Denk ich an Deutschland Berlin, December 1, 2017

“This is Europe’s hour: what Germany has to tackle now.”

9th Denk ich an Deutschland conference

2017 has been a particularly challenging year for Europe. Some commentators were speaking about a fateful year even prior to the elections in the Netherlands and France. Had the European Union peace project become obsolete after 60 years? Today we know that Europe is alive but crises have altered it. Besides anger and disillusionment with bureaucrats in Brussels, enthusiasm has also been spreading: people in around 120 cities took to the streets waving blue flags to demonstrate their support for the European project.

This is Europe’s hour: what does Germany have to tackle now? Politicians and representatives from the world of politics, economy, science, civil society and culture spent a day discussing this at the ninth Denk ich an Deutschland (When I think of Germany) conference.

The day started with three very different, yet equally passionate pro-European contributions by Christian Lindner (Free Democratic Party - FDP), Hanno Burmester (Das Progressive Zentrum) and Daniel Röder (Pulse of Europe). In his speech, Lindner referred to a historic opportunity: “Europe must not miss out on this rendezvous with history for a second time,” he said about Emmanuel Macron’s proposal for a European Defence Union, which France had previously rejected.

A panel hosted by Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) including Tanja Börzel (Free University Berlin), Ulrike Guérot (University of Krems), Zsuzsanna Szelényi (Hungarian National Assembly) and Paul Ziemiak (youth wing of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union party – CDU) discussed “Demolish, modify or refurbish – what kind of Europe are we building?” Guérot made the case for “two key terms for Europe's continued development: division of powers and parliamentisation, and not the transfer of competence.” Szelényi referred to the major changes within the EU since its enlargement in 2004 and underlined the fact that acceptance continues to be high in eastern European countries.

Anna Herrhausen (Executive Director, Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft) had already commended Europe's powerful appeal in her welcoming address that morning. The afternoon’s events picked up on in this topic. Stimuli provided by Anne Kjaer Riechert (ReDi School of Digital Integration) and Cem Özdemir (BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN) opened up a variety of standpoints and approaches to migration and integration. How Europe and Germany can and must take on responsibility became the central issue in the debate between Naika Foroutan (Humboldt University, Berlin), Norbert Röttgen (CDU), Volker Westerbarkey (Doctors without Borders) and Özdemir. “What can be done to help the people detained in camps in Libya? I refuse to take part in any discourse that diverts attention away from this issue,” said Westerbarkey. Foroutan explained how migration issues are used as a narrative of political power.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem (Eurogroup) started off the second panel discussion entitled “Homebuilding with consequences – loans are expiring”. On the role of Germany, he commented: “Germany was strongly criticised during the euro crisis. On the other hand, solidarity played a major role. Every future government in Germany will play a key role in the development of Europe.” He then went on to discuss economic prospects for Europe together with Markus Krall (goetzpartners), Carsten Schneider (Social Democratic Party of Germany - SPD) and Jens Spahn (CDU). In the subsequent discussion, Donata Hopfen (verimi) and Philipp Justus (Google Deutschland) also addressed these prospects and compared them with the situation in the US and China.

“Tyll” and peace – what can the Europe of today learn from the history of the Thirty Years’ War? German writer Daniel Kehlmann then read an excerpt from his novel Tyll. However, he dismissed any parallels between the story he very entertainingly told of a skilfully negotiating queen and Angela Merkel. The many participants on the Denk ich an Deutschland stage, who had been involved in the exploratory talks to form a coalition government, would only give short answers to questions concerning the failed negotiations. The day’s discussions were dominated by the complicated political situation in Germany, nonetheless. There was consensus on the fact that Germany needs to return to its ability to shape domestic and foreign policy as quickly as possible so that it can also help shape the future of Europe. Paul Achleitner (Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Deutsche Bank) brought the conference to a close on this note: “We need a Europe that can shape its own future, instead of being driven by others”.

Media Gallery


Christian Lindner, Member of the German Bundestag, Leader of the Free Democratic Party and Chairman of the Parliamentary Free Democrats in the German Bundestag


Anne Kjær Riechert, Co-Founder and Managing Director, ReDi School of Digital Integration


Cem Özdemir, Member of the German Bundestag and Federal Chairman of Alliance 90/The Greens


Panel: Demolish, modify or refurbish – What kind of Europe are we building?


Jeroen Dijsselbloem, President of the Eurogroup


Daniel Kehlmann, Author


Paul Achleitner, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and Supervisory Board Chairman, Deutsche Bank AG