He had actually already expected a collapse, perhaps after half a year. After all the years in Brussels – almost four decades in the end – that would have been a reasonable expectation. But the 75-year-old East Westphalian Elmar Brok, for a long time Germany’s best-known man in the European Parliament, the CDU veteran, “Mister Europe”, got along quite well after his not entirely voluntary departure from European politics in 2019 as a retired MEP. “I am not forced into any schedule and am once again master of myself,” he says.
Actually, Brok would have liked to add on his ninth term in Brussels and Strasbourg in 2019. But the CDU district chairmen no longer wanted to field him. Brok, the longest-serving member of the European Parliament and EU reformer, who helped initiate the Treaties of Amsterdam, Nice, and Lisbon. Brok, one of the EU’s most distinguished foreign policy experts, who has twice chaired the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Security, and Defense Policy. Brok, the unique man with the walrus mustache and the breast pocket handkerchief, about whom many stories could be told in the long corridors of the EU Parliament. This Elmar Brok should now finally be put on the sidelines.
Many tasks despite EP farewell
When he then gave his farewell speech in the European Parliament, his voice failed him, and some tears flowed. But be that as it may, the timing of his departure was right. “I don’t miss Brussels,” he says today. “Now I just get involved where I want to.”
Nevertheless, he has kept his Brussels apartment. He still travels there twice a month. He goes to Berlin just as often. But he is much more at home with his wife in Bielefeld-Heepen and out in the nearby Teutoburg Forest. He would like to travel more, but the COVID pandemic makes a lot of things impossible.
Not that he gets bored: He is Senior Advisor at the Munich Security Conference and Senior Fellow at the think tank Aspen Institute in Berlin. He is vice president of the Christian Democratic International and a member of the board of the European People’s Party. Every now and then, he writes something. And, of course, he continues to advise in talks. His cell phone was his all-purpose weapon in Brussels, the numbers of powerful interlocutors around the world his capital. And those who want to use it call Brok. Even if that doesn’t happen as often as it used to.
Europe lacks hard power
But Europe and its future remain close to his heart. The importance of giving the EU more decision-making power and the ability to act, especially in foreign and defense policy, is evident once again in view of Russia’s aggressive actions in recent days. Europe needs more hard power to complement NATO. “Being the world champion in soft power is not enough when it comes to war and peace,” Brok stressed. The EU states would spend far more money on the military than Russia, but with a pitiful result. The reason is a lack of cooperation and synergy.
“Born, married, European Parliament” is how Helmut Kohl is said to have once summed up Brok’s life. “A made-up quote that you can’t get out of the world,” says the person described himself. “But on the broad lines of my life, of course, it applies.” Now, he says, the focus is more on his family, his three children, and five grandchildren. “Whether that benefits everyone in the family,” he says mischievously, “I can’t always see.” Adrian Meyer