The Faces of EU – Germany

Now let’s head to our next European destination – Germany. Today, we speak to Johanna, an active student and a climate activist, who sheds a light on what the EU means to the German people. As usual, we first take a quick look at how aware Estonian students are of German politics:

Do you know anything about German foreign or domestic policy?

57%: yes

43%: no

“Scholz and his wartime policy”

“Partner relations with China”

“Had an election not so long ago, Merkel’s party lost”

“Sending Leopards to Ukraine!”

Tell me about yourself. Are you an active community member? If yes, why do you feel it’s important? Is it a normal thing in your country/community to do so? 

Hello or ‘Hallo’! My name is Johanna, I am 18 years old and I live in Germany. In my free time, I dance ballet, play the piano and read books. Another passion of mine is politics. When I was about 15 years old, I for the first time participated in the worldwide ‘Fridays for Future’ climate protests, because I felt the need not to just look away, but to raise my voice and express my concerns and ideas for the future. Through the political simulation game – Model European Parliament – I became more and more interested in political events. I was able to participate in numerous (international) sessions where I met new friends, perspectives, and points of view. My personal political focus is on social policy, feminism, and environmental and foreign policy. 

When I look through my circle of friends, I see a lot of enthusiasm for politics. Nevertheless, I think it would be naïve to say that all young people in my country show this interest. As in all other countries, there is definitely still room for improvement here. 

How is youth activism organised in your nation and what is the role of the EU in it?

Keeping in mind the openness of this question, I will speak from my personal experience, in which the EU plays a fairly large role in youth activism, etc. For example, pan-European protests which are becoming easier to organise thanks to social networking. Also petitions or, as in my case, the European simulation games, such as MEP. 

How do people in your country perceive the EU? How do politicians? 

When it comes to approval and satisfaction with the EU, Germany tends to rank slightly above average. 49% say they tend to trust the EU (the EU average is 42%). Unfortunately, there is also a right-wing populist party in the German Parliament – AFD – which, among other things, advocates for leaving the EU. The AFD was able to gain about 10% of the electoral votes in the 2021 Bundestag election. 

•What does the EU mean for you personally? 

For me personally, the EU plays a big role. That’s why I also identify more with being  European than German. I am just very grateful for all the freedoms I have thanks to the EU and all the opportunities it has given me in my life so far. 

How would you describe your country to a foreigner? 

When you think of Germany, probably the first association is beer, lederhosen and cars. And although all these things belong to this country, I would describe Germany as much more diverse and complex. There are numerous cultures, all kinds of skin colours, sexualities, religions, opinions and personalities. 

When talking about ‘German identity’, one should never forget Germany’s dark history and the responsibility that comes with it, which every citizen of this country should be aware of. 

What do you hope for your country to achieve or develop in? 

I would like to see Germany succeed in establishing even better cooperation with the other EU countries so that the EU can appear stronger and more united in our globalized world. I also hope that Germany can become more democratic and that the opportunities for political participation can be strengthened, for example by lowering the voting age to 16.

Of course, I also hope that the climate crisis will finally receive sufficient political attention and that political agreements such as the Paris Climate Agreement will be adhered to. 

How will you contribute to achieving this goal? 

I think that political change can happen not only on a large scale but above all in one’s own local environment. Talking to people, discussing, sharing information and content on social media and educating yourself are incredibly important. In the future, I would like to try, among other things, to make my voice heard through demonstrations and, of course, participating in elections. 

How can the EU contribute to the prosperity of your country? 

In financial terms, the EU contributes to German prosperity primarily through the single market. This makes Germany richer by 132 billion euros per year and the per capita income by 1,000 euros. But Germany also gains in prosperity through cultural networking. 

What do you think the EU will look like in 30 years? 

I assume that the EU will be organized much more flexibly in 30 years’ time than it is today. I suspect that the countries that want integration will cooperate even more closely. This means that reforms will be implemented only in those countries that want and support them. It is also conceivable that non-EU countries will be involved in individual policy areas below the level of full EU membership. Overall, I hope that this will make the EU’s ability to act more efficient and better. 

What is the main contributor to the hesitance of Scholz government to send more aid to Ukraine? 

On Jan. 25, 2022, Germany announced that 14 Leopard 2-A6 main battle tanks would be given to Ukraine. However, this was preceded by a prolonged hesitation on the part of the German Chancellor, which is multicausal. 

First, it was argued that by supplying German tanks to Ukraine, the Bundeswehr would lose its own defence capability and would no longer be able to fulfil its mission within NATO. Moreover, Germany does not want Putin to see Germany as a party to the war. Scholz said, that he does not wish “to not provoke Putin further”. However, from a legal point of view, Germany would not make itself a party to the war by supplying weapons. 

Many people perceive Germany as the leader of the EU. Do Germans see themselves as that, as well? 

I don’t think Germany sees itself as the leader of the EU, or that it would be in reality. Of course, Germany’s role in the EU is important, but so are smaller countries. The EU should see itself as a confederation of states with equal rights and not as a hierarchy.

The campaign is sponsored by the German Embassy in Tallinn

Image: Jiatong Tian, Pexels

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