Our Objective:

The continued existence of the European Union in the world depends on its degree of internal cohesion and on how it forges relationships with other countries. This is why we want to strengthen cohesion within the EU and through international understanding to contribute to the proper functioning of its relationships with key countries.



We promote the European civic education of young people so that they are able to understand and help shape the European Union. We are also committed to the rule of law in the EU. We want to better understand the actions of China and Turkey and their societies, and to support exchange and encounters with people from these countries. We will help to research Europe’s role in the world and the future international order and help to develop ideas to shape these.


The foundation for the EU is its values: human dignity, freedom, democracy, the rule of law, human rights, non-discrimination. It wants to foster these values and peace, to provide for the wellbeing of its citizens and to ensure sustainable development on the basis of a competitive market economy. In addition, it wants to strengthen cohesion and solidarity between the member states. Although the EU has seen approval rates rise among its citizens for years, a number of governments are pursuing nationalistic interests that violate the fundamental values of the EU and its treaties. And the consequences are grave: they pose a threat to the EU’s very existence and external credibility. We wish to address three questions:


Many factors are jeopardizing the sense of belonging that people in the EU have, and therefore social cohesion: many do not have sufficient knowledge about Europe and lack democratic competence. Many feel little connection to the European values. Individual governments are increasingly following unilateral national approaches. Especially young people from educationally disadvantaged families or from rural areas often find it difficult to identify with European values in their personal life situations. The extent to which well-developed structures for civic education exist differs within the EU. In many cases, little civic education takes place in or outside schools. In some places it is poorly taught, or there is simply a lack of funding. Civic education is something that can be conveyed particularly well through first-hand experience, which is why it would be ideal if formal teaching could be linked to an approach to learning that is based on researching and discovering. When young people have their own exchange experiences with other Europeans, they dismantle their prejudices and internalize European values.

Stiftung Mercator wants to strengthen cohesion between citizens of the EU. It is committed to European civic education.

  • We provide young people between the ages of 13 and 28 with the knowledge and skills they need to take active part in a democratic society. In this context we focus particularly on young people from socioeconomically deprived backgrounds.
  • We improve their abilities to cope with different opinions, to exchange views through argumentation, and to find common solutions. We raise their awareness of European values such as solidarity, minority rights, equal opportunities and individual freedoms. We teach them about political institutions and their roles, and illustrate how their personal lives are affected by European politics.
  • We do this within and outside formal school education in both Germany and the EU. The young people are also to acquire these competencies through personal European encounters.


The EU is based on shared values; these include democracy, basic rights and the rule of law. Democracy requires independent courts, an active civil society and free media. In a constitutional state, political rule must be practised within the limits of the law and in line with the values of democracy and basic rights. Its principles include transparent, democratic and pluralistic legislative procedures, legal certainty, effective protection of the rights of its citizens, a ban on the arbitrary exercising of power, the separation of powers, equal treatment by the law, independent and impartial courts and the proportionate use of governmental authority. A constitutional state thus has a direct influence on the life of all its citizens. Although the member states have different legal systems and traditions, the central basic principles of the rule of law are supported by citizens of all the EU member states. We are currently witnessing a decline in democratic and constitutional values in numerous EU countries: governments are curtailing the independence of courts and the rights of the opposition, limiting freedoms of communication and the press, restricting fair and open political competition and tolerating corruption within the justice system. While these trends are already very pronounced in some member states such as Poland and Hungary, they are becoming increasingly problematic in other states, too. Attacks on the rule of law in individual member states pose a threat to the legal, political and economic foundations of the entire EU.

There are many different ways in which to protect the rule of law: by protecting the plurality and freedom of the media, by engaging in debates on the rule of law in order to raise awareness of its value, and last but not least by shaping the justice systems and ensuring their independence in the battle against corruption.

We are committed to preserving the rule of law and democracy in the EU.

  • We promote research and analysis of the rule of law and democracy in the EU and draw up action recommendations.
  • We create networks of experts in rule of law theory and practice within Europe and support better public communication on this topic.



China is an influential global power. The Chinese state recognizes international organizations and uses them to advance its interests. China is expanding its influence – also on the EU – by pursuing an active foreign, security, development and foreign trade policy. China uses its support of science and culture to ensure that European societies acquire a positive perception of the People’s Republic. The consumer behaviour of the Chinese population has a considerable influence on the way in which international corporations design their products and services. Besides its different understanding of centralized decision-making structures, the Chinese state is characterized by state intervention in economic affairs, an active industrial policy and, in particular, the monitoring and active control of society and its citizens. There is consensus in many European countries that the EU should adopt a common stance towards China. On the other hand, interests vis-à-vis China differ within the EU. For example, the prospect of being connected to China’s new silk road is economically attractive for some European states. Germany and the EU have no interest in any conflict-oriented economic, political and social containment of China or of decoupling themselves from China, as the USA has done.

China is a vital partner when it comes to resolving global challenges such as climate change, shaping the international order and further developing the WTO. Partnership and competition with China must therefore coexist side by side, which requires careful consideration of the following questions: On which issues is it worthwhile and necessary to pursue dialogue? And on which issues should governments seek to bring influence to bear on China together with like-minded partners?


There is virtually no other country outside the EU with which Germany has such close economic, political and social ties as it has with Turkey. Nonetheless, relations between Germany and Turkey have deteriorated considerably in recent years. Turkey plays an important role as an EU neighbour and as a regional power in the Middle East. Many of the EU’s core interests require close cooperation with Turkey. These include issues such as migration and integration, security policy and the fight against terrorism.

Nowadays, different kinds of partnership with Turkey that do not involve the country’s accession to the EU are being considered – for example limited cooperation in individual areas such as economic and migration policy. Such models give virtually no consideration to constitutional or democratic questions, however. This is not enough. Any long-term partnership with Turkey requires Germany and the EU to uphold their values, acknowledge their obvious differences, while not abandoning their efforts to bring about constructive cooperation on the basis of trust. If we were able to achieve this with a neighbour with whom we have such close ties, it would be an endorsement of the EU’s ability to act in the area of foreign policy.

Political relations are influenced not only by institutions and norms, but also to a major extent by individuals. This is why personal relationships between Turks, Germans and other Europeans are especially important.

Through international understanding, we want to help bring about functioning relations between Germany, the EU and those countries of particular importance to Europe, above all China and Turkey.


  • We make more encounters possible between information disseminators, civil society actors and young people from Germany, China and other European countries with a view to deepening mutual understanding and strengthening cooperative relations.
  • Germany and Europe need a partnership with China while at the same time competing with it. Politics, society and economic affairs require broad public discussion of this challenge. We want to foster such discussion.
  • We support people in Germany in their efforts to communicate better with China and its citizens. For us, this means ensuring that Chinese language and culture is taught at German schools.
  • We are committed to a joint European stance on and approach to China. To this end, we support applied research and provide safe spaces in which decision-makers can engage in exchange on a basis of trust.


  • We make more encounters possible between information disseminators, civil society actors and young people from Germany, Turkey and other European countries with a view to deepening mutual understanding and strengthening cooperative relations.
  • We contribute to a better understanding of the ways in which Turkey, Germany and Europe influence one another.
  • We contribute to a better understanding of developments within Turkey.
  • We support analysis and concrete initiatives that help ensure that Europe will find Turkey to be a dependable partner, above all regarding issues in foreign policy, security and migration.



The order of international relations finds itself in a state of crisis. A prerequisite of any international order is that agreements are reached between states on how, despite differing interests, common objectives are to be achieved and how countries identify their commonalities and express these in institutions. An international order also always requires a group of states that establishes and then lastingly upholds it. This group of states must make the necessary resources available and use them to preserve the order. By partially withdrawing from its historically evolved role as a stabilizing power, the USA in particular have jeopardized this order in recent times, leading to renewed competition for power and the concepts of how this international order should be. This makes it more difficult for the European Union to make its voice heard and to advocate for a liberal world order.

We want to understand the context in which external relations that are important for the EU are shaped: the context of a changing international order and of new multilateralism.


We support people and projects that research the current and future development of the international order and of multilateralism and that develop ideas for their shaping in such cases where this is relevant to the continued existence of the EU, its values and its interests.