New at Leuphana - Prof. Dr. Tobias Lenz: "Miracle of European Integration"

2020-06-15 Two world wars shook the 20th century. Since the beginning of European integration 70 years ago, there has been peace. The political scientist calls the European Union (EU) a "huge success model" and examines worldwide how other regions find peace or benefit economically through similar alliances of states.

"With communism and socialism two great utopias have failed", says Tobias Lenz. But the political scientist describes a new one: supranational organisations. The foundation of the EU, at that time still the European Economic Community, offered Germany the opportunity to be accepted back into the community of states. "Although Germany thus relinquished much of its national sovereignty, it benefited greatly economically and politically," says Tobias Lenz. His position is clear: without the EU there would not have been peace in Europe for 70 years. The alliance also strengthens the individual countries: "Many states would otherwise be crushed between the international superpowers. In his research he examines similar organisational structures worldwide. He cites the African Union as an example: "Through joint cooperation, historical rivalries are to be overcome. The process of African integration is very similar to that of European integration: A free trade agreement was agreed last year. Similar to the Schengen Agreement, the movement of people is to be facilitated and a common African passport is planned," explains Tobias Lenz. The name "African Union" was deliberately chosen in reference to the EU: "EU representatives were also involved in the founding of the African Union. A similar model exists in South America: the Southern Common Market, or Mercosur for short. There too, peace and prosperity are to be achieved through aconfederation of states. Once again, the EU is considered a role model. In South America, Tobias Lenz conducted expert interviews with representatives of the member states, secretariats and diplomats and reviewed archival material. "I am fascinated by how conflicts can be dealt with and overcome through international cooperation", explains Lenz.

Although the EU is a model for other confederations, it is losing recognition in Europe itself. "The narrative is shifting. In the post-war period, the EU stood for prosperity and peacekeeping," explains Tobias Lenz. Today the peace argument no longer strikes a part of the European population - peace is taken for granted. Many, however, see the EU as undemocratic. The Union had to react to this. Narratives are part of the establishment of regional organisations, because they legitimise their claim to power. These narratives can be functional, for example: The Community promotes economic growth. But they can also be communitarian: The community as an expression of a common identity and history. International organisations of the post-war period are in a field of tension for the researcher: On the one hand, one would like to solve problems jointly across national borders. On the other hand, there remains the desire for self-determination, which can dampen cooperation where a sense of community across borders is hardly present. "Not all countries are willing, like Germany after the Second World War, to give up much of their own sovereignty," explains Tobias Lenz. The consequences can be institutionally weak regional organisations that are hardly able to tame national egoisms.

Tobias Lenz studied social sciences and economics at the University of Osnabrück. Subsequently, he completed internships with, among others, a delegation of the EU Commission in Chile and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. He completed his Master's degree in Political Science at the University of Oxford. There he also obtained his doctorate in the field of international relations. He then became a Post-doctoral Fellow in a project on the authority of international organizations at the Free University of Amsterdam, led by Prof. Liesbet Hooghe and Prof. Gary Marks. In 2013, the Georg-August-University of Göttingen, in cooperation with the GIGA Leibniz Institute of Global and Regional Studies in Hamburg, appointed him Assistant Professor of Global Governance and Comparative Regionalism Research. In the academic year 2015/16 he was Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. In addition, there are research stays in the USA, South America, Singapore and South Africa, among others. Since spring 2020 Tobias Lenz has been Professor of International Relations at Leuphana.

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