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Gregor Gysi and Hans-Gert Pöttering give impulses on the courage to take responsibility at the Opening Week 2017

2017-10-10 They stand for entirely opposite political ideals, but are united by their belief in “Europe”. The former President of the European Parliament, Dr. Hans-Gert Pöttering (CDU) and the President of the European Left, Dr. Gregor Gysi, shared their thoughts and visions on the EU with Leuphana University’s freshers.

Gregor Gysi at Leuphana Opening Week 2017

In European terms, Hans-Gert Pöttering belongs to the “old hands”. A member of the European Parliament from 1979 to 2014, he tended to and shaped the EU’s development for decades. His commitment is grounded in his own past: “My father fell in the Second World War just before I was born. Never having had a tangible connection with him profoundly affected me”, he said. It has always been clear to him that he wanted to commit himself to safeguarding peace by political means – and that the EU was a peace project. 

In this context, he appealed to Leuphana’s new students: “Have the courage to take on responsibility!” On the second working day of the Opening Week, first semester students worked on finding out what shape this commitment can take. On Tuesday, they dealt with concrete challenges, such as populism or the financial crisis that Europe is currently facing. The aim of the day was to gain insights and generate possible solutions.

One of the major challenges is the economic imbalance between the countries of Northern and Southern Europe. This was a topic addressed by the Left Party politician Gregor Gysi in the Main Building’s teeming auditorium. He explained that “Germany had received Marshall Plan aid that helped post-war reconstruction” and reminded us that Germany’s external and war debts had been cancelled after a few years. The Berlin politician is very critical of the EU, but he does not call it into question: He emphasises that “it would make no sense to smash it” but stresses that it cannot continue as it has done up until now. 

Pöttering: “Treating each other with respect”

Hans-Gert Pöttering, as Chairman of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, emphasises that changes require commitment. The students needed “passion, but also patience”. Respect for one another was of central importance in all negotiations and in all criticism, he said. In his own experience: “It's so easy to get into a slanging match that creates an intense atmosphere”. But if you don't deal with each other respectfully, you not only reject each other's position, but also the people who live together in peace” he said. The audience responded to this statement with copious applause.


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