle ground once again become able to meet the need for clear statements and a sharply defined profile, the fringes will once again become weaker – without needing to call into question the values of a tolerant society.


3. In your view, what circumstances preclude the assumption of responsibility? Is the main reason to be found in a loss of seemingly secure values, norms and regulations?

It is not so much the loss of values that prevents people from taking responsibility, but rather the prioritisation of taking responsibility in comparison to other needs. People can only take on responsibility for society after they have taken on responsibility for themselves and their families. In increasingly fast-moving times, marked by constant reachability and availability, other issues are given more attention. These include the compatibility of family and work, as well as satisfying one’s own needs which, as possibilities and spheres of action become ever greater, seem to be increasingly heterogeneous. Standard of living in general terms is also a factor as to whether one takes on responsibility. People who seem to have been forgotten by society often do not have the resources for taking on responsibility and the faith that they are able to make a difference. Consequently, there are often only two groups of people who are prepared to take on responsibility: people who have already satisfied their own needs and are aware that responsibility needs to be taken, and people who are so dissatisfied with the status quo that the wish for change and taking on responsibility becomes their own main need. In my opinion, these aspects are far more relevant in practical terms than any loss of values and norms.


4. Where does the responsibility of science with regard to the impacts of its research start and where does it end (e.g. ‘gene manipulation of embryos in China or ‘research in artificial intelligence’)?

Science is of key significance to our society. It generates new insights, ideas and technologies and is thus a driver of progress. Science could gain a comparable significance with regard to taking on responsibility. In a responsible society, science must lead by example and constantly observe the principle of responsibility or the effects of research on society. Here it is difficult to find a good balance between generating new insights and observing moral principles. Indeed, there is no clear answer to the question of what research should be permitted to do and what not. This is what makes the discourse about ethical boundaries and responsible research so important. Hence, in my opinion one cannot say how far responsibility for science should extend. Because ultimately science should also take responsibility for its own research.