Tribute to Michel David-Weill

Michel David-Weill, a renowned banker and businessman, a passionate collector, and a generous patron of the arts, passed away in New York on June 16th, at the age of 89.

At once a Frenchman and a New Yorker, Weill was dedicated to strengthening the French-American relationship through business and philanthropy alike, as the many recent testimonials have shown.

Himself an alumnus of Sciences Po, David-Weill created a scholarship at the university that embodies his legacy of dedication to transatlantic exchange and partnership, using education to build bridges between the US and France. The Michel David Weill scholarship was endowed in 2011 to attract the best and brightest American students to continue their postgraduate education at Sciences Po in Paris. The Scholarship is awarded each year to one American student who exemplifies the core values embodied by its name-sake: excellence, leadership, multiculturalism, and high achievement. In addition to their academic qualifications, awardees demonstrate strong character, instincts to lead, and commitment to both local and global community.

The influence of this initiative is best articulated by the twelve scholars who have been its recipients to date. Riya Verma (2020 recipient), reflected on the opportunity to attend Sciences Po, “Through the David-Weill scholarship, I was able to fully immerse myself in French student life and make a lasting connection to the country […] Without Michel David Weill's support, my interest in France would have remained an interest - and not have blossomed into a connection to the country that I now consider a second home.” It was not only the incredible opportunity for study and cultural exchange that recipients noted, but also the incredible openness and generosity that Michel David-Weill shared with them, offering observations and advice both personal and professional in nature that marked the impact of the scholarship. “His observations could span literature, politics, the markets, religion, and countless other subjects,” recalled  Zachary Young (2017 recipient) who continued, David-Weill was “motivated by his desire to give, to trust others, and to deflect praise in spite of so many honors and accolades.”

Sam Miles, graduate of Sciences Po’s Masters degree in International Energy and inaugural recipient of the Michel David-Weill Scholarship reflected on the impact of the scholarship, “I know that with each passing year, and with each newly-minted MDW scholar, another seed is planted for a stronger US-French alliance — and thus American-European cooperation — to confront the many challenges we face on the climatic, humanitarian, and economic fronts.” The Michel David-Weill Scholarship, thanks to its endowment, will continue to connect the brightest American minds with Sciences Po, as part of an enduring legacy that will benefit not only future scholars, but the world they will go on to shape, ensuring a continued commitment to Michel David-Weill’s lifelong work strengthening transatlantic relations. 

Emily de la Bruyère (2016 recipient) eloquently stated, “Michel David Weill gave every one of us an invaluable gift. We will spend the rest of our careers working to make good on his legacy.” Indeed, we all continue to be in the debt of Michel’s brilliance and generosity. The Sciences Po American Foundation is proud to have the responsibility to continue the Michel David-Weill scholarship program, and honored to be a part of his enduring legacy.

The Sciences Po American Foundation extends its deepest sympathies to his wife, Hélène David-Weill; to his daughters, Béatrice Stern, Natalie Merveilleux du Vignaux, Cécile David-Weill, and Agathe Mordacq; and to his family and friends.

Jamieson Greer, an expert in international trade and a leading force in defining critically needed new frameworks and tools

On June 13, at the French Embassy in Washington D.C., Jamieson Greer ('07) was awarded the 2022 US Sciences Po Alumni Award.  This annual celebration is an opportunity to recognize and honor outstanding individuals, who embody the values that Sciences Po and our community strive to uphold.

Jamieson is a partner in the International Trade team at King & Spalding, where he specializes in – and is, well, as good as it gets -- in trade policy and negotiations, trade agreement enforcement, export and import compliance, and CFIUS matters. Jamieson has represented clients in trade remedy litigation before the Department of Commerce, the International Trade Commission and federal courts.

Before joining King & Spalding, Jamieson served as the Chief of Staff to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), Ambassador Robert Lighthizer. At USTR, worked closely with Ambassador Lighthizer and senior White House officials on developing and implementing trade policy he played a critical role in developing and implementing the White House’s trade strategy – one that included landmark achievements like the Phase One trade deal with China and the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement.

Prior to working at USTR, Jamieson spent several years in private practice focusing on trade-related matters, and also served in the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps.

Jamieson perfectly embodies Sciences Po’s mission, and definition of excellence: analytically and intellectually, he marries rigor with creativity; an unmatched expertise in the international trade system as it currently exists with a nuanced understanding of the challenges facing it – and how those can be addressed. Jamieson also works, actively, to face those down; to put his expertise to concrete use in advancing a better alternative. Take, for example, Jamieson’s role in the White House’s negotiations on the Phase One trade deal with China – a landmark for US and international approaches to trade relations among major powers.

Sciences Po’s mission is to train the leader and practitioner – and to equip them not only with analytical rigor but also the ability to bridge frameworks, whether intellectual or cultural. I cannot think of anyone who embodies that ideal better than Jamieson. And throughout, Jamieson is unfailingly generous, humble, and kind: professionally, intellectually.


Bruno Latour's Initiative for Fundamental Research in Political Ecology

On Tuesday, April 26 the Sciences Po American Foundation hosted a conversation between Professor Bruno Latour and award-winning journalist Ava Kofman around Sciences Po’s Initiative for Fundamental Research in Political Ecology. 

The conversation began by acknowledging that we do not lack an abundance of facts about climate change, but as Latour pointed out in many of his works, scientific facts alone are not persuasive enough on their own to prompt mass action. Latour highlighted the recent results of the 2022 French Presidential election, in which green or environmental party candidates received little electoral support, as evidence of weak mobilization towards political action organized around ecological concerns. 

Bruno insisted that one principal obstacle is our conception of ecology itself, “We have too little an idea of what ecology means,” he tells us. He continues, we have on the one hand been trapped into only a global understanding, the project of mitigating change to 2 degrees, which to individuals feels like climate concerns may be removed from their own civilization project.  Another issue pointed out by Latour is that ecology is not well integrated into society, its conceptualization is at once too global but also too narrow, including only those things which have been labeled “green” to the exclusion of processes related to organizing life and to do with social justice; paradoxically severing the social from the ecological.

The problem is not only of mobilization, but organization Kofman articulated; Latour insists that all these disciplines: law, political science, economics, and political philosophy must be remade to absorb not only the novelty of ecological questions but also accounting for the way these fields are fundamentally concerned with ecology merely as a result of the fact that ecology is woven into the fabric of society that concerns them. For these, Bruno says we need to push and link the natural sciences with the social sciences. Indeed, this is an ongoing project for Latour; Sciences Po, he noted, has invested in the development of thinkers with dual formations in the natural and social sciences, making it the ideal home for this type of work.

In terms of the need for fundamental research, we cannot wait. Corporations, and individual citizens alike, in urban and rural spaces, are everyday impacted by ecological concerns and environmental changes in ways that completely disorient them. This initiative is at its core concerned with developing the tools that do not wait for a trickling down that is characteristic of how basic research moves from the academic realm into the public over many years, but that is instead intrinsically connected very closely with how people are impacted by climate change. One specific example Latour mentioned related to European research on agriculture. The process of modernization since the 60s has resulted in a dire state of the soil and a fruitless future if these methods continue. He emphasizes if we were to wait for the typical slow process through which research eventually becomes practically enacted it will take years before there is any change, years which we do not have. The work that is at the center of this fund are initiatives that look for intersections between a basic question, such as “what is the model for an agriculture that doesn’t destroy its own condition of existence?” but which are radically actionable, implementable by actual farmers, and which does not create an opposition between ecologists and researchers and farmers. This last point is crucial, and is the reason it is necessary to include those artistic expressions in the project as well because they are uniquely able to carry questions which are novel, complex, highly technical, and largely based in the hard sciences, to the hand of those individuals and communities which are impacted by the issue at hand; a radical break from the status quo.

Though the scope of the project seems relatively small, its impact will nevertheless be significant. First, fundamental research in political ecology, that is uncorrupted and independent, is seriously lacking, individuals, corporations and institutions alike suffer from this absence; the research questions that the project seeks to fund will be powerful and numerous in their applications and the novel approach towards basic research that is connected to those practically affected by its subject address the immediacy of the need. Secondly, the initiative has the ability to, at the same time, shift the understanding of the interconnectedness of the ecological and the social, reorienting the university as a whole.

When Trade is a Weapon of War?

On March 29, 2022, the Sciences Po American Foundation held the European Affairs Webinar: When Trade is a Weapon of War? Philippe Martin, dean of Sciences Po School of Public Affairs and Chairman of the French Council of Economic Analysis was joined by Jamieson Greer, partner in the International Trade team at King & Spalding, and Sonia Dridi, journalist and French Correspondent in the U.S., to discuss trade in the context of war.

On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. One of the immediate reactions of Western allies in support of Ukraine, including the United States and Europe, was to apply strong sanctions on the Russian Central Bank. Alongside this recent financial weaponization, the trade war has steeply escalated with China, begging once again the question, What is the role of trade in international conflict?

Dridi begins the conversation by asking how the Central Bank of Russia is handling these recent sanctions. Martin acknowledges that these sanctions are the “nuclear option of sanctions”, and an unprecedented and unexpected shock to the Russian economy. He clarifies that the core objective of such sanctions is to increase the economic cost of war and disincentivize Russia’s invasion. Leading up to the war, Russia has accumulated $600 billion of reserves, about half of which reside in the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve. By freezing these reserves, the Western countries are quasi defaulting on a liability. On one hand, the sanctions present a challenge to the exchange rate of the ruble. Without a strong exchange rate Russia will experience inflation and a run on cash, leading to recession. On the other hand, the freeze is also a threat to the security of assets held in Europe and the United States. This threat has the potential to undermine the role of the dollar as the lapse in security represented by the freeze is felt by the international financial system. In the context of the trade war with China, this threat to the role of the dollar is a prominent challenge. Martin finishes his response to the question by remarking that while this freeze is in place, there is still money circulating to the Russian Central Bank as long as Europe continues to trade oil and gas.

Dridi shifts the conversation to Greer’s trade expert advice for American and European clients during these sanctions. Greer describes that for clients with monetary interests in Russia, these sanctions pose legal, business, and reputational risks. He highlights that there are no comprehensive sanctions on Russia at the moment, and it is important for clients to understand the nuances of the sanctions. While all companies comply with the sanctions, and some have left Russia entirely, not all have deserted the country. Concerns that arise for American and European companies in Russia are counter sanctions and nationalization of assets. “Western companies are trying to balance ‘I want to comply, I want to be on a good moral basis, but I also want to take care of my Russian employees who have been working for me for 25 years,” Greer says.

What is unique, however, is the unified approach Western countries have taken towards the financial punishment. “Democracies are weak against small shocks coming from dictatorships. But when democracy itself and freedom is at stake, we become much stronger than dictatorships expect,” says Martin.

Dridi asks whether China will potentially play a role in helping Russia evade the sanctions. “One of the conversations happening in the U.S. Congress right now with respect to Russia, which may have some application to China in the future, is this idea of removing permanent normal trade relations,” Greer says. He says that the unified action of the United States and Europe towards Russia gives hope that this avenue may be a future approach towards China if deemed necessary.

Dridi then brings up the risks of the sanctions on the European economy. The impact of the sanctions is much heavier in Europe than in the United States because of the trade of gas and oil. While there is a discussion around a potential embargo on oil, the economic shock of this embargo could mirror that of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because poor households spend more money on energy than richer households, this economic shock would also be felt unequally, necessitating large fiscal transfers. The concept of increasing energy prices as a challenge to Russia in a period when energy is at high costs poses a dilemma to political economy, especially in light of the upcoming French presidential election. “The paradox is that some countries, which economically would pay an enormous cost... are the ones that for obvious geopolitical reasons would support the embargo,” says Martin.

“At the end of the day, the Russian people are the ones who suffer from this. They’re the ones who are going to have less access to consumer goods,” says Greer. “They’re the ones who are going to lose their jobs. Unfortunately, because of Putin’s war of choice, you have the Russian people who are going to bear a lot of the grunt.”

Sciences Po’s scholarship and emergency fund

Sciences Po is committed to fighting arbitrary violence and to upholding the European values of freedom and solidarity - values we must defend and promote in the face of the current international crisis. I am writing to you today to tell you about the actions we are taking and invite you to join us.  

Our first actions have obviously concerned our students. Our primary consideration has been to support some 60 of our students on a university exchange in Ukraine, Russia or one of the neighboring countries, all of whom have been urgently repatriated. We have also been assisting the 150 Russian and Ukrainian students currently studying on our campuses who are facing economic difficulties as a result of the crisis, and to whom we are providing exceptional financial support.

In addition, Sciences Po has decided to open its doors to Ukrainian and Russian students and researchers in exile. Our teams are now fully mobilized so that we can offer the greatest number of people a place to pursue their work in safety.

In order to carry out these actions with the speed and scope that this crisis requires, we need to strengthen our scholarship and emergency aid fund by at least €500,000. This will enable us to provide a one-year maintenance grant of between €10-15,000 to all displaced students who enroll, free of charge, in our programmes. Logistical and psychological assistance is already being offered to members of our student and research communities who are directly affected by the war.

You can play an important part by making a donation to Sciences Po’s scholarship and emergency aid fund

On behalf of our communities, and especially our students, I would like to express my deepest thanks for whatever help you can provide. Any and all support from you will be of the greatest help to us.

Mathias Vicherat, Sciences Po President

Sciences Po's response to the war in Ukraine

Over the course of the last days, all eyes have been turned towards Ukraine and the war being waged on the orders of Vladimir Putin. Aggression on this scale, in direct violation of international law, and the unbridled disregard for the value of human life that have been witnessed over the past few days has left many feeling at a loss, unsure of how to process the events that are unfolding on the global stage.

Sciences Po is strongly committed to providing a scientific perspective and concrete intellectual frameworks with which to understand this current moment. As an international research university, Sciences Po pledges to research, teach, and study the major issues of this region.

Follow this link to find an evolving list of the Sciences Po events. 

Message from Mathias Vicherat, President of Sciences Po, on March 16, 2022

As the war waged by the Russian government against Ukraine continues, I wanted to keep you informed of the repercussions of the conflict on the higher education and research sector, and more specifically on Sciences Po's cooperation with universities in Russia.

The Russian Union of Rectors, which has more than 700 members, issued a statement on March 4th supporting President Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine and calling for a solidarity movement of Russian university communities in support of the armed forces. More than 200 individual Rectors are signatories to this declaration, including those of Sciences Po's five partner universities.   

In this unprecedented context, and while we are deeply committed to the importance of international cooperation, Sciences Po has decided to suspend all of its university cooperation agreements, at least for the 2022-2023 academic year, and thereafter until further notice. This concerns the five student exchange agreements, as well as our dual degree agreement with MGIMO (Moscow State University of International Relations).

Team members of the International Affairs Division and the Academic Affairs Division are in close contact with those directly affected by this decision. Please note that students from Russian universities who are currently on exchange at Sciences Po will be able to continue their programme of study, if they so wish, and also that students of Russian nationality who are in degree seeking programmes at Sciences Po or have applied for admission are welcome.

Sciences Po is also actively involved in supporting communities impacted by the war. Arrangements are currently being made to rapidly welcome students and researchers forced to leave Ukraine to seek refuge outside the conflict zones. I will be sure to keep you informed of developments concerning our actions, and of the mobilisation of our different communities to this end.

Yours sincerely, 

Mathias Vicherat

Sciences Po Alumni USA March 2022

The quaterly Alumni newsletter is out! We hope you enjoy catching up with our latest portraits of Sciences Po Alumni and look forward to having you join our upcoming events (in DC, in person on Sunday March 20th, for a #AlumniWebinar on 3/24 with Kati Marton, and for a new episode of the #EuropeanAffairsWebinar Series on 3/29: When trade is a weapon of war?)

In the context of the war in Ukraine, we are highlighting Sciences Po's ressources. As an international research university, Sciences Po pledges to research, teach, and study the major issues of this region. Follow this link to learn more about Sciences Po's events #ScPoUkraine. At this link, you can find the CERI (Sciences Po Center for International Relations) resources about the war in Ukraine.

Climate change impacts international security

On Monday, December 13 the Sciences Po American Foundation invited alumnus Amb. Juan Manuel Gomez-Robledo and Alexandra Novosseloff to a Sciences Po Alumni Webinar titled: “World & Security: the role of the UN Security Council.” Gomez-Robledo is the Deputy Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations, and Dr. Alexandra Novosseloff is a non-resident Senior Fellow at the International Peace Institute in New York and author of Le Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies, entre impuissance et toute puissance (2021, CNRS éditions). The ambassador, a member of the Mexican Foreign Service for over three decades, brought an insider’s perspective to understanding the role of the Council, while Dr. Novosseloff mobilized her expertise on the UN Security Council to guide and contextualize the discussion. The two exchanged views following Mexico’s November presidency of the Security Council.

The discussion began with an overview of the UN Security Council and its enduring importance as the highest decision-making body in international security. In addition to the five permanent members (China, France, Russia, UK, US) the Security Council includes ten non-permanent members elected by the General Assembly for a two-year term, whose significance and influence Novosseloff insisted should not be overlooked. Gomez-Robledo provided more insight on the balance of the Council, “You need nine to make a decision, that is the basic rule. No matter the important role of the P5 if they wish to achieve anything they need support from at least four more elected members.”

The conversation then turned to Mexico’s experience on the Council historically. Gomez-Robledo expanded on the transformations in the Security Council that informed Mexico’s move towards a more positive view of its role after decades long absence. He noted that the end of the Cold War brought an accompanying expansion of possibilities for the Council to discharge its duties and comply with its mandate. Gomez-Robledo noticed that the Council accepted that disruptions to peace were not exclusively the result of interstate conflict but could arise from internal strife within a state, and that “effectively reshaped the very notion of what constitutes a threat to peace and security.” That led the Council to include in its agenda issues such as the protection of civilians or the monitoring of human rights. Novosseloff added, “The Council, despite all the criticism, has shown it can adapt to the evolution of the nature of threats to international peace and security and to this day it adapted by debating of transnational threats such as health and climate change.”

Novosseloff noted that Mexico’s recent November presidency was characterized by the theme of addressing emerging threats to peace and security, prompting a discussion of Mexico’s priorities during its two-year mandate. The discussion focused on three principal issues Mexico brought to the attention of the Security Council while it held the presidency: how the principal bodies of the UN may better discharge their duties in the prevention of conflicts, fighting the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons, and the connections between inequalities, exclusion, lack of rule of law and conflict. 

A participant question prompted a further elucidation of the impact of elected members on the Council. The ambassador insisted on their influence, “It’s important to say form the outset that all of the progress that has been made in the methods of work is also the result of the push by the elected members.” He mentioned the existence of the “Working Methods Handbook” that has been compiled on a regular basis since 1996 as a result of pressure from elected members, and emphasized its contributions to the transparency, efficiency and inclusion of other voices in the Council. Arria Formulas, meetings with representatives of the civil society to discuss a topic not on the agenda of the Council but relevant to its mandate, were put forward since the end of 1990s as another lasting legacy of non-permanent members. Novosseloff concurred that initiatives from non-permanent members can become standardized procedures of the Council. 

The morning’s proposed resolution on the relation between climate change and international security was the next subject of discussion. The resolution failed after a veto from Russia, the abstention of China and a negative vote from India. Gomez-Robledo noted the vote reflected an acknowledgement of the impact of climate change on international security with 12 votes in favor in the Security Council and a co-sponsorship of 113 member states. Novosseloff contextualized the vote, “Russia and China have been opposing for quite some time now the expansion of the notion of a threat to security and of the Council’s agenda accordingly.” The ambassador in turn expressed his view that the resolution’s failure reflected a more profound and troubling shift in the view of the UN by a faction that desires to limit the participation of multi-stakeholders, such as NGOs. He maintains that the UN could not discharge its duties were it not for the support and participation of such actors citing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) as an example. 

Attention shifted to the Council’s activity outside of the council chamber. Both Novosseloff and Gomez-Robledo insisted on the point that much of the work occurs behind closed doors. The ambassador also mentioned the practice of the visits of the Council on the ground, which provide its members with a precise sense of the ongoing challenges and various perspectives in a conflict. Gomez-Robledo also insisted, “the Council makes a tangible contribution to the maintenance of peace by just deploying peace missions on the ground.” Each mission/operation has its own individual mandate and acts as small steps towards peace and to begin to rebuild the social fabric.

Final remarks addressed Mexico’s upcoming year on the Council. Among the priorities, Gomez-Robledo named the theme of women, peace, and security. An additional priority discussed was to promote the rule of law on both the national and international levels, including the necessary centrality of international law in justifying all Security Council decisions. An Arria Formula was convened in February about abuses of the invocation of Article 51 (right to self-defense) of the UN Charter and its implications as an exception to the prohibition of the use of force in international relations. 

Overall, Gomez-Robledo and Novosseloff discussed both the role of permanent and elected members as well as the Security Council at large. Discussions of the current iteration of the Council and Mexico’s recent presidency illuminated the different channels through which the Council operates. The exchange imparted the centrality of the thematic agenda of the UN Security Council, and its role in shaping the perception of security as something that is continually evolving in the face of new threats like the global pandemic and ongoing climate crisis. 

Sciences Po Alumni USA December 2021 Newsletter

Our quaterly newsletter is out!  We hope you enjoy catching up with our latest portraits of Sciences Po Alumni and our upcoming events.

On Monday, December 13, 2021 at 1PM ET, the Foundation will host the next #AlumniWebinar: «World & Security: the role of the UN Security Council» featuring Deputy Permanent Representative at the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations and Sciences Po Alumnus Juan Manuel Gomez Robledo in conversation with Alexandra Novosseloff from International Peace Institute in New York. RSVP here.

In addition, the Foundation is happy to announce the start of our European Affairs Webinar Series on January 6, 2022 at 1 PM ET. Our ambition is to bring to the United States Sciences Po's spectacular reputation as a vital voice and convener of political thought in Europe and foster a transatlantic dialogue through the unique voices, knowledge and expertise of our alumni, faculty, and broader academic network. Please join Christian Lequesne, professor of Political Science for a webinar about Macron's Plan for Europe. RSVP here.

Many of you are already members of our local groups on Facebook. As we prepare for in person events and networking opportunities, we now invite you to join our local LinkedIn groups, which will allow you to network with Sciences Po alumni in your geographical region. Join our groups on LinkedIn: Sciences Po Alumni DC, Sciences Po Alumni Chicago, Sciences Po Alumni San Francisco, Sciences Po Alumni New York, Sciences Po Alumni Miami, Sciences Po Alumni Los Angeles and Sciences Po Alumni Boston, and stay tuned for in-person meetings in 2022!

Wishing you happy holidays and an excellent new year!

The Sciences Po American Foundation

The Future of Europe

On September 16, the Sciences Po American Foundation invited Yvonne Bendinger-Rothschild and Sciences Po Alumnus Benjamin Haddad to a Sciences Po Alumni Webinar titled: Europe After Merkel? Yvonne is the Executive Director of European American Chamber of Commerce, New York Chapter, and Benjamin is the Director of the Europe Center at the Atlantic Council. Yvonne is German-born, so she shed light on Germany’s strong position in the European Union. Benjamin’s expertise on the European Union and Franco-American relations brought a French perspective to the debate around where Europe is heading. The two engaged in this discussion around Germany’s upcoming Bundestag election on September 26 and the effects this election will have on Europe and international affairs.

The discussion began with a tracing of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s rise to power and legacy. As the first woman to ever be elected Chancellor in Germany, Merkel has become known as one of the most powerful women in the world during her 16 year position as head of the Christian Democratic Union. “I think we can expect to see continuity. Merkel has become the center of gravity for German politics, and to a large extent, European politics,” remarked Benjamin. Her leadership has often been seen as extremely cautious. While critics question her often for being a slow decision maker, Benjamin pointed out two major decisions during her reign: the decision to abandon nuclear power in Germany and the decision to open Germany to Syrian refugees.

The conversation then turned to the European Debt Crisis in 2008. “Merkel was an extremely cautious leader when Europe needed bold reforms,” said Benjamin. Yvonne expanded on Merkel’s mixed legacy. The austerity measures, although credited with saving the Euro, also had extreme consequences for Greece. “Austerity was a necessary evil in some countries. It has put us back on a better path looking forward,” she said. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, another one of Merkel’s stronger decisions, supported by French president Emmanuel Macron, was the Corona Bonds. Yvonne maintained that Merkel’s decision to invest in European infrastructure and support the various member states will be one of Merkel’s strongest legacies.

The next main question in the discussion asked, if Merkel is no longer at the head of the European Union, who will be? And how will this shift the power dynamics between member states? Yvonne listed a few possible candidates to take Merkel’s spot, from Italy’s Mario Draghi to the Netherlands’ Mark Rutte. Both Benjamin and Yvonne maintained, however, that Germany will still hold a central position in European decision making.

France’s position will also shift with the upcoming election. Merkel and Macron have often worked in tandem, but with upcoming elections in both countries, France’s relationships, both with Germany and other member states, can be expected to change. “German institutions prepare the Chancellor very well for European institutions,” said Benjamin. The decentralized nature of Germany’s politics closely resembles that of the EU. However, France’s more centralized system and direct governance poses additional challenges for French leadership to adapt to European leadership. France’s role as a European leader may be challenged by these changes, but the opportunity to lead Europe remains.

An additional change arising from the election in Germany will be the age of the new chancellor: “I think this is an opportunity to bring younger 40 and 50 year olds into the mix. These leaders have a completely different outlook on the transatlantic relationship,” said Yvonne. “The way I look at the United States is entirely different from the way my parents look at the United States.” The change in leadership is a great chance to create a whole new dynamic of European leaders and relationships, beyond just Germany. The U.S. has always had relationships with individual member states, but both the Biden Administration and the new German chancellor may be able to create a stronger relationship between the U.S. and the European Union at large. The rise of Europe’s role in technology is an additional factor drawing the U.S. and the European Union together, hinted at by the recent creation of the Transatlantic Tech and Trade Council.

Lastly, the conversation shifted to Germany and Europe’s dynamics with China and Russia. “I think we can expect a hardening of position from Germany,” said Benjamin with respect to Chinese trade and agreements. “Merkel and Macron do not want to be dragged into a competition between the United States and China, but Europe is not equidistant between the two. The United States is the ally, China is seen as a systemic rival.”

With respect to Russia, Yvonne presented NATO as the main character, rather than Europe. “The conflict in Ukraine is complex. I don’t think we are going to let them sink into the abyss, but it is not one German chancellor or French president who will decide that. We need to work with NATO, and develop a strategy for how to deal with Russia in the long term.” Both Benjamin and Yvonne echoed the sentiment that stronger actions in Ukraine should have been taken originally. “It is also true that Merkel has had a contradictory, mixed opinion on this,” said Benjamin. Nord Stream 2, the pipeline built between Russia and Europe, is part of this mixed response. “This will have a negative impact on the energy security of countries east of Germany.”

The conversation ended on the question of sovereignty. Hungary and Poland’s views of national sovereignty in relation to the EU has become increasingly controversial. Yvonne and Benjamin discussed how national sovereignty is limited in the EU, but no real sovereignty can be gained by leaving the EU, either. Leaving the decision making table, but still being dependent on other countries, leaves a relative sense of sovereignty. With a new chancellor, however, a stronger tone towards Hungary may be taken up.

Overall, Yvonne and Benjamin discussed the nuances of Merkel’s mixed legacy. Strong, formational decisions taken under her leadership have placed Germany at the head of the European Union, while also creating difficulties during 2008 and in regards to Russia. However, no matter who the next German chancellor is, Germany can be expected to remain a main advocate of the European Union

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