On February 24th, the PDU together with the Hanns Seidel Stiftung hosted an event featuring esteemed German political scientist, Werner Weidenfeld and Irish historian and PDU President, Brendan Simms as part of the Hanns Seidel Stiftung’s Visions for Europe series.
The event was held at the Hanns Seidel Stiftung in Munich and was moderated by German politician and former member of the European Parliament, Gabriele Stauner. The discussion focused on Europe as a goal with themes of how to conceptualize the European Union.
Much of the conversation and debate surrounded the question of whether the European Union would be transformed by small steps towards unity or rather through a big leap. Simms began the event with a presentation of European History with a focus on the German role and the German question. Simms argues that Germany has always been either too strong or too weak and emphasizes the need for Europe to both embed and empower Germany. Rather than harnessing Europe’s potential, the current Union, constructed in similar fashion as the old Holy Roman Empire, leads to the diffusion of power. German principles of compromise and legal procedure were uploaded to the European system and essentially rendered it powerless. However, since 2010, Germany’s structural power to influence European politics has increased and the European Union project in its current form has failed. Simms finished the talk stating that strong states are created by big bang events and Europe’s big bang must be a constitutional convention establishing a federal, democratic state.
Professor Weidenfeld expressed his skepticism regarding the use of the German question as a model to reduce the complexities of European history to a matter of geostrategy. Unfortunately the largest debate of the evening surrounded Britain’s role in the European Union and the possibility of a “Brexit”. Weidenfeld reasoned that Great Britain had never played a big role in the process of integration. However, Weidenfeld argued that with increasing security threats, Great Britain could play an increasingly important role. Simms clarified that Great Britain as it exists today is not a model for Europe. The Anglo-American constitutional model, however, for all its faults that need not be repeated, is best suited as a model for a Eurozone state.
Regarding the chances of our Project’s success, Weidenfeld stated, “I predicted the fall of the Berlin wall. Now I predict political union”. He also argued that we are right in the middle of a shift towards European statehood specifically emphasizing that the EU has gained massively in influence in recent years. Moderator Dr. Gabriele Stauner also agreed “we are on the way towards political union”. At the conclusion of the event one thing was clear; the speakers agreed that there is a shift and movement towards political union. There was, however no agreement regarding the manner in which this shift will take place and what will be the direct cause.