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 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 totter. The fortification of the borders of the EU and reports of police violence against refugees cause even pro-Europeans to doubt their own idealistic image of the EU. The European Union appears powerless in the face of governments in member states such as Hungary or Poland that overtly question democratic institutions and values. In its foreign relations, the focus of the EU “peace power” is increasingly on combating terrorism and controlling migration. Pressure on the rules-based world 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 today the major part of Europe can enjoy human rights and peace is something that we could not have imagined in 1918, or in 1933, or in 1945.” For that reason, the Bundeskanzler-Helmut-Schmidt-Stiftung campaigns for peace, the unity of Europe and a peacebuilding role for Germany and the EU in the world. In the work of the “Europe and international politics” subprogramme, we analyse the challenges and opportunities for the “European peace project” and set them in their 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 or in the interplay with countries such as China.