Europe’s youth must stand up against populists

Now it has also reached Germany. The fact that a right-wing populist party, the AfD in Germany moves into the Bundestag with official provisional results of 12, 6% is another warning for Europe. Everywhere in Europe, tendencies to close the borders, return to the nation state and abolish a common currency can be seen. The leaders in Europe have been warned sufficiently to take populists seriously and to do everything to ensure that Europe remains a one-of-a-kind entity. Europe’s youth in particular is called upon to take a stand against all positions of populists and clearly choose a free Europe without borders. We do not want to lose all the advantages that Europe has given us in the last 50 years and return to nation-states. We want to continue to be able to travel freely within the EU, pay in a common currency and be able to communicate with all people. Our goal is to maintain a free Europe and to give all people equal opportunities. That is why we launched the initiative European Youth Marathon with the slogan ‘I’m a part of Europe’. Join us and fight for the unity of a free Europe.


About the Author:

Prof. Dr. Manfred Pohl is CEO and founder of My Europe 2100 e.V.. Additionally, he is founder of the future think tank Frankfurter Zukunftsrat, founder and Deputy Chairman of the European Association for Banking and Financial History (EABH) as well as of the Institute for Corporate Cultural Affairs. In 2011 he was awarded with the Verdienstkreuz 1. Klasse of the Federal Republic Germany for his charitable commitment in the European banking and financial sector. Read more… 


From Syria to Germany: The story of 25 year-old Mohammed

path-892947_1920My name is Mohammed. I am Palestinian. I am 25 years old. I was born in Attal, Damascus, Syria. I went to Lebanon to continue my studies as a nurse and graduated in 2007. Then I started working from 2010 until 2015. I decided to leave Lebanon because of the war and the bad and worse treatment and because of the absence of peace and safety in our country. Our frightful journey started when we left Lebanon. We traveled to Turkey by Air using one way ticket. From Turkey we moved to Greece by sea facing the dangers of the wild sea. We stayed standing on foot for seven hours outdoors suffering cold and bad weather conditions. It was raining heavily when we moved to the camp in Macedonia where the authority put us in trains and transferred us to Serbia. There we also had to walk on foot for three hours until we reached Hungary. We also crossed the distance from Austria on foot. Finally we reached Germany in September 2015 and I am still here. I speak Arabic and English and started to learn German. I am still struggling with the accent of some of the letters. But sooner or later we’ll be able to deal with the language. So far, I did not find it difficult to meet Germans. They welcomed us with sympathy, love and warmth. They felt with our suffering and our state. It is something interesting, nice and wonderful to deal and interact with Germans from the region where I am currently staying. It shows equality and cultural interactions between citizens, refugees, tourists and every person in Germany. In Frankfurt I went to an event where refugees and Germans met to cook and eat together. It was nice to learn about the traditions of this country: how the citizens offer food and the traditional way of offering food. It is interesting to see how different countries have different specialties. All these social and traditional ways of cooking and interaction among people enrich and build friendship among them. All this may help refugees to interact and get acquainted with the traditional, educational and social traditions in Germany. It is an organization that shapes the opinion of refugees about Germany. It is important to deal with people from all around the world. If you don’t know their language, you will not be able to interact and understand their words. I have attended the cooking event twice and was so happy to make new friends and learn about their social and cultural tradition. And I wish to join and share any similar festivals or activities. I would also like to tell others about my culture and contribute to society and offer my duties and activities, to make myself proud, show that I am a good person and leave a good impression in Germany.

mo - KopieAbout the author:

Mohammed is a 25-year old Palestinian who was born in Syria and now lives in Germany. More…

The Referendum

An empty conference room, Spotlight Europe
What would happen if Germany were to leave the EU? (Flickr: under CC BY-SA 2.0)

On 3 March 2030 a referendum will be held in Germany on its permanence in or exit from the European Union. As in the UK, where the “no” narrowly won in 2017, the German people will determine its own future directly, since the referendum’s result will be binding.

This referendum was proposed by “Alternative für Deutschland (AfD)”, the Eurosceptic party, which steadily continued to grow since its creation in 2013. If the AfD’s Euroscepticism was initially a soft one, the party gradually became more hardline as regards the EU.

After winning seven seats at the 2014 European Parliament elections, the AfD’s members elected Bernd Lucke as sole leader (as opposed to three beforehand) at the end of 2015. In 2017 the party entered the Bundestag for the first time with 9% of the vote. In 2021 it became the 2nd largest party behind the SPD, which gained an absolute majority. In 2025 the AfD formed a coalition government with the CDU/CSU (it fell 23 seats short of the total required for a majority). In 2029 it was finally able to govern alone.

How was this growth in popularity possible? The main reason was that the German voters became fed up with having to pay for successive bailouts of other Eurozone members. They can no longer tolerate that countries such as Portugal and Spain profit from their strong economy. Germany is also tired of being a net contributor to the EU budget.

More and more German citizens thus turned to the Eurosceptic party, which satisfied its expectations. This constant electoral progress can also be explained by the fact that German voters lost confidence in the CDU/CSU and in the SPD. These parties were not seen as proposing concrete measures or reforms.

When Greece exited the Eurozone at the end of 2015, people realized that Germany had lost a great amount of money. From 2016 to 2027 the standard of living fell because Germany had to prop up amongst others the French and Italian economies, which were threatening to crumble.

The arrival of new Member Sates (Albania, Montenegro and Serbia) meant that Germany’s economy and finances had to assume an even greater burden as Europe’s powerhouse. This was further aggravated by Germany having to take the main responsibility in assisting the recovery of the Ukrainian economy.

Originally the AfD’s goal was not exiting the EU. Under the leadership of Bernd Lucke the main objective was to have greater autonomy for Germany whilst remaining in the Union. However in 2023 Bernd Lucke had to resign for health reasons and Frauke Petry took over. Her positions were more radical. She came up with the idea of a referendum on the EU and managed to force a constitutional amendment legally allowing the holding of referenda in Germany.

Given the high number of undecided voters the result is too close to call. The no supporters recall the 2nd world war and point out that Germany’s contribution to the EU budget has already decreased considerably. They also note that many businesses and jobs depend on being in the EU and that Germany has a bigger influence in world affairs as part of that union. The yes proponents respond that world war two started almost a century ago and that Germany’s debt to history has already been paid. They further claim that the living standard is still too low and Germany needs to use its money as it sees fit in order to address its own internal problems.

What would be the consequences for the EU should the “yes” win? Without its main economy the EU would be in grave danger of disintegrating. Eurosceptic parties would have finally achieved their objective. This would mean an economic invasion of some weak countries by China. In the worst scenario, Russia, having already annexed the Crimea and the Donbass area, could be tempted to try to further enlarge its territory.

To conclude, if a disastrous situation is to be avoided, countries which are net beneficiaries in the EU should adopt a more responsible behavior but the richest countries should not abandon solidarity towards the others completely. A system where a more productive minority carries the whole group is ultimately destined to fail.

About the author:
Tomas Rocha, Spotlight Europe
Tomas – Author at Spotlight Europe

Tomas (17) participated at our “My Europe” workshop in Brussels in February 2015. He is a student at Collège Saint-Michel.

Germany vs. Europe?

Prof. Dr. Manfred Pohl (Remix by Spotlight Europe)
Is Germany playing with the future of the European Union? (Picture: Remix by Spotlight Europe)

During the last months it appeared as if Germany’s image that was tediously reestablished 70 years after the end of the Second World War, is in the process of deterioration in large parts of Europe. However German politicians still believe that they are doing everything right. It becomes apparent in the way in which they are dealing with the crisis in Ukraine and Greece but also in the manner in which they appear towards other states and give advice.

Now, one eventually wonders how can it be that the Germans are perceived as arrogant, dogmatic technocratic and stubborn. What are the reasons in the end?

“Economic power helped Germany to its outstanding position”

One aspect for sure is that the economic power helped Germany to its outstanding position at Europe’s front. Germany is believed to be rich. Many people hold the belief that its wealth and economic influence has not only been gained by effort alone but also by beneficial historic constellations after the Second World War. The swift provisions of its war debts may have played a crucial role as well as the launch of the Marshall Plan that pumped money into Germany’s base material industries and into its medium-sized enterprises.

It is not decisive at all of whether or not Greece has met the financial criteria for accessing the monetary union at that time. It is a fact that Europe needs to stand together now and that the Euro is an identity-forming currency that will leave its stamp on our future in the world.

Germany has to wake up to its current image and has to discard its self-inflicted leading position in Europe, otherwise it will risk its future, the future of the European Union, the Euro and especially the future of generations to come.

“oderint dum metuant”

The Roman saying “oderint dum metuant” – may they hate me if only they do fear me – by Lucius Accius cannot be Germany’s maxim for the future. It does not mean however that Germany should start to back down in everything. Neither does it mean that it should let itself be blackmailed by its Nazi past. Put plainly it means that the Germans should for a start show more humility and understanding towards people living in other countries.

How do you see this?

About the author:

MP1Prof. Dr. Manfred Pohl is the Founder and Chairman of Frankfurter Zukunftsrat, the think tank that organises “My Europe”. more…