The European Union – the most successful peace project of all time? This narrative of the EU often dominates public discourse. It is a narrative that those responsible for the process of European unity themselves crafted and one that was also underlined in 2012 by the Nobel Committee in Oslo, when it awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU.
Yet in recent years this image has begun to falter. The fortification of the EU’s borders and reports of police violence against refugees cast doubt even in the minds of the most committed Europeans. The European Union appears powerless in the face of governments in member states such as Hungary and Poland that overtly question democratic institutions and values. In its foreign relations, the EU – with its long-standing self-image as a “force for peace” – increasingly focuses on combating terrorism and controlling migration. Pressure on the rules-based international order and an increasingly active China on the international stage add to the high expectations placed upon Europe.
For Helmut Schmidt, one thing was certain: “The fact that most of Europe can today enjoy human rights and peace is something that we could not have imagined in 1918, or in 1933, or in 1945.” In the “European and international politics” programme, we analyse the challenges and opportunities for the “European peace project” and place them in contemporary historical context. A central focus of our work is on the international responsibilities of Germany and the EU, including in the context of the transatlantic relationship and in the interplay with countries such as China.