Events - 04.05.2012 - 00:00 

Plea for a strong Europe

The former German Finance Minister and the Social Democrat’s contender for the office of Chancellor, Peer Steinbrück, spoke about Germany’s role in Europe at the St. Gallen Symposium.


4 May 2012. Germany thrives when her neighbours thrive, said Peer Steinbrück. The German economy was greatly dependent on exports, and two thirds of these ended up in Europe. This was one of the reasons why Germany could not be interested in busting the monetary union of the euro. He wanted to know even less about a political dissolution of the EU.

He placed this in an historical context. The present generations in Germany were living under “privileged exceptional conditions”, said Steinbrück, and this was also true for many other parts of Europe. There had never been such a long period of peace and prosperity since the Thirty Years’ War. “This is not a matter of course” – and must largely be ascribed to European integration since the Second World War.

“A madly convincing project”

Peer Steinbrück did not only focus on Germany’s role in Europe, however, but also and primarily on Europe as a community – “a madly convincing project”. In this connection, Steinbrück enumerated the advantages of a common Europe from economic power to cultural diversity. According to Steinbrück, there were two acute problems in this project, namely the democratisation of the European institutions, which had to be driven forward, and youth unemployment, particularly in the South European countries, which contain a high degree of conflict potential.

“Führerschaft” and leadership

Steinbrück also said that it was an encumbrance for Germany to have to be partially responsible for the First World War and completely responsible for the Second World War and the holocaust. The German term “Führerschaft” was historically charged in the German context. This is why Germany needed partners in the European leadership, for if Germany were too strong and dominant at the helm of Europe, this would result in scepticism in many countries, because the collective memory would come into play.

Photo: Hannes Thalmann

Discover our special topics