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IEP Lunch Debate with Dr. Hans-Gert Pöttering: “Fortunately United: Retrospective and perspective of the European integration”

Dr. Hans-Gert Pöttering and Prof. Dr. Hartmut Marhold

The IEP lunch debate on the topic of „Fortu­nately United: Retro­spective and perspective of the European integration“ with Dr. Hans-Gert Pöttering, former President of the European Parliament and Chairman of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, took place at the Repre­sen­tation of the European Commission in Berlin on 4 December 2014 on the occasion of the publi­cation of his book “Wir sind zum Glück vereint. Mein europäischer Weg”. Prof. Dr. Hartmut Marhold, Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board of the Institut für Europäische Politik and Director of Research and Devel­opment of Centre inter­na­tional de formation européenne (cife), moderated the event.

An intro­ductory speech was given by Richard Kühnel, Repre­sen­tative of the European Commission in Germany and Frank Piplat, Head of the European Parliament Infor­mation Office in Germany. The two gave a short biograph of the dedicated European politician and highlighted his skills as an arbiter while Head of the European’s People Party from 1999 to 2007 and as 23rd President of the European Parliament from 2007 to 2009. In the following discussion Hans-Gert Pöttering and Hartmut Marhold took stock of different stages of the guest’s 35-years career as a European parlia­men­tarian. During their talk, both speakers connected Pöttering’s personal experi­ences with current political matters. Marhold outlined the former President of the European Paliament’s strong dedication to European integration biograph­i­cally. Through experi­ences gained during the postwar period and the division of Germany, Pöttering developed a “deep rootedness“ in the concept Europe. Alongside this, Pöttering commented that the main drivers in his career were “firm principles, friends and luck”. Pöttering empha­sized the impor­tance of the interplay between subsidiarity and solidarity as being the key element of the European Union along with Freedom and the legal system. Furthermore, he embraced the strength­ening of the European Parliament as a way to close the gap between citizens and the EU.

The lively discussion with the audience which followed raised questions on different aspects of European policy. Pöttering artic­u­lated that he had long been committed to integrating Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into the EU. He accen­tuated that Europe should not ignore the Baltic region’s worries concerning their terri­torial integrity. Never­theless, regarding the question whether the new President Donald Tusk would complicate relations with Russia, Pöttering remained confident. He empha­sized the impor­tance of the right of self-deter­mi­nation of all people. At the same time, he under­lined the role of Russia as a necessary partner.

By Richard Steinberg and Andrew Campbell