Daniela Schwarzer: encouraging Europe to work more as a team

Prof. Dr. Daniela Schwarzer is Executive Director of the Open Society Foundations in Europe and Eurasia.

She announces herself from a taxi. Prof. Dr. Daniela Schwarzer is on her way from Charles de Gaulle Airport to downtown Paris. “At the moment, I’m still traveling far too little,” she says. If the pandemic allows it, she says, it will hopefully soon be more again. Since last year, the 49-year-old has been Executive Director of the Open Society Foundations in Europe and Eurasia. The world’s second-largest foundation is a global player in philanthropy that promotes the rule of law and democracy.

Schwarzer’s current assignment: She is to reorganize the Foundation’s various regional units in her area of responsibility and dovetail them with one another. Where does her passion for the international come from? The Hamburg native recounts London, where she spent part of her childhood: “It was there that I realized how exciting it is to immerse myself in another country and another language.” After studying political science in Tübingen and at the renowned Sciences Po Paris, she wrote as a France correspondent for the Financial Times Deutschland.

The EU has learned

After that, her resume reads like a Who’s Who of think tanks: Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Marshall Fund, German Council on Foreign Relations. She was head of the latter until 2021. At the moment, Schwarzer is concerned with how the EU can hold its own on the world stage between the US and China. She published a book about this last year: “Final Call. Europe has to hurry up in order to keep up with the system competition. Her expertise on how this could be achieved is in great demand. Schwarzer repeatedly advises governments and the EU’s foreign affairs representative, Josep Borrell, and she teaches at various universities.

You can tell that she enjoys understanding different perspectives and building bridges. There is no lack of concepts on how to further strengthen the Union. However, there is often a lack of willingness to give up national competencies for European cooperation. She finds, “It’s not about giving up sovereignty, it’s about regaining it.” The nationalistic tendencies in many countries worry her. On the other hand, she is hopeful about examples of the EU learning something from its crises. With the COVID-19 reconstruction fund, for example, something “politically courageous” and “very correct in terms of content” has been set in motion.

“I think it’s remarkable that this agreement was possible so relatively quickly in the COVID-19 crisis,” she says. In the debt and banking crisis, the agreement process between the states was much rockier. Schwarzer pays her cab driver and gets out; the horns of Parisian city traffic can now be heard in the background. Is she optimistic that Europe will still be as influential internationally in 20 years as it is today? “Yes,” Schwarzer answers. “However, that will take a real amount of work and foresight.” Paul Meerkamp

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