“Germany–but where is it located?” asked writer Friedrich Schiller more than 200 years ago. Germany as a political entity did not yet exist. The intellectual Germany, Schiller noted, began where the political ended.
Europeans find themselves in a similar situation to the Germans of Schiller’s time, having seized the imaginations of many, but secured the political loyalty of few. Across the continent, the European ideal is under threat from Russian aggression, Islamist terror, economic collapse and domestic extremism, both left and right wing.
In the Schuman Lecture 2016, which you can watch below, Brendan Simms took Schiller’s words as the point of departure for a series of reflections on how European and German identity have developed in tandem, resulting in a current European identity largely based on the diffusion rather than the concentration of power. This contrasts with the British model, which transcended national differences and created a new identity to enable the Union to “punch above its weight” in the world.
Brendan Simms is Professor in the History of European International Relations, Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge, and Fellow of Peterhouse. He is also Director of the Forum on Geopolitics at Cambridge and President of the Project for Democratic Union, a think-tank which promotes the political unification of the Eurozone on Anglo-American constitutional principles.