ECFR study: German youth are surprisingly conservative and lack a vision for Europe

A press release by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)

Berlin, 19.04.2018

In his Strasbourg speech on 17 April, French President Emmanuel Macron launched a drive to seek European citizen’s opinions on the European Union’s future. However, it is unlikely that grand ideas for change will come from young Germans. A new report by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) finds that German millennials (those born after 1980) appear to be unambitious about reforming the EU.

Polls and interviews conducted for the paper, “The Young and the Restful: Why German Youth Have No Vision for Europe”, indicate that German millennials are surprisingly conservative and liable to status quo bias, says its author, ECFR Policy Fellow Ulrike Franke. Germans aged between 18 and 29 hold stereotypically German views on European and foreign policy – maintaining a cautious approach to anything related to the military, and a preference for decision-making that involves the whole EU rather smaller groups of member states.

What would Germany’s European foreign policy look like if it was determined by the young?

Germans aged between 18 and 29 support Germany’s leadership role in the EU, with 48 percent believing that the country has achieved a good balance in this and 39 percent thinking Berlin should be more assertive.

Young Germans are relatively supportive of German engagement in international crises – in fact, those aged between 18 and 29 are the only group in which the majority supports more engagement with foreign policy. However, this increased engagement does not include military affairs.

In Germany, one of the most striking differences between millennials and other age groups is how little importance they attribute to the Franco-German axis. While 53 percent of Germans see France as their country’s most important partner in foreign policy, only 31 percent of those aged between 18 and 29 hold this view.

Franke argues that: “Young Germans are particularly unlikely to develop visionary new European politics. Their focus is on safeguarding what has been achieved rather than creating something new. With the European elections around the corner in 2019, it’s time to revive the debate of Germany’s vision for Europe.”

Read the policy brief : "The Young and the Restful: Why German Youth Have No Vision for Europe" here:
http://www.ecfr.eu/publications/summary/the_young_and_the_restful_why_young_german_have_no_vision_for_europe#_ftn28

Download the PDF:  
http://www.ecfr.eu/page/-/ECFR_254_-_Why_young_Germans_have_no_vision_for_Europe.pdf

Über die Autoren:
Ulrike Franke is a policy fellow with ECFR’s the New European Security Initiative, working on German foreign and defence policy, and emerging military technologies such as drones and artificial intelligence..

Media enquiries:
For comments and interview requests, please contact Ulrike Franke at
ulrike.franke@remove-this.ecfr.eu.

Alternatively, contact ECFR’s communications officer Wiebke Ewering:
Wiebke Ewering
wiebke.ewering@ecfr.eu
T: +49 (0)30 3250510-27
M: +49 (0)176 42065425
or ECFR’s communications team at press@remove-this.ecfr.eu.

The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) is the first pan-European think-tank. Launched in October 2007, its objective is to conduct research and promote informed debate across Europe on the development of coherent and effective European values based foreign policy. ECFR is an independent charity and funded from a variety of sources. For more details go to www.ecfr.eu/about/donors.

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