E&M: Professor Herzog, I am 25 years old. When you were 25, what did Europe mean to you?

Herzog: That was in 1959. Those were the very first years of the European Economic Community, and there was Euratom and the European Coal and Steel Community too. We didn't know how the European community would develop, but we did know something else: first of all, we knew that the European Community was the only chance for Europe to continue independently in this new world, which was, back then, dominated by the USA and the Soviet Union. That was, of course, a great hope. Secondly, we knew that by linking our economies, war could be prevented, and of course we had some experience with horrible wars. The third point for the Germans was that the Economic Community would be a way to come back to the international stage in a positive manner, while for the other countries in the Economic Community - the French, the Dutch, the Belgians and so on - the greatest opportunity was to be able to control the Germans a bit. And that was, all in all, if you were thinking realistically, a tremendous prospect, although we didn't know how things would develop from there.

E&M: Did you have a particular personal feeling for Europe?

Herzog: It was the younger generation in general, they always have the fewest difficulties adopting brand new ideas. Although it was something the older people had initiated for rational reasons, the overwhelming majority of young people were truly real, passionate supporters of it.

E&M: How did this passion manifest itself?

Herzog: Of course there were discussions. In 1959 I had just finished studying law and was working as an assistant at the University of Munich, and of course there were always discussions, there were public ones, but also among colleagues and friends.

E&M: What did you talk about?

Herzog: The first thing, in that situaion, when Europe was bitterly poor, was of course the Economic Community. That was one thing, but there was also the question of how Europe should be organised. There was an illusion - primarily a German one - that there could be a European federal state, and Charles de Gaulle was on the other side of the debate with a very pluralistic idea of a Europe of nation-states. I always shared de Gaulle's opinion, but my colleagues, who at that time didn't want to hear the word 'nation' ever again, were more in favour of a federal state. But since, in reality, even today no-one really knows what a federal state is, that problem wasn't decisive.

E&M: What has remained of this problem?

Herzog: It remains today. If you ask me if I am a European or a German, I say: I am one-third European, one-third German and one-third Bavarian. And that's how it is. Just as I am also a university professor and a former federal president of Germany. Thinking in sharp alternatives is more something for theoreticians.

E&M: Do you still share, as before, the vision of a Europe of nation-states or has your image of Europe changed since your youth?

Herzog: A European nation hasn't emerged! If it were otherwise, the situation would be very different. Europe is a very rational union, in terms of globalisation as well - we have to recognise that much. Of course, in Germany at least, national feeling doesn't have much importance, but the European Union isn't only a collection of states, but also a collection of nations. With the exception of the Germans, this fact is seen by all Europeans as a matter of course and for that reason the Germans will also not be able to avoid recognising this fact too.

Roman Herzo...
Roman Herzog talking to Hanna Pilawa Roman Herzog talking to Hanna Pilawa
Roman Herzo...
Roman Herzog Roman Herzog
Christopher Wratil, Roman Herzog & Hanna Pilawa Christopher Wratil, Roman Herzog & Hanna Pilawa
Europe & Me...
Europe & Me editor Hanna Pilawa Europe & Me editor Hanna Pilawa

Photos: Hertie-Foundation, Jahrestreffen der Stipendiaten

E&M: We two are 25 and 21 years old. What lies in the future for us young Europeans?

Herzog: The first thing is the integration of the states of Middle and Eastern Europe which have recently joined. That will take a fairly long time. We know that from the experience of the addition of the Iberian states, Portugal and Spain, that it can't be 100% done overnight. The second thing is a question: what will happen on the Eastern border of the European Union? The decisive point there is not to let any antagonisms develop there. Especially because there are already great antagonisms between Poland and Russia, for example. The third thing is this: until 1990, the Mediterranean was a European sea, and now all of a sudden, the Baltic Sea is a European sea. We'll have to solve the Mediterranean question. Even if some of Mr. Sarkozy's approaches may seem surprising, there must be two European seas, even if only for the reason that a huge continent with an unpredictable future lies south of the Mediterranean. That is a gigantic task and an exciting one. My problem with the whole thing though, is that an organisation that has 70 or 80,000 pages of regulations can't really take on a task like that. The European Union has to be strong, and a bureaucratic organisation is not strong, but weak.

E&M: What can be done?

Herzog: Unnecessary responsibilities need to be delegated.

E&M: What do you mean by unnecessary in this context?

Herzog: I don't think that the most important thing is delegating individual matters. But the European Union really lives on its directives. And the directives are, by definition, there to say what needs to be achieved in what time, but not how it will be achieved. That needs to be taken seriously. The main problem is that the European Court of Justice doesn't really play a role in this question. It has started to take notice, but I don't want to wait that long, that is to say, we need to start acting on this point. I don't think that we really need fewer directives, but we need thinner ones.

E&M: We, the younger generation that needs to shape this process, do we need particular qualities or skills, or new ways of thinking?

Herzog: You need a completely new way of thinking! That goes for the Germans and the French in any case, but for the Eastern and Middle Europeans as well: these ones think in terms of principles, those in laws. But we need to get away from that. We need to have fewer rules, and that is a problem that has existed from the beginning. The French have been bureaucratic since Napoleonic times, and the Germans since the 19th century - then, policy was only a matter of laws. And the Eastern and Middle European states were always the weaker ones, and the weaker ones always appeal to laws, and not to their own strength.

E&M: Have you already noticed a change in the younger generation, for example in young politicians?

Herzog: I can see the transformation gradually happening in the young politicians in Germany, but very gradually. I don't believe that it's the case in France yet, they have their high debts and they're driving them in the wrong direction. I don't know enough about Eastern Europe, I don't know enough young people there.

E&M: Many young people are afraid of integration. In Western Europe, many people are afraid of the Eastern Europeans, who will be coming in 2011 at the latest and taking jobs away from them. Are there certain qualities that you need to be able to profit from European integration?

Herzog: You just need to have confidence! It's really simple. You just need to have confidence! Then I want to see who can fool the Germans, for example!

E&M: The greatest European of all time is...

Herzog: You can't really say it just like that. It started with Konrad Adenauer, Alcide de Gasperi, Robert Schuman and Charles de Gaulle really did play an important role later on. And then there was this strange combination of heads of government from different parties: Helmut Schmidt was a social democrat, Giscard d'Estaing was a liberal, then Helmut Kohl came, conservative but hand in hand with the socialist Francois Mitterand. And: they were people who came from border regions. That was surely an important experience.

E&M: The one book that every European should read is...

Herzog: The bible.

E&M: I wish young Europeans were...

Herzog: ...more courageous. A lot more courageous. For my taste, they are too much in search of security.

E&M: Europe will become...

Herzog: Europe will become something, because it has to. When we are really put under pressure, we will become a European nation, but I'd like to save us that.

E&M: Professor Herzog, thank you very much for this interview.

Roman Herzog was interviewd by Hanna Pilawa & Christopher Wratil.

IN -1112 DAYS