Gerald Knaus – sought-after political advisor

Gerald Knaus, migration researcher and director of the think tank European Stability Initiative (ESI).

A few weeks ago, his latest book “Wir und die Flüchtlinge” (We and the Refugees) was published. A few hours before this interview, he was sitting in a conference at the Federal Ministry of the Interior to win over German politicians to his ideas. And two days later, he was scheduled to leave for a trip to Sweden, the country that took over the EU presidency on Jan. 1. Gerald Knaus’ life currently revolves around the question of how world political events affect migration processes. As co-founder and chair of the think tank European Stability Initiative (ESI), he tries to convince governments of solutions, including migration and flight.

Quick accession prospect for Ukraine

Currently, the 52-year-old campaigns, for example, for his idea of a thank-you payment of 500 euros for families who accommodate Ukrainians in their homes despite the increased energy costs. “It depends on the commitment of civil society whether we will succeed this winter in accommodating the already historically high numbers of refugees,” says Knaus. He hopes that this relief payout in Germany will come before Christmas – and that other European countries will follow suit.

The migration researcher also supports a rapid EU accession prospect for Ukraine: “The negotiations must not end up like in the Balkans, where countries like Montenegro have not come any closer to accession for the past ten years”. His concrete proposal for a first interim goal: The European Union should hold out the prospect of Ukraine joining the common European single market within the next six months, provided the country meets the conditions for doing so. That would be a concrete, achievable and realistic goal.

Gerald Knaus studied philosophy, politics and international relations in Oxford, Brussels and Bologna. And he has had considerable success with his ideas in the past: The so-called refugee deal between the EU and Turkey of March 2016, for example, was first proposed by him in September 2015. His book “Which Borders Do We Need?” was a bestseller.

Experienced the war firsthand

Born in Austria, Knaar has three grown-up daughters, lives in Berlin and regularly travels to the countries he talks about. In the Balkans, he worked for NGOs for many years and experienced wars, sometimes firsthand. “Making wars in Europe unthinkable was the main motivation for my colleagues and me when we founded the ESI think tank,” he says.

He knows what hyperinflation can mean for society from his one-year experience as a guest lecturer in the Ukrainian border city of Chernivtsi. Back then, in the early 1990s, the country was in a very different situation than it is today; he had to live on his savings. The money he received from the university was worth nothing after just a few days. As in big politics, he found concrete solutions in his private life – and invested in chocolate bars imported from the West, he says with a wink: “When I prepared my lectures late at night, they helped me stay awake.” Janna Degener-Storr


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