Sometimes in life, you meet a person whom you know right away you would like to win over as a friend. Henrik Enderlein was such a person for me.
I was able to work with him for a good five years on the Board of Trustees of the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft (AHG). I was able to count on him as my deputy for the chairmanship. I was able to benefit from his clear analysis, his constructive criticism and his pointed formulations as a starting point and source of productive friction for proposals on the AHG’s strategic orientation and its contribution to society. And I was certain that, even beyond the meetings of the Board, he would always support the team of the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft in word and deed.
As was the case in his other capacities - whether as President of the Hertie School, as Founding Director of the Jacques Delors Institute, or as a much-appreciated commentator and Franco-German bridge-builder - Henrik Enderlein was guided by his enthusiasm for the European project. Yet for all of his creative drive, he was above all interested in change that was possible in the here and now. If he had grand ideas or visions, he did not tend to share these with the broader public. But his tenacity in the constant attempt to tackle seemingly intractable problems testified to his conviction that, in the global context of a US-China confrontation, the countries of Europe will only be able to preserve and redefine their sovereignty by means of a deeper union.
In the many obituaries about his fulfilled and at the same time tragically unfulfilled professional life, his deep European conviction thus rightly stands at the forefront. This was a conviction we shared, even if we approached it from different perspectives: he, convinced of the long-term primacy of political integration and I, of the short-term necessity of integrating capital markets.
There was, however, a second common theme that was of great concern to both of us and that was reflected in our joint work at the AHG: the diminishing willingness and ability of our society to engage in critical discourse with dissenting opinions. This phenomenon poses a particular threat to the much-needed dialogue between the generations. Yet especially against the backdrop of the far-reaching upheavals that digitalisation, demographic development and the fight against climate change are bringing with them, an open and critical engagement with different opinions is more important than ever. In the 2019 publication “Think. Order. Form. Forwards”, the AHG, acting in the spirit of Alfred Herrhausen, brought together various perspectives on the questions of our time. The series ThinkForwards20xx takes the experience of the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to continue this critical discourse and, in particular, to let young people have their say. This form of bridge-building was also of particular concern to Henrik Enderlein. The AHG team will do its utmost to continue to live up to Henrik Enderlein's high standards in its commitment not only to Europe, but also to a robust and open social discourse.
Dr. Paul Achleitner, Chairman of the Alfred Herrhausen Society Board of Trustees