Nicolai von Ondarza – EU policy researcher

Nicolai von Ondarza heads the EU/Europe research group at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP).

“The EU must succeed in bringing the two processes of internal reform and further opening from a geostrategic perspective together,” says Nicolai von Ondarza. As head of the EU/Europe research group at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), the committed European deals with the fundamental issues of the EU, such as its deepening and enlargement policies.

Since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine, he has observed a fundamental change in the EU: “The EU states have recognized for themselves that they have a strong geostrategic self-interest in a functioning enlargement policy. The candidate status of Ukraine and Moldova is not just a purely symbolic promise, but the start of a process.” However, an EU 30 Plus cannot avoid institutional reform to remain capable of acting.

Preserving transatlantic ties

The ability to act is also a decisive keyword in the debate on strategic sovereignty, which von Ondarza is helping to shape. He argues for a new understanding of European sovereignty in which the US continues to be considered as a partner, especially in the area of defense: “We must not fall into the trap of playing NATO and the EU or transatlantic ties and European ties off against each other.”

Von Ondarza not only wants to combine this in the debate, but it is also a lived part of his biography: An exchange year in the US had shown him a transatlantic perspective. His studies of European Studies in Great Britain have repeatedly shown him the strengths and opportunities of the EU.

Relationship between EU and UK remains difficult

Since 2011, he has also worked intensively on Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik) and, as organizer of the British-German Outlook Group, is committed to bilateral dialogue between Germany and Great Britain. He describes the period since 2011 as one in which the UK has become increasingly polarized – as have relations with the EU regarding the Brexit.

He eagerly awaits what the election of new Prime Minister Liz Truss and the death of Queen Elizabeth II will mean for the United Kingdom and post-Brexit relations with the EU. Despite troubled times ahead and the multitude of crises such as the Northern Ireland Protocol, the energy crisis or Brexit, von Ondarza sees the Queen’s death first and foremost as a unifying moment for the country. He also observes great sympathy at the European level.

“But that doesn’t change the fact that we are again heading for a difficult situation between Europe and the UK,” von Ondarza said. Even under the new prime minister, Liz Truss, he expects “continued tough, confrontational rhetoric from London”. Marlene Resch


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