The first of a series of events called “What Kind of Europe Do We Want?” was held in the Weltsaal at the Federal Foreign Office on Monday (24 October). Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier discussed the future of Europe and the European Union with young people at the event. Members of the public were able to follow the event live on the Federal Foreign Office’s Facebook page and put their questions to the Foreign Minister.
What should be the future of Europe?
The European Union (EU) is in crisis as a result of the economic crisis, the wave of displacement and migration, populist parties in various countries and, not least, the UK’s decision to leave the Union. “The past year has provided stark evidence that certainties which were firmly rooted for decades without being called into question, namely peace for all time on our continent and the inevitability of Europe, simply no longer hold,” said Foreign Minister Steinmeier in an interview with the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” newspaper before the event.
In order to safeguard the future of the EU, the Union must convince people once again of its value and strengthen its roots. To this end, foreign policymakers need to talk with members of the public. “We want to face up to the criticism and find out what you think is good in and about Europe – and what isn’t,” Steinmeier said. This debate was important because “if we are no longer able to appreciate the value of Europe, it will go to the dogs”.
Where do we stand? What is working well in Europe? And what isn’t? How does Europe need to change and what do we expect of the EU? What role should the EU play in today’s world? Steinmeier discussed these and other questions with around 400 young people aged between 16 and 26. The discussion was chaired by TV presenter Dunja Hayali. The participants made use of the opportunity to speak personally with the Foreign Minister and to ask questions on a very wide range of issues. How can we help migrants to feel enthusiastic about Europe? Why is there not more direct discussion with refugees? How does the Minister react to criticism of the fundamental concept of the EU?
Steinmeier summarised the discussion by saying that it was vital to take a stand against those who want to return to nationalism. In this context, it was important to show that Europe is able to deliver and that it is worthwhile standing up for European values.
Opening event live-streamed on Facebook
Those who were not able to attend the event in person also had the opportunity to take part in the dialogue and ask questions. The opening event was live streamed on the Federal Foreign Office’s Facebook page and some of the questions submitted were fed into the event as it took place. For the full video (in German), please click here.
Open and lively dialogue
The event marked the launch of an open and lively dialogue with members of the public from all over Germany. In the coming months, around 30 discussions and workshops with the public will take place. During these events, the participants will have a chance to speak with Ministers of State, State Secretaries and other senior diplomats and to discuss the future of Europe with them.