As Part One of the CODES project, the DGAP (German Council on Foreign Relations) conducted three discussions with citizens on euroscepticism in different cities in Germany. Working together with DGAP’s regional forums as well as Young DGAP in North-Rhine Westphalia, the Hanseatic Cities, and Frankfurt, the Alfred von Oppenheim Centre for European Studies is charged with conceptualising and executing this project.
The first event took place in Cologne on October 10, followed by Hamburg and Frankfurt/Main (on October 11 and 12, respectively). The main purpose of the three discussions was to evaluate people’s opinion on the European Union: What are their assessment and concerns for of the current ‘state of the Union’ as well as their expectations for the future of Europe?
The debates showed that – somewhat unsurprisingly but still very reassuringly – most people in Germany have positive associations with the EU. Especially for older generations, the EU is still very much an important provider of peace and security whereas younger people appreciate the freedoms that come with the single market, such as travelling and working in other European countries. Nevertheless, there was a general concern over recent developments, namely the effects of the financial crisis, the debate about Brexit, and the continuing migratory pressures, and the effects these might have on the Union’s future.
With regard to current challenges, participants mentioned the different levels of integration among the member states as a source of conflict, the disregard for European rules and values on the part of some countries, and the missing solidarity among member states during the refugee crisis.
Overall people in Germany wish for an open dialogue about the future development of the European Union. There was a mutual consent that the EU needs to tackle urgent reforms and to further engage in certain policy fields, such as foreign and security policy.