The event was the first in a new series in which former Presidents of the European institutions record their testimonies at the European University Institute (EUI).
Hans-Gert Pöttering, former President of the European Parliament (2007-2009) , took part in a lively debate at the School of Transnational Governance (STG) last week.
According to Professor Miguel Poiares Maduro, Director of the STG, Pöttering is ‘a genuine European politician’ who has had ‘first-hand experience, not only of politics beyond the state but in leadership in the most difficult moments that have taken place in the European Union in recent years’.
Dr Pöttering was elected to the European Parliament in its first ever elections and remained in office until 2014. Over this considerable career, he was both Chairman of the European People’s Party (EPP) and later the overall President of the European Parliament, at the helm during the Lisbon Treaty negotiations and the beginning of the financial crisis. He is currently Chairman of the Konrad Adenaur Stiftung
Tonia Mastrobuoni greets Miguel Maduro and Gabriella Jacomella, a Young Policy Leader Fellow at the STG
After visiting the Historical Archives of the European Union to record an interview that will now be stored for reference and posterity, Pöttering was able to take part in a public conversation with three EUI Researchers, moderated by Tonia Mastrobuoni, Berlin correspondent for La Repubblica.
Pöttering used the forum to challenge the rise of populism, and to criticise the discourse of parties such as Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD), the right-wring German party which saw significant success in the recent German elections. 'There is no place for misanthropy, xenophobia...hate towards other cultures in the Bundestag,' he said.
Poettering responds to questions from EUI Researchers
Julia Schulte-Cloos, PhD researcher in the Department of Political and Social Sciences, cited the early success of the AfD in the European Parliament as representative of the fact that, when there is little at stake in the EP ‘second-order contests’, electorates use the EP to punish national governments. Were the architects of the EP elections too idealistic?’ she asked. . ‘What is it about the EP elections that favour anti-European discourse?’ Pöttering emphasised how he wants to make people see the importance of the elections. ‘We have to make an effort to show to people the importance of European elections.
Benedetto Zaccaria, the representative from the Department of History and Civilisation, encouraged Pöttering to reflect on the main achievements and failures of the European Parliament. Whilst achieving co-decision in many areas was a great success, ‘we did not make so much progress in foreign policy and defence,’ he admitted
With the experience of a long career in European politics behind him, Pöttering told Birgit Asa, from the Department of Law, that finding a solution for asylum and migration should be a key priority in the future.